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University of Michigan Launches

University of Michigan Launches
National Center for Institutional Diversity

With a new home and acting director, and groundwork laid by some of the nation’s leading experts, the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity is poised to launch a number of initiatives to move the discussion of diversity beyond the issue of representation, university leaders say.

“The center will bring together leaders from education, corporations, the military and the cultural and artistic fields to reconcile the theoretical and the practical, and to examine current best-practices as well as develop others for the future,” says Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman.

The NCID, a long-time dream of senior vice provost Lester Monts, grew from the university’s experience in the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

“As UM defended its case before the U.S. Supreme Court, it became clear that the university’s work in the area of diversity reached beyond higher education, to K-12 education, business and industry and many other areas, Monts says. “It is most fitting that UM continue its national leadership in this area by broadening the scope and reach of the diversity discussion.”

The center will be led by Dr. Patricia Gurin, the Nancy Cantor Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Psychology and Women’s Studies. Gurin, whose research on the educational benefits of diversity was considered pivotal in the Supreme Court cases, recently accepted the role of acting director of the center.

Programming for the NCID, which now has a physical home in the School of Education building, will build on last spring’s Futuring Diversity Conference, during which leaders in higher education, business and other fields met to share insights and recommend direction for the center. Specific initiatives derived from the conference and from discussions among the NCID Steering Committee include:

– The organization and sponsorship of colloquia, beginning with a November event focusing on “The Complexity of Diversity” that addressed the issue from a systems perspective. Another event in March will focus on health disparities, with an emphasis on community leadership.

– The development of a fellows program.

– The naming of national, community and campus affiliates. Among other considerations, an NCID steering committee will consult with a number of existing campus programs that work in the area of diversity to determine and build appropriate affiliations.

– The formation of a national advisory committee to guide future programming.

The NCID will convene researchers, activists and practitioners from a variety of social institutions to develop the models, networks and tools needed for exploring the challenges and opportunities of diversity, Gurin says.

“With an emphasis on research and programs that enable concrete social change, the center will operate as a think-tank, incubator, venture fund, clearinghouse and publisher, as it examines diversity in its richest, broadest sense,” she says.

Initial planning for the center was made possible by a $144,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.

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