NCID mobilizes staff and faculty to address social issues


Eight new efforts supported by the National Center for Institutional Diversity will bring together University of Michigan faculty and staff this year to tackle social issues and advance diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and beyond.

NCID will fund and support an inaugural cycle of four “Think-Act Tanks,” multidisciplinary, faculty-led teams that will address pressing issues in society. Teams are made up of U-M faculty, postdoctoral fellows, visiting scholars or external scholars.

The center also recently established four new Knowledge Communities, which provide opportunities for staff and faculty to collaborate on “scholarship-to-practice” initiatives to drive change on campus and across the country regarding diversity, equity and inclusion issues.

The four Think-Act Tanks and their missions are:

• Advancing Social Science Scholarship and Teaching on Latino Youth and Families: This tank aims to establish an interdisciplinary group of scholars focusing on Latino youth and families that will support faculty in conducting research with Latino participants, build networks at other institutions and produce a collaborative scholarly publication.

• Embodiment and Environmental Art Practice: This tank hopes to learn from its members about several topics, including disability cultural methods, indigenous art and world-making and African American performance approaches.

• Queer/Cuir/Feminist (Q/C/F) Group of the Americas: The tank aims to create a public space at U-M to discuss LGBTQ Latinx, indigenous and Afro-diasporic gender and sexuality. The group will engage in a work meeting and host a symposium in Ann Arbor to advance the publication of two scholarly works in the United States and Brazil.

• Museums and Publics: Engaging Detroit, Berlin and the Future of the City: This group will examine relationships between the histories of museums, their collections and the public at sites in Berlin, Germany and Cape Town, South Africa. It will also ask how urban residents participate in shaping a city’s future and to what extent the curation of established museums contributes to the appearance of inaccessibility.

NCID Director Tabbye Chavous said that, historically, academic culture has promoted faculty working in disciplinary silos. The rise of multidisciplinary collaborations in academia, such as the Think-Act Tanks, “indicates that bringing together faculty from various disciplines and backgrounds improves intellectual outcomes, with potential to have a meaningful impact in our society,” she said.

“Despite this shift, university structures, norms and policies continue to be a barrier to participating in cross-disciplinary collaborations,” said Chavous, professor of education and psychology.

“The NCID aims to support both scholars who have already been engaged in multidisciplinary engagements, as well as those who are interested in exploring these collaboratives in order to advance and/or re-conceptualize knowledge.”

Originally established in 2017, NCID’s Knowledge Communities were developed to facilitate collaborations between U-M faculty and staff who wish to address critical issues to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at U-M and in the broader society, Chavous said.

“Knowledge Communities provide a space for staff and faculty to work collectively to bridge theory and practice, and drive institutional transformations on our campus that serve as models across the country,” Chavous said. “A key distinguishing feature is that these communities work to apply and use scholarship in developing programming, practices, or policies.

“Through this approach, staff and faculty are encouraged to be co-leaders, co-learners, and co-knowledge creators for social change.”

The new Knowledge Communities were formed based on the interests of staff and faculty. They are:

• Asian Pacific Islander Desi/America (APID/A) Knowledge Community: This community aims, in part, to evaluate the quality of data and data-collection methods regarding Asian Pacific Islander Desi/American faculty, staff and students and recommends suggestions for improving U-M’s data collection, analysis and reporting.

• Mapping Disability Inclusion Knowledge Community: The goal of this community is to document, connect and publicize networks of scholars, practitioners and advocates working on disability inclusion at U-M.

• Counting Invisible Diversity at U-M: MENA Box Knowledge Community: Noting how Middle Eastern/North African students can be rendered invisible by being categorized as white, this knowledge community seeks to partner with units that collect ethnicity data to ensure an accurate count and to preserve the integrity of that data, from admission to graduation and alumni engagement.

• Undocumented Students Knowledge Community: This community will provide faculty experts and staff interacting with undocumented students and communities with opportunities to share formal and informal knowledge, professional expertise and best practices.


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