OVPR anti-racism grants awarded to seven research teams


The Office of the Vice President for Research has awarded nearly $450,000 in grants across seven research teams to investigate the effects of systemic racism and inform strategies to combat them.

OVPR designed its Research Catalyst and Innovation Program, in part, to support research and scholarship that address complex societal racial inequalities, with a goal to inform actions that achieve equity and justice.

Since the program launched in 2021, OVPR has awarded $1.4 million in anti-racism grants to diverse teams of researchers from across the University of Michigan.

“These grants allow interdisciplinary teams of U-M researchers to extensively study the effects of structural racism across southeast Michigan, which has far-reaching implications for communities across the country,” said Trachette Jackson, assistant vice president for research – diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor and professor of mathematics in LSA.

The OVPR grants are jointly administered and advanced in partnership with the National Center for Institutional Diversity’s Anti-Racism Collaborative, which aims to support and amplify the work of anti-racism scholars at U-M.

“We are excited to support the work of these scholars who interrogate the impacts of racism on society, and to catalyze the scholarship in ways that lead to developing effective strategies to dismantle systemic racism,” said Elizabeth R. Cole, NCID director, a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, and professor of psychology and of women’s and gender studies in LSA.

The grants will support multidisciplinary teams of faculty from eight U-M schools and the U-M Library.

“The latest round of RCIP anti-racism grants allows U-M researchers to collaborate on projects that bring attention to some of the communities most affected by racial inequalities throughout our society,” said Geoffrey Thün, associate vice president for research – social sciences, humanities and the arts who oversees the RCI Program. He also is a professor of architecture in the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Below is a summary of the seven selected OVPR anti-racism research projects:

Environmental and Biosocial Effects of Structural Racism on Birth Outcomes

Team leads: Kimberly McKee, Beatrice Palazzolo (Medical School), Ananda Sen (School of Public Health), Sarah Comstock (Michigan State University), Gwendolyn S. Norman and Michael Petriello (Wayne State University)

Goal: The team will examine the biological effects of racism by combining multiple measures of structural racism on birth outcomes from the Michigan Archive for Research on Child Health.

Unraveling and Mitigating the Impact of Structural Racism (“Redlining”) on Chronic Disease Burden in Detroit using Geospatial and Mediation Analysis

Team leads: Jennifer Bragg- Gresham, Yun Han (Medical School), Rajiv Saran (Medical School, School of Public Health), Tiffany Veinot (School of Information)

Goal: This project aims to identify the social and environmental determinants of health affected by the federal government’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation map of Detroit, made in 1939 that previously redlined majority Black districts of Detroit, and determine how these factors affect the health of current residents.

School Shuttering and Equitable Educational Access Study

Team leads: Camille M. Wilson, Mara Johnson (Marsal Family School of Education) and Tonya Kneff-Chang (Medical School and Marsal Family School of Education)

Goal: This project endeavors to understand how a community engages, negotiates, adapts or resists state policies to shutter local schools, with the aim of helping to inform community members, educators and policymakers of more equitable and sustainable ways to improve and protect public schools.

Pilot testing the Racial Justice Impact Assessment Tool in a Local Health Department

Team leads: Melissa S. Creary, Paul J. Fleming and Whitney Peoples (School of Public Health)

Goal: In the first phase of this project, funded by the 2021 cycle of OVPR anti-racism grants, researchers partnered with the Washtenaw County Health Department to identify key opportunities and limits on anti-racist institutional transformation within local health departments. In this next funded phase, the team will pilot and evaluate the co-created Racial Justice Impact Assessment tool and training created as a result of their research.

Sankofa Community Research

Team leads: Stephen Ward, Rita Chin and Earl Lewis (LSA), Emily Kutil (A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning) and David Goldberg (Wayne State University) partnered with Black Bottom Archives

Goal: By bringing together oral histories, census records, business records, historic maps and other sources, this community-led project will study the multigenerational impact of displacement on Detroit’s Black Bottom community, focusing on the perspectives of Black Bottom survivors and Black Detroiters.

Exploring the Influence of Faculty Courses, Their Contexts, and Student Evaluations of Teaching on Faculty Career Inequalities in Engineering and Psychology

Team leads: Matthew Ronfeldt, Thomas Drake, W. Carson Byrd (Marsal Family School of Education) and Eric Schwartz (Stephen M. Ross School of Business)

Goal: This project will examine the relationships between student evaluations and career outcomes for faculty (with a focus on outcomes of historically marginalized populations) as well as the impact of various characteristics of the instructor, course, evaluating student and department.

Community-Centered Inquiry Into Racially Restrictive Covenants in Washtenaw County

Team leads: Justin Schell (U-M Library), Robert Goodspeed (A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning), Michael Steinberg (Law School), Yodit Mesfin Johnson and Jessica Letaw (FutureRoot)

Goal: This project will utilize computational methods and community-based research to identify and map property records that include historical racial covenants in Washtenaw County, to better understand how these covenants contributed to structural racism and should inform actions today.


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