Patricia Gurin, a diversity researcher and pioneer in intergroup dialogue, has been named the recipient of the 2019 James S. Jackson Distinguished Career Award for Diversity Scholarship.

The award — jointly administered by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the National Center for Institutional Diversity — is given biennially to a senior faculty member who has made significant contributions to understanding diversity, equity and inclusion while addressing disparities in contemporary society.

Photo of Patricia Gurin
Patricia Gurin

Gurin is the Nancy Cantor Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Psychology and Women’s Studies, Arthur Thurnau Professor Emerita, professor emerita of psychology and women’s studies, and professor emerita in service, curriculum support, in LSA.

“Gurin was selected for her groundbreaking scholarship that provided foundational empirical evidence for the value of diversity to education and for her work developing a teaching framework that engages students in meaningful and substantive interactions across difference,” said Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer.

Gurin will receive the award Nov. 18 in East Hall Lecture Room 1324, and at 4 p.m. will present her distinguished lecture, titled “Collectivity, Community, and Connections in the Pursuit of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”

“More than any other award, the James S. Jackson Distinguished Career Award for Diversity Scholarship represents the core of who I am,” said Gurin, responding to her naming.  “It represents what my activities, leadership, scholarship, and my personal and family life are all about.”

Gurin’s research laid the foundation for the intergroup dialogue curricular method — a teaching method that guides students of different races, genders or other social identity characteristics — to learn from each other utilizing experiential pedagogy to analyze and understand social conflict, intergroup relations and issues of diversity and justice.

She said a key component of intergroup dialogue is that it brings together students from subsets of the population that either have clashed or had little contact with each other. The thought is that such groups can learn from conflict in a structured setting in which talks unfold over time and all participants are on equal footing.

“If diversity is really going to mean anything, it is not just having students in the same place,” Gurin once said to explain the approach. “They have to interact. They need to learn to have deep and meaningful conversations about topics that people want to avoid.”

Major thrusts in Gurin’s scholarly work have sought to find answers about how groups in society that lack the usual resources — wealth and higher education — manage to create social change on their group’s behalf to bring about greater equity and how groups that differ in power, cultural practices and histories manage to work together to create social change.

As a result of her work, intergroup dialogue has become a widely used strategy for colleges to break down diversity silos in the classroom and elsewhere. At the University of Michigan, intergroup dialogue has evolved from a single course offering into an academic program and undergraduate minor.

Further lending to her role as a leader in the areas of diversity and psychological science, Gurin was the university’s key expert witness on the educational benefits of diversity when its race-conscious admissions policies were challenged in the federal courts from 1997 to 2003.

Gurin presented her research examining the beneficial effects of diversity on learning outcomes, such as engagement in active thinking and on democracy outcomes, including participation in citizenship activities, acknowledging the value of differences and post-college integration.

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