Center for Racial Justice to lead research, new practices at Penn State

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CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — A new Center for Racial Justice is coming to Penn State. The university said it’s part of their ongoing efforts to address the challenges of racism, racial bias, and community safety happening across the country.

“Racism, racial bias, it crosses many disciplines, from urban environments, rural environments, health, finance, risk, all across our society, so we want to understand from a scholarly and research perspective, how to start tackling some of these critical areas,” said Dr. Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research at Penn State University.

“The goal of the center, primarily, is to use the university’s research mission to contend with the complicated past of our nation with regard to issues of racial equity and justice, as well as to do, I hope, some reparative work at the university,” said Clarence Lang, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Penn State.

Located inside the Social Science Research Institute, the center is a direct action item from the Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias, and Community Safety.

“One of the findings was to create a center where we can actually start doing some critical and scholarly investigations into the topics at hand,” said Weiss.

“It’s application for how we make Penn State and the Commonwealth more livable for all,” said Lang.

Penn State will conduct a nationwide search for the center’s director.

“They will help create and craft, some of the vision, some of the direction, some of the focus, some of the strategy, and some of the planning,” said Weiss.

Initial objectives for the center include:

  • Support cross-disciplinary, cross-methodological research activities across Penn State’s 24 campuses, including professional schools; outreach and extension; and in the arts, sciences, humanities, law, medicine and social sciences.
  • Provide resources for new faculty hires in partnership with colleges and campuses using the institute model.
  • Create a fellowship program that enables faculty to focus on critical research topics within the scope of center activities through seed grants that can lead to external funding or through term appointments that foster broader collaborations.
  • Support different viewpoints, approaches and models in the goal of addressing racial justice.
  • Create an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows through scholarships and project support. 
  • Coordinate additional relevant research-based activities in collaboration and partnership with other institutes and centers in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research.
  • Enable the development of racial justice pedagogies through educational tools for faculty and staff, workshops and public forums, as well as through other mechanisms.
  • Drive service and outreach opportunities that promote public discourse and the broad transfer of knowledge.
  • Support the University in its efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.

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