In 2008, Sociology graduate students and faculty formed a Race and Ethnic Relations (RER) Committee to explore options for strengthening recruitment and retention of students and faculty of color at Indiana University. Among other issues, we identified the need for more workshops and seminars addressing current theoretical and methodological debates in the scholarship on race. RER then organized a “Building Bridges” 1-day discussion panel which was held in February, 2008. Members of RER also organized a second interdisciplinary event in March, 2009 entitled “Social Research on Race: Building Bridges across the Pipeline.” This symposium (sponsored by the Office of the Provost; Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs; College of Arts and Sciences; Department of Sociology; African American and African Diaspora Studies; Latino Studies Program; Department of History; the Multidisciplinary Ventures and Seminars Fund; and Horizons of Knowledge) brought nine scholars who were at various stages of their academic careers together from across the country to share their research and insights on new frontiers to social research on race and ethnicity. The students who formed RER envisioned on-going efforts to diversify the IU Bloomington faculty as well as the creation of a common space for students who study research on race and ethnicity.
In the spring of 2009, representatives from the RER committee in sociology submitted a proposal for the Presidents University Diversity Initiative, entitled the Social Science Diversity Initiative (SSDI). The primary aim of the SSDI was to develop a Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society on the IUB campus.
During the summer of 2009, the SSDI formed an advisory board consisting of 8 IUB faculty members who conduct research on race and ethnicity in the U.S. The advisory board identified three areas of critical need during their two meetings in the summer of 2009. First, the eventual center should focus on creating a strong, interdisciplinary community of scholars studying race and ethnicity that reaches across departmental boundaries to provide social, scholarly and financial (i.e., seed grants) support to faculty. Second, the center should create an environment that is conducive to training students to conduct cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research on race and ethnicity and providing financial support for that research through travel and research grants. Lastly, the center should foster the development of collaborative research and provide a venue for disseminating research to the university community and larger public.
The SSDI took several actions in the 2009-2010 academic year to address the three areas of critical need identified by the advisory board. First, we began a monthly colloquium series. The speakers for the series consisted of faculty and graduate students from around the IU community presenting their research on race and ethnicity. In addition to speakers from the campus community, we worked closely with the Office of Women’s Affairs to bring Dr. Camille C. Charles, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, to the campus for a colloquium in the spring of 2010—it was a huge success! Each of these colloquia was characterized by a unique interdisciplinary dialogue such that historians learned from sociologists, political scientists, psychologists and area studies specialists, and vice versa.
The second set of actions of the SSDI during the 2009-10 academic year was to disseminate information on graduate courses on race and ethnicity to students both in- and outside the College of Arts and Sciences, and to provide a course offering on the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender and class in the United States (H637). Through communications with the chairs of several departments, the director identified 7 courses in the College of Arts and Sciences that were of interest to students studying race and ethnicity. This initial list created a demand for more information about courses in other disciplines on race (the director received several emails and calls about race and ethnic relations course listings in the 2010-11 year in the spring of 2010). In addition to distributing course information, an advisory board member worked with the Dean of the School of Education so that we could offer an interdisciplinary course for students interested in research on race and ethnicity. Dr. Robert Arnove, a Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus, agreed to teach the course. Each week the course (H637: Race, Ethnicity, Class, Gender and Identity) brought in a social scientist or historian to teach/discuss their research on race and ethnicity. Over the course of the semester, the students heard from sociologists about research methods, political scientists about critical race theory, education scholars about institutional racism, and many more.
A final action of the SSDI during the 2009-10 academic year was the graduate student grant competition. We sought to provide resources to graduate students conducting original social scientific research in the area of race and ethnicity in the United States [U.S.], or the intersection of race, gender and class in the U.S. To that end, we awarded five (5) graduate student grants ranging from $1,500 to $2,420 to graduate students at IU Bloomington. The recipients of the inaugural graduate student grant awards were two students in psychological and brain sciences, two students in sociology, and one student in the department of counseling psychology. In addition to varying disciplinary backgrounds, the awardees proposal topics ranged from experimental research on the role of interacting with cultural objects on prejudicial beliefs to a historical analysis of race-based colleges in the 20th century.
The 2010-2011 academic year built on these initial efforts. Specifically, we maintained our monthly colloquium series which included presentations by IU faculty, visiting scholars, and graduate students. Our spring colloquia series featured presentations by some of the recipients of the SSDI graduate student awards. We observed a noticeable increase in colloquium attendance and participation from both graduate students and faculty from across the College of Arts and Sciences. In addition to the colloquium series, there was an increase in the number of graduate students inquiring and applying for the graduate grants.
The Advisory Board continued to seek permanent funding for its existing activities and expand the community of scholars conducting research on race and ethnicity. These efforts proved fruitful in July 2012 when the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES) was officially approved by the College of Arts and Sciences. CRRES is now positioned to make IU Bloomington an increasingly important site for both training and research on race and ethnicity in the United States.