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Reaffirming Action: Designs for Diversity in Higher Education, 2003-2007

Findings from the twelve Reaffirming Action case studies are described and analyzed in Doing Diversity in Higher Education: Faculty Leaders Share Challenges and Strategies, a book edited by Winnifered R. Brown-Glaude and published by Rutgers University Press, 2009.

Doing Diversity in Higher Education Comments on the book:
“This book makes an important contribution to our understanding of diversity work on the ground and the crucial role of collaboration among faculty leadership and administrators. It is an invaluable resource for those involved in diversifying higher education in a challenging legal environment.”
Lee Bollinger, president, Columbia University

“Doing Diversity in Higher Education is an extraordinary collection of essays by faculty leaders from a diverse group of colleges and universities. Their candid analyses of a broad range of transformation efforts are a testament to both the successes and short-comings of this important work. In the context of an ongoing backlash against diversity initiatives in the academy—despite the urgency of these projects—it is refreshing to witness the tenacity and courage of such a group.”
Beverly Guy Sheftall, founding director, Women’s Research & Resource Center, Spelman College

The Institute for Women’s Leadership was the recipient of a four-year grant from the Ford Foundation to conduct a research-action project to identify, examine and disseminate change strategies in institutions of higher learning that are demonstrably working to enhance racial and gender equity. The Reaffirming Action: Designs for Diversity in Higher Education project placed special emphasis on the role of faculty as change agents in leading and supporting progress toward diversity goals in selected institutions of higher education.

The purpose of the project was to pinpoint more precisely than has been done to date specifically what roles faculty play in initiating and supporting the kinds of organizational structures, policies, practices, leadership, networks, cultures, and programs that contribute to successful and sustained progress in advancing racial and gender equity. The Institute for Women’s Leadership selected faculty teams from twelve institutions of higher education to participate in the Reaffirming Action research initiative including: Clark-Atlanta University, Columbia University, Rutgers University, Smith College, Spelman College, University of Arizona, UC-Davis, UC-Santa Barbara, University of Maryland, University of Miami, University of Missouri, and University of Vermont.

A key argument of the Reaffirming Action study was that barriers related to race and gender equality are embedded in institutions’ organizational structures and practices. Consequently systemic change has been difficult to achieve. Yet while these barriers do exist, faculty members have managed in different ways to break them down, demonstrating time and time again various models of leadership for change.

The co-principal investigators for the Reaffirming Action research initiative were: Mary S. Hartman, University Professor and Director, Institute for Women’s Leadership; and Cheryl A. Wall, Board of Governors Zora Neal Hurston Professor of English, Rutgers, Rutgers University.

The Project Director was Dr. Winnifred R. Brown-Glaude, who was also the recipient of the first Rutgers Presidential Post Doctoral Fellowship and is currently Assistant Professor of African American Studies, The College of New Jersey.

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