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A collective of six schools of public affairs announced today the launch of the new Public Affairs Diversity Alliance, uniting top public affairs and policy schools across the country that share a commitment to encouraging, training, mentoring, and promoting diverse scholars of public affairs and policy. The Alliance, the first of its kind in public affairs, seeks to encourage and sustain a pipeline of candidates for faculty positions in criminal justice, policy, and public administration.

Research over the last decade has shown that, when faculty identities mirror that of students, the student outcomes can improve. Faculty members who are concerned with education disparities may spend additional time with and generate more positive reinforcement when teaching students from diverse backgrounds and may choose to mentor them outside the classroom.

“At Sanford, we improved our recruiting practices with a goal of hiring a greater number of scholars from under-represented groups, and we are just beginning to see the benefits,” said Judith Kelley, Dean of Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

“The Public Affairs Diversity Alliance is another valuable step in the right direction. I look forward to working with our colleagues to build a vibrant, supportive program for young scholars.”

American University School of Public Affairs, which initiated and founded the Alliance, will chair the Public Affairs Diversity Alliance for a two-year term. Five other schools have joined as inaugural members: the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, the Price School at the University of Southern California, and the Evans School at the University of Washington.

“We want to ensure that we are retaining a diverse set of students who choose to stay in academia as they complete their graduate work, and that those candidates feel a sense of inclusion among their peers,” said Vicky Wilkins, Dean of American University School of Public Affairs.  


Related: Sanford Receives Diversity Award

The 2018 NASPAA Diversity Award honored the Sanford School for maintaining the highest standard in diversity through outstanding contributions in research, teaching and service. (NASPAA is the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration.) The school’s nomination letter cited the work of its Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), created in 2015. Pictured L-R: CDI members Kate Whetten, Judith Kelley, Jay Pearson and Deondra Rose. Kelley is dean of the school, others are faculty members.

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“The Alliance can play a role in strengthening a group of qualified and talented diverse candidates – from creating a welcoming post-doctoral experience to providing ongoing professional development and networking platforms. All member institutions and their students will benefit from increased access to a robust, inclusive candidate pool.”

Each institution will commit to hiring up to two Alliance post-doctoral fellows or visiting scholars annually, and will appoint both an internal and an external mentor to maximize networking and professional development. The Alliance will also take an active role in helping doctoral students achieve success as faculty members through programming.

Universities are among the largest public organizations in the United States, providing services to millions of students per year and serving as drivers of regional economies. These institutions are jointly responsible for helping students gain access to jobs and financial stability. The Public Affairs Diversity Alliance was inspired by the Diversity Alliance of the Association of College & Research Libraries, which was also founded at American University in 2017. 



Faculty member Jay Pearson was selected for the 2018 Social Justice Curriculum Award from NASPAA, which recognizes a faculty member who successfully incorporates social justice principles into the teaching of a core course. 

Pearson created a new syllabus for the required public policy ethics course, “Policy Choice as Value Conflict.” The syllabus addresses historical oppression and identity-based supremacy, contrasted with the American ideals of meritocracy and egalitarianism. The course explores these conflicts through the writing of diverse and contemporary thinkers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, bell hooks and Frederick Douglas, as well as through readings from the fields of sociology, anthropology, public health and psychology. The course is among the highest rated courses at the Sanford School.