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UMSI to receive funding for two anti-racism faculty positions

Tuesday, 03/23/2021

The University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) will hire two new faculty positions as part of the University of Michigan Anti-Racism Faculty Hiring Initiative. In total, eight new faculty positions across seven units have been selected for funding for the initiative’s first round of hires.

The three-year hiring initiative — an important facet of U-M’s anti-racism initiatives — will ultimately add at least 20 new tenured or tenure-track faculty members with scholarly expertise in racial inequality and structural racism to schools and colleges across campus.

"Using scholarship and research to illuminate and address societal challenges is an important part of the university’s mission,” said Provost Susan M. Collins. "The university’s strong record of work on race and racism will be augmented and extended by hiring these eight new faculty members in the critical areas of healthcare and the use of technology."

The preliminary call for proposals was met with enthusiasm and 15 of U-M’s 19 schools and colleges and the Institute for Social Research collaborated to submit 11 proposals for the selection committee to consider.  

“The proposals represented a broad range of scholarly approaches and reflected the universitywide commitment to advancing the study of systemic and other forms of racism and the elimination of racial injustice,” said Vice Provost Sara Blair, who chaired the committee. “The selection committee was deeply impressed by their ambition, energy and imagination of new synergies across campus.” 

Charged by the provost, the 12-member faculty selection committee chose the following proposals for funding in this first round.

Racial Justice in Technology

This cluster of three faculty members, who will be appointed in the School of Information, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, coalesces an emerging interdisciplinary field of research that focuses on structural racism produced and reproduced by information technology, design and technology policies, and the potential to build a new generation of emancipatory technologies.

Building on the work of current faculty, the Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing; the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program; and a network of community engagement projects in Detroit, it will focus on the intersection of racial justice with the domains of data and artificial intelligence. 

“Technology is often understood as inherently future oriented and as separate from ‘negative’ pasts and presents such as colonialism, slavery, and labor exploitation,” said UMSI associate professor Silvia Lindtner. “I saw this proposal as a unique opportunity to provide institutional support and amplify the work of scholars who begin from a deep commitment to critically examining and intervening in such technological promises that produce and reproduce racism and racist violence. Crucially, what brought the faculty across the three schools together for this cluster hire in Racial Justice and Technology was the understanding that critical inquiry, historical analysis, and justice work are at the core of technological expertise, rather than mere afterthoughts.”

Racial Justice in Healthcare: Informatics and Data-Driven Approaches

This cluster of five faculty members, to be appointed in the schools of Information, Nursing, and Public Health, College of Pharmacy and Medical School, will focus on using informatics and data science methods to detect, understand, and reduce structural racism within healthcare, as well as racial healthcare disparities.

The participating schools will focus on developing new networks and infrastructure for collaboration, to support stronger outcomes and to connect new faculty with one another and with current faculty and their research and engagement.

“The cluster hire will bring the perspective of multiple scholarly disciplines and health professions together around research on racial justice in health care,” said Tiffany Veinot, associate dean for faculty, and professor of information. “This can facilitate generation of new approaches to problems, and rapid translation of learnings between different fields. Furthermore, U-M has a growing number of faculty in the partnering units investigating health disparities and informatics, data analytics, or technology-enabled interventions. The cluster hire will help faculty coalesce around racial justice as a focal strength, thus becoming the leading US institution in this area.” 

Veinot is optimistic about the actionable change that can result from the research these positions will generate.

“Given the themes of the cluster hire, we anticipate that new and existing faculty will develop, implement, and evaluate new community-driven interventions and novel policies, as well as produce important knowledge about the implications of existing technologies, practices, and policies for racial justice,” said Veinot. “Additionally, all of the partnering schools train new health professionals, and the cluster hire will allow units to enhance their leadership in training anti-racist health professionals. This means developing curriculum and other educational experiences that will help to reduce providers’ implicit racial biases and enhance their structural competence concerning racism.”

The National Center for Institutional Diversity announced last week the launch of the Anti-Racism Collaborative, a project designed to support new and existing scholars whose research focuses on anti-racism, racial equity and racial justice.

The interdisciplinary collaborative — of which the new hires will be a part — will facilitate seminars, symposia and panels, provide grant funding in various capacities, and offer scholarly and professional development opportunities for the U-M community interested in and focussed on racism, racial equity and justice. 

“The collaborative is also a proactive strategy designed to support retention of faculty with anti-racist commitments through building a scholarly and action-oriented community,” said Tabbye Chavous, NCID director, associate vice president for research, and professor of education and psychology. “In the coming months and years, we look forward to all the ways in which our U-M will facilitate the expansion of this vital work.”

UMSI faculty involved in the Racial Justice in Technology proposal:

Mark Ackerman
Nazanin Andalibi
Robin Brewer
Sophia Brueckner
Ceren Budak
Tawanna Dillahunt
Nicole Ellison
Patrícia García
Eric Gilbert
Oliver Haimson
Julie Hui
Abigail Jacob
Silvia Lindtner
Christian Sandvig - lead
Sarita Schoenebeck
Andrea Thomer
Kentaro Toyama
Ricardo L. Punzalan
Irene V. Pasquetto
Sun Young Park

UMSI faculty involved in the Racial Justice in Healthcare: Informatics and Data-Driven Approaches proposal:

Nazanin Andalibi
Tawanna Dillahunt
Oliver Haimson
Libby Hemphill
Abigail Jacobs
David Jurgens
Predrag Klasnja
Gabriela Marcu
Qiaozhu Mei
Mustafa Naseem
Casey Pierce
Tiffany Veinot - lead

More Information:

Anti-racism faculty hiring moves forward

U-M anti-racism initiatives

 

Lauren Love,  U-M Public Affairs
Jessica Webster, UMSI PR Specialist