January 14, 2021

Anti-Racism Action in 2020 and the Road Ahead

In June of 2020, I wrote to the Evans School community with a call to make anti-racism action our cornerstone for the year ahead. I am deeply appreciative of the many initiatives spearheaded, conceived, and supported in partnership between staff, faculty, students, and the administration over this time. While I realize and understand that – in many ways – we are just beginning, I also acknowledge the longer-term efforts of those in our community who have engaged in this work with passion and purpose for many years.

I am particularly grateful for the staff’s focus on identifying funds within all sub-budgets to dedicate to this work, as well as the identification of, development of, and engagement with internal and external training opportunities. Staff have inspired change in every team, as individuals and units identified actions and dove in. In particular, staff have thought deeply about every aspect of our engagement mission, including our approach to hosting internal and external events that embrace equity and inclusion.

Additionally, staff and faculty were pivotal in the autumn quarter launch of the Dean’s Forum on Race and Public Policy, which engaged more than 300 members of our wider community in conversations about race, voter rights and suppression, as well as policy, legal, and informational solutions. The election season was contentious and historic and called on us to lead in a special way given our platform as a top policy school. With the transition in Washington D.C. now underway, we will continue to use our voice and leverage our role in national conversations about racial justice, economic impact, community development, and public sector rebuilding.

Faculty and staff have been charged with leading anti-racism action in their service roles, particularly in the standing and ad-hoc committees which support the school’s educational and research programs and carry out school business. Committees that impact admissions, curriculum, merit evaluation, promotion, and hiring all reflect this priority. The partnership of students on many of these committees has also been a tremendous asset.

Related to our teaching mission, faculty have undertaken training and practical exercises to increase their capacity to lead discussions on race and equity in the classroom, and more generally. As one example, this autumn the Evans School collaborated with the Foster School and the Information School to tackle inclusive teaching and learning in a faculty workshop supported by a UW Diversity and Inclusion Seed Grant. Faculty worked on syllabi and classroom techniques, and also brought key takeaways back to their peers, further increasing this program’s impact. To support this work during this pandemic era of remote instruction, assistance was provided to faculty by the Dean’s Office to help develop accessible and inclusive classrooms and course materials. In addition, the Center for Teaching and Learning provided a workshop for Evans School faculty, and we set aside time for targeted discussions during faculty meetings.

We acknowledge the disproportionate burden carried by our faculty and staff of color during this time of increased awareness of longstanding racial injustice, especially in supporting student needs and particularly BIPOC students, but also in educating their peers and providing critical insights and role modeling, and we have worked to target support that reflects these often-unseen contributions.

Students have been partners in numerous efforts related to our programs and teaching mission, bringing a race, equity, and public policy lens. Notably, last spring the MPA students on the Curriculum Advocacy Team completed an independent research study to help the school think deeply about incorporating race and equity content into our curriculum and classrooms. Over the summer, faculty reviewed the report and its recommendations, some of which have been actionable in the short term, while others reflect longer term initiatives. PhD students also engaged in their own dedicated training and brought forward suggestions for action to promote racial justice in their program. And the EMPA program is engaging in an equity audit of its curriculum, ably led by an outstanding EMPA alum.

As I end my term as interim dean, I celebrate incoming Dean Jodi Sandfort’s commitment to lead the Evans School to be anti-racist institution. In her tenure as dean, anti-racism action will continue to be a cornerstone of our work and will expand further as our school explores how to diversify the pipeline of public servants through partnerships with the Public Policy & International Affairs Program and re-define our curriculum. While we are early in this journey, it has been inspiring to witness the energy and intention demonstrated throughout our community. I look forward to the time ahead as the Evans School begins its next chapter, together!