Dr. Craig Brookins, associate professor of Psychology and Africana Studies and director of Interdisciplinary Degree Programs in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, tells the Digest about his perspectives on diversity and equity in the university setting.
What have been some of your major projects and/or activities relating to diversity and equity?
- mentoring/advising 19 doctoral graduates across several diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds;
- mentoring/advising a considerable number of undergraduate students across several diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds and in majors across the university;
- leadership in the development of the Africana Studies Baccalaureate degree;
- directing the Africana Studies degree program for 13 years;
- directing the Africa Project and coordinating the Africa Project Scholarship Program that provides financial assistance to students studying or conducting research in Africa or the African Diaspora;
- serving on numerous university committees that have diversity and equity-related strategic goals (e.g., At Home in the World, the Humanities and Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Programs Council of Directors);
- developing and leading study abroad programs to several countries on the continent of Africa, programs which have emphasized the mission of exposing a diversity of students to the educational opportunities in this part of the world;
- developing and operating the African Diaspora Film Festival;
- recruiting a considerable number of faculty and graduate students who are members of groups traditionally underrepresented in their fields by virtue of ethnicity, race, gender or sexual orientation;
- serving as the evaluation consultant for the Initiative to Maximize Student Diversity, an NIH funded program sponsored by the graduate school and designed to increase the number of underrepresented research scientists in the biomedical and behavioral science careers; and
- implementing or providing technical assistance to a number of community-based programs serving African American youth.
How do you see the concepts and practices of creating and supporting diversity and equity in the university environment changing in the near future, both nationally and at NC State?
The idea and definitions of diversity have expanded greatly in recent years. In general, this is a good thing. We must be careful, however, that those definitions don’t get so broad that they lose their meaning. I always have spoken of the idea of “intractable” diversity, which simply means that it is a critical and essential aspect of our humanity that ain’t going nowhere, in that we should celebrate and welcome how it will continue to contribute to our ever-changing culture, economies and communities. Diversity must also be understood relative to the other trends in higher education and those pushing the nation as a whole. For instance, as the demands on what the public expects from public higher education change relative to the changing needs of society (e.g., producing jobs and knowledge), diversity and equity must stay central to those conversations and seen as assets, as opposed to something that can be put on the back burner.
How would you like to see NC State continue on the path of welcoming a diverse community?
Many people may not know this, but NC State has been somewhat of a leader in recognizing the need for executive-level leadership on issues of diversity and equity for universities in the southern United States. What began as a focus understandably embedded within the black/white dichotomy of a southern university has expanded to recognize the intersection of the multiple communities of which we are all apart. NC State has done a good job of putting in place the institutional structures to keep pace and mostly proactively respond to these changes, so I would expect that to continue. The Chancellor has also taken leadership on setting the proper tone for how equity and diversity should occur in our community. The next vice provost for equity and diversity, however, will need to also be a strong leader in these areas and hopefully bring additional innovative ideas to build on all of this. So for instance, my research on understanding the factors that contribute to the persistence and success of students from underrepresented groups in the sciences points to the need for even more focused efforts across the colleges and universities. That is not always easy and will require a leader who can bring solutions as opposed to simply championing the ideas.