WHILE THE OTHERING & BELONGING INSTITUTE makes an impact far beyond its physical location, UC Berkeley remains its foundation and home. The vision for the Institute was an innovative model that would recruit new, diverse talent to the UC Berkeley campus to foster interdisciplinary, collaborative and applied research that would shape and inform equitable policies and practices.
The Institute’s partnership with the university’s Division of Equity and Inclusion has led to the adoption of othering and belonging as a university-wide framework for all diversity and inclusion initiatives. Vice-Chancellor of the division, Oscar Dubón, credits the Institute for helping the university live up to its mission of serving all Californians.
At the core of the Othering & Belonging Institute are over 90 Institute-affiliated faculty, who are a cornerstone of UC Berkeley’s efforts to increase campus diversity. Organized in seven thematic clusters, this vibrant network of scholars draws upon Berkeley’s considerable multidisciplinary research excellence and history of engaged scholarship. Faculty are focused on research and teaching that address some of the most critical issues related to equity and belonging. Leadership of the clusters is provided by eight endowed chairs, a force that is unprecedented at Berkeley, and serves as a model for other universities.
The clusters operate as a support system that lessens the sense of isolation that many underrepresented faculty have indicated they can experience in academic environments. Their tenure on campus demonstrates UC Berkeley’s commitment to tackling racism, inequity, and related social issues. The Institute's cluster initiative incentivizes faculty from diverse fields to collaborate on research that allow the entire university to engage with research and policy work that has a structural and systemic focus on issues related to marginalization and inclusion.
“The concept of belonging is behind everything we do in the Division for Equity and Inclusion. We want people to bring their full authentic selves to any space on campus and feel like they belong.”—Oscar Dubón, Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion, UC Berkeley
Institute faculty have organized themselves into a set of interdisciplinary working groups that span across the research clusters in order to advance critical conversations on research that helps influence discourse and policy. One such example is a group who are conducting research on policing as an issue affecting the health of underrepresented minorities and other vulnerable populations. This research includes mass incarceration but also includes school policing, foster care discipline, surveillance and curfews of young minority men, ICE raids, and similar practices. Another working group is producing an edited volume on the “Trauma of Trumpism” with the participation of faculty from several research clusters, along with prominent UC Berkeley faculty such as critical theorist and feminist philosopher Judith Butler.
New areas of inquiry are opened up when scholars from diverse backgrounds are afforded the opportunity to explore critical research questions and access the investment required to answer those questions. One of the Institute’s first faculty hires, Mahasin Mujahid, is serving as the one of several principal investigators, and leads up a core group, of a groundbreaking, $21 million study on disparities in heart disease in the rural south, a major effort that is the first of its kind in research in the US.
Institute scholars are highly regarded, widely-cited leaders in their field. Michael Omi’s book Racial Formation in the United States has been cited over 13,300 times. Other prominently cited works by faculty cluster experts are: Karen Nakamura (2,273 citations), David Harding (5,991 citations), Seth Holmes (2,223), Karen Barkey (2,651), Anu Manchikanti Gómez (1,167), Cybelle Fox (1,365), Enrico Moretti (23,252), Heather Haveman (8,729), Ian Haney Lopez, (11,756), Kurt Organista (4,021), and Lawrence Cohen (4,435). In addition, media frequently draws on the expertise of many cluster scholars to speak to issues related to inequality, race, disability, LGBTQ, and other dynamics of the global social, political, and cultural landscape.
The Institute has funded a set of intervention grants to cluster faculty that have allowed faculty to delve into issues that have an important impact on social change efforts. Examples of funded intervention grants include: a campus climate study of undocumented experiences at UC Berkeley in light of political threats to DACA; a data visualization food map that captures barriers to equitable food systems at UC Berkeley; a series of psychological studies designed to analyze backlash to inclusive policies; and how spatial inequality in the Bay Area affects immigrant communities. The Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative, seeded with an Institute faculty intervention grant, initially to support policy briefs and research on immigration and health, is now a fully operating unit at UC Berkeley with a wide research agenda.
The Institute’s cluster faculty members also greatly enhance and impact the experience of UC Berkeley students, especially graduate students. About two dozen new courses addressing issues of gender, race, sexual orientation, and poverty have been created by Institute faculty in departments ranging from law to geography.
POLITICAL AND PUBLIC EDUCATION
Institute cluster faculty have been instrumental in shaping an extensive suite of programming for the campus and wider community, often on issues that have not been adequately explored through other venues.
Launched by the Institute in 2017, the UC Berkeley Research to Impact lecture series focuses on programming regarding critical and cutting-edge scholarship. Symposia topics have ranged from high-stakes issues such as: the criminalization of African American and Latino teens; political knowledge and engagement in communities of color; and disability studies. The series, collaboratively curated by Institute faculty, has hosted such leaders as Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institute speaking on “Dream Hoarders: How the American Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust”; Victor Rios from UC Santa Barbara on “The Mis-Education and Criminalization of Black and Latino Boys”; Cathy Cohen on “Reimagining Political Knowledge: Race and the Carceral State”; and a panel on family separations featuring Ericka Huggins, Heidi Castaneda and Angie Junck. These lectures have drawn hundreds of attendees from across UC Berkeley and the local community.
Another critical contribution to public education from Institute faculty, led by associate director Denise Herd, was a large-scale campuswide initiative commemorating the 400th anniversary of the forced arrival of enslaved Africans in the English Colonies. The 400 Years of Resistance to Slavery and Injustice initiative curated dozens of events for the 2019-2020 academic year on campus with scholars, activists, and artists from around the country reflecting on the enduring legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, looking at the Civil Rights era, our current era, and trying to imagine a future based on justice, reconciliation, and belonging. The initiative was launched with a day-long symposium in August 2019 featuring more than a dozen speakers from backgrounds in history, African American studies, and activism, which drew hundreds of attendees. As the principal organizer of the initiative, the Institute also developed a website with event details and videos, as well as educational resources for people to learn more about African American history. Among those resources is an interactive timeline with almost 200 entries with descriptions and images of key events and moments from 1619 to 2019.
The Othering & Belonging Institute faculty clusters set UC Berkeley apart from other academic institutions as one of the few campuses in the nation combining faculty diversity recruitment, scholarly and policy-oriented research, and educational programming.