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DEI in Higher Education: Five Truths and Five Myths

March 28 @ 1:00 pm

Since 2023, legislators across 28 U.S. states and in Congress have introduced 81 bills restricting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs at colleges and universities, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s DEI Legislation Tracker. To report on this trend and its consequences, journalists want to understand the history of diversity initiatives, common myths about DEI today and the latest research showing what works — and doesn’t work — for creating equal opportunity and better outcomes among students, faculty and staff, and college campuses as a whole.  

Together with The Journalist’s Resource, the IARA Project hosted a one-hour webinar for journalists. 

In this webinar, we covered:

  • A brief history of diversity policies and initiatives.
  • The goals of DEI in higher education.
  • Policies and practices that research demonstrates are effective in helping schools reach DEI goals.
  • Today’s most prevalent myths about DEI.

Researchers shared: 

  • The most important questions journalists should be asking.
  • Tips and tools for strengthening news coverage.

Speakers included:

  • Khalil Gibran Muhammad is the Ford Foundation Professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. He directs the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project and is the former Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a division of the New York Public Library and the world’s leading library and archive of global Black history. Khalil’s scholarship examines the broad intersections of racism, economic inequality, criminal justice and democracy in U.S. History.
  • Erica Licht is Research Projects Director of the IARA Project. She has been engaged in racial equity and organizational change research and training for over 15 years. Erica is a Fulbright Scholar and holds a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School and a Masters in Justice Policy from the London School of Economics where she was a Maguire Fellow. 
  • Kristen Renn is the Mildred B. Erickson Distinguished Chair and Professor of Higher, Adult, & Lifelong Education in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University.  Her teaching and research focus on low-income students, mixed-race students and LGBTQ students. Previously, she was an Associate Dean of Student Life at Brown University and a policy analyst for the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. 
  • Denise-Marie Ordway (moderator) is the Managing Editor of The Journalist’s Resource. She has reported on higher education in the U.S. for two decades. A member of the Education Writers Association’s board of directors, Ordway completed a yearlong fellowship at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism in 2015 and received a master’s degree in higher education in 2019 from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2013 for an investigative series she led that focused on violent hazing and other problems at Florida A&M University.


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