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We are proud to convene and support researchers from various backgrounds, working together to solve some of society's most pressing issues.

Below are their reflections on time spent working with CSS:


Name: Marcos Leitão De Almeida
Title: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Year(s) at CSS: '21 - '22 


What did you do for the Center?

I worked as an ACLS Emerging Voices Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center For Social Solutions, focusing on the Third Slavery Project, which investigates the resilience and reproduction of slaving practices in our contemporary world. As such, I conducted research on the modern forms of slavery in Brazil between 1950 and 2010, contributed as a co-author to a team paper about the concept of “Third Slavery” (accepted to the Journal of Modern Slavery), and helped devise, together with Justin Shaffner (a former research associate at the Center), a Resource Center for the Third Slavery. This project lays the groundwork for a resource center for the third slavery that aims to improve prevention efforts against human trafficking and ultimately abolish modern-day slavery practices worldwide. The project remains on paper, but it hopefully represents a starting point for the Center´s plans for the Third Slavery project.


How long did you work with the Center? 

I worked at the Center for a year, from September 1, 2021, to August 31, 2022.


What initially drew you to the Center? 

In a time of academic uncertainty plagued by a pandemic that drags on, I´ve been increasingly interested in learning more about how a historian can bridge the gap between scholarly work and modern social disparities rooted in historical wrongs. The Center is a new institution, but it has already made an impact on several such themes, such as the topic of reparations of slavery, the future of work, and the ongoing practices of slavery in the globe. By observing and participating in different events, I was able to learn how a historian can harness their hard-won knowledge to put it to work on critical challenges of the contemporary world. In this regard, I learned quite a lot from the work of one of our associates, Dr. Jessica Cruz, and my mentor, Dr. Earl Lewis. 


What did you accomplish during your time at the Center?

I am a historian of Africa, and thus researching and writing about the continent is never far away from my duties. 

During my time at the Center, I published two articles in the Oxford Research Encyclopedias: the first, in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, explores the long history of slavery in the continent between 1000 BCE and the sixteenth century. The second, in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology, explores the long history of internal slave trades in different parts of the continent. I also published chapters and reviews and gave a lecture at the Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies at Bonn University, Germany. Finally, I prepared my book manuscript for submission.


Name: Nancy Love
Title: Visiting Professor
Year(s) at CSS: '21 - '22 


What did you do for the Center? 

I started my sabbatical in the Center with a question about how water and reparations overlap.  To clarify my question more, I was invited to attend the Crafting Democratic Futures Michigan team weekly meetings and periodic all-team meetings. After listening to the team and seeing the factors that come into considering reparations, I reformulated my research question around the long-standing issue of low trust in drinking water and water infrastructure that is particularly acute in poor and BIPOC communities.  After many decades working in the water industry, I know that the decision makers in the water industry are inordinately white and male.  So, I shifted my research emphasis.

I hypothesize that a more diverse water industry decision-maker workforce could result in more equitable decisions, policies, outcomes, and methods that elevate communities and neighborhoods that have experienced historical under-investment.  However, given the strong lack of trust in the water industry by many in these communities, how do we attract a more diverse workforce to work in an industry they do not trust? 

To narrow this a bit, I have met with some key leaders in the water industry to discuss an approach to evaluating the hypothesis and questions from within the existing workforce. I have also spoken with an academic colleague who is running a national committee related to equity and STEM who may be interested in finding funding for a workshop. Finally, I've been collecting literature and papers relevant to the topic.

With the Center's help, I earned an $8,300 Elizabeth Caroline Crosby grant from Advance to support this ongoing work.

Separate from the water workforce efforts, I led a planning initiative around sustainable and equitable nutrient-food systems, which was supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research that will continue into the coming year (the Center is a participating unit in the effort), and co-wrote with Julie Arbit an NSF CIVIC Phase I proposal focused around building trust and and school building drinking water quality through interventions. That grant has been funded.


How long did you work with the Center? 

I started in the Fall and continued attending through the academic year, and spent some time in May at the Center.  I look forward to staying involved with the Center as an affiliated faculty member.  


What initially drew you to the Center? 

The Center's thrust around Water, Equity, and Security, which overlaps with my broad interest in water infrastructure and equity. I met with Earl Lewis back in Fall 2019 around this thrust, and introduced him and the WES team to Branko Kerkez, with whom the Center is now collaborating for their stormwater work.


What did you accomplish during your time at the Center?

More than anything, I have really enjoyed watching the function of the Center, seeing a well-managed and collegial team, and learning more about race and inequities within topics where I have deep technical knowledge but do not have a full, historical perspective of the impact that these technologies have on people and communities. 

It was my goal to gain perspective outside of engineering, so that I could reassess my engineering approaches. I tried to look from within the Center out into engineering (and not the opposite engineering-centric view, which is more common).  I hope to stay very connected to the Center and to continue to identify opportunities for collaboration that contribute to the Center's mission.