Our social landscape interweaves many dimensions of difference: racial, ethnic, regional, class, heritage, language, indigeneity, and sexuality, among others. As groups that once held an absolute majority now find themselves to be one of many voices, how we think and learn about diversity is critical to how we frame and consider social policy. Research has demonstrated that diversity in education, business, and technology can be leveraged in strengthening our prosperous democracy. But indifference and hostility towards our shifting reality still exists and limits our ability to effectively and peaceably navigate these new dynamics. Convincing a wide range of potentially interested parties that embracing diversity is indeed an effort that benefits the common good requires covering many arenas of social, educational, political, economic, civic and cultural life. By engaging many perspectives and thinking deliberately about policies and practices that can unite rather than divide our society, the Center for Social Solutions hopes to strengthen a shared belief in the positive relationship between diversity and democracy.
The center’s overall diversity effort begins with the Our Compelling Interests book series, underwritten by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This project seeks to publish forthright, multifaceted analyses of the scholarship demonstrating the value of diversity in a variety of contexts, including social connectedness, innovation, religion, and education among others. These Princeton University Press volumes on the value of diversity for democracy and a prosperous society are co-edited by Dr. Earl Lewis, founding director of the Center for Social Solutions, with Dr. Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Rutgers University—Newark.
The Diversity and Democracy initiative has grown at the Center for Social Solutions to encompass the discussions generated by the book series at events taking place around the country, as well as an academic leadership institute that focuses on diversity in higher education. Many of the center’s events have been developed in partnership with conventional media, sites of public engagement such as the New York Public Library and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and partners committed to non-partisan approaches to key topics, such as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Additionally, the Academic Leadership Institute (ALI) is being developed collaboratively with Dr. Dwight McBride, President of The New School, and the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity to build a new generation of higher education leaders committed to fostering the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion at their institutions.