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National Discussion Events

Building off of the people and ideas included in the Our Compelling Interests book series, the Center for Social Solutions has continued the tradition started with the original effort at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to foster nation-wide discussions on diversity. Each event aims to engage citizens of various affiliations in the research supported by our Diversity and Democracy Initiative through thoughtful discussions produced by both a moderated panel and audience-provided questions. The locations for our events are carefully selected to not just cover the United States, but to inform the panel's agenda through the contemporary cultural influence of the building or organization that hosts the event.

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Please note that the listed titles for the individuals who headlined our previous events are accurate to the date of the event that they participated in, and they may currently no longer hold those specific positions.

Our Compelling Interests Series: Leveraging Diversity

Rackham Graduate School, Amphitheatre

Ann Arbor, MI

December 11, 2019
4:00 PM


Contributors to the Our Compelling Interests book series and initiative joined us for a panel discussion to share their perspectives on what we gain from diversity. The panel will explore the diversity narratives as well as how we leverage diversity to create new forms of a healthy civic nation. Joining the moderator, U-M professor Angela Dillard, will be contributors to the first three volumes in the book series and the author of the highly anticipated fourth publication.


Tony Banout, Senior Vice President, Interfaith Youth Core
Nancy Cantor, Chancellor, Rutgers University-Newark
Gary Orfield, Distinguished Research Professor of Education, Law, Political Science and Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles; Co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA
Scott Page, John Seely Brown Distinguished University Professor of Complexity, Social Science, and Management at the University of Michigan

Moderated by Angela Dillard, Richard A. Meisler Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican & African Studies and in the Residential College, University of Michigan


WQED-PBS, The Fred Rogers Studio

Pittsburgh, PA

May 6, 2019
5:30 p.m.


Following recent tragic attacks on places of worship around the world, Eboo Patel and other influential Pittsburgh figures came together for a dynamic discussion about religion, diversity, and spiritual coexistence. The third volume of the Our Compelling Interests book series, written by Patel himself, explores these issues in greater detail, with insights about how religious pluralism is a significant factor in a prosperous society.


Eboo Patel, founding president of Interfaith Youth Core and author of Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise
William Peduto, Mayor, City of Pittsburgh
Robert P. Jones, CEO, Public Religion Research Institute
Jeffrey Myers, Rabbi, Tree of Life Synagogue

Moderated by Lisa Washington of WQED PBS and KDKA-TV CBS


Art Institute of Chicago, Rubloff Auditorium

Chicago, IL

Sept.  24, 2018
3:30 p.m.


The Our Compelling Interests book series has launched its third volume. In this new volume, Eboo Patel (Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core; former faith advisor to President Barack Obama) explores today’s volatile climate of religious conflict, prejudice, and distrust, and examines the principle that the American promise is deeply intertwined with how we engage with people of different beliefs.

The book panel program featured Eboo Patel as well as volume contributors John Inazu (Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor, Washington University in St. Louis), Robert Jones (CEO, Public Religion Research Institute), and Laurie Patton (President, Middlebury College). Nancy Cable (Chancellor, University of North Carolina-Asheville) will moderate the keynote panel.

The Carter Center, Cecil B. Day Chapel

Atlanta, GA

Feb.  21, 2018
5:30 p.m.


What if workforce diversity is more than simply the right thing to do in order to make society more integrated and just? In this panel, experts across the corporate, academic, and media sectors discussed how organizations can leverage identity- and cognitive-based differences to better their bottom line and address the complex challenges of the knowledge economy. The second volume in The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Our Compelling Interests series, The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy, authored by University of Michigan diversity expert Scott E. Page, will help establish the framework for the conversation.


Janine Cabrera-Velde, training and communications specialist, Emory University; Andrew R. Davis, global chief diversity & inclusion officer, The Coca-Cola Company; Gail Evans, executive vice president, CNN (ret.); Scott E. Page, Leonid Hurwicz collegiate professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute; Moderated by Celeste Headlee, host of Georgia Public Broadcasting's On Second Thought

Listen to the Our Compelling Interests panel discussion on The Diversity Bonus, featured on Georgia Public Broadcasting's "On Second Thought" with Celeste Headlee.

LACMA | Bing Theather

Los Angeles, CA

Sept.  27, 2017
7:00 p.m.


What if workforce diversity is more than simply the right thing to do in order to make society more integrated and just? In this panel, Scott E. Page discussed the power of cognitive differences, a subject raised in his latest book, The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy, the second volume in the Our Compelling Interests series—an initiative of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Jana Babatunde-Bey, president of the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation
Nancy Cantor, series editor and chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark
Jerry Kang, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion at the University of California-Los Angeles
Scott E. Page, volume author and Leonid Hurwicz Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics at the University of Michigan

Moderated by Charmaine Jefferson, president of Kélan Resources, vice chair of the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission, trustee for the California Institute of the Arts, co-chair of the PBS SoCal African American Community Council


The American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Cambridge, MA

April 18, 2017
5:00 p.m.


At a time when American society is swiftly transforming and reengaged in debates over identity politics, the new book series Our Compelling Interests sheds light on how connecting across differences will only become more critical to our shared success. WGBH and World Channel General Manager Liz Cheng moderated a panel discussion with: Danielle Allen, chair, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Board, James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University; Earl Lewis, president, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Deval Patrick, managing director, Bain Capital Double Impact, former governor of Massachusetts; and Amy Schulman, managing partner at Polaris Partners. Co-hosted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in partnership with Princeton University Press, WGBH, and World Channel.

The New York Public Library

New York, NY

Dec. 13, 2016
6:00 p.m.


At a time when American society is swiftly transforming, the book series Our Compelling Interests sheds light on how our differences will only become more critical to our shared success. After a reading by poet and Schomburg Center Director Kevin Young, WNYC Host Brian Lehrer moderated a panel discussion featuring Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor (series coeditor), Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Nicole Gelinas, New York Public Library President Tony Marx, NAACP Legal Defense Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill, and Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.


The National Press Club

Washington, DC

Sept 28, 2016
6:00 p.m.


In celebration of the Our Compelling Interests book launch, New Yorker Staff Writer and Columbia Journalism School Professor Jelani Cobb moderated a panel discussion featuring contributors Patricia Gurin, Nicole Smith, and Thomas Sugrue. Series coeditors Earl Lewis and Nancy Cantor shared welcoming remarks.