Reflecting on her experience at a leadership bootcamp, Manya Whitaker, department chair and author of a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, expressed her hesitancy about leadership bootcamps. Though she ultimately recommends these bootcamps to those on the fence, Whitaker’s initial worries about how one-size-doesn't-fit-all-schools are not unfounded. This is why the Academic Leadership Institute takes an individualized approach to leadership techniques. 

August 1 marks the official launch of the Academic Leadership Institute’s residential program. Our first cohort comprises 23 leaders with demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, from around the world seeking to transform higher education and prepare for the upper echelons of academia. Each workshop will be hosted by current leaders in academia representing some of the most prestigious universities and colleges as well as education philanthropic foundations.

Learn more about the Academic Leadership Institute here.


The Center for Social Solutions is proud to announce the receipt of a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation dedicated to studying the COVID-19 pandemic effects on workers classified as “essential” during the pandemic who held primarily low-skilled jobs, with particular emphasis on African Americans in Southeastern Michigan. The interview-based project will span two years and aims to address changes in workers’ reported self-value with relation to their employment. 

This project is a component of the Center’s larger focus on dignity, a topic central to associate director Dr. Alford A. Young, Jr.’s recent book, From the Edge of the Ghetto: African Americans and the World of Work.


Detroit, like much of the world, has seen unprecedented flooding this summer, following above average rainfall for SE Michigan counties from April through June, 2021, according to NOAA. Researchers at CSS have partnered with the University of Michigan’s Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) department to lend a sociological hand to studying flood and stormwater management in urban settings. CEE has designed low-cost sensors to detect infrastructure failure while CSS researchers utilize GIS and Census data to determine areas most vulnerable to severe damage, often disproportionately home to low-income and minority populations.

The technology designed by CEE can create a denser monitoring network for flooding that is comparable to existing models, but can be used at smaller geographic scales that are better for identifying who is at risk. Eventually, this will be paired with the Center’s new vulnerability risk index, which aims to not only help identify vulnerable areas but also help people recover more quickly. First and foremost, however, the CEE sensors cost a fraction of the current industry standard—an integral first step toward equitable urban living experiences.


As part of our internal Crafting Democratic Futures communications, we highlight one team’s story every month. This month, we’re sharing broadly the story of Spelman College’s community fellows and the unique bond they share. 

Sarah Eisner is a direct descendant of the Kellers; Randy Quarterman, a Quarterman. Sarah’s great-great-great grandfather enslaved Randy’s great-great-great grandfather. Though George Keller provided Zeike Quarterman with 10 acres of reparations land in 1865, Randy informed Sarah that the Quartermans had been paying taxes on this land despite being denied access and having it taken away through eminent domain.  

Spelman College, one of our Crafting Democratic Futures sites, is in the process of collecting oral histories with the Quarterman and Keller families. In order to gather information about their family histories but also to understand what reparations looks like.  

“The Spelman project is about truth telling first; then we move to racial healing,” commented Dr. Cynthia Spence, principal investigator of the Spelman team and an associate professor of sociology. 

Read more about the Quarterman Keller Foundation and Reparations Project here.