Pardee RAND Graduate School’s Faculty Leaders Program seeks to bring more people from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds into public policy by giving professors from HBCUs, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities an opportunity to learn and practice policy analysis. By engaging with faculty, connecting them with fellow faculty leaders of color, and giving them the tools to be more effective scholars and teachers, the program has trained more than 100 people who, in turn, have brought their learnings back to their classrooms and communities.
As a Black woman in academia, Shearon Roberts thought the rules seemed pretty clear. Don't get too close to your research. Don't make it personal. Don't speak out too loudly. That all started to change in one week at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.
For years now, the school has made a unique investment in the future of public policy. Every summer, it invites a small group of scholars to campus to learn and practice policy analysis. They come mostly from the professor ranks of colleges and universities committed to serving students of color.
The goal is to bring more people from more backgrounds into the historically monochrome field of public policy—the professors, and then through them, their students. The need is critical, as months of protests against systemic racism have shown. Public policy is where change happens; to be effective, it needs to better reflect the aspirations, lives, and perspectives of the people it serves.
For Roberts, an assistant professor of mass communication at Xavier University of Louisiana, the opportunity to share notes with fellow scholars of color changed how she thought about her role in the world.
“It liberated me, to be quite honest,” she said. “You're always worried, particularly as an academic of color, that if you're too outspoken it will affect your ability to be tenured, to be hired somewhere, to be published. I had to throw off some of that pushback I got in my first few years, to shift my thinking about what kind of academic I'd like to be.”