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Dickinson Law Anti-Racism Development Institute Receives MacArthur Grant

CARLISLE, Pa. — Last year, Penn State Law Dean Dickinson and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law Danielle M. Conway unveiled a project to a close friend, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, who had long been in the stages design and planning. Conway instinctively knew she could trust Roosevelt to give her honest and critical feedback. Conway described the concept of an institute providing organizations across the country with systems design-based approaches to implementing anti-racism practices, processes, and policies across their functions.

Roosevelt, the granddaughter of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, listened intently and enthusiastically, then immediately proceeded to brainstorm people and organizations who would be interested in learning more about the project. Roosevelt is well known for connecting people with each other and expanding her network, which includes philanthropic foundations and corporate contacts. She offered an introduction to one of her contacts.

This connection, in the end, was more than interesting. From Conway’s first conversation with John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation President John Palfrey, he too immediately grasped the importance and breadth of the vision of the Anti-Racist Development Institute (ADI), which was introduced last fall and takes a systems design approach to addressing systemic inequalities.

The MacArthur Foundation recently awarded a $500,000 grant to ADI, to support an eight- to ten-volume book series and development workshops to create more equitable academic and professional communities within legal education. and the profession engaged in anti-racism. This commitment brings the total investment in ADI by institutions and private donors to more than $2 million since its launch in November 2021, including a generous allocation from Penn State.

To show the potential impact, Conway shared with Palfrey the measurable results achieved using systems design thinking at Dickinson Law, which more than doubled its percentage of professors of color and students of color by addressing hiring. , retention and admissions in new ways. “In that first conversation with John, I knew right away he was in,” Conway said. “He said, ‘We don’t have a grant category that fits what you need, but that’s exactly where we need to be. I saw he was willing to work with us and he found a way to do it.

“Penn State Dickinson Law, like other law schools across the country, has recognized the need for full diversity, equity, and inclusion in educational and administrative spaces, from admissions to alumni support” , said Claire Poelking, MacArthur program manager. “The Anti-Racism Development Institute goes beyond performative diversity to disrupt systemic injustices, with a focus on oppression rooted in racist policies, practices or acts. We are proud to support Dickinson Law in developing and demonstrating a new systems approach that locates structural anti-racism reform within legal institutions. Our hope is that his replicable model will also benefit other educational entities and nonprofits.

Conway noted that the impact of the grant is two-fold. It provides a financial boost while opening new doors for ADI to reach more people. “John immediately understood that when the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation says your work is legitimate, more people will listen to what you say and engage with what you do,” Conway said.

Systems design involves defining the components and processes that make up that system and determining how to leverage each component in transformation work for best results. It also takes a collaborative and user-centric approach. ADI is building a coalition of law schools to bring systemic racial equality to the fore. Conway wants people from all walks of life and all life experiences to feel welcome to contribute. “This coalition does not know the hierarchy. This coalition knows no exclusion. This coalition knows collective action and values ​​learning from lived experience and perspective,” said Conway.

ADI Program Manager TaWanda Hunter Stallworth, MDiv, is currently developing beta course content for ADI’s first cohort while working with systems designers and chapter contributors on the book series. She said the grant confirms the shared public interest in using design thinking to fight anti-racism. “We have great conversations,” Stallworth said. “It’s fantastic to hear people talk about systemic fairness in a very intentional way.”

Upon its introduction, ADI received initial seeding from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), whose mission is to support diverse talented individuals from pre-law through practice, and AccessLex Institute, a non-profit organization. charity that helps talented law students become professionals, as well as the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), which includes career professionals who advise law students, lawyers, law firms and law faculties. In addition to funding received from outside organizations, alumni, and friends, former Penn State President Eric J. Barron has allocated annual university support for the initiative.

ADI will build on the concepts and information presented throughout the book series, titled “Building an Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession,” to provide law schools and other institutions a starting plan that will be iteratively worked in the workshop through the stages of systems design and conceptual thinking. “We don’t claim to be able to solve all the problems caused by systemic racism, but we help people and the organizations and institutions they work in think about how to solve them,” Stallworth said.

Investments from the MacArthur Foundation, Penn State, LSAC, AccessLex and NALP will help ADI expand its work. “These investments are important because our funders and donors want to see us disseminate our findings widely without having to charge for access to project results,” Conway said. “It is rare for a law school to attract an institutional donor of the highest caliber, but the foundation understood that this project was intended to engage the more than 200 law schools to intensify institutional anti-racism work. These investments signal that we are on to something relevant, important, and necessary, and give us the confidence to move the book series and ADI forward.

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