At the Humphrey School, we believe our equity and inclusion plan is only the start of the work. Throughout our community, faculty, staff, and students are regularly engaged in research and outreach to make our world a more equitable place. This page seeks to provide some information on the Humphrey School community's efforts for bringing about justice and change.
Standing with our Community
In the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of police, Humphrey School Dean Laura Bloomberg and UMN Law School Dean Garry Jenkins published a joint op-ed in MinnPost: To achieve justice, we need new legislation, new policies, new training, new organizational cultures.
The Minnesota Paradox
Following the uprisings that followed Floyd's death, Professor Samuel L. Myers Jr.'s work to investigate what he calls the "Minnesota Paradox," the dichotomy of how Minnesota can be credited as both one of the best places to live and a state with some of the largest disparities for Black people, was cited by media around the globe.
Myers was recently awarded a grant from Thomson Reuters to study a trend of disinvestment and disempowerment for Black-owned nonprofits over the past decades. Through this work, Myers will seek to measure the extent of this disinvestment and to develop a plan to reverse the trend.
In 2016, following the tragic death of Philando Castile at the hands of police, Associate Professor Kathy Quick worked with police departments and community members on how to improve relations. After George Floyd's death, she joined Professor Myers to talk about inequities in policing and public policy, and how communities can rebuild trust (link includes video).
Criminal Justice Reform
Since the 1990s, governments and corporations in the United States have created a host of new ways to generate revenues by extracting resources, disproportionately from poor Black, indigenous, and other communities of color. Such practices include fine-centered policing, court fees, commercial bail, prison charges, civil asset forfeiture, and more.
In June, Professor Joe Soss, an expert on social inequalities, discussed the connections between predatory law enforcement practices and the political uprising that emerged in the wake of George Floyd's killing at the hands of Minneapolis police (link includes video).
Professor Soss is currently working on a book around this topic, entitled, Who's Looting Whom? Criminal Justice as Revenue Racket. He also has two previous books on social inequities: Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberalism, Paternalism, and the Persistent Power of Race and Race and the Politics of Welfare Reform.
Supporting the Next Generation of Equal Rights Leaders
Minnesota civil rights icon and 2007 Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award recipient Josie Robinson Johnson has dedicated her life to promoting equality, inclusion, and breaking down barriers to opportunity. As a tribute to her lifelong leadership, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs has established the Josie Robinson Johnson Fellowship, which will support graduate students at the School who have specific interests in addressing racial inequities and injustice. Learn more about the fellowship and meet the first recipient.
In August, current Master of Human Rights students Yolanda Burkhardt, Nonkululeko Shongwe, and Vanesa Mercado Diaz joined MHR alumni Sarah Allis, Paul Olubayo, and Raven Ziegler to discuss their work to put their degrees into practice. From student activism to methods and strategies for creating meaningful change, their conversation was a global call for approaching every sector with a human rights lens (video).
Associate Professor Ryan Allen and Assistant Professor Fernando Burga, two of our urban and regional planning faculty, joined alumni Denetrick Powers and LisaBeth Barajas for a conversation around the future of city planning, in relation to both equity and rebuilding after the protests (link includes video).
Another aspect of planning cities, both rural and urban, that are equitable involves access to food. Recently, Assistant Professor Burga has been spent time investigating the intersection of urban planning with immigration, equity, and food systems. Despite the immense disparities faced by immigrant groups and communities of color when it comes to accessing healthy and culturally relevant food, Burga found a relative dearth of qualitative data in how these communities actually experience getting to food access points. Listen to Professor Burga discuss his findings (link includes audio).
Two Humphrey School alumni are playing high-profile roles in the Twin Cities metropolitan area to serve people who need assistance. Acooa Ellis (MPP '07) is senior vice president of community impact at Greater Twin Cities United Way and Tim Marx (MA/JD '83) is president and CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. They took time to talk about how their organizations pivoted when COVID-19 began impacting the communities they serve.
The pandemic also required a pivot in the work of our capstone project teams. Master of Human Rights students Katie Burke, Tonje Boerresen, and Hannah Shireman, and Master of Development Practice student Christina Licari began working with the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) of the City of Minneapolis in late 2019. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the team received an urgent request from OIRA to shift the focus of their work to finding out how the pandemic was impacting these marginalized communities and the organizations that serve them, and how OIRA could best support this new reality. Read more about their work.
The Intersection of Equity and the Environment
What are ways that we can envision greening as a way to create a more equitable and just world? This question is being asked by Assistant Professor Bonnie Keeler and her CREATE Initiative, an interdisciplinary group of scholars, community leaders, and engaged researchers funded by the University of Minnesota's Grand Challenges Research Initiative that works to tackle issues at the intersection of environment and equity. Listen to Assistant Professor Keeler discuss her work with CREATE.
More Sustainable Energy Systems
For the last two years, Assistant Professor Gabe Chan has brought a group of Humphrey School students to Puerto Rico to study the island’s post-hurricane energy infrastructure and explore different types of energy systems that could withstand future natural disasters.
At the intersection of both of these efforts is Assistant Professor Fayola Jacobs, whose passion is disasters—and how structural forms of oppression, such as racism, influence communities' ability to plan for, cope with, and recover from disasters.
If there is dissatisfaction with the status quo, good. If there is ferment, so much the better. If there is restlessness, I am pleased. Then let there be ideas, and hard thought, and hard work.
- Hubert H. Humphrey