Conference brings together Pitt’s centers tackling race issues


If it were up to John Wallace, Pitt would become THE place for the study of race.

John WallaceAlready there are several schools, centers, faculty and more working on race-related issues at the University, and a upcoming conference will help bring those groups together.

Wallace is heading up the “Race & …” initiative as part of his roles as vice provost for faculty diversity and development and interim director of the Center on Race and Social Problems in the School of Social Work.

The “Race & …” conference on Sept. 30 is co-sponsored by the Center for Urban Education; Center on Race and Social Problems; Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Health Sciences; Civil Rights and Racial Justice Center; Center for Health Equity; Department of Africana Studies; Center for Ethnic Studies Research; and Center for African Studies. It is open to all members of the Pitt community and the public.

Wallace is excited that the conference will help to bring the work of all these centers together under one umbrella and showcase “the experience and expertise of our faculty and to work together launching this effort to collaborate more deeply, to be more more impactful.”

The conference also is an “opportunity for the larger university and larger community to realize the depth and breadth of exactly the resources that are here already.”

The 2019 study on Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race is the most recent report to highlight that the quality of life in Pittsburgh for Black residents is lower than for those in other cities. The study by five Pitt professors — Junia Howell, Sara Goodkind, Leah Jacobs, Dominique Branson and Elizabeth Mille — for the city’s Gender Equity Commission reiterated some of the things the Center on Race and Social Problems has been talking about for decades, Wallace said.

“The question becomes now what do we do; we know these things to be real,” he said.

The offices of the chancellor, senior vice chancellor for health sciences and the provost have shown Pitt’s commitment to addressing these issues by “really supporting and investing in these things that we say are our priorities and are very much aligned with the priorities of our strategic plan,” Wallace said.

The conference — 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 30 in the University Club — will bring together the individual centers at Pitt studying race to “really focus Pitt’s work both from a research side, but ultimately our teaching and our community engaged scholarship, as well. … Really, we’re wanting to again leverage the experience and expertise of our faculty from across the University through these various centers to address and impact these issues.”

Carlow University President Kathy Humphrey, who was previously Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for engagement, will give the keynote address.

There also will be a panel discussion focusing on the mission and scholarship of Pitt's race-related centers and departments, and a roundtable discussion between the centers.

A Black faculty and student mixer after the conference is a first-of-its-kind event on campus, Wallace said. He hopes it will “put in place some lasting efforts to leverage systematically the resources of our University, both for our students, but also for the larger community.” RSVP to attend.

Other upcoming events for the “Race & …” initiative:

  • Pre-conference talk by Jeffrey Robinson, provost and executive vice chancellor of Rutgers University, about his co-authored book "Black Faces in High Places: 10 Strategic Actions for Black Professionals to Reach the Top and Stay There." Attendees will leave with tips and strategies on how to navigate being a Black leader. 3-5 p.m. Sept. 23, Room 323, Alumni Hall; reception on seventh floor. Register to attend.

  • Dr. Larry Davis Black Excellence in the Academy Awards and Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Center on Race and Social Problems: 6-9 p.m. Nov. 3, National Aviary. Additional information and registration details to come.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


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