Blake Wood
Publish Date

The University of Illinois Springfield is establishing a new Institute for Race, Gender, Sexuality and Social Justice as part of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. The mission of the new institute is to offer academic programs, develop community partnerships and outreach, and conduct research to help address social justice issues in central Illinois and beyond.

“UIS has an unwavering commitment to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice (DEIJ) on campus and in our community,” said UIS Chancellor Janet L. Gooch. “This new institute will help UIS focus those efforts, to grow and build on what we have already accomplished.”

The institute includes several existing programs: a bachelor's degree in liberal studies and minors in African American studies and women and gender studies.

Faculty from those programs will offer DEIJ workshops that will be made available to the public. Additionally, they will conduct regular research talks, inviting scholars and community activists who work on issues of social justice to share their experiences and knowledge. Faculty also plan to create an online depository of DEIJ publications and presentations for public use, in addition to offering online courses and virtual events.

“The institute provides a space to coordinate DEIJ-related efforts and initiatives across campus as well as a structure to develop and strengthen partnerships with the community locally and regionally,” said Lan Dong, interim dean of the UIS College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

The new unit is aligned with UIS efforts to strengthen DEIJ programming across campus. In January, Chancellor Gooch established the Chancellor’s Committee for Belonging, Dignity and Justice in order “to launch our campus-wide strategic planning efforts and coordinate subsequent efforts to monitor progress, recommend initiatives and serve as a resource for campus constituents.”

The institute hopes to provide diversity, equity, inclusion and justice training for UIS faculty and staff, assist UIS Admissions in recruitment efforts and participate in efforts to improve the retention of diverse faculty, students and staff.

“The institute will identify and develop professional opportunities for students, including scholarships, internships and career connections,” said Tena L. Helton, interim associate dean of the UIS College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “It will also secure internal and external funding for events and research projects related to DEIJ.”

The institute will be overseen by a director who will teach DEIJ courses, build alliances with campus and community stakeholders, identify grant opportunities, and organize outreach efforts and public scholarship events.

“We are just so excited to get started making the institute’s mission come true,” Helton said. “Everyone is welcome to get involved and make a positive difference for our campus and our community.”

The Illinois Board of Higher Education approved the institute on a temporary basis during its June 7, 2023, meeting. The status of the institute will be reassessed by the board in 2028.