Grant to Support Studies Enabling Civil Discourse on Controversial Issues

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awards UCR $250,000

CIS logoRIVERSIDE, Calif. – Debates over police shootings of African Americans, immigration, religious diversity, and income inequality have become anything but civil in the public square.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $250,000 to UC Riverside’s Center for Ideas and Society for a series of seminars, public lectures, and films geared toward thoughtful reflection on economic inequality, diversity in higher education, religious heterogeneity, and the untold histories of marginalized groups in the United States.

It is the second two-year grant the foundation has awarded UCR for a seminar series titled “Advancing Intercultural Studies.” The Center for Ideas and Society was awarded $208,000 in 2014 to conduct a series of seminars in intercultural studies exploring the importance of campus diversity to teaching and research. These seminars aimed to contribute to understanding existing and future aspects of diversity in the United States, and to enhance appreciation of both the problems and the opportunities to which it can give rise.

Each of the new seminar topics was sparked by recent events and controversies, said Georgia Warnke, distinguished professor of political science and director of the Center for Ideas and Society.

“The Trump and Sanders campaigns. Income inequality and the socioeconomic cultures this engenders. Religious diversity and Islamophobia. Diversifying higher education that goes beyond access to consider the ways that universities and colleges can be uninviting places for the people we say we welcome. How you write the history of the U.S., say, as an exceptionalist or racist one. These issues have elicited anger and Facebook memes, but not a lot of civil discourse,” she said. “However, they are worth collective and mutually respectful examination.”

“Advancing Intercultural Studies” kicks off in the spring 2017 quarter with a free film series that will continue through summer at UCR’s Culver Center of the Arts in downtown Riverside. The first film, “Daughters of the Dust,” will feature a conversation with writer, director and producer Julie Dash.

Seminars will begin in fall 2017. Participating faculty, and undergraduate and graduate students will conduct original research on seminar themes, with results to be presented at a final conference in spring 2019. Each seminar also will present a public lecture and film designed to engage community members in the topic.

Seminar themes are:

  • Responses to Economic Inequality  – This seminar will address the two very different responses to the rise of economic inequality in the world’s rich democracies. Movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the Bernie Sanders campaign and the promotion of multiculturalism in Europe advocate progressive responses that seek to reduce economic inequality. On the other hand, right-leaning populist parties/movements in Europe and the United States blame inequality on immigration policies and the like. The seminar will investigate the relationship between rising inequality, bigotry and progressive versus conservative politics.
  • Beyond Access: Diversifying Higher Education – This seminar will consider diversity efforts in higher education and their need to go beyond attempts to provide greater access to consider the gender and racial culture of the institutions themselves. Participants will explore what colleges and universities owe their students in terms of resources, safe spaces, curriculum, symbols and the like, and what new policies might be necessary to deal with sexual harassment, violence, and ethnic tensions.
  • Religious Identity: Harmony or Discrimination? – This seminar will examine issues of religious identity and diversity in the United States, one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world. Academic discourses and publication on religious harmony, tolerance, pluralism, and freedom have developed significantly. Yet religious diversity also takes other forms: religious tension, conflict, violence, terrorism, and discrimination. Questions to be explored include religious identity and diversity, violence and peace, discrimination and harmony, hate speech and love activism, and the vexed relation between religion and politics.
  • Contested Histories: How to Write History – This seminar will focus on omissions in American history about the experiences of marginalized groups. Recent work has begun to expose buried parts of American history, such as the real extent of lynchings in the first part of the 20th century. This seminar will examine additional omissions and ask how incorporating such experiences affects our understanding of both U.S. history and contemporary racial and ethnic tensions.


Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Georgia Warnke

Katharine Henshaw

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