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The School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs is committed to countering oppression and centering social and racial justice in every aspect of our teaching, research, campus relationships, and community engagement.    

We recognize the need for our sustained action, reflection and cultural regeneration so that, as individuals and a community, we can better advance our goal of racial justice.

We aspire to realize this vision by:

  • Striving to recruit and support a diverse student body, faculty and staff and then provide a welcoming and inclusive workplace that allows everyone to thrive personally, academically and professionally
  • Supporting undergraduate and graduate students of diverse identities in their academic studies and career planning. 
  • Ensuring that principles of social and racial justice are embedded throughout our curriculum.
  • Centering the, lived experiences, knowledge, and voices of the communities in which we teach, learn, and conduct research. 
  • Embrace a culture of respect, inclusivity, personal growth and honest communication throughout our community
  • We will continually adhere to practices of review to hold ourselves accountable to these principles.

Learn more about our work:

The SPPUA Racial Justice Working Group, open to students, faculty and staff, meets bi-weekly to plan, design, strategize and advance our collective efforts and check in on racial justice work across the university.

Race, Justice and Belonging in Planning Practice. The MS in Urban Planning and Policy program has created a new 2-credit required core course titled Race, Justice, and Belonging in Planning Practice. The course will focus on key ideas in race and identity as they relate to urban planning, methods to engage communities in more just and equitable planning processes, and practices for building and leading diverse and inclusive planning organizations.

Spring 2022: ​​Open Classroom | Power to the People: Community Voices in Urban Decision-Making. This Open Classroom focused on racial and social justice by continuing the theme of the fall conference. Community partners and faculty examined weekly topics including the power and peril of university-community engagement, Boston’s child care ecosystem, economic justice, participatory modeling, transforming rape culture, climate justice, and advancing equity and anti-oppressive practices in the nonprofit sector and philanthropy.

Fall 2021: ​​Open Classroom | Repairing a Divided America: Race, Hate Crimes, and Reconciliation. This Open Classroom focused on hate crimes, anti-Semitism, anti-Asian discrimination, and on ways of bringing together disparate groups to address discrimination and reconciliation. The series discussed history, reparations, racial dialogues, and approaches to addressing social justice in America.

Spring 2021: Open Classroom | Inspiring Design: Creating Beautiful, Just, and Resilient Places in America.  COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and destructive fires and hurricanes in 2020 have illuminated the impact of increasing socioeconomic disparity, structural racism and climate change on our country. What is the role of design in confronting these issues?

Spring 2021: Race, Identity, Social Change, and Empowerment. Professor Matt Lee. This course examines racism, racial identity, and theories of social change and racial empowerment primarily within the U.S. context. Highlights different ways in which racism and racial privilege have been experienced by different racial communities, more specifically at the micro-, meso- and macro-levels.

Spring 2021: Seminar in Black Leadership. Professor Ted Landsmark. This course enables students to conduct in-depth studies of transformative black leaders in a wide range of fields. Focuses on black leadership in the political arena as elected officials, leaders of pressure groups, leaders of protest organizations, cultural leaders, black nationalist organizations and feminist/womanist groups, and as advisers to political parties and presidential administrations.

Fall 2020: Racial Literacy Course. Several of our faculty have played an instrumental role in the university-wide racial literacy course (Professors Ted Landsmark, Matt Lee, and Rebecca Riccio). Recordings from each session are available here.

Faculty Workshop on Integrating Racial Justice into the Curriculum – Professors Matt Lee and Gavin Shatkin organized and ran a workshop to guide faculty on rethinking how to leverage their identity in the classroom, to facilitate challenging conversations, and expand their syllabus and curriculum to be more inclusive in terms of content, evaluation and teaching strategies.

SPPUA Advisory Committee – Atyia Martin, CEO and founder of All Aces, Inc., and Greg King, managing director of TSK Energy Solutions, are providing insights and guidance on the development of antiracist leadership trainings within SPPUA. See member profiles here.

Advancing Antiracist, Feminist Leadership – Director Jennie Stephens’ new book Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and Energy provides inspiring examples of antiracist, feminist leadership linking climate and energy with economic justice, housing justice, health and transit equity. The foreword of the book was written by Professor Ted Landsmark.

Boston Climate Progress Report – The Dukakis Center is conducting a biannual assessment of Boston’s climate action, with a particular focus on racial and economic equity.  This project is funded by The Boston Foundation. The project team includes Professors Joan Fitzgerald, Ted Landsmark, and Kaitlyn Alvarez-Noli. PhD students Johan Arango-Quiroga and Elijah Miller have been research assistants on the project during the spring semester.

Energy Justice – With support from multiple external foundations, Professor Shalanda Baker has expanded her work supporting frontline communities addressing energy justice issues by co-founding the Initiative for Energy Justice. Professor Joan Fitzgerald is an expert on and regular contributor of articles on equity and urban climate action.

Urban Affairs Association (UAA) – SPPUA holds an institutional membership in UAA, while Professor Thomas Vicino is chair of the Board and president of the UAA. For half a century, UAA has had a deep commitment to social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Some recent activities include:

  • Issued two formal statements (here and here) about these commitments (to racial and ethnic justice, in particular), and then issued a subsequent statement on concrete, action items to fulfill these commitments, including a community survey.
  • The association recently launched a second, peer-reviewed journal, The Journal of Race, Ethnicity and the City, along side its flagship journal, The Journal of Urban Affairs.
  • Developed programming on a monthly basis to engage the membership with webinars, panels, and conversations to support professional development for colleagues during the global pandemic, with a particular focus on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. These resources are open to our community and provide excellent supports for key constituencies.

21-Day Racial Justice Challenge – Professors Matt Lee and Rebecca Riccio co-led this three-week event that challenged Human Services students and alumni to develop habits of integrating racial consciousness into their everyday lives.

Northeastern Students4Giving – This Social Impact Lab program has awarded its fall 2020 grant of $5,000 to Sociedad Latina for its efforts to address the disproportionate impact of Covid on communities of color in Boston.

Northeastern University Student-Athletes for Equity Coalition – The Social Impact Lab is advising this newly launched effort among student-athletes to promote racial equity in athletics and make grants to support local nonprofit organizations.

Student Activist Open Classroom Session – The second session of the fall 2020 Myra Kraft Open Classroom featured six student activists who shared their experiences on the front lines of the converging crises looming over their generation in a panel facilitated by Professor Rebecca Riccio. The recording is available here.

Voter Engagement Among Students – Professor Ted Landsmark and Hilary Sullivan, co-chairs of Northeastern Votes, worked to increase voter turnout and engagement among students. Through their leadership and support from Professor Linda Kowalcky, student voting participation significantly increased. Northeastern received a silver seal for our high student voting rates from the ALL In Campus Democracy Challenge in the 2020 election. We had a 69% turnout rate – our highest turnout rate to date – up from 48% in 2012 and 58% in 2016.

Campus Climate Survey – Professor Matt Lee has been a key contributor to the committee that analyzed the campus climate survey data.     

Essential Conversations – Together with the ADVANCE Office, Rebecca Riccio co-created and piloted a workshop series for faculty to develop facilitation skills oriented toward conversations about race, identity, and power. Plans to expand the scale of this offering are under development.

Faculty Senate Committee on Climate Justice Action – Professor Jennie Stephens co-chaired the 2021-2022 faculty senate committee on climate justice and contributed to the formation of Northeastern’s new Hub for Climate Justice and Sustainability.  The goal of this work is to reframe sustainability and climate action in terms of social and racial justice.

NUPD Community Advisory Board – Professors Rebecca Riccio and Shalanda Baker (before she went on leave) served on the Northeastern Police Department Community Advisory Board, which has been established to review and make recommendations on NUPD policies and protocols, particularly as they relate to issues of racial equity.

Presidential Council for Diversity and Inclusion – Professor Ted Landsmark is a member of this group focused on expanding the impact of university-wide efforts.

Principles of Anti-Oppressive Community Engagement – Through a collaborative co-creation process led by Rebecca Riccio, the Social Impact Lab co-produced the Principles of Anti-Oppressive Community Engagement for University Educators and Researchers. This document has been circulated widely within and outside Northeastern. External appreciation, recognition, and application of these principles has been widespread.

Resisting Anti-Asian Violence – Professor Matt Lee and members of the Steering Committee of the Asian Faculty Staff (AFS) organization at Northeastern University hosted the “Honoring Atlanta Victims and Uplifting APIDA Voices amidst Anti-Asian Violence” memorial and community meeting event on March 31, 2022, at the Asian American Center Annex. For more information on the work of the Asian Faculty Staff affinity group, click here.

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Statement on Racial Justice: December 2020 Update

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Voices of Northeastern: Ted Landsmark

“Complacency is the enemy of change.”

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