Q&A with Martin Ruck: Diversity & Inclusion at the GC

Martin RuckThis month, Professor Martin Ruck (Psychology/Urban Education) was named Senior Advisor to the President for Diversity and Inclusion.

In this inaugural position he will oversee program-based diversity efforts, develop and maintain relationships with “feeder” institutions both inside and outside the University, and foster a climate promoting diversity and inclusion for all members of the GC community.

A widely published specialist in cognitive socialization, Ruck recently talked about how his background lends to this high-profile position, and what he envisions as the GC’s path for increased diversity and inclusion.

“Institutional diversity and inclusion can only be achieved through active collaboration and partnerships across, and beyond, the entire institutional community,” he says.
 
                                                      * * *

GC: Could you tell us a little about the role?

Ruck: This is a new position, and I should add not surprisingly a growing number of universities and colleges across North America have established “senior administrative” positions to lead their diversity and inclusion initiatives and efforts. Universities across the nation recognize that diversity and inclusion are critical components of academic excellence. So the Graduate Center is one of a large number of institutions moving in this direction.

With the establishment of this office, I am hopeful that we can continue to build and expand upon the Graduate Center’s legacy of providing support to students, faculty and staff but with a clear acknowledgement of the importance of both diversity and inclusion. I will be reporting directly to President Robinson and provide strategic leadership and support in advancing and coordinating a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives at the Graduate Center.

In this capacity I will also serve as member of the President’s Cabinet and also chair the Presidential Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. This includes working directly with the Provost, Deans and Executive Officers at the Graduate Center on new initiatives to increase faculty diversity as well as increase the diversity of students from underrepresented groups.

I will also play a key role in promoting an inclusive and respectful climate and culture for students, faculty and staff and one, which respects and takes seriously individual differences.

 
Are there any specific projects that you are looking forward to leading or starting?

I am looking forward to working collaboratively with faculty, academic leaders, students, and staff on a number of diversity initiatives. I think there is often a false assumption that diversity can by achieved by placing the responsibility on the shoulders of one individual or a group of people. Rather, institutional diversity and inclusion can only be achieved through active collaboration and partnerships across, and beyond, the entire institutional community.

 
What progress have you seen during the nearly 20 years you’ve been at the Graduate Center and where do you see opportunity for further advancements?

In 1999, which seems like such a long time ago, when I started at the Graduate Center as an assistant professor in Developmental Psychology, diversity and inclusion certainly didn’t have the profile they have today. That is not to suggest that these concerns weren’t important; there was always good will, but there were few if any structural mechanisms in place — or at least any I was aware of — to actively foster and promote diversity and inclusion. Since that time issues pertaining to equity and social justice (e.g., Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, LGBTQ issues) have become a normative part of the social and political landscape.

More recently, I have had the opportunity to serve on both the Graduate Center’s Diversity Committee (2013-2014) and Diversity Task Force (2014-2015), which offered me a unique perspective on the GC’s efforts to advance diversity. A number of the initiatives on which I will be engaged in my capacity as Senior Advisor to the President for Diversity and Inclusion stem from the recommendations of the Diversity Task Force.

But if you were to ask students, faculty and staff — I have had some informal conversations in this regard — for their general perceptions in terms of the progress being made at the Graduate Center concerning diversity and inclusion, it is likely that they would suggest that we need to strengthen our fiscal and policy commitments to diversity and inclusion efforts. And these perceptions are likely even more marked for students of color, LGBTQ students, students with special needs and/or disabilities, and those students from marginalized religious backgrounds.

The GC has done much, and as evident from the creation of this position accepts that there remains more to do. For instance, students (and faculty as well) clearly have issues about the limited resources made available to support students from underrepresented groups, providing support for students who have to balance their studies and at the same time raising a family, the importance of gender neutral washroom facilities, and the sizeable amount of teaching often tied to graduate fellowships, to name just a few concerns.

So clearly more than lip service is needed and real work needs to be done in order to create both a more diverse and inclusive climate.

 
Could you say a little about your work at the Graduate Center up to this point?

My current research examines the overall process of cognitive socialization — at the intersection of race, ethnicity and class — in terms of how children and adolescents think about human rights, discrimination and intergroup exclusion, within communities across the globe.

I recently co-edited a 2-volume set from Elsevier, Equity and Justice in Developmental Science (with Stacey Horn, University of Illinois at Chicago & Lynn Liben, Pennsylvania State University) and an upcoming edited volume from Taylor and Francis, Handbook of Children’s Rights: Global and Multidisciplinary Perspectives (with Michele Peterson-Badali, University of Toronto & Michael Freeman, University College, London). These scholarly projects speak directly to research and policy pertaining to issues related to equity and social justice at both national and international levels.
 
And what first brought you to the Graduate Center?

After earning my Ph.D. in 1994 at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Applied Cognitive Science I completed a two-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Toronto and also served as Senior Researcher with the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System. In 1999 I joined the faculty of the PhD Program in Developmental Psychology.

What brought me here was my desire to have a career where I would be able to engage in policy-related and applied scholarship and collaborations of an interdisciplinary nature in a setting with both national and international prominence. The Graduate Center allowed me to achieve those goals and continues to provide opportunities in my chosen field.
 
 
 

Submitted on: SEP 15, 2016

Category: Diversity | General GC News