Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the US and the University of Southern California one of its most diverse campuses. It’s also in an area of the city that was once the flashpoint of the worst race riots in the country, the 1965 Watts Riot.
USC is now addressing diversity and race with the hiring of its latest faculty member, Shaun R. Harper, who will head up the USC Race and Equity Center as the Clifford and Betty Allen Professor in Urban Leadership at the USC Rossier School of Education, according to a release by the school.
Harper has an impressive résumé as an expert in race and equality. He and his team at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, which he founded in 2011, interviewed more than 10,000 students, faculty members and staff about race at colleges and universities across the country, after heated protests at the University of Missouri and Yale.
Harper will begin his work on July 1 at USC, a school where he was an assistant professor of clinical education from 2003 to 2005.
“USC is one of the finest and most ethnically diverse universities in the world,” Harper said in the release. “I most look forward to collaborating with others committed across campus to advance racial equity. I can think of no better place than USC to do the work that Los Angeles and our nation so urgently need.”
With the USC Race and Equity Center, Harper and colleagues will continue the work he started at Penn. The center will unite dozens of professors across USC’s academic schools, focusing on people of color, racial inequities, immigration and related topics to study and help solve several of the most pressing race problems in America.
The center will be “the epicenter for interdisciplinary scholarship, resources and meaningful activities,” said Harper. It will also launch the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates, a quantitative survey instrument to be annually administered at hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. The survey will give institutions valuable quantitative data about students’ feelings of belongingness and inclusion, as well as gauge racial climates on campus.
Harper earned a PhD in higher education from Indiana University, then spent his two years at USC before becoming an assistant professor of education at Penn State University. He joined the faculty at Penn in 2007. He is the author of 12 books as well as numerous peer-reviewed journal articles. In 2015, he was named to the advisory council of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, an initiative launched by President Barack Obama to improve the lives of boys and young men of color.