Social justice central theme highlighted by Price faculty at APPAM conference
By Matthew Kredell
USC Price School of Public Policy Associate Professor Juliet Musso recently helped organize the 2016 annual spring conference of the Association of Public Policy and Management (APPAM) in Washington, D.C. Taking on the theme of “Promoting Justice in Research and Practice,” the April 8-9 event brought policy researchers and graduate students together in considering how policy analytic research can be more relevant in addressing critical issues of social justice, diversity, and inclusion.
“I felt that it was critical to focus sharply on these issues about equity and inclusion that are on the forefront not only within universities, but in society more generally,” Musso said. “To promote community well-being requires that we promote justice.”
The conference’s theme tied in with the Price School’s Initiative on Diversity, Social Justice and Inclusion, a comprehensive effort that involves hiring diverse faculty and staff, recruiting a diverse student body, fostering a supportive climate, making diversity a key policy issue and supporting outreach activities. Musso and Price Professor LaVonna Lewis are on the task force implementing the initiative.
Cultural competency in education
Lewis participated in a panel, which Musso moderated, on cultural competency in public affairs education. The discussion focused on how graduate programs in public affairs can develop better curricular approaches to developing cultural competency. Lewis emphasized the importance of learning how to engage in difficult conversations.
“I believe that the panel allowed everyone in the audience to deal with the topic of diversity and inclusion in a dialogue that was at times uncomfortable, but still honest; painful, but still transparent; and fueled by an urgency that spoke to a collective belief that all of our universities must do a better job handling difference, or we will create divisions on our campuses and in society that we will never be able to recover from,” Lewis said.
Musso also moderated a luncheon plenary hosted by the Price School on promoting justice through philanthropic research and action. The philanthropic sector has long sought to address injustice not only through direct giving, but by promoting policy research and supporting initiatives to foster systematic change.
The panel brought together members of the philanthropic community to discuss the role that their organizations play in promoting justice, consider the manner in which policy research and analysis shape the philanthropic agenda, and debate how APPAM-affiliated practitioners can foster greater relevance in research on issues of equality and inclusion. The speakers highlighted an increasing emphasis on social equity, as well as a need to utilize evidence in seeking to advance a strategic agenda.