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Lender Center for Social Justice Granted $2.7M From MetLife Foundation for Research Initiatives to Help Address Racial Wealth Gap
Syracuse University’s Lender Center for Social Justice has been awarded a $2.7 million grant from MetLife Foundation to launch several new research initiatives to accelerate efforts to address the racial wealth gap and help dismantle the root causes of wealth disparity.
The Lender Center will use the three-year grant to address what the foundation calls a persistent crisis that continues to undermine social and economic opportunities for underserved and underrepresented communities throughout the United States. The projects will include new research on the topic, discussions among social justice leaders to gain added insights on the issue, and new data-collection and evidence-gathering activities to illustrate the racial wealth gap’s impacts.
The grant includes four key focus areas:
- The Lender Center will coordinate an “Addressing the Racial Wealth Gap Working Group” that partners with the University’s Social Differences, Social Justice research cluster to organize thought leadership discussions. The panel discussions will promote collaboration between Syracuse University faculty and national social justice leaders. Discussions are planned to be held in New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles.
- The University will hire diverse postdoctoral researchers having pertinent and lived experience with the issue to examine fundamental questions regarding the gap and its impact on diverse communities, families and individuals.
- Annual research grants will be available for faculty fellows selected in coordination with the University’s Office of Research to conduct research investigations related to the gap.
- The Lender Center will partner with other leading voices on the subject to increase awareness of and amplify discussions around planned actions and potential solutions.
The work will include mapping the social dynamics of racial wealth disparity, charting perceptions of social justice and uncovering patterns that can serve as a foundation for ongoing work. Projects will be managed by leadership from the Lender Center and the Social Differences, Social Justice research cluster, which will include Kira Reed, associate professor of management in the Whitman School of Management, who also co-leads the Social Differences/Social Justice research cluster, and Gretchen Purser, associate professor of sociology in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and Lender Center co-director, alongside James Rolling, professor of arts education in the School of Education. They will support researchers, coordinate convening activities and manage the release of scholarly publications, articles, reports and presentations.
“The Lender Center is grateful for the partnership with MetLife Foundation as we work together to further uncover systemic issues contributing to the racial wealth gap in the United States,” says Marcelle Haddix, associate provost for strategic initiatives in the Office of Academic Affairs, who oversees the work of the Lender Center. “Together, we aim to find scalable solutions that reduce inequities, provide access to opportunity and enable historically marginalized communities to ultimately build better economic futures.”
Mike Zarcone, head of Corporate Affairs for MetLife and chairman of MetLife Foundation, says, “Transforming our diversity, equity and inclusion commitments into meaningful action is a top priority for both MetLife and MetLife Foundation. MetLife Foundation’s partnership with the University and Lender Center is directly aligned with our strategy to help drive economic mobility by addressing the needs of underserved and underrepresented communities. There’s strength in numbers, and by working together with the University and other national leaders, we have an even greater opportunity to further reduce the racial wealth gap.”
Vice Chancellor, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Gretchen Ritter views the existing cooperation between the University and the surrounding community as a perfect backdrop for the projects.
“Our research resources, our connection to the community, and the strong University and Lender Center commitments to social justice, as well as diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, provide an excellent foundation for this work,” Ritter says. “The MetLife Foundation’s generous funding of these projects will help propel the University forward as an evidence-based, field-focused research leader with the goal of finding additional ways to address the racial wealth gap across the country.”
Research materials produced, including scholarly articles and presentations, plus results of data collection and evidence-gathering activities, will be shared through the MetLife Foundation and Lender Center annual events. The information will also be posted on the Lender Center website and circulated by both the University and the MetLife Foundation.
Haddix believes that the University is ideally suited to lead new scholarly examinations and to initiate both local community and national leadership engagement in the social justice space. She points out that the City of Syracuse has one of the highest poverty rates in the United States and that new data shows Syracuse has the highest child poverty rate in the nation among cities of more than 100,000 people. In addition, individual researchers in the arts and humanities from several University schools have already been studying the impact of economic disparities of those from historically marginalized communities through social, economic and public health lenses and via the University’s Social Differences/Social Justice research cluster.
The Lender Center aspires to foster proactive, innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to issues related to social justice, equity and inclusion. MetLife Foundation is committed to driving inclusive economic mobility for underserved and underrepresented communities around the world through collaboration with nonprofit organizations and grants aligned to three strategic focus areas: economic inclusion, financial health and resilient communities. Since 1976, MetLife Foundation has contributed more than $900 million to strengthen communities where MetLife has a presence.