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Promoting National Discussions on Race and Ethnicity
"We may have a black president, but over the past three decades I've seen little improvement in the national dialogue on understanding race and ethnicity in the United States and globally," observes Ina Coleman, '81.
As a women and girls' equality proponent who leads the Feminist Majority Foundation—the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated organization that publishes Ms. magazine—Coleman is now putting her resources into promoting frank national and international discussions about how race and ethnicity impact societal interactions.
In December 2011, she established a generous endowed fund to support Stanford's Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE).
"The work of CCSRE is world changing, and I wanted to support them in gaining a more national audience for their cutting-edge research and impactful work," she explains.
When CCSRE was founded 15 years ago, it was the first academic research center to take a comparative approach to the field, studying relationships and patterns across different ethnic and racial communities.
"We want to take that work into the future, and Ina's gift will give us the opportunity to do that," says Ramón Saldívar, professor of comparative literature and outgoing director of the center. He will be succeeded by his brother José, also a literature professor, who will continue the center's comparative—and increasingly international—direction.
Coleman will share not only her financial support, but also her expertise in marketing and communications.
"I'll be helping the center put together various promotional strategies," she says. "I really look forward to CCSRE incorporating marketing plans to nationally distribute their outstanding and award-winning work."
"Her financial gift combined with her professional talent will be a huge boon in helping us speak to a broader audience," says Saldívar.
Coleman is already off and running. This spring, she helped bring Gloria Steinem to campus for a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Ms. This fall, she is organizing a panel in Los Angeles to discuss the intersection of race and gender co-sponsored by CCSRE and Stanford's Clayman Institute for Gender Research. Meanwhile, she continues her work at the Feminist Majority Foundation, the leading international nonprofit engaged in research and public policy development, global initiatives for girls' human rights and education, leadership training, and other such programs dedicated to women and girls' equality.
Within 15 years, people of color will be in the majority, Coleman observes.
"As the world becomes ever more diverse, it's increasingly important that we stimulate more frank local, regional, national, and international discussions around race," she says. "I'm committed to helping people of all races and ethnicities understand that there's nothing to fear about our differences. In fact, we are all more alike than we are different. We just need more in-depth conversations to move society into acceptance and understanding––or, at the very least, tolerance."
Looking toward the future, Coleman observes, "I see the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity as one of the premier institutions that's initiating, promoting and supporting these discussions."