Announcing the Establishment of the Racial Justice Institute (RJI)

February 22, 2021

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:

It is with profound respect that I write to share with you the formal establishment of our university-wide Racial Justice Institute (RJI) and introduce you to the three colleagues who will be joining the Georgetown community to lead this work: Dr. Anita Gonzalez, Ph.D., and Dr. Derek M. Griffith, Ph.D., who will join our community this coming summer, and Professor Robin Lenhardt, J.D. (L’04), who returned to Georgetown earlier this year.

Their appointments fulfill our commitment, made in February 2016, to establish a Racial Justice Institute focused on addressing persistent issues of racial injustice and the structural causes at the root of racial inequities within our society. Today’s announcement reflects years of work by members of our community to craft the initial direction of this interdisciplinary and university-wide Institute. A Racial Justice Working Group composed of faculty, staff, and students from all three campuses convened in 2016 to establish important groundwork for the Institute and advance the newly elevated Department of African American Studies. Based on their efforts, we were able to launch a process in 2018 to begin the search for the Institute’s founding faculty leaders.

The RJI’s leadership will represent four areas of focus: health, law, policy, and performing arts and African American studies. These areas were identified by a committee of faculty in 2019, after this committee reviewed 17 submissions by departments across the University. Search committees were charged shortly after and began the work to identify and recruit outstanding faculty leaders to fulfill these new roles. I am deeply grateful to the many members of our community who have supported and advanced this effort over the years.

The Institute is university-wide and interdisciplinary—with leadership spanning all three campuses. Its faculty leaders will have joint appointments in a home department or school, enabling this work to be deeply connected across schools and departments. A fourth faculty member with expertise in public policy will join these three faculty in leading the Institute once that search reaches its conclusion.

The Institute strengthens the framework for our response to the enduring legacies of slavery and segregation and provides a new forum for cross-campus and interdisciplinary approaches to these challenges. Many new initiatives, activities, and projects have flourished over the past few years. The RJI will be an important resource to facilitate greater partnership and collaboration and strengthen the work taking place on all of our campuses. The RJI leadership will engage our many colleagues—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—leading related work and will build on our efforts to address racial disparities here in Washington, D.C. Through this effort, we hope to deepen our University’s shared commitment to the values of justice and equity and more fully recognize the contributions and experiences of the Black community—at Georgetown, and around the world—as central to our history and future.

Please join me in welcoming Anita, Derek, and Robin to our community. We look forward to the contributions that each of them will make, and their shared leadership of our Racial Justice Institute.


John J. DeGioia