Addressing Racism Seed Grant Initiative Impact Report

The Office of the Provost is pleased to share this Addressing Racism Seed Grant Initiative impact report, developed by the Provost’s Advisory Council for the Enhancement of Faculty Diversity Metrics and Evaluation working group. In fall 2020, with generous support from members of the Board of Trustees, the Office of the Provost provided grant funding for 57 faculty-led projects that enabled collaborative dialogue and action to promote anti-racism within academia. These projects provide key insight for systemic change towards racial equity.

This report was developed by Nabila El-Bassel, (Chair, Metrics and Evaluation working group), University Professor and Willma and Albert Musher Professor of Social Work and Metrics and Evaluation working group members: Ana Abraido-Lanza, Professor of Social Work; Helen Lu, Percy K. and Vida L.W. Hudson Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Dental and Craniofacial Engineering (in Dental Medicine); Maria Victoria Murillo, Professor of Political Science and of International and Public Affairs; Anne Taylor, John Lindenbaum Professor of Medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center; and Gina Wingood, Sidney and Helaine Lerner Professor of Public Health Promotion (in Sociomedical Sciences). Kristen Barnes, Associate Director for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion, led the project management and analysis. Mohamad Adam Brooks, PhD candidate in School of Social Work, provided data analysis support. Members of the Faculty Advancement team, Adina Berrios Brooks, Jen Leach, and Vina Tran, and Manuela Luengas Solano, GSAS Academic Fellow, copyedited the report. 

Executive Summary

Overview of the Addressing Racism Seed Grant Initiative

In summer 2020, the killing of George Floyd sparked a national reckoning about systemic ways to address anti-Black racism. In June 2020, the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement launched an inaugural university-wide Addressing Racism initiative, to provide opportunities to push forth this urgent work, and to cultivate spaces for learning, action, and healing. The Addressing Racism Seed Grant initiative was developed as a key opportunity for full-time faculty to facilitate collaborative dialogue, action, and insight for systemic change towards structural racism and racial equity.

Aims and Objectives of the Funded Projects

The initiative provided funding for faculty to be creative and innovative in addressing structural racism and racial inequity in the areas of education/curriculum, training, mentorship, and community engagement. Moreover, this project aimed to provide the faculty with an opportunity to collect preliminary data that could be used to secure external (i.e. federal) and internal (i.e. school/departmental) funding to continue activities that address structural racism.

In fall 2020, a total of 57 seed grants (up to $10,000 each) were awarded to Columbia full-time faculty across the Morningside, Manhattanville, and Columbia University Irving Medical Center Campuses. 

Across the 57 funded projects, more than 6,300 individuals participated. Project participants included faculty, students, staff, alumni, non-Columbia affiliates, and other groups.

Fall 2020 Addressing Racism Seed Grant Engaged Populations
Key Findings

The faculty who received grant funding described a range of objectives and activities utilized to tackle structural racism. The key findings of this report are informed by 47 grants that were analyzed via the questionnaire and/or faculty interviews. In this report, the objectives of the funded projects are classified into six areas/categories: 

  • Raise Awareness of Structural Racism and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Issues in Academia
  • Promote Community Engagement
  • Provide Mentorship to Faculty and Students on Issues of Structural Racism and DEIB
  • Design and Implementing Curricula that Address DEIB Issues
  • Promote Student-Led Activities
  • Deliver a Combination of More than Two of the Above Five Objectives

A majority of the faculty grant recipients reported that the funding: 

  • Increased attention and commitment of the schools/departments to identifying and ameliorating structural racism 
  • Increased faculty collaboration in three areas: training, teaching, and mentoring of faculty and students
  • Increased multidisciplinary collaborations
  • Provided opportunity for student-led initiatives
  • Increased engagement of neighbors and members of the communities who provided input on programs and curricula that impact them
  • Mobilized the faculty and schools/departmental leadership to pursue additional funding to sustain the programs produced by the pilot funds 
Fall 2020 Addressing Seed Grant Projects by Theme
Program Content and Implementation

Awareness Raising (23%): The most common project objective was to raise awareness of issues of structural racism within academia. Projects with this objective provided workshops, webinar events, lecture series, and panels for faculty, staff, and students, as well as interdepartmental discussions on anti-racism and issues surrounding justice, equity, and social determinants of health.

Community/Neighborhood Engagement (17%): The second most common project objective was to increase engagement with community members in Harlem and Washington Heights. This included enhanced collaboration between the university and the surrounding communities through oral history projects, podcasts, educational resources such as public events, webinars, speaker series, as well as opportunities for the community/stakeholders to provide feedback on course content and training materials and clinical care. 

Mentoring (15%): Other project objectives were to develop network and mentorship opportunities by establishing research and employment opportunities for historically underrepresented students, developing network and mentoring opportunities with faculty and alumni mentors, as well as to increase discussion of DEIB issues interdepartmentally.

Antiracism Curriculum (15%): Another project objective also included the development of an antiracist curriculum by increasing antiracist content in courses and learning strategies, incorporating antiracist teaching pedagogy, as well as increasing use of case studies within antiracism trainings and curricula for students. 

Support for Student-Led Activities (9%): Program objectives that were less common included support for student-led activities. Students received opportunities to publish and/or present anti-racism projects and convene to discuss DEIB-related issues.

Approximately one-fifth, or 21%, of grantees reported projects that targeted multiple objectives listed above. 


Faculty grant recipients who participated in this impact study strongly recommend that the Office of the Provost provide additional seed grant opportunities for faculty-led "social impact" projects. Participants identified ten recommendations for the Office of the Provost and academic units that would allow the university to support future projects in this area.

The following recommendations were developed from feedback shared by faculty grant recipients during the in-depth interviews.

Recommendations for the Office of the Provost
  • The Office of the Provost continue to fund the pilots for an additional one to three years
  • Increase the grant amount to increase participation and funding available for project evaluation
  • Measure the impact of the initiative and funded pilot projects on an ongoing basis. 

Recommendations for Academic Units (i.e., schools, departments, centers, institutes)
  • Provide opportunities for faculty to present their innovations of the grant-funded projects to the larger communities to allow more opportunities for collaborations.
  • Match the seed grant funding provided by the Office of the Provost (2:1)
  • Provide funds to supplement successful pilots, which would allow sustainability for the programs originally funded by the Office of the Provost

Recommendations for Future Requests for Proposals

Future Request for Proposals should ask applicants to provide the following:

  • Plan to integrate input from program community members (i.e., patients, participants, facilitators, etc.) into the program design and implementation
  • Plan to engage faculty across disciplines or create model to be used in other disciplines
  • Sustainability plan
  • Short-term and long-term evaluation plan

For a copy of the full report, please email the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement at [email protected]