Introducing the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity

January 26, 2021

By Bethany Romano, MBA’17 

The Institute on Assets and Social Policy’s (IASP) new name is the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity (IERE).  This new name affirms the group’s long history of path breaking research on inequities and disparities. This change is the culmination of a months-long visioning process led by newly appointed institute director, Maria Madison. Madison, who has served as Heller’s associate dean for equity, inclusion and diversity since 2017, joined the institute as its director in September 2020.

“We will build on our track record of excellence in research and community-engaged work, investigating racial inequity and gaps across populations. Our new title reflects this renewed agenda,” says Madison. 

Maria Madison, interim dean of the Heller School
IERE Director Maria Madison

“We aim to strengthen awareness that racism is a public policy crisis, not just a public health crisis,” she said, expressing excitement that this initiative follows momentum at the national, regional and local levels. This announcement coincides with President Biden’s recent executive order on advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government, as well as with recent comments made by Mayor Marty Walsh that “racial equity is the key” to creating our new normal, socially just society.

In recent years, the institute has had three main research foci: racial wealth and economic equity; work and opportunity pathways; and housing and community stability. Though efforts to identify and resolve structural racism have always underpinned the institute’s research portfolio, Madison and her team recognize that when it comes to racial inequities, policy areas do not operate in isolation. 

Looking ahead to its next chapter, IERE will continue to push the boundaries of academic disciplines in its efforts to address inequity and structural racism. “In the coming months and years, we will broaden our focus to include more of the areas in which structural racism reinforces inequities, including education, health, and the legal system,” says Madison, whose own research portfolio related to the social, political and racial determinants of health and inequity has already extended IERE’s scope. 

“Dr. Madison and her team have co-created a new vision and name for the institute that recognizes important accomplishments and existing strengths, while also pushing boldly ahead into social, economic and health disparities,” says Dean David Weil. “Disparities in these areas arise from multiple sources and require multiple responses. Broadening the academic scope of the institute and giving it a new name that fits this mission is an exciting step forward in advancing this work.”

The institute has outlined several key steps to support this vision, including increased hiring and partnering with racially diverse scholars; engaging a pipeline of young scholars of color; and creating an interdisciplinary advisory board. The institute is already working toward these goals, and hopes to announce several new initiatives—including a summer internship program for PhD students and a postdoctoral program for scholars of color—in the near future. 

Learn more about IERE’s vision and next chapter