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Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Institute for Diversity Science researches discrimination, finds solutions

IDS unites DEI initiatives, diversity science researchers across campus through collaboration
Todd Brown/UW SMPH Media Solutions
Angela Byars-Winston speaking at the Institute for Diversity Science Reception 2023

The University of Wisconsin launched a new research institute called the Institute for Diversity Science Feb. 7. Harnessing the knowledge from diversity, equity and inclusion institutions across UW such as the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Collaborative Center for Health Equity, IDS looks into ways to address mechanisms of discrimination and finding ways to combat negative outcomes because of it, according to Institute Chair Angela Byars-Winston.

The original idea for IDS was part of a larger proposal for a National Institute of Health Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation federal grant she applied for with Executive Director Markus Brauer.  They wanted to find a way to diversify the UW faculty by race and ethnicity in STEM fields specifically, which required thinking of creative ways to introduce diverse faculty in these fields, Byars-Winston said.

“It was not a hard sell for the university,” Byars-Winston said. “I think to the credit of the leadership deans, the provost office, the chancellor’s office, this was an opportunity to keep the tradition of rigorous research alive at UW just in the space of DEI … And so now we’re able to bring the science to match the mission.”


“Diversity science” is defined as a scientific discipline that uses empirical methods to examine DEI-related issues, according to the IDS. While many organizations exist to do work related to diversity science, Byars-Winston said they may not reach the same fields. For example, UW’s IDS also consider the business world in addition to STEM.

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In fact, while conducting a needs assessment around the country, Brauer was only able to find one other place to have such an institute dedicated to diversity science in particular — the University of Massachusetts Amherst directed by Nilanjana Dasgupta, Byars-Winston said.

The University of Massachusetts had the same approach to evidence-based practices and empirical research on DEI as UW’s IDS, Brauer said. But UW did not want to make an exact copy of the University of Massachusetts’ institute that looks at diversity science specifically in the STEM field. Instead, it wanted to have a broader approach by incorporating fields outside of STEM. It did, however, find communicating with Dasgupta insightful for constructing IDS, Brauer said.

Being a relatively young addition to the UW administration, IDS is still planning programs and activities all while learning from other scholars across the country who currently practice diversity science, according to Byars-Winston.

“We want to harness some of their learning, some of their methods, some of their findings,” Byars-Winston said. “So we plan to have visiting scholars who come to campus for a couple of days, share a lecture or meet with graduate students, meet with undergraduate students, talk to the Center of Leadership or [Leadership Institute] about future directions.”

Another activity IDS has planned follows a more informal, discussion based structure featuring a selected scholar to showcase their work. Community members would then be invited to learn from this particular scholar.

Though it has only spent just over three weeks in operation, Byars-Winston said IDS knows what is important for its success and growth — having community partners.

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Operating in isolation — that is, away from everyday applications — will not benefit IDS nor lead to its success. Instead, what it needs is community partners who will help shape the work they do, Byars-Winston said. There is a strong emphasis on working collaboratively with similar DEI on-campus organizations rather than competing with them, Brauer said.

At the launch, Byars-Winston said a variety of people were in attendance representing several areas from the campus community and beyond. There were people from the business community, the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, clergy and nonprofit organizations. On top of that, there were people speaking from scientific journals and funding agencies.

But the opportunity for involvement doesn’t stop at the professional level. IDS also seeks to involve those who are early in their careers, Byars-Winston said, which includes undergraduate students who express interest in being contributors to diversity science.

“We want to grow more people who do diversity science, the number of affiliates we have, especially those who are earlier in their careers — undergraduate, graduate students who may not have otherwise been exposed to or excited about diversity science — who would then be part of the future, intellectual community of diversity science researchers,” Byars-Winston said.

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Efforts such as those of IDS and other similar institutions are necessary to drive innovation and creativity, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion LaVar Charleston said in an email statement to The Badger Herald. On top of that, diversity promotes both productivity and performance as well as facilitates personal growth.

Data collected from IDS informs the organization’s affiliates about what works and what does not work in Diversity and Inclusion efforts. It also will evaluate how to best practice and implement the necessary diversity efforts to enhance people’s lives, Charleston said.

“This is where the Institute for Diversity Science plays a key role … Researchers within the Institute for Diversity Science can play a key role in providing implications for the best practices in diversity science locally, nationally and internationally,” Charleston said. “By combining forces with all the brilliance within UW-Madison, we will be worldwide exemplars in this area.”

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Byars-Winston said she would describe IDS as “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary.” This is because change typically occurs in smaller, evolutionary steps rather than all at once. IDS is evolving the pre-existing tradition on campus to study diversity science, and its next step is to harness the “collective brain trust, resources and scholarship” of those already existing entities.

UW has also always had a good feeling for what is “cutting edge” — where research is going and what the next discoveries will be, Brauer said. For example, the first bone marrow transplant occurred at UW, and the first adult embryonic cells were grown here, according to Byars-Winston.

Diversity science, Brauer said, is the next frontier in this regard.

“I think this is what everybody is going to talk about in five years or 10 years,” Brauer said. “I think other universities will open these research centers and … will look at UW-Madison and see how we implemented that institute and how we are running it. I think it demonstrates that UW-Madison is strongly committed to diversity, inclusion, belonging and inclusive excellence.”

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