In the 1990s, the African American and Latino communities at UIC engaged in multiple initiatives to improve the presence of people of color and representation of their issues throughout the campus, its programs and curricula. As part of this, they asked the University to support the establishment of Institutes carrying out engaged research on the conditions and experiences of their own people, with a particular emphasis on policy and community. In response, UIC created a task force of African American, Latino and Asian American faculty to draft a proposal. The Task Force proposed the creation of an Institute within UIC that would facilitate policy relevant research on (and primarily by minority faculty) race/ethnicity, racism and public policy. The Institute would also assist with recruitment and development of faculty and students of color, and develop partnerships around policies and initiatives of advancement for communities of color. This was later reinforced by partnerships between UIC and surrounding underrepresented communities and leaders of color around their advancement and the development of programs and policies with an impact on such communities throughout the city, the metropolitan area and the State of Illinois.
UIC adopted the proposal and created the Institute in the late 1990s. Today, IRRPP is organized around a set of strategic priorities that combine policy-relevant scholarship with assistance in the development, recruitment and retention of underrepresented faculty and students, maintaining close cooperation with and ownership of the Institute by the underrepresented community on campus, and providing services to the UIC campus, the City and Metropolitan Area of Chicago, and the underrepresented communities in general.
Under the leadership of Dr. Philip Bowman, IRRPP received permanent certification as a University Institute in October of 1994. Most recently, in academic year 2007-08, UIC conducted a review that highly praised the work of the Institute and recommended permanent financial support from UIC. As noted in the report:
“The evidence suggests that IRRPP plays a vibrant and important role not only in encouraging and stimulating research on race and public policy but also in supporting the broader diversity agenda of UIC… [IRRPP] can be seen as a community of scholars that provides ethnic minority faculty and students with a supportive ‘home’ for their intellectual endeavors. It provides a splendid example
of the UIC approach of ‘access to excellence.’”
Reflecting on this, faculty and students had this to say:
“When I was recruited to UIC, it was the presence of IRRPP on campus that marked UIC as a place where the kind of work I wanted to do was valued and recognized (minority professor at UIC).”
“As a student, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to be involved with the personal, professional and academic development provided by IRRPP… As an organizer, IRRPP remains a constant partner for the betterment of the different people of Chicago by the mission it stands for and by the resources it provides. (undergraduate student at UIC).”