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The Way Forward: Higher Education In a Time of Crisis

Mar 29, 2021

Nancy Cantor is a distinguished social psychologist and a national leader on the importance of community engagement, diversity, inclusion, and racial justice to excellence in higher education.  As Provost of the University of Michigan in the 1990s, she helped lead the university’s successful defense of affirmative action before the U.S. Supreme Court.  As Chancellor of Syracuse University and now Rutgers University-Newark, she has stressed the role of colleges and universities as anchor institutions in and with their communities.  In response to current crises of the pandemic, poverty, and racism, she argues here, higher education needs to become radically committed to changing “from the outside in,” putting community needs, priorities, and strengths at the heart of our institutions, in everything from admissions and hiring to budgets, teaching, and research.


In this episode, Nancy Cantor describes several innovative initiatives at Rutgers-Newark, including the university’s Honors Living-Learning Community and its Center on Law, Inequality, and Metropolitan Equity.  She also discusses the Anchor Institutions Task Force, a consortium of institutions committed to the kind of community engagement and reciprocity she advocates.  Nancy Cantor’s essays and speeches are also illuminating; see, for instance, “Transforming the Academy: The Urgency of Recommitting Higher Education to the Public Good” and “A 21st Century Challenges: Empathetic Leaders and Inclusive Institutions.” 


The Way Forward is a production of Bringing Theory to Practice; to learn more about our work, visit us at  Send us your thoughts—and suggestions for future episodes—at  The podcast is produced by Jabari Butler, and Dan Rudin composed our music.