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HHMI SynergIE Book Club Kicks Off Fall Series Sept. 18

Dr. Kristin Anderson to Discuss ‘Benign Bigotry’


By Mike Emery

"Benign Bigotry" by Dr. Kristin Anderson

Social strife and racial injustice continue to create barriers in our nation. A number of initiatives at the University of Houston-Downtown, however, are building bridges that promote diversity, inclusion, understanding and empathy.

Among these programs is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) SynergIE Book Club currently hosted by the College of Science & Technology’s Natural Sciences Department.

Launched in 2019 by Dr. Lisa Morano, Director of the Center for Urban Agriculture & Sustainability, and former College of Humanities & Social Sciences Dean Dr. DoVeanna Fulton, the book club creates an opportunity for UHD faculty and staff to educate themselves about the experiences and challenges faced by vulnerable populations.

The next Book Club event is scheduled for noon., Sept. 18 on Zoom. The discussion will focus on the text “Benign Bigotry: The Psychology of Subtle Prejudice” by UHD Professor of Psychology Dr. Kristin Anderson. Interested participants should email Ms. Frazier at fraviercl@uhd.edu.

Anderson’s text recently was named among “6 Books to Help You Find Your Hidden Prejudices So You Can Root Them Out.” The Professor of Psychology’s book also was featured in Book Riot’s “35 Must-Read Books About Racism,” alongside works from global thought leaders such as Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela.

“I’m thrilled that ‘Benign Bigotry’ was selected for the HHMI Inclusive Excellence Book Club,” said Anderson, who will participate in the Sept. 18 event. “A discussion of implicit bias, covert discrimination, and other forms of subtle prejudice alongside discussions of systemic racism offered by the Movement for Black Lives is very timely.”

The HHMI Inclusive Excellence Book Club is one of the programs made possible by a $1 million HHMI grant aimed at engaging students from all cultural backgrounds in STEM disciplines.

“The HHMI grant has focused on faculty training and also has begun to consider Inclusive Excellence pedagogy,” Morano said. “However, true inclusivity requires compassion and self-interrogation. Compassion requires learning more about the experiences of others that are not like you. Self-interrogation takes time and the willingness to immerse oneself in the truths from other areas/fields. A book club can be a good way to accomplish both of these.”

Upcoming HHMI Inclusive Excellence Book Club events are as follows:

All events begin at noon:

  • Oct. 16 - “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson” with guest Dr. David Ryden, Interim Dean of the College of Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Nov. 13 - Poetry edition: “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine and “An American Sunrise” by Joy Harjo with guest Dr. Robin Davidson, Professor Emeritus of English

For more details on the HHMI SynergIE Book Club, contact Cleopatra Frazier.


About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.