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Implicit Bias Book Club Focused on Promoting Awareness, Change

College of Public Service Initiative Engaging UHD Community


By Mike Emery

The past five months have posed a number of challenges for the tight-knit University of Houston-Downtown community. One of the biggest obstacles facing faculty, staff and students has been the sense of detachment … or simply not being able to physically be there for each other during a trying time.

Besides the pandemic, the campus community and the rest of the nation have endured many emotional moments in isolation, including the recent George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Vanessa Guillen tragedies.

Leave it to UHD’s College of Public Service to bring Gators together for virtual conversations and support during an otherwise difficult time. The latest initiative from the college is the Implicit Bias Book Club. Hosted by the college’s Lab for Equity in Action, the group convenes via Zoom to discuss texts that promote understanding of individual prejudices and promote diversity, inclusion and understanding.

Presently, the club is discussing “Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts” by Carol Tavris and Elliott Aronson. The next online meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., July 17. For additional details and to register, visit the UHD Calendar.

“We see this book club as a way to get together during a time we may feel incredibly disconnected from each other and learn about ways we can be better citizens of our community and the very best versions of ourselves,” said Dr. Nina Barbieri, Director of the Lab for Equity in Action and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice.

The book club is currently open to College of Public Service faculty, staff and students and invited community partners. Discussions on “Mistakes Were Made …” will continue through Aug. 14. On the final day co-author Carol Tavris will join the discussion. UHD Community members interested in the club can contact the Lab for Equity in Action.

Barbieri added that sections of the book will be assigned to the club, so participants won’t be required to read the entire text.

The Implicit Bias Book Club complements the many initiatives emanating from UHD’s College of Service aimed at serving and supporting the community. Likewise, the Lab for Equity in Action was created to raise awareness of implicit bias (or unconscious and possibly negative beliefs based on race, gender, religion); prepare College of Public Service Students for diverse work environments; and provide evidence-based interventions to promote change in the practices of public service practitioners and students.

“Many of us in the College of Public service research, teach and serve around pillars of ‘inclusivity’ and ‘equity,’” Barbieri said. “When the world went virtual, we sort of lost that support network. Unfortunately, a recent series of deaths only further reified the need for solidarity and an outlet such as this book club as we continue the pursuit of justice and equity for all.”

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.