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University Academic Affairs
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University Academic Affairs

Strategic Diversity Clusters 

In the effort to advance Rutgers toward a thriving culture of diversity, equity, and inclusive academic excellence, President Jonathan Holloway announced a new Strategic Diversity Cluster Hiring initiative that reaffirms the university’s commitment to recruit and retain faculty working in four interdisciplinary areas of strength and emerging promise at Rutgers: Race, Racism, and Inequality;  Health Equity; Advancing STEM Diversity, and Engaged Climate Action. The five clusters below represent the first phase of this new program and will unfold over the next three years on our campuses in New Brunswick, Camden, and Newark. Approximately twenty-five new faculty will be hired at all ranks over the next three years and will join existing Rutgers faculty working in a broad array of departments and disciplines. Each cluster is led by a faculty Cluster Champion who plays a vital role in guiding the cluster’s activity and progress.

Cluster Descriptions and Champions

New Brunswick

  • Five new cluster hires in a Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) cluster in Race, Racism, and Intersecting Inequalities (RRII) will build on Rutgers SBS Departments’ existing strengths in examining the impact of race and racism on economic, social, political, environmental, and health inequalities and will raise Rutgers’ national and international standing in these fields.  Members of this cluster will be invited to bring their perspectives and expertise in the social and behavioral sciences together in an interdisciplinary seminar or undergraduate course in RRII. That course will form the foundation, together with a selection of other related SBS courses, for the new SBS-sponsored undergraduate certificate in RRII. In addition, cluster members will initiate the first interdisciplinary SBS RRII research consortium available to faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates to facilitate collaborations in scholarship, teaching, and outreach. The cluster will draw from seven departments and one center: Africana Studies, AnthropologyEconomicsGeographyPolitical SciencePsychology, and Sociology from SBS, SAS; and the Eagleton Institute for Politics’ Center for American Women and Politics. 

    Cluster Champions: Diana Sanchez, Professor, Psychology, SAS, Rutgers-New Brunswick, and Kevon Rhiney, Associate Professor of Human-Environment Geography, SAS, Rutgers-New Brunswick

    Diana Sanchez


    Diana sanchez Rutgers

    Diana T. Sanchez is a Professor in the Psychology Department and a Faculty Fellow in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division Dean's Office. She is a diversity scientist whose research focuses on stigma, identity, intergroup bias, and close relationships. Broadly speaking, her research examines how being the target of stereotypes affects the physical, psychological, and relational health of women, racial/ethnic minorities and other minoritized groups. Dr. Sanchez has more than fifteen years of experience participating and leading diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at Rutgers and in the broader scientific community. Her DEI research and service have been recognized by numerous awards, including the Faculty Leader in Diversity Award from Rutgers, the Society of Experimental Social Psychology Diversity Science Mid-Career Award, and the Distinguished Service to the Society of Personality and Social Psychology award.


    Kevon Rhiney photo

    Kevon Rhiney

    Kevon Rhiney (he/him/his) is an Associate Professor of Human-Environment Geography in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. His primary research examines the complex conditions under which rural agrarian landscapes change, and the socio-material implications these changes pose for smallholder livelihoods. More recent research has started to explore the biopolitical dimensions of post-hurricane reconstruction efforts across the Caribbean. Dr. Rhiney has co-edited two books and his work has been published in a number of interdisciplinary journals including the Annual Reviews, GeoforumProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and World Development. He is currently the development section editor for Geography Compass, editorial board member for the Political Geography journal, and served as a contributing author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C.

  • The urban environment is home to billions of people around the globe, and New Jersey is among the most densely populated urban region in the United States. Urban environments are both substantial sources of global environmental pollution and discrete locations whose populations are routinely exposed to unhealthy indoor and outdoor environments. Drinking water safety, wastewater treatment, municipal solid waste disposal, exposure to legacy and emerging pollutants, and air quality are of tremendous concern to urban residents. The rapidly changing climate, sea level rise, flooding during hazardous weather events, and declining air quality exacerbate these challenges and further threaten the health of urban communities. Six new cluster hires will center on the sustainability and resilience of urban environments with additional emphasis on urban and environmental health, environmental justice, and the effects of climate change. The cluster will draw from four departments across four schools on the New Brunswick Campus: Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE, SoE), Chemical and Biochemical Engineering (CBE, SoE), Environmental Sciences (DES, SEBS), Biochemistry and Microbiology (DBM, SEBS); and the School of Engineering (SoE), School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS), Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy (EJBSPP) and the Rutgers School of Social Work (RUSSW).

    Cluster Champions: Donna Fennell, Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, SEBS, Rutgers-New Brunswick, and Jie Gong, Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, SOE, Rutgers-New Brunswick

    donna fennell

    Donna E. Fennell

    Donna E. Fennell is an Environmental Engineer and is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences.  Professor Fennell’s research focuses on microbial processes for pollutant detoxification at contaminated sites, microbial activity in the atmosphere, and biological processes for biogas production from wastes.  She has published several landmark papers on organohalide-respiring bacteria with recent work focused on identifying novel microbes that are involved in dechlorination of deadly dioxin in the sediments of the highly polluted Passaic River. Her work has been funded by NSF, DoD-SERDP, NJDEP, the Hudson River Foundation and industry.  She teaches water and wastewater treatment, biological unit processes and bioremediation courses. She is a fellow of the Rutgers Leadership Academy program, Changing The Future For Women In STEM at Rutgers, and the Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) Leadership Institute.



    jie gong rutgers

    Jie Gong

    Jie Gong is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rutgers University.  

    His research focuses on quantifying and modeling the natural and built environments for the most vulnerable communities so that we can understand and mitigate vulnerabilities to natural and man-made extreme events as well as rapid technology and policy changes.  

    He conducts research on two interrelated fronts: (1) optimization and deployment of remote sensing systems for disaster response, design and development of cyberinfrastructure to support hazard analysis and modeling, and modeling of natural and manmade disaster impacts to urban communities; (2) quantifying and mitigating stressors in urban societies through simulations and smart city solutions, in particular related to mobility of disabled populations and well-being of distressed communities.



  • The goal of this cluster is to accelerate the growth of Rutgers University-Newark as a regional and national center of excellence in Latinx Studies, the Identities, Injustice, and Power. The Latinx Diaspora Cluster will recruit five new faculty members to conduct innovative social science research on the ways that power has been, and continues to be, used against and used by Latinx communities to reshape their identities, their access to power and resources, and the landscapes in which they live. Priority will be given to hiring social scientists who use quantitative, qualitative (e.g., ethnographic), and digital methods to examine: 1. Past and present relations between Black Atlantic, South Asian, and indigenous communities throughout the Caribbean and the Americas and the ways that contact between these communities have informed Latinx ethnoracial identities and inter and intragroup relations across the diaspora; 2. International policy, (neo)colonialism, environmental injustice and their impacts on (im)migration and forced displacement in the Latinx diaspora; 3. Structural inequalities (e.g., structural racism, linguistic inequality) and their implications for the psychosocial, educational, health, and economic welfare of diasporic Latinx youth and adults; and 4. Factors influencing Latinx political and sociopolitical development (e.g., political attitudes, political identities, voting behaviors) and the implications of these developments for the reshaping of global electoral politics. The cluster will draw from four departments in the School of Arts & Sciences-Newark: Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology, Urban Education, and American Studies.

    Cluster Champion: Domingo Morel, Assistant Professor, Political Science, Rutgers-Newark

    domingo morel Rutgers

    Domingo Morel

    Domingo Morel is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University - Newark. He is also an affiliate member of Global Urban Studies and the Center on Law, Inequality, and Metropolitan Equity at Rutgers Newark.

    His research program and teaching portfolio focus on racial and ethnic politics, urban politics, education politics and public policy.  

    He is the author of Takeover: Race, Education, and American Democracy, which won the W.E.B. Du Bois Distinguished Book Award.

    He is also co-editor of Latino Mayors: Power and Political Change in the Postindustrial City.

  • Five new cluster hires will build capacity in students’ ability to use data-driven methods to address complex problems in the sciences, building upon and supporting the exponential growth of the SASN minor in Data Science. The initiative aims to attract scientists from diverse backgrounds who address complex problems using advanced statistical techniques (e.g., clustering techniques, network analysis), machine learning, predictive analytics, and causal modeling. The cluster intends both to strengthen and diversify the advanced curriculum in data sciences available to students and to serve as a crucible for engaging students in mentored research with faculty. Priority will be given to scholars who have demonstrated that they can effectively teach courses in their discipline as well as courses that fit broadly under the rubrics of applied data science, applied statistics, and or applied computational science; and scholars who have demonstrated a commitment to mentoring undergraduate students. All STEM departments will be eligible to participate in this cluster hire initiative.

    kristina keating

    Kristina Keating

    Kristina Keating is an Associate Professor of near-surface geophysics in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University-Newark. Her research focuses on laboratory and field based geophysical measurements to understand processes occurring in the top 100 m’s of Earth’s surface. Her research spans critical zone science, hydrogeophysics, cryosphere geophysics, biogeophysics, and soil science. She is also actively involved in science education research to engage students from groups historically underrepresented in the geosciences.




  • Health equity is central to the interdisciplinary field of Prevention Sciences, which “focuses on the development of evidence-based strategies that reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities” (National Prevention Science Coalition). Since the most challenging social and structural problems influencing health outcomes and quality of life rarely fit within the confines of traditional disciplines, Prevention Science is also inherently interdisciplinary. Rutgers University-Camden will recruit four new cluster faculty to advance a range of research collaborations across six different programs in three schools on the Camden Campus:  Health Sciences, Psychology, Childhood Studies, and Criminal Justice (all within the Camden College of Arts and Sciences); the School of Nursing-Camden; and the School of Business-Camden. These collaborations will serve as foundations for research and teaching in Prevention Sciences and will support the launch of a forthcoming interdisciplinary research center and new graduate program. 

    Cluster Champion: Kristin August Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Health Sciences Center, Rutgers-Camden

    Kristin August, Rutgers

    Kristin August

    Kristin August is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Core Faculty Member of the Health Sciences Center at Rutgers University - Camden.

    Her main research focus is on the link between personal relationships and health in diverse populations, such as individuals with chronic illness, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, and individuals with disabilities.

    She teaches courses in health psychology, psychology of aging, health sciences, and research methods.