Rashawn Ray, National Expert on Racial and Social Inequity, Joins the American Institutes for Research to Lead the AIR Equity Initiative

Ray will guide AIR’s mission-focused investment in research, technical assistance, and partnerships  

Arlington, Va.Rashawn Ray, a nationally recognized expert on racial and social inequity, is joining the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to lead its philanthropic effort to better understand the causes of systemic inequity and explore viable solutions. Ray, currently a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, will join AIR in February as vice president and managing director of the AIR Equity Initiative.

Rashawn Ray

Launched in 2021, the AIR Equity Initiative is a five-year, $100M+ investment in behavioral and social science research and technical assistance to address the underlying causes of systemic inequities and to increase opportunities for people and communities. The initiative’s work is done collaboratively with other organizations and communities and focuses on developing approaches to moderate or mitigate the harmful effects on individuals living in communities segregated by race and place, with a particular emphasis on education, workforce, creating safer communities, and advancing health equity.

“Rashawn’s experience, expertise, and commitment to increasing opportunities and creating safe and just communities through research and collaboration are well aligned with the goals of the AIR Equity Initiative,” said David Myers, AIR’s CEO. “The initiative is off to a strong start, and I believe under Rashawn’s leadership, it will grow and thrive as we seek to create a better, more equitable world.”  

In 2021, Ray began working with the AIR Equity Initiative as an Institute Fellow, helping to build a research agenda around social justice and community-police interactions. He also participated in a Nov. 17 panel discussion, Diversity, Dignity, and Data in Public Safety Systems.

“I have seen up close the commitment that AIR is making to its mission and to creating safer, more equitable communities where all people can thrive in education, in the workforce, and in life,” Ray said. “I am excited to work with AIR’s leadership, staff and partners to build and expand upon the work the AIR Equity Initiative has done the past two years and ensure this investment makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Ray has been a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, for more than 10 years and serves as executive director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research, which focuses on critical issues of public concern, including policing and community relations. His research addresses the mechanisms that manufacture and maintain racial and social inequity, and he regularly testifies at the federal and state levels on racial equity, policing and criminal justice reform, health policy, wealth disparities, and family policy.

Ray has published several books and articles and has written op-eds in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and other high-profile outlets. In addition to his work at the University of Maryland, he is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and served on the national advisory committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Policy Research Scholars Program. He has been awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science, and the Public Understanding of Sociology Award from the American Sociological Association.

Ray earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Memphis and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in sociology from Indiana University.

About AIR
Established in 1946, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of education, health, and the workforce. AIR's work is driven by its mission to generate and use rigorous evidence that contributes to a better, more equitable world. With headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, AIR has offices across the U.S. and abroad. For more information, visit www.air.org.

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