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Serena Does endowed professor Social Inequality & Resilience

16 February 2022
Serena Does has been appointed as endowed professor in Social Inequality & Resilience. The chair is established and funded by the Knowledge Platform for an Inclusive Society (KIS), in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the Faculty of Social Sciences of VU Amsterdam.

The instalment of the Endowed Chair in Social Inequality & Resilience comes at a time when social inequality has been propelled to the forefront of political debates, mainstream news, as well as scientific and public discourse. Serena Does: "Citizens are equal under the law. Yet people are often treated unequally. Students who cannot find an internship because they are not invited for a job interview because of their name. People who, because of their skin colour and gender, do not get the opportunity to advance in their careers. People with disabilities are not offered enough facilities to allow them to fully participate. Discrimination, sexism and racism affect people in their dignity and identity. The recent childcare benefits scandal has poignantly demonstrated that unequal treatment can also be institutional. When citizens are discriminated against by their government, it damages their trust and sense of security. These kinds of problematic mechanisms undermine the democratic rule of law."

"Social inequality is a major societal problem and at the same time, research shows that many people underestimate levels of inequality," says Does. "As endowed professor of Social Inequality & Resilience, I will examine the ways in which people differ in their perceptions of social inequality and their willingness to stand up for equal opportunities and equality. I will do this in collaboration with colleagues from the Knowledge Platform for an Inclusive Society (KIS), scientists in various disciplines, and other partners who have been working to achieve more equality in society for years."

Does obtained her Master’s degree (cum laude) in social en organisational psychology at Leiden University, and a PhD in 2013 at the same university. After obtaining her PhD, she joined the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a postdoc, then as a senior researcher at UCLA Anderson School of Management, and later as senior researcher and acting director of faculty searches in UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. She is currently senior researcher at the Verwey-Jonker Institute and programme coordinator at KIS, where she conducts quantitative and qualitative research, evaluates policy and social programmes and translates scientific findings into practical intervention possibilities.

Diversity and Inclusion 
Professor Gjalt de Graaf, head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at VU Amsterdam, says the department is extremely pleased with the appointment of Serena Does. "We are proud that she is now one of us. When the endowed chair Polarisation and Resilience was established by the Verwey-Jonker Institute (from January 2020 until January 2022) with Hans Boutellier as chair holder, we had the intention to continue with the chair. Serena Does proves to be an excellent fit," says De Graaf. "After all, the themes with which Does is concerned are also themes that are very much alive within the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. She conducts research in the field of social (in)equality, evaluates policy and social intervention programmes and translates scientific findings into practical possibilities for intervention. In her recent work, she devotes a great deal of attention to the characteristics and consequences of institutional racism in the Netherlands, a subject that will also receive ample attention here."

De Graaf praises Does' enthusiasm and her role as bridge-builder: "Serena Does is open to other ideas, which fits perfectly in a department with various disciplines. She is enthusiastic and picks up on current issues. Because Does has held positions inside and outside universities, at home and abroad, she brings, with her expertise in the areas of diversity and inclusion, valuable insights and experience that fit the diversity vision of the department, faculty and university."

Socially just society
Ahmed Hamdi, project leader at Knowledge Platform for an Inclusive Society, is delighted with the cooperation: "With this endowed chair, we at KIS want to link social issues to science. So that knowledge can be developed on, for example, inequality of opportunity and inclusive living in relation to migration background. And this knowledge can be translated into policy and used in practice."

Hamdi: "The chair is thus perfectly in line with the objective of KIS: to promote that both policy and implementation are based as much as possible on relevant and current knowledge. In the coming period, together with partners throughout the country, we will focus on increasing knowledge and its application in combating inequality of opportunity. We are looking forward to working with Serena Does as endowed professor in this field. We are convinced that with her extensive knowledge and international research experience on these themes she will make a significant contribution. We are excited about working together on a socially just society with room for difference."

The chair is established by the Knowledge Platform for an Inclusive Society (KIS). KIS is conducted by the Verwey-Jonker Institute and Movisie and is funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.