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Institute for Critical Race and Ethnic Studies

About the Institute for Critical Race and Ethnic Studies

The Institute for Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) at St. John’s University is a research institute whose principal method of operation is the innovative interweaving of theory and action for thedevelopment and engagement of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to addressing the problems caused by systemic racism and the intersecting forms of oppression that accompany it locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.

Its structure and ethos are shaped by an awareness of the importance of the cross-pollination of ideas and evidence from researchers, policymakers, legislators, industry leaders, community organizers, artists, and grassroots activists who seek to develop solutions for the problems of institutionalized racial injustice and its role in shaping other forms of inequities.

The work of the institute takes place in a number of distinct and interconnected collaborative spaces:

  • Ethics in Practice
  • Community Research Partnerships
  • Incubators
  • Education
  • Fellowships and Internships
  • Visiting Scholars & Speakers

These spaces are linked by the CRES Institute’s overall approach of interweaving theory and action to develop new knowledges, practices, and pedagogies that address the problems created by systemic racism and the causes and outcomes of the racialization and ethnicization of Latin American, African, Asian, Oceanic, and Indigenous people and their diasporas.

Each of these collaborative spaces brings together opportunities for internal and external group projects that serve the specific focus of that collaborative space. The aim of each of these collaborative spaces is to break down the walls that inhibit work across all boundaries.

Location & Contact Information

Newman Hall, Room 129
718-990-3150

Institute Leadership

Dr. Natalie Byfield, Founding Director

Natalie Byfield

Dr. Natalie P. Byfield is a Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology. Her research is interdisciplinary; it is broadly concerned with hegemony, specifically the relationship between knowledge and power in the construction and reproduction of racial inequalities in the modern western world and the social justice response to them. She writes about the construction of knowledge and power relationships in the language, media systems, technologies, and research methodologies that occur in the institutions of policing, journalism, the social sciences, and higher education. Dr. Byfield is currently a Senior Research Fellow of the university’s Vincentian Center for Church and Society. Her past fellowships include a Samuels Center Fellowship from the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College of the City University of New York, a Revson Fellowship at Columbia University, and a National Science Foundation Fellowship. She is the author of the monograph Savage Portrayals: Race, Media, and the Central Park Jogger Story. Dr. Byfield has been a consultant on major documentaries about the Central Park Jogger case including “The Central Park Five,” a documentary by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and the ABC 20/20 Documentary, “One Night in Central Park.” She has worked as a journalist for the New York Daily News. Her work in journalism has also been published in The New York Times, HuffPost, Time: The Weekly Newsmagazine, New York Law Journal, and New York Woman Magazine. Her current book project is titled Minority Report: Place, Race, and State Surveillance in New York City.

Contact Information: 718-990-3151

Rev. Jean-Pierre Ruiz, S.T.D., Assistant Director

Jean-Pierre Ruiz lecturing at the embassy

Rev. Jean-Pierre Ruiz, S.T.D. is Associate Professor in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and is also a Senior Research Fellow of the university’s Vincentian Center for Church and Society. His book, Readings from the Edges: The Bible and People on the Move was the winner of a Catholic Press Association Award, and his recent publications also include another book, Revelation in the Vernacular, a volume in the series Disruptive Cartographers: Doing Theology Latinamente. A Past-President of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS), Ruiz is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature’s Committee on Underrepresented Minorities in the Profession. His research attends to the intersections of religion, race and ethnicity, colonization and migration. In addition, Ruiz has long been interested in the complex history and present realities of interreligious understanding. During the Obama administration, he served as a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy.

Contact Information: 718-990-3155

Mission & Vision

The Institute aims to imagine, create, sustain and promote practices of human flourishing. In keeping with the university’s mission to “respect the rights and dignity of every person,” the Institute for Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at St. John’s University honors the knowledges and practices that have long existed outside the formal university structures and settings.

The Institute for Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at St. John’s University operates with an outward facing model of interaction where practical research outcomes can be shared with partner communities and organizations within and outside of the university. It emphasizes an integrated relationship between theory and action. The institute will use critical race and ethnic studies approaches to address systemic racism and other forms of oppression.

Collaborative Spaces

This space fosters collaboration among St. John's faculty, administrators, and staff with corporate, nonprofit, and other community partners to think about our ethical responsibilities individually and institutionally for developing solutions to systemic racism and the intersecting forms of oppression that accompany it. This collaboration encourages the development of applied and professional ethics based on racially literate, inclusive ways of administering leadership and service.

The overall goal of those working in this space is to use research, teaching, and community engagement to develop multi-disciplinary educational programs that teach people how to design and implement ethical practices and policies that redress systemic racism and marginalization or exclusionary practices. This learning can be transferred to internal and/or external communities.

This space nurtures collaboration between SJU faculty, administrators, and staff and community-based advocates to use participatory action research and activist research models to come up with policy solutions for intractable problems caused by systemic racism and the intersecting forms of oppression that accompany it globally, nationally, regionally and here at St. John’s University.

The overall goal of those working in this space is to advance co-led projects, by a member of the SJU community and an external community, that develop frameworks based on equity and inclusion for generating and amplifying new knowledges about the intractable nature of systemic racism and community-based approaches for social change.

This work with local, national, and international communities centers the life experiences of people from Latin America, Africa, Indigenous lands, Asia, and Oceania in order to re-distribute power in the knowledge production process.

This space operates as a zone for cross-CRES Institute collaboration to facilitate the testing of policies, programs and practices that are under design in other CRES Institute areas and/or within incubator projects. This space also serves as a site for start-up research projects led by SJU faculty, administrators, and staff that target solutions to the main problems caused by systemic racism and the intersecting forms of oppression that accompany it globally, nationally, regionally and here at St. John’s University. This is accomplished by providing support for collaboration as well as financial and technical services.

The incubator encourages the development of cross-college, cross-regional, national, and international research teams. The work performed in this space will be based on the advancement of research techniques and goals that foster the seeing and the knowing of the world from the perspectives of racial and ethnic minorities across the globe.

The overall goal and work in this space is to amplify the work from SJU community members (faculty, administrators, staff, and students) that centers the role of BIPOC in the development of new knowledges.

This space serves as an area for the development of curricular and co-curricular programs, activities, and resources that support the instructional work of the CRES department that houses the CRES undergraduate minor and major, which brings multi-disciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to examinations of systemic racism and the intersecting forms of oppression that accompany it globally, nationally, regionally and here at St. John’s University.

This space will provide educational support through

  • the development of post-doctoral opportunities
  • regular annual forums that welcome people from internal and external communities. Participation in a full set of forums together with completion of some CRES courses will allow participants to earn a certificate.

This zone also operates as a site that supports the collaboration among CRES faculty, CRES Institute administrators and staff, and CRES Institute-associated community leaders. This collaboration allows for the amplification of the pedagogical techniques that are most effective in CRES work. Because many people who are interested in and/or teaching in CRES are from underrepresented groups, the education space in the CRES Institute creates a supportive group of people from underrepresented communities as they establish themselves within academic institutions or outside of academic communities where they do CRES-related work. As such, this space also serves as a site for civic education and engagement around the issue of racial justice.

The overall goal of the CRES Institute’s fellowship and internship program is the participation of SJU’s CRES Institute in the development of scholarship and community work in the area of Critical Race & Ethnic Studies at a national and international level.

This is a space for CRES Institute fellows and interns to meet for internal formal and informal presentations of work they are performing on CRES institute projects that examine the problems caused by systemic racism and the intersecting forms of oppression that accompany it globally, nationally, regionally and here at St. John’s University.

This zone also allows for the development of publications in the form of white papers that address policies, practices, and other solutions to the problems created by systemic racism.

This space at the St. John's CRES Institute facilitates collaboration with SJU departments and units, e.g., Office of Global Studies and ACEI, to support the university becoming a site for the recruitment of visiting local, regional, national, and international scholars and speakers whose work examines systemic racism and the intersecting forms of oppression that accompany it globally, nationally, regionally and here at St. John’s University.