History of the Antiracist Development Institute

ADI Systems Designers Meeting 2022

In 2020, the cascade of murders of Black and Brown individuals and the Black Lives Matter protests demonstrated the prevalence of systemic, structural, and institutional racism. Structural racism permeates our democratic institutions, including legal education and the legal profession.

Penn State Dickinson Law created the Antiracist Development Institute (ADI) to dismantle structures that scaffold this systemic racial inequality using a three-pillar system based on systems design, institutional antiracism, and critical pedagogy. Learn more about the ADI’s history and background.

The History of the ADI


In June 2020, shortly after George Floyd’s murder, the Penn State Dickinson Law faculty unanimously passed a resolution condemning violence against people of color. Soon after, the faculty adopted a second resolution to create more opportunities for students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni to learn about and discuss race, racism, and inequality in the curriculum and in organization processes and practices. The resolution led to the development of Dickinson Law’s course “Race and the Equal Protection of the Laws” (REPL), which the Law School began requiring all 1Ls to take in fall 2020.

In November 2020, Dickinson Law received the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) EDGE Award to recognize its significant commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in legal education.


In spring 2021, Dickinson Law faculty and staff members wrote a series of law review articles as part of the REPL rollout, sharing the approach and curriculum for the course and essentially turning it into an open-source project.

In April 2021, Dickinson Law Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law Danielle M. Conway and colleagues presented “Building an Antiracist Law School” at the Rutgers Race & the Law Review Symposium. Symposium attendee Maura Roessner with University of California Press requested a meeting with Conway about turning the presentation into a book. Conway created a 26-page proposal for a book series titled “Building an Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession.”

In summer 2021, Conway realized Dickinson Law could expand the project beyond a book series by bringing in outside funding and book contributors. Kellye Y. Testy, the president and CEO of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), suggested Conway present the idea for the book series to the law school allied associations to gain buy-in. Conway dubbed the project the Antiracist Development Institute.

In November 2021, Dickinson Law launched the ADI with the goals of producing the book series and providing organizations across the country with systems design-based approaches to implementing antiracist practices, processes, and policies throughout their functions. Dickinson Law received three-year grant funding commitments to launch the ADI from LSAC, AccessLex Institute, and National Association for Law Placement (NALP). Additionally, then-Penn State President Eric J. Barron pledged a contribution to the initial seeding.


In March 2022, TaWanda H. Stallworth joined the ADI as program manager.

In June 2022, the ADI held its first large-scale event, the “Building An Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession” book series launch and chapter contributor conference. Held virtually, it drew more than 100 colleagues from the legal academy, legal profession, and adjacent organizations from 28 states and the District of Columbia, representing more than 60 law schools and organizations.

In August 2022, the ADI received a $500,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The commitment brought institutions’ and private donors’ investment in the ADI to over $2 million.


In June 2023, the ADI helped facilitate the 17th annual Lutie A. Lytle Workshop hosted by Dickinson Law. The event for current and aspiring Black women law faculty is named after the nation’s first Black woman law professor and fosters scholarly development and critical networking connections.

In October 2023, the ADI hosted its inaugural convening at Dickinson Law, highlighted by a keynote address from Howard University School of Law Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Esq. Endowed Chair in Civil Rights Sherrilyn Ifill, the former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The event drew 93 people from as far away as San Antonio, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and included sessions on admissions, teaching and learning, and leadership.

In fall 2023, Serena Hermitt joined the ADI as education program coordinator.

Throughout the year, Conway and other Dickinson Law faculty and chapter contributors continued to use public forums to spread the word about the ADI.


In March 2024, the ADI invited members of Penn State’s Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Initiative to Dickinson Law to share knowledge and explore future collaboration opportunities.

In April 2024, the ADI will hold a Writing Workshop at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum at Hyde Park in New York to support contributors to the book series with finishing their chapters.

In October 2024, the ADI will hold its second annual convening.

ADI Background

The ADI’s interdisciplinary approach to legal education provides law students and lawyers the critical thinking skills that accompany introspection about the role of legal education and the legal profession in creating, interpreting, and counseling of laws that have scaffolded structural racism in American society in contravention of the fundamental value of equality vis-à-vis equal liberty, equal justice, equal citizenship, equal rights, and equal protection of the laws.

The ADI builds on concepts from The Association of American Law Schools Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project, which Conway and four other Black women law school deans established, and information presented throughout the “Building an Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession” book series to provide law schools and other institutions with a blueprint to be workshopped through the stages of systems design.

The ADI has been piloting course material since the fall of 2022, and subsequent iterations of course content will be made available to institutions and organizations outside of the legal community thereafter.

ADI Leadership

The ADI is led by an accomplished team of experts, including Conway, the ADI’s executive director; Professor of Law and Harvey A. Feldman Distinguished Faculty Scholar Dermot Groome, the ADI’s associate director; Program Manager Stallworth; and Education Program Coordinator Hermitt.

ADI Book Series

“Building an Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession” is distinct in its use of a systems design approach combined with antiracist principles to transform law schools from edifices of systemic inequity into sustainable democratic institutions whose platform is built upon principles of systemic equity. It is unique for its admixture of systems design, organizational theory and practice, and antiracist theory and practice. The ADI will use the book series to develop course materials.

ADI Book Series Collaborators

Over 120 colleagues from the legal academy, legal profession, and adjacent organizations are contributing to the book series as chapter contributors, editors, content reviewers, and workshop facilitators, representing 76 institutions across the country.

Meet our Book Series Collaborators

ADI Book Series Systems Designers

Systems designers are essential to the success of this project. They guide the writing of each volume in accordance with training in design-thinking that they have received. The systems design approach to the writing of each volume relies on critically examining law schools by their constituent parts — or, more aptly, their functions — to identify embedded inequities. Once embedded inequities are revealed within a function, the next step is to deploy a systems design rubric to transform one or more functions of the organization. Systems design for law is defined as a hands-on, user-focused way to relentlessly innovate, empathize, and humanize with others to solve problems or resolve issues. Systems design is fundamentally user-centered, experimental, responsive, intentional, and tolerant of failure.

Meet our Systems Designers

Learn About The “Building an Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession” Book Series

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