About ISSI

The mission of the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) is to:

  • Foster innovative, community-engaged qualitative and quantitative interdisciplinary research on the issues central to social stratification and inequality.  Our primary focus is on institutional patterns that impact marginalized communities - in the United States and around the world – as well as social and political movements that disrupt such patterns.
  • Train, advise, mentor and support the next generation of social change scholars to identify and collect empirical data so as to interpret and explain social stratification, with significant attention to the processes that support and disrupt stratification.

ISSI realizes this mission by supporting research centers within its institutional structure, encouraging projects and initiatives and securing extramural funding to support these initiatives; supporting a wide range of faculty research; building interdisciplinary networks between faculty and graduate student researchers; providing research training to faculty, students, and professionals in qualitative methodology; providing training, mentoring and professional development to graduate students; disseminating research publications; facilitating graduate student and faculty working groups; and convening colloquia and conferences. 

The institute was founded in 1976 as the Institute for the Study of Social Change (ISSC). ISSC was the first institute in the University of California system to focus on race, stratification, and social change. Since the beginning, graduate student training has been central to the work of the institute, which has been home to over 160 students of color who went on to complete their doctorates. In 2003, the graduate student training program was reconceptualized as the Graduate Fellows Program. In 2009, the Institute was renamed when it merged with the Survey Research Center. 

Director: Stephen Small, Professor of African American Studies, UC Berkeley

Director Emeriti

  • Troy Duster, UC Chancellor's Professor of Sociology, UC Berkeley; Professor Emeritus, New York University
  • Pedro Noguera, Dean, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California
  • Michael Omi, Professor Emeritus of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Rachel F. Moran, Distinguished Professor of Law, UC Irvine
  • Martín Sánchez-Jankowski, Professor of Sociology, UC Berkeley

By having faculty, graduate students, research staff and visiting scholars who are from different disciplines and engaged in research on societal issues all under one roof, ISSI nurtures a lab environment, where informal conversations as well as formal presentations of research spark innovation and nurture community.