Dorothy Roberts, 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor

PIK stands for Penn Integrates Knowledge, an initiative conceived by President Gutmann to recruit scholars whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge. These scholars hold endowed professorships and joint appointments between Penn's schools. 

Dorothy Roberts is an award-winning teacher and scholar who writes and speaks about some of the most important and challenging issues facing our society, including civil rights, reproductive rights, poverty, child welfare and family law. This George A. Weiss University Professor shares appointments between the Penn Law School, where she is also be the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander ED'18, GR'21, L'27 Professor of Civil Rights, and the department of sociology in the School of Arts & Sciences.


My name's Dorothy Roberts and I'm the 14th Penn Integrate Knowledge or PIK professor. George A Weiss University professor and the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander professor of civil rights at the law school. President Amy Gutmann started the PIK professorship program in 2005 to recruit faculty to Penn whose research interest and teaching span across different disciplines. And integrate the knowledge from different disciplines in their work. And I think my work fits perfectly in that way of thinking about research, and teaching, and scholarship because I've always tried to use insights from a multiple number of disciplines, not only law and sociology but also bioethics, history and now even the life sciences to get a better understanding of how social policies and laws are shaped by social inequality.

And so I try to integrate, not only methods from various disciplines, but also look at the way in which we can use these methods across disciplines to understand the intersection, or integration of different systems of inequality like race, and gender, and poverty in social policies and in big institutions like the Child Welfare System, or like the practice of medicine, or biomedical research. One of the main things that attracted me to Penn was the way in which the whole intellectual community at this university is so geared toward interdisciplinary research and engagement. I was able in other universities to create a kind of interdisciplinary home for myself, but it wasn't as supported by the whole university, and as embraced by the whole university as I find at Penn. And that's why I'm so excited about the PIK professorship, because coming from the very top levels of the university and throughout, all aspects I've seen of Penn, the importance of integrating knowledge is really at the forefront.