Award of funds to boost positive dialogue on difference
Saint Michael’s College is one of 40 institutions across the nation to receive funding from Campus Compact to bridge divides on campuses and in communities.
Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education, recently announced 40 college and university recipients of grants to bring people together across lines of difference from its Fund for Positive Engagement, including Saint Michael’s College.
The Fund for Positive Engagement is a direct response by Campus Compact to “the divisive and destructive climate in the United States that took shape during the 2016 campaign and has continued in its aftermath,” their publicity states. The purpose of the Fund is to catalyze experiments in bridging divisions among people and groups in communities across the country.
The Award for Saint Michael’s will be used to cover stipends for student fellowships and to bring speakers and specialists for trainings.
“Moise St. Louis, PhD, Saint Michael’s associate dean of students/director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services, took the initiative and collaborated with Joan Wagner, Kimoi Seale, Trish Siplon and Kerri Leach to formulate a detailed program-proposal in applying for the funding, said Dawn Ellinwood, the College’s vice president for student affairs.
St. Louis said the project title for his funding proposal was “Student Leadership: Dialoguing Across Difference.” Essentially, it is a response to tensions in the post-election season that developed on campus last year including overt bias incidents. St. Louis said his intent was to implement new programming along these lines regardless of his application’s outcome, given the urgency of this issue, but the funds open up more possibilities and strengthen participant motivation. Said Saint Michael’s President Jack Neuhauser, “This is a nice affirmation of the quality of what Moise proposed.”
The program will consist of structured training during fall semester for five fellows and a cohort of student leaders who can commit to the full series, develop conversation partner relationships and build on concepts and skills from week to week. In Phase 2, those Fellows will use their training to facilitate dialogues in the spring. St. Louis says the goal is to make the program a permanent feature of the Student Affairs office as an initiative connected to the College’s mission as an Edmundite Catholic college.
Andrew Seligsohn, president of Campus Compact, said the organization wanted to “create an incentive for colleges and universities to come up with creative responses to the challenges they are seeing.”
“We have been hearing from our member colleges and universities that students and community members cannot hold conversations with people with differing political views,” he said. “Immigrant and Muslim students are afraid to express their views. Many community members see universities as completely separate universes with different values. We invited our members to propose steps to break through those divides, and we are excited by the proposals that came back.”
The selection process was highly competitive as Campus Compact received nearly 300 submissions from institutions across the country. Two thirds of the reviewers were students in Campus Compact’s Newman Civic Fellows program. Proposals were judged based on the strength of the idea, its practicality, and the degree to which it will be possible to measure success, among other criteria.
Campus Compact is a coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education. As the largest national organization dedicated to this mission, Campus Compact is a leader in building community engagement into campus and academic life. For more information, visit www.compact.org and follow @Campus_Compact on Twitter.
For more information and full list of recipients, visit compact.org/fund-positive-engagement.