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The Public Engagement Initiative, which will be launched over the next six years, will foster 12 long-term partnerships between students, faculty, and community organizations.

Barnard College has been awarded $1 million dollars by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch the Public Engagement Initiative, a social justice-oriented project that will facilitate collaborations between Barnard faculty, students, and partner organizations to develop real-world solutions for challenges faced by local communities. The organizations will center around the general themes of immigration, poverty, and labor rights.

The projects sponsor, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a private foundation which focuses on supporting projects, scholars, and initiatives that relate to higher education, museums and art conservation, the performing arts, and the environment. In May 2018, the Mellon Foundation granted Columbia nearly $3 million dollars, including $1.7 million to support the Justice-in Education Initiative, providing educational opportunities for formerly incarcerated students.

The Public Engagement Initiative, which will be launched over the next six years, will foster 12 long-term partnerships intended to connect liberal arts education on campus to real-world practices in modern society. The announcement comes as part of a broader vision put forth by Beilock in her inaugural address to the student body, where she envisioned more community outreach and collaboration with the Morningside Heights and Harlem communities.

“The PEI was designed to contribute in a deliberate and meaningful way to community-based partner organizations’ work, as well as to demonstrate to Barnard students the relevance of a liberal arts education in marrying theory to practice when approaching challenges faced by modern society,” the release states.

According to the press release, the initiative was inspired by the success of other Barnard initiatives which involve community partnerships, including Barnard Teaches, a technological learning initiative where students are encouraged to work with surrounding communities to facilitate pedagogical innovation. Following the success of such programs, Provost Linda Bell oversaw the creation of a faculty steering committee that considered the possibility of expanding to a campus-wide program.

“Our exceptional faculty are known for their scholarship directed at finding answers to some of our nation’s most perplexing challenges,” Bell said in the statement. “This initiative, and the support of the Mellon Foundation, will provide opportunities for faculty and students to partner in new and direct ways with nonprofit advocacy organizations in New York City and beyond.”

Notably, the initiative also follows the creation of Columbia World Projects, a series of projects introduced by University President Lee Bollinger as a way to address pressing world problems—such as climate change and economic inequality—through partnerships between faculty and external organizations.

Proposed community organizations for collaboration with the PEI will be reviewed and selected beginning in fall 2019.

Staff writer Marianna Najman-Franks can be contacted at marianna.najmanfranks@columbiaspectator.com. Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

Public Engagement Initiative The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
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