Grant encourages civic engagement

Posted by Rebecca Orbach

The college was recently awarded a $250,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to create new programs within the curriculum that will enable students to give back to the local community.

The college requested the grant to "launch a major initiative to advance, institutionalize and sustain a comprehensive program of civic engagement in the curriculum," according to the proposal to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

The grant will help bolster the work of The Responsible Community Task Force, an entity charged with developing ways to tie community service into the academic curriculum.

Goal III of Skidmore's Strategic Plan states that the college strives to be an institution that "empowers and inspires all of our students to make the choices required of informed, responsible citizens throughout their lives, and that itself acts as a responsible corporate citizen."

The Vining Davis grant will allow the college to evaluate its academic programs and assess potential ways to increase students' involvement in the community.

Furthermore, it will enable the school to train and prepare both faculty and students for advisor and mentor roles, respectively, in the new programs.

Seven faculty members will be named "civic fellows," and will receive funding and training to become experts in the ways in which their areas of study affect the local community.

The goal, Associate Dean of Student Affairs David Karp said, is for these faculty members to convey to their students the public value of each discipline.

The college also plans to develop ways for students who are studying abroad to involve themselves in their new communities around the world.

The college already offers numerous courses that facilitate student involvement in, and research about, the local community.

In Sociology 329, "Criminal Justice," students volunteer at Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison. The students help teach inmates conflict resolution skills and assist with inmate reintegration into the community.

In Foreign Languages 221, "Spanish for the Health Professions," students work with service providers in the Saratoga Springs area to explain local health care options to Spanish speakers and to serve as translators in health care situations.

The college will utilize the Vining Davis grant to expand the roster of community-serving classes like these.

Acting President Susan Kress said of the grant, "At Skidmore we stress community involvement on many levels, and we believe that this should be reflected in the courses our students take, no matter what field they pursue. This very important grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations will enable us to prepare students and faculty for new levels of community engagement, which we expect will benefit both the college and the local area."

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, based in Jacksonville, Fla., are a national philanthropic organization established through the generosity of the late American industrialist Arthur Vining Davis.

The foundations currently provide grants for private higher education, religion, secondary education, health care and public television.

"Civic engagement is a huge topic, many colleges and universities are trying to get better at this and we are too," Karp said.

Administrators will meet on March 14 to allocate the money to different projects.

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