Monday, October 30, 2017

University of New Orleans Awarded Grant for Series that Aims to Bridge Student Divides

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The University of New Orleans has been named a recipient of a grant from Campus Compact’s Fund for Positive Engagement that aims to bring people together across lines of difference.

LeeAnne Sipe, director of student involvement and leadership at the University of New Orleans, said the award will fund a workshop series titled “Conversations Across Difference: An International Competency & Community Engagement Series.” Sipe has been working on the program with Nicole Ralston, program manager for community service programs at Tulane University. The universities will split the $10,000 award.

Sipe said the series, which will begin in late January, seeks to engage college students online and in face-to-face settings in discussions and exercises that encourage self-reflection about one’s attitudes and the impact one’s social identities can have on their community. The program also aims to help students identify ways they can help create change for inclusive and equitable communities.

“It is important to facilitate learning to foster cross-cultural empathy and civic and community engagement,” Sipe said. “But it is particularly important for Generation Z.”

Campus Contact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education, named 40 college and university recipients of the grants, including UNO.

The Fund for Positive Engagement is a direct response by Campus Compact to “the divisive climate in that took shape” during the 2016 election cycle, according to the organization. The purpose of the fund is to catalyze experiments in bridging divisions among people and groups in communities across the country.

“We wanted to create an incentive for colleges and universities to come up with creative responses to the challenges they are seeing,” said Andrew Seligsohn, president of Campus Compact. “We have been hearing from our member colleges and universities that students and community members cannot hold conversations with people with differing political views. 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 organization 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.

For more information and full list of recipients, visit compact.org/fund-positive-engagement.