Bringing It

Bringing It #89: Grants Updates & Job Opportunity

August 19, 2022

Dear Friends,

We are excited to share with you reflections on two of our signature grants programs that have been busy this summer. Paul reflects on welcoming members of The Way Forward national grantee cohort to our home at Elon University earlier this month – our program’s first in-person gathering since our PLACE Collaboratory gathering in Greensboro, North Carolina in 2019. We are proud to also share a recent publication in Liberal Education that was supported by one of our AMP Grants. Finally, we have included an important article recently published in Change on higher ed and Covid-19, as well as a job opportunity from our friends at UMBC.

Reflecting on The Way Forward gathering

Can there be a meeting in 2022 without Power Points, Zoom, or computer screens? Bringing Theory to Practice attempted this bold experiment as we convened 19 project leaders at The Way Forward Summer Gathering from July 31st to August 3rd at Elon University. Participants represented broader multi-institutional partnerships that received funding for initiatives to creatively engage the challenges of our moment, especially the pandemic, the racial justice reckoning, and heightened economic precarity.

I joined BT2P this spring after these projects were already well underway, so the gathering was an opportunity for me to get to know leaders and listen to their open and honest sharing of experiences in large group conversations and small group reflections. The gathering reminded me of the deep need we have to connect with one another with authenticity and mutual support, especially after the challenges of the past two years.

We explored ways that storytelling could foster understanding, create networks, and bridge divides on campus and with the broader public. I was most impressed by the way that participants drew on their experiences to identify common themes and questions across initiatives and to brainstorm resources that could be shared with other projects, such as grant information, administrative templates, training modules, and assessment tools. We discussed what it means to center equity in our work, how to create short-term and long-term change strategies, and how our projects might model democratic engagement at a time of heightened political polarization and backlash against social justice initiatives. These discussions pointed to ways that our individual and collective work might respond to the urgent needs of the moment while also creating broader movements for positive change.


AMP Grant showcase: “The Power of Proximity”

We are excited to showcase a wonderful article by a long-time member of the BT2P community, Michelle Mary Lelwica, a professor of sociology at Concordia College (Moorhead, Minnesota). It’s called “The Power of Proximity” and was published in the Spring issue of AAC&U’s flagship journal, Liberal Education. The piece focuses on a new course of Michelle’s, “Religion, Race, and Social Justice,” in which a small group of Concordia students studied the engagement of various writers and faith traditions with racism and incarceration and at the same met in weekly conversation with youth at a detention center. (The course is part of a Concordia curricular initiative called “pivotal experiences in applied learning”—PEAK, a terrific acronym.)

The article offers a powerful glimpse of the mutual risks and gifts of the conversations at the detention center, lifting up the voices of both the Concordia students and the incarcerated youth with compassion and generosity. Michelle also reflects on the ethical complexities and potential pitfalls of such teaching, of unintentionally advancing the carceral system or “White Savior” practices. The result is a rich weave of story and meditation.

Michelle Lelwica’s essay in Liberal Education was supported by an “AMP grant” from BT2P. These are (relatively small) awards aimed at helping to amplify, disseminate, and expand the public reach of work that BT2P had previously helped to fund. Michelle had received a grant in 2005 to develop curriculum integrating holistic learning, spiritual reflection, and student well-being; it was a delight to see how that work had evolved and to be able to support her writing.

The BT2P community has pursued literally hundreds of important innovation projects over the past two decades. AMP grants are an effort to increase the public reach and influence of that work—whether through publications like “The Power of Proximity,” the creation of websites and media, conference presentations, campus visits, and other efforts. Here is more information about our AMP grants.

Higher Education and COVID-19: Global and Local Responses

An article recently published by Ira Harkavy and Rita A. Hodges of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania focuses on key takeaways from the 2021 book Higher Education’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Building a Sustainable and Democratic Future. It calls for a global movement to create a new kind of democratic civic university whose primary missions would be advancing democracy democratically on campus, in its local community, and across the wider society. Characterized by inclusivity, diversity, and equitability, such a creation of these universities is deemed essential to replace pre-pandemic institutions that were unable to address worldwide problems. You can read the article here.

Job opportunity at UMBC’s Center for Democracy & Civic Life

Our friends at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Center for Democracy and Civic Life are seeking applications for a new associate director. This person will be a thought partner, initiative designer, organizer, facilitator, manager, and liaison for the Center’s nationally recognized work. You can learn more about the position and how to apply here. Please also join us in congratulating outgoing Center associate director, Romy Hübler, on her appointment as Director of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility at Towson University! Romy is a long time friend of BT2P and a project leader in our PLACE Collaboratory.

Thanks for staying in touch, contributing to our work, and for all that you do,

David, Paul, Todd, and Gianna