POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Starting this fall, Vassar will lead a four-college consortium focusing on the global refugee crisis, thanks to a $2.5-million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will support the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement and Education, created by Vassar, Bard, Sarah Lawrence and Bennington colleges. The funds, which will be distributed over the next four years, will be used to develop curricula and other programs on the issue of forced migration.
Maria Höhn, Vassar Professor of History and the Marion Musser Lloyd ’32 Chair, prepared the grant application in close collaboration with her colleagues at the partner colleges and will serve as project director and principal investigator for the project. Höhn said the Consortium was formed “because we believe that the current forced migration crisis demands new models that go beyond humanitarian relief and address global inequality in an educational context.”
“Liberal arts colleges like ours have a vital contribution to make in preparing our students for this new reality of forced migration,” she continued. “By uniting our campuses, we can achieve a critical mass of dedicated professors and students to share ideas, develop best practices and generate innovation and momentum greater than would be possible if each campus worked alone.”
Vassar College President Elizabeth Bradley said the grant would enable Vassar and other members of the Consortium to address the issue of forced migration in a significant and appropriate manner. “One of the primary responsibilities of a liberal arts college is to prepare its students for the global challenges they will face after they graduate,” said Bradley. “This generous grant from the Mellon Foundation will enable our students and faculty to collaborate with three other liberal arts colleges in a unique and comprehensive way in examining one of the world’s most pressing issues.”
Eugene Tobin, senior program officer at the Mellon Foundation, said the grant was awarded because liberal arts colleges have a significant role to play in addressing this global issue and its impact on the communities the colleges serve. “While governments, non-governmental organizations, relief agencies, and cultural institutions respond to political, ethnic, and religious repression and to the human costs of forced migration, higher education institutions have an opportunity to create shared curricula, systematic research, and multi-institutional partnerships that expand contemporary historical understanding of migration and displacement,” Tobin said. “Vassar’s collaboration with Bard, Bennington and Sarah Lawrence demonstrates how colleges can combine scale, breadth and intellectual diversity to address profound global and local challenges.”
Anish Kanoria ’18, a founder of the campus organization Vassar Refugee Solidarity (VRS) in 2015, said he welcomed the news of the grant, which will allow Vassar and its three college partners to enhance and embed community engaged learning opportunities on the issue of forced migration that comport with the ideals that drove him to launch VRS. “A formal ingraining of the issues and knowledge practices relating to forced migration and displacement into the curriculum is something that we had never imagined when we started the initiative,” Kanoria said. “The awarding of the Mellon grant means something of lasting and crucial significance will take shape at Vassar and our partner colleges.”
Höhn said the first phase of planning for the implementation of the grant will begin Oct. 26 and 27 when representatives of all four colleges will gather on the Vassar campus to finalize details of “Lexicon of Forced Migration,” an introductory class that will be one of the key elements of the new curriculum at the four colleges.
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Vassar College is a coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, NY, founded in 1861.