A social justice mediation institute. Training and coordination for those helping to resettle new refugees in Northampton. A series of retreats connecting students and alumnae around issues of navigating bias.
These are among the projects being funded through the Innovation Challenge, a new competitive funding opportunity established earlier this fall by President Kathleen McCartney to support groundbreaking research, teaching and learning programs built around themes of inclusion, diversity and equity.
Eleven projects that align with the college’s new strategic plan will be funded and implemented in the current academic year. Projects were chosen from 27 applications by a working group representing the president’s cabinet, students, staff and faculty.
President McCartney said that she and the working group were impressed by the range and the caliber of the proposals. “The Smith community met the Innovation Challenge with brilliant creativity,” she said. “I believe in supporting the collective wisdom of the community, and I’m thrilled to be able to fund these projects. I know they’ll have a positive impact on campus—and beyond—for many years to come.”
Here’s an overview of this year’s successful Innovation Challenge proposals.
Social Justice Mediation Institute
Thirty members of the Smith community—with equal representation from faculty, students and staff—will be trained to understand how identity and power imbalances affect the development and resolution of conflict, and how to intervene in ways that acknowledge these imbalances and reach mutually agreeable solutions.
Primary applicant: Raven Fowlkes-Witten ’17
Trans-Competent Mental Health Care Education Resources
Members of the School for Social Work faculty will develop a culturally informed, modular, video-based online curriculum designed to educate mental health providers and SSW students about how to meet the particular needs of transgender and gender nonconforming people.
Primary applicant: Peggy O’Neill, assistant professor, School for Social Work
Psychosocial Capacity Building with Local Refugees
Drawing on the anti-racism commitment of the Smith College School for Social Work, as well as their own experience working with refugees, SSW faculty will offer specialized, non-Eurocentric training, consultation and capacity building for workers who will be directly serving the 51 refugees from Syria, Iraq, Burundi and The Congo arriving in Northampton in January 2017.
Primary applicant: Joshua Miller, professor, School for Social Work
Building Leadership for an Inclusive, Sustainable Smith (BLISS) Program
Modeled on the NGO United to End Racism, the BLISS Program will consist of 13 weeks of interactive leadership development built around radical deep listening and “storytelling in a brave space” as a means of building relationships among people with shared identities, as well as across differences.
Primary applicant: Benita Jackson, associate professor of psychology
Advancing Inclusion by Engaging History/American History as African American History: Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Students and faculty from a range of departments will travel to Washington, D.C., to visit the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture and spark a broad conversation around the questions of justice, equity and moral responsibility that emerge from the museum’s dramatically expanded sense of the nation’s history.
Primary applicants: Louis Wilson, professor of Africana studies; Anna Lee, post-doctoral fellow and lecturer in history of photography
Community United: A Sport League to Build Dialogue and Unity Among High-Need Youth in Holyoke, Springfield and Northampton
This tri-city recreational sports league will bring together middle school students from economically disadvantaged and refugee-status homes in Holyoke, Springfield and Northampton to create dialogue and understanding across racial, cultural and socioeconomic divides. The league will be supported and staffed by Smith College athletes and coaches, as well as students and faculty in the Urban Education Initiative and Project Coach.
Primary applicant: Jo Glading-DiLorenzo, director of Project Coach/coordinator of urban education
Addressing Local Impacts of a Wicked Global Problem
This project will coordinate Smith student, faculty and staff efforts to work in conjunction with the Northampton community as it mobilizes to support the Northampton resettlement of some 51 refugees from Syria, Iraq, Burundi and The Congo.
Primary applicant: Denys Candy, director of the Jandon Center
Successfully Navigating Bias at Smith and Beyond
In three half-day, on-campus retreats, students will connect and work with a diverse group of alumnae to develop the skills necessary to be allies, foster inclusive communities, and recognize and combat racism and bias.
Primary applicant: Madeleine DelVicario, program coordinator, alumnae relations
Student choreographers, poets, musicians and performance artists will work together—and with visual artist Robert Hite—to create a multi-day performance event including dance, music and the spoken word. The theme will be to generate empathy for students of color at Smith through art.
Primary applicants: Chris Aiken, assistant professor of dance; Angie Hauser, assistant professor of dance
Through student workshops, faculty presentations, identity dinners and videos, this project will highlight Smith’s diverse student population and encourage students to acknowledge, embrace and celebrate what makes them unique.
Applicants: Kristina Mereigh, associate director, wellness education
NCORE Student Participation Grant
Selected Smithies will participate in pre-conference workshops and all conference sessions at NCORE, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education. Students who receive the grant will work with staff mentors to share what they’ve learned with the campus in fall 2017 through projects that integrate their conference learning into their work as student leaders and organizers.
Primary applicants: Brandon (Bee) Buehring, area coordinator