Vassar College has been awarded a planning grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for $136,000, to develop curriculum and a social engagement structure around issues of forced migration and displacement in collaboration with three other liberal arts colleges.
The project, the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement and Education (CFMDE), builds on the faculty- and student-led Vassar Refugee Solidarity Initiative, and is committed to social justice, the dignity of all people and the education of engaged, global leaders. The group now includes Bard, Bennington, and Sarah Lawrence colleges.
“We believe that the current refugee crisis demands new models that go beyond humanitarian relief and address global inequality in an educational context,” notes Maria Höhn Professor of History and International Studies and founder of the Mid-Hudson Refugee Solidarity Initiative.
Existing models for humanitarian aid, developed during World War II to address the displacement of millions of people during and after the war, are based on the hierarchical vision of that time and the immediate needs of displaced persons: safety, shelter, healthcare and sustenance. The Consortium believes institutions of higher learning can be at the forefront of innovating new, horizontal and more egalitarian models of global and transnational educational solidarity to address the refugee crisis and to educate students to be engaged actors in an increasingly complex and inter-connected world.
The grant will enable the group to:
• Develop a comprehensive curriculum with courses and course modules developed collaboratively related to the issue of forced displacement, its root causes, and its significance in the past and present;
• Develop a robust social justice engagement structure that will offer our students ample opportunities to work with displaced individuals, both here in the U.S. and abroad; and
• Use a language learning social network to develop classes and exchanges to connect our students and faculty with displaced students and scholars across the globe to foster opportunities for intellectual growth and greater understanding.
“We are looking forward to working with our partners at Bard, Bennington and Sarah Lawrence Colleges on developing an innovate curriculum that explores forced migration and displacement historically and as a global phenomenon,” says Höhn. “Liberal arts colleges such as ours have a key role to play in preparing our students for this unprecedented challenge.”
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.