June 25, 2019

Mellon Foundation supports College involvement in collaborative, civic-engagement initiative


Guilford College was recently named one of five institutions in the Greensboro area to participate in Partnerships for Listening and Action by Communities and Educators (PLACE). The PLACE initiative is a Bringing Theory to Practice (BToP) project that’s being supported by a two-year, $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), which serves as the host and partner to BTtoP.

[Read the full news release from AAC&U]

PLACE brings together a network of community-academic partnerships, involving 11 total colleges and universities, to do civic-engagement and public-humanities work. Using such cultural practices as oral history and photovoice, these partnerships will develop shared public agendas that ground the setting and solving of community issues in community voice. 

“This initiative will allow us to highlight and expand upon some of the great work that our colleagues are doing — for example, Guilford’s Reclaiming Democracy course — and support new civic-engagement projects and inter-institutional collaborations generated through our new curriculum,” says Guilford Associate Professor of Biology and Co-Director of Public Health Michele Malotky.

“PLACE will also offer our faculty and students an opportunity for values-based learning consistent with the focus of Guilford's Center for Principled Problem Solving and Excellence in Teaching (CPPSET). More specifically, collaborating with other schools, partnering with local organizations, and using a humanities-based approach for generating meaningful solutions to difficult problems offers promising outcomes,” says Mark Justad, Director of CPPSET and Chair of Religious Studies.

The goal of each local project will be to develop action plans grounded in community voice and enabled by community-academic partnership. The goal of the larger collaboratory will be to distill best practices for such partnerships, to model the role of the humanities in sustaining them, and to use networked collaboration to disseminate them across higher education.

“Reclaiming Democracy is an interdisciplinary course that combines community partners with students and faculty from four area campuses to examine what democracy requires of us,” Michele explains. “Over the course of the semester, students study the various expressions of democracy in Greensboro, and the nation as a whole, and they are given an opportunity to combine their study with direct involvement in efforts to address issues of the local community.”

“The PLACE collaboratory serves as a model for the ways in which colleges and universities should be engaging, as anchor institutions, with the communities in which they are located. Humanities practice, at the core of this project, is more critical than ever, as we seek to bridges differences in support of the common good,” says AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella.

The participating institutions include Rutgers University, Newark; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; five institutions in North Carolina (Guilford, Elon, Greensboro College, N.C. A&T, and UNCG) and four institutions in the Los Angeles region (College of the Canyons, Pitzer College, the University of LaVerne, and the University of Southern California).

The PLACE Collaboratory initiative is made possible through the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and in alignment with its mission to “strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies.”