Amherst College: Replenishing Democracy

Summer Institute on
Civic Engagement and Political Activism
June 10-23, 2007


This summer program for undergraduates is designed to encourage connections between academic institutions and grassroots activism. The Institute will bring together distinguished scholars and activists with undergraduates to rigorously study the theory and practices of democratic engagement. In this forum, a select group of undergraduate student leaders will learn about the complexities of political action and gain practical knowledge about grassroots organizing.


Students will be introduced to a wide range of agendas for political activism and the key challenges for democratic engagement in both the U.S. and international contexts. They will be immersed in activities that encourage reflection about their activist experiences, and learning from one another and from faculty whose research is on issues of activism and democracy. Through lectures and discussions, students will gain a historical understanding of activism and have the opportunity to draw connections between activist movements on micro and macro levels and identify recurring dilemmas of theory and practice. They will examine issues of power, inequality and democratic theory and be encouraged to think creatively about new forms of political engagement and other means to revitalize democracies. The students will gain skills in the practices of democracy by learning the techniques of grassroots organizing and working collaboratively to design strategies for activism they can take back to their communities.

The 2006 Informal Session Photo

Themes & Issues

This summer we will address the broad theme of global inequality. Under this broad rubric we will consider a variety of issues such as the growth in regional and class inequalities amidst globalization, the links between poverty and health (including AIDS), political violence, criminalization, and states' denial of citizenship rights to immigrants and other socially marginalized groups. Another set of issues concerns the growth of racial, ethnic and religious tensions, culminating in some contexts in ethnic cleansing and genocidal violence. We will explore the possibilities and pitfalls of activist efforts to challenge these inequalities both locally and globally. 

Selection of Students

Twenty-five undergraduates with demonstrated interests in social activism and leadership skills will be invited to participate. Preference will be given to students between their junior and senior years and to graduating seniors. Efforts will be made to ensure that a diverse group of students is chosen. The selected group of students will include international students from South Africa and India.

The 2006 Group Photo

Location & Accommodations

The Institute will be held on the campus of Amherst College which is considered one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the nation. The college's 1,000-acre campus is located in Amherst, a town of 35,000 people in western Massachusetts. Amherst College is enriched by its membership in the Five Colleges, a consortium with nearby Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Its location in the Pioneer Valley also makes available a wide range of cultural resources and access to many innovative activist and community-based organizations in Amherst, Northampton and the surrounding areas of Holyoke and Springfield.

Students will be housed together in one of Amherst's recently renovated dormitories. The Institute will be free of charge and student participants will be provided with the necessary course materials and reimbursed for their travel expenses to Amherst.

Program Faculty

The Institute is a pilot project of The Ford Foundation and will be facilitated by nationally and internationally recognized scholars and activists. The participating faculty include:

Speakers for the 2005 Institute included:

Speakers for the 2006 Institute included:

The 2005 Institute Program

The 2006 Institute Program

The 2006 Projects: Replenishing Democracy Blog, Apathy Site


The following application materials are required:

The application deadline is April 6th, 2007. However, we will start reviewing applications on March 15th and give priority to applications we receive by this date.


Dee Brace, Academic Department Coordinator, Philosophy Department
208 Cooper House, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 01002
Phone (413) 542-5805; Fax (413) 542-5837; E-mail

The Institute follows Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action policies
and encourages women, minorities and persons with disabilities to apply.

Funding Pending for the 2007 Institute

Photos: Upper right: Charles Jenks, Traprock Peace Center; left: Frank Ward