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
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.
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
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.
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:
- Kristin Bumiller, Departments of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies, Amherst College
- Amrita Basu, Departments of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies, Amherst College
- Hilton Kelly, Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow, 2006-2007 Denison University and Assistant Professor of Education, Davidson College
- Anthony W. Marx, President, Amherst College
Speakers for the 2005 Institute included:
- Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the City University of New York
- Rinku Sen, Communications Director of Applied Research Center and Publisher of Colorlines
- Phil Wilson, Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute
Speakers for the 2006 Institute included:
- Marshall Ganz, The Kennedy School, Harvard University
- Eric Reeves, Professsor of English at Smith College and Sudan Activist
- Preston Smith, Professor at Mt. Holyoke College and Co-Chair of the Free Public Education Campaign
- Vijay Prashad, Trinity College
The 2005 Institute Program
The 2006 Institute Program
The following application materials are required:
- Completed application
- Official academic transcripts of complete undergraduate school record to date
- Letters of recommendation: one faculty member who can evaluate your academic performance and an optional evaluation from someone who has supervised your extracurricular activities or is knowledgeable about your leadership skills
- Personal statement, not to exceed two double-spaced typewritten pages, in which you describe a social problem or issue of concern and the role of political activism in addressing it
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.
- APPLY: Apply online or download application form to mail in.
- RECOMMEND: Submit a recommendation online or download form to mail in.
- If you need a form mailed to you, please contact Dee Brace at firstname.lastname@example.org. After submitting your on-line application or recommendation please e-mail Dee Brace at email@example.com to confirm it has been received.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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