Marietta a recipient of Fund for Positive Engagement Award

Students after the kickoff event for Campus Compact

Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education, has announced 40 college and university recipients of grants to bring people together across lines of difference from its Fund for Positive Engagement, including Marietta College.

The Fund for Positive Engagement is a direct response by Campus Compact to the divisive and destructive climate in the United States that took shape during the 2016 campaign and has continued in its aftermath. The purpose of the Fund is to catalyze experiments in bridging divisions among people and groups in communities across the country.

Marietta’s project includes two components — establishment of a campus-wide “Crucial Conversations” initiative, as well as Global Connections, a peer-to-peer student cross-cultural exchange program.

“More than 300 applications were submitted, and we were fortunate enough to receive funding,” said Maribeth Saleem-Tanner, Director of Civic Engagement. “We have $5,000 to implement a project over the next year designed to build a community on our campus and engage students in positive ways and in meaningful conversations around current issues. This a great opportunity to do campus-wide, student-led programming.”

Crucial Conversations includes a series of six monthly presentations or panel discussions that present viewpoints on relevant topics related to social justice, diversity, and controversial issues. Each session includes a presentation, opportunity for Q&A and active dialogue, and a reception to allow for continued informal conversation.

Saleem-Tanner said some of the possible topics include, Interfaith Dialogue, Meaning and Impact of the Confederate Flag, Ethics of Healthcare, Energy Industry and Environmental Protection, Future of Feminism, and Racial Profiling.

“These are just a starting point as we work with students to find out what is important to them, and relevant in the current moment,” she said.

Global Connections is a student-led initiative that works to promote the integration of international students on our campus. Student coordinators “match” every interested international student with a domestic student partner. These student pairs participate in a welcome dinner with activities that facilitate conversation and equip them with skills for fostering successful cross-cultural communication.

Global Connections participants have three additional organized group events throughout the year, and in between get together at least weekly for conversation and relationship building.

“For this project, we will also ask Global Connections students to attend the Crucial Conversations events and the follow-up talkback opportunities in order to spur dialogue on controversial and complex social issues that include international perspectives,” Saleem-Tanner said.

The selection process for the Positive Engagement Fund grant was highly competitive as Campus Compact received nearly 300 submissions from institutions across the country. Two-thirds of the reviewers were students in Campus Compact’s Newman Civic Fellows program. Proposals were judged based on the strength of the idea, its practicality, and the degree to which it will be possible to measure success, among other criteria.

“We wanted to create an incentive for colleges and universities to come up with creative responses to the challenges they are seeing,” said Andrew Seligsohn, President of Campus Compact. “We have been hearing from our member colleges and universities that students and community members cannot hold conversations with people with differing political views. Immigrant and Muslim students are afraid to express their views. Many community members see universities as completely separate universes with different values. We invited our members to propose steps to break through those divides, and we are excited by the proposals that came back.”

For more information and a full list of recipients, visit compact.org/fund-positive-engagement.