Center for the Advancement of Public Action

The Challenge

Problems proliferate. From income inequality to climate change, from failing schools to failed states, from exiled histories to foreclosed futures, our present is beset by challenges. Many of these entrenched and emergent problems seem just beyond the scope of a liberal arts education. What might it mean to more directly orient the liberal arts around these complex problems, not just in contemplation of them but with a deliberate aim to intervene in them? How can artists, scholars, and scientists collaborate and contribute to finding effective solutions to these problems? How can the classroom be expanded to foster new linkages between thought and action, the classroom and the outside world? What new insights and capacities are now needed to enact meaningful change?

The Response

The Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) at Bennington College responds to the urgent problems of our current world, discovers what one needs to know to understand them, and acts to implement solutions. Rooted in the liberal arts with a commitment to public action, CAPA teaches the essential capacities needed to develop an educated and emboldened citizenry. Through initiatives and curriculum, CAPA leverages the classroom as a new kind of studio for innovation and informed change. With engaged scholarship, community partnerships, and creative problem-solving strategies that draw on the skills of conflict resolution, complex systems analysis, and research and design, CAPA addresses the issues of our time from a novel vantage point: action.

Upcoming Events

CAPA Newsletter

The CAPA Newsletter is a student-run project with the mission of developing the CAPA community.
Subscribe here if you'd like this monthly publication delivered to your inbox. 

April 2017     |     May 2017     |     June 2017     |     September 2017     |     October 2017


CAPA Initiatives

CAPA Initiatives are multi-year programs that respond to urgent problems in the world. The goal of CAPA Initiatives is to build publics—communities of interest and involvement—around pressing concerns. These initiatives creatively assemble the resources of Bennington College around a specific issue and connect them to external stakeholders and organizations. This includes courses from across disciplines at the college; extracurricular and Field Work Term opportunities for students; trainings and workshops for local and college community members; curated exhibitions and engaged social practices in art; conferences that convene stakeholders and advance new solutions; and publications or programs that extend the work of CAPA Initiatives into wider audiences. CAPA Initiatives are designed in collaboration with local, national, and/or international groups and result in public action to foster better infrastructure, enable and create sustainable design, and to promote human rights.

Activating Democracy

Educating students on what it means to participate in a democracy by understanding and engaging with our governance systems.

Art in the Public Realm

Supporting artists as change agents through the vital role they play in shaping thriving and sustainable communities.

Environment and Public Action

Building healthy environments through developing and enhancing sustainable water, energy, and food systems.

Human Rights and Peacebuilding

Working to resolve conflict, build peace, and establish a just and equitable society through local, national, and global partnerships.

Progressive Education

Using the Bennington Plan Process as a model to help the community youth gain ownership of their educational path.

izzy mozer graphic

By Izzy Mozer '19

Prison Education Initiative img
Prison Education Initiative
PFOA building
Understanding PFOA
Quantum Leap img
Quantum Leap
Oslo Img 1
Art in Embassies—Oslo Project
CAPA Leadership Institute img
CAPA Leadership Institute
Vermont Legislative Series img
Public Policy Forums @ CAPA
Student hanging flyer about LEDs on door
LED Project
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Bennington College Incarceration Taskforce (BCIT)
Paran Creek Dam
Paran Creek Dam
The Prison Education Initiative is a collaboration of CAPA, New York State, and Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, NY. More
In 2014, the chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (C8 or PFOA) was discovered in the drinking water in the Village of Hoosick Falls, NY... More
Since 1999, Quantum Leap has reconnected over 2,000 students to their education. More
Bennington students, working in collaboration with the State Department's Art in Embassies program, are creating a public artwork... More
The CAPA Leadership Institute is founded on the premise that the most effective solutions for sustainably resolving conflicts emerge out of... More
This series invites guest speakers from the private and public sectors to address a range of important topics in the current national dialogue... More
Born out of student response to community need, supported and informed by study with faculty, GANAS brings... More
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are increasingly used in streetlights in the US and around the world... More
The BCIT is a nonpartisan, evidence-based student group looking to increase public safety in Vermont by implementing smart-on-crime reforms. More
The mission of the Paran Creek Watershed Project is to support the Village of North Bennington’s long term stewardship of renewable water resources... More


The body of a child after a reported gas attack on Tuesday in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province. Credit Ammar Abdullah/Reuters, via the New York Times Joint Statement After Chemical Attack in Syria

Susan Sgorbati, Director of CAPA, and Vahidin Omanovic of the Center for Peacebuilding, released the following joint statement.

Sgorbati Reviews "An Uncertain Ally" by David L. Phillips Sgorbati Reviews "An Uncertain Ally" by David L. Phillips

David L. Phillips is director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a senior adviser and foreign affairs expert at the U.S. Department of State during the administrations of President Clinton, Bush, and Obama. He has published many books on the Middle East, including An Uncertain Ally: Turkey Under Erdogan’s DictatorshipThe Kurdish Spring: A New Map for the Middle East, and Losing Iraq: Inside the Post-War Reconstruction Fiasco

Center for the Advancement of Public Action Bond Pens Op-Ed on Importance of EPA

David Bond, associate director of Bennington's Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA), co-authored an Op-Ed in the Bennington Banner against the Trump Administration's blanket freeze on all EPA grants and contracts. 

From Transgender Day of Remembrance at Bennington College Generation Protest

President Silver published an essay about student expectations that protests will be part of their college experience, and the role of educators in helping them learn how to effect change.

David Bond writes about the rise of Trumpism Bond Co-edits "The Rise of Trumpism"

On the eve of the presidential inauguration, a top journal in American anthropology has published a collection of essays, co-edited by Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Action David Bond, which raises new questions about the rise of Trump and the current state of American politics. The collection features work from leading anthropologists who offer provocative reflections on the culture of Trump and popular misconceptions of class and race today. These wide-ranging essays offer bold new interpretations of solidarity, hate and the future of American democracy.

Hack VT Hacking Education

Rohail Altaf '17 and Asad J. Malik '19 were recently awarded a $3000 prize at the Vermont Hackathon for creating an app that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve student engagement in online courses. The pair opted for general entry, rather than as a student team, in order to be able to compete in the overall pool, against agencies and tech companies.

North Bennington Train Station Student Research to Inform Local Hydroelectric Decisions

Representatives from a class gave a report to the Village Board of Trustees on Tuesday about their ongoing research to generate a feasibility study on local dams and waterway privileges. 

PFOA Donohue video Dr. Joyce Donohue speaks on EPA's new health advisory level for PFOA

On Thursday, October 6, Bennington College welcomed EPA Senior Health Scientist Joyce Donohue. In May 2016, the EPA issued a new guidance level of 70 ppt for PFOA in drinking water. Dr. Donohue gave a public lecture on the background and significance of the new EPA health guidance level for PFOA in drinking water. 

Dado, Nejla, Amina, Ajsa, Inas Our Way Is Peace

This summer five Bennington students from Bosnia explored the intersections between peacebuilding and theater through their work with The Center for Peacebuilding (CIM) in Sanski Most, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now, they are bringing what they’ve learned back to Bennington. They will present their work at the Peacebuilding in Action panel on October 1 at the Center for the Advancement of Public Actions (CAPA).

PFOA Event Vermont DEC Community Meeting on PFOA

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation held a meeting of community member and local legislators from Vermont on September 28 in at Bennington College to answer questions from the community, and communicate further information about PFOA as it unfolds. 


CAPA courtyard

CAPA is housed in a state-of-the-art facility designed by award-winning architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. It blends the studio of the artist, the laboratory of the scientist, the think tank of the policymaker, and the town square of the citizen.

What kind of world ARE we making? What kind of world SHOULD we be making? What kind of world CAN we be making? – Elizabeth Coleman, President Emeritus, founding director of CAPA