CAPA complex

What We Do

The Center for the Advancement of Public Action is a national leader in preparing undergraduates to become agents of social change. We respond to issues that are most pressing at any moment through five overarching initiatives that cohere the efforts and activities of CAPA. Each of our initiatives include programs that have been created by a Bennington College faculty member, staff, or student, often in conversation with federal, state, or local agencies, non-profits, or citizen organization. Programs are often developed out of small projects that are funded by seed money built into the CAPA budget to respond to new challenges as they present themselves.

In order to assess whether CAPA is succeeding in preparing undergraduates to be the leaders of social change and giving them the capacities to design systems for the future, it is crucial that we can articulate, measure, and evaluate our outcomes and accomplishments. These impacts take the form of field projects implemented in specific rural and urban communities, convenings that produce changes in policy, dialogues that work toward resolving conflicts, and student-initiated social entrepreneurship.


CAPA Legislative Convenings | These convenings brings together legislators on both sides of the aisle and community activists to carve out a space for dialogue and common ground on important issues.

Legislative Internship Program | This program provides internship opportunities for Bennington College students with the Vermont legislature. Plans are underway to extend this program to legislatures in other states across the country and placing students in government agencies internationally.

Public Policy Forums | This series invites guest speakers from the public and private sectors to address a range of important topics in the current national dialogue. Topics have included clean water, immigration, foreign relations, and the media.


MFA in Public Action | Newly launched (Fall 2018), the Masters of Fine Arts in Public Action is a highly selective graduate degree program designed to give accomplished artists working as agents of social change the time, space, and focus to conduct research and develop new work.

CreateNow | This podcast explores creative and generative approaches to changing the systems that rule our world. Guests come from a myriad of different disciplines and practices, but they all share one thing in common: they are people who are creatively rethinking and remaking sectors once thought unchangeable.

Empty Bowls | In conversation with regional food issues, a CAPA/Visual Arts course joins with members of the Bennington community to make hundreds of ceramic bowls for the Bennington Empty Bowls Soup Supper.

Future Studio | Future Studio is a creative space that seeks to incubate the next generation of enterprise leaders, entrepreneurs and artists together. The studio celebrates cross-sector engagement from the arts, business, and non-profits as essential for tackling complex challenges and remaking the systems that govern our world. Future Studio engages generative creativity in order to move us from speculative dreaming and problem solving towards the realization of a more equitable and just future.

Oslo Project | The U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies program partnered with a CAPA class to design Arctic Shift, a large-scale outdoor sculpture, surrounding plantings, and a selection of visual complexity graphics for the new U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway.


Addressing Food Insecurity in Bennington County | With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Bennington College launched a three-year collaborative effort with local partners to address the systemic causes of food insecurity in Bennington County.

Beyond Plastics | Beyond Plastics is a nationwide project with the mission to end plastic pollution by being a catalyst for change at every level of our society. 

Paran Creek Watershed Project | CAPA students and a hydropower expert crafted a feasibility study for the Paran Creek Watershed. The students presented their study and long-term watershed management plan to the Village, who voted to pursue this project.

Understanding PFOA | With support from the National Science Foundation, Understanding PFOA trains students and local residents in the environmental science of the emergent water contaminant PFOA and equips science classrooms to produce independent data on PFOA.

Bennington Seed Library | CAPA students created a public seed-sharing program that seeks to empower community members through education and promotion of local food sovereignty.

LED Project | Working with the EPA and regional partners, CAPA students researched, planned, and ultimately convinced the Village to switch streetlights in North Bennington to LEDs, reducing energy usage and cost by one-third.


Prison Education Initiative | This program brings Bennington College faculty and courses to Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security men's prison in Comstock, New York.

Incarceration in America | Bringing together the leading scholars and agents of prison reform today, these conferences have helped initiate long overdue changes to the prison system in America. Partners include JustLeadershipUSA, the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, and others.

Bennington Translates | This program has created a unique forum exploring the literary, humanitarian, medical, and legal work of translation today.

GANAS | This student-led, CAPA-sponsored initiative works to improve the wellbeing of an often-overlooked demographic of our region: migrant labor. Through volunteer work and collegiate partnerships, GANAS is forging a new model of engagement with the Bennington community.

Bennington College Incarceration Taskforce (BCIT) | Two students compiled the latest findings on incarceration reform, testified in the Vermont legislature on relevant bills, and initiated public discussions on the issue.

CAPA Leadership Institute | This 10-day residency for young leaders from conflict zones around the world provided skills in project management and conflict resolution, seeking to build a global network of environmental leaders.

Transboundary Water In-cooperation Network (TWIN) | Experts from Afghanistan and Pakistan were brought together by CAPA and the Institute of Environmental Diplomacy and Security (IEDS) at the University of Vermont to discuss issues around the contested Kabul River Basin. This week-long convening led to the establishment of the Transboundary Water In-cooperation Network (TWIN), a network of networks that connects transboundary partners globally.


Quantum Leap | This program helps high school students in danger of dropping out develop personalized academic plans that assist students as they gain ownership of their educational path. Since 1999, Quantum Leap has reconnected over 2,000 students to their education.

Student to Student | This mentoring program pairs Bennington College students with students from Mount Anthony Union High School. The overarching goal of the program is for high school students to learn more about the process of preparing for, applying to, and finding ways of paying for college from Bennington College students who recently engaged in the same process.

Teaching Languages and Cultures in K-6 Schools | Bennington College students teach Chinese, French, Japanese, and Spanish to elementary-age students in Bennington and North Bennington and offer international culture lessons that they design with the support of the Bennington faculty. 

Vermont Act 77 | Bennington College students work with middle and high school students to engage with the implementation of Vermont Legislative Act 77.