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$2.5 Million Grant Awarded to Support Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education

Starting this fall, Bennington College will participate in a four-college consortium focusing on the global refugee crisis, supported by a $2.5-million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The grant will fund the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement and Education, created by Bennington, Vassar, Bard, and Sarah Lawrence colleges. The funds, which will be distributed over the next four years, will be used to develop curricula and other programs on the issue of forced migration.

The Consortium was formed as a new model for addressing the current forced migration crisis, going beyond humanitarian relief to remedy global inequality in an educational context.

At Bennington College, this grant will also support two signature projects in the Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA).

GANAS is a student-driven, faculty-supported outreach to undocumented Latino migrant workers in Vermont, aiming to connect them to community organizations and partners that provide legal, educational, and medical resources.  

Bennington Translates is a highly innovative multi-lingual, multi-disciplinary translation and interpretation project. Hosting visitors whose work spans literary, humanitarian, medical, and legal translation and interpretation, Bennington Translates has a particular focus on those who work in conflict zones.

“We are at a moment where severe floods and droughts, food shortages and intractable conflicts will continue to create more refugees all around the world,” said Susan Sgorbati, faculty member and director of CAPA. “Our country was founded as a land of immigrants. We have a responsibility to teach our students how to understand this challenge, how to design solutions, and how to engage in ways that alleviate suffering. CAPA is very pleased that the Mellon Foundation has provided this opportunity for us to collaborate with our partners to work on this important issue.”

“The humanitarian crisis posed by contemporary forced migration and displacement is one that the United States government has, regrettably, refused to respond to in an ethical manner,” said John Hultgren, CAPA faculty member. “At such a moment, colleges and universities have a unique and important role to play in creating spaces of refuge and solidarity, where we can learn from and engage with displaced populations in efforts to cultivate collective action toward a more just and sustainable world.”

Eugene Tobin, senior program officer at the Mellon Foundation, said grant was awarded because liberal arts colleges have a significant role to play in addressing this global issue and its impact on the communities the colleges serve.

“Higher education institutions have an opportunity to create shared curricula, systematic research, and multi-institutional partnerships that expand contemporary historical understanding of migration and displacement,” said Tobin. “The collaboration between Vassar, Bard, Bennington, and Sarah Lawrence demonstrates how colleges can combine scale, breadth and intellectual diversity to address profound global and local challenges.”

The first phase of planning for the implementation of the grant will begin Oct. 26 and 27 when representatives of all four colleges will gather on Vassar’s campus to finalize details of “Lexicon of Forced Migration,” an introductory class that will be one of the key elements of the new curriculum at the four colleges.