The Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP) project is pleased to announce the launch of a multi-campus collaborative initiative (a “collaboratory”) titled Partnerships for Listening and Action by Communities and Educators (PLACE). The project is supported by a two-year, $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), which serves as the host and partner to BTtoP.
The PLACE Collaboratory brings together a network of academic-community partnerships, involving eleven colleges and universities from diverse sectors and regions, to do civic-engagement and public-humanities work. Using cultural practices like oral history or photo-voice, as well as the civic pedagogies of the humanities, these partnerships will develop shared public agendas that ground the setting and solving of community issues in community voice. They may involve such significant themes as community development, wealth disparities, and environmental justice, but the agendas and action plans will be set through listening and dialogue. Some partnerships will be anchored by a single university; in others, multiple institutions may join together in regional collaboration. All the partnerships will include undergraduate students as key participants, culture-makers, and often cultural brokers.
The collaboratory will also work as a committee of the whole, communicating and convening regularly to set shared goals and values, confront common challenges, and learn together. The goal of each local project will be to develop action plans grounded in community voice and enabled by academic-community partnership. The goal of the larger collaboratory will be to distill best practices for such partnerships, to model the role of the humanities in sustaining them, and to use networked collaboration to disseminate them across higher education.
“We are thrilled for the opportunity to pursue the PLACE initiative,” said David Scobey, the Director of BTtoP and principal investigator for The Mellon Foundation’s grant. “Its focus on the value of community engagement to higher education, and the potential contribution of higher education to community betterment, is at the heart of our mission. So is the innovative focus on the humanities as a way of fostering authentic engagement and democratic agenda-setting. And we believe strongly in the power of networked collaboration to make change in higher education. We are grateful to The Mellon Foundation and our colleagues at AAC&U for supporting this proposal, and to our partnering institutions for joining us.”
“The PLACE collaboratory serves as a model for the ways in which colleges and universities should be engaging, as anchor institutions, with the communities in which they are located. Humanities practice, at the core of this project, is more critical than ever, as we seek to bridges differences in support of the common good,” said AAC&U president, Dr. Lynn Pasquerella.
The participating institutions in the PLACE Collaboratory will be Rutgers University-Newark; the University of Baltimore, Maryland County; five institutions in the Greensboro, North Carolina region (Elon University, Greensboro College, Guilford College, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and the University of North Carolina, Greensboro); and four institutions in the Los Angeles region (College of the Canyons, Pitzer College, the University of LaVerne, and the University of Southern California).
The PLACE Collaboratory initiative is made possible through the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and in alignment with their mission to “strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies.”
About Bringing Theory to Practice
BTtoP is a national higher education initiative, in partnership with and hosted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Its mission is grounded in three beliefs: that undergraduate education should be holistic and transformative; that “educating the whole student” must include students of all backgrounds and interests; and that the first two commitments require significant change in higher education. BTtoP works to advance this mission through innovative practice, research, advocacy, and institutional change.
About the Association of American Colleges and Universities
AAC&U is the leading national association dedicated to advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises 1,400 member institutions — including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.
AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, faculty, and staff engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Through a broad range of activities, AAC&U reinforces the collective commitment to liberal education at the national, local, and global levels. Its high-quality programs, publications, research, meetings, institutes, public outreach efforts, and campus-based projects help individual institutions ensure that the quality of student learning is central to their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.