MnSCU awards grants for community diversity and anti-racism initiatives

Posted: August 25, 2004

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

Six community projects will receive grants to participate in a Diversity and Anti-Racism Initiative led by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System with funding from the Otto Bremer Foundation.

The projects bring together teams of college and university faculty, staff and students with representatives from communities of color, K-12 education, law enforcement, city and county government, and business and community organizations. The projects focus on issues related to social justice, racism, economic justice and human rights.

"It's exciting to see effective collaboration between community organizations and the colleges and universities as they tackle difficult issues to ensure that all students are welcomed," said Chancellor James H. McCormick of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. "These projects are a unique way to support Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and their surrounding communities in achieving one of our top strategic goals - to increase access and opportunity."

This round of grants, providing $7,000 to $7,500 for each project, comes in the second year of a three-year initiative.

"Partnering with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to address diversity is an effort that the Otto Bremer Foundation takes seriously," said Elsa Vega-Perez, Bremer Foundation program officer. "Providing resources to support the initiatives that have evolved through this effort continues to promote the mission of the foundation."

The grants recipients were chosen by a 20-person Otto Bremer Grant Committee composed of faculty, staff, administration, student and union representatives throughout the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System.

"The Bremer Foundation support provides a unique opportunity for people from across Minnesota to constructively respond to challenges resulting from a myriad of changes in the state's population," said Dolores Fridge, associate vice chancellor for equal opportunity and diversity for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

Fridge already has observed changes in the communities that started projects last year. "In our conversations with campuses and community representatives who are participating in these initiatives, we are hearing less language about differences and more acceptance and understanding about the common human desires and dreams that we all share," Fridge said.

The six initiatives, and their sponsoring colleges and universities, are:

Central Lakes College - Cultural Diversity: A Collaborative of Central Minnesota: The Central Minnesota Diversity Task Force has established diversity training as a high priority to build community action on addressing racism. The innovative design is using the cultural expertise of existing faculty, students, staff and employees of participating agencies to reach more than 6,000 individuals of the collaborating institutions. Sessions will have three to five representatives from each participating agency. Facilitators will be selected from each participating agency. Facilitators will be trained in a "train the trainer" program to deliver a standardized training format that will be available to all employees of the participating agencies. The design will be based on the principles of the "Dialogue Training" implemented in March and April 2004. Grant: $7,500
Century College - Economic Equality and ESOL: This project builds on the groundwork of the current year's focus: the pursuit of economic justice, one of the four cornerstones of the anti-racism initiative envisioned by the Bremer Foundation. The infrastructure in place links the college to health care employers and the financial services industry, including the downtown Bremer Bank affiliates. Supplementary funding by the St. Paul Bremer Banks will be continued, as will their participation in sponsoring, mentoring and supporting non-native speakers as they enter the changing culture of the workplace. Century also is delivering a series of training sessions within the Bremer Corporation to affect attitudinal and behavioral change among employees, beginning with top management. The project will continue to be integrated within the ESOL Institute, with facilities contributed by Metropolitan State University in downtown St. Paul. Grant: $7,500 (second award)
Dakota County Technical College - Dismantling Racism II: Representatives from 10 organizations are working together to address issues related to social and economic justice, racism and human rights to create a community that is truly accessible to diverse populations. While recognizing each of the organizations is very different, the college is looking for ways to partner to share expenses and learn from one another in seeking social change. The collaboration takes seriously the idea that one person's actions can make a difference: one mind at a time. Grant: $7,500 (second award)
Riverland Community College - Building Community: An Equity and Diversity Initiative, Phase II: Riverland Community College will address chronic and acute diversity and racism issues in three rural communities by training employees from college, law enforcement, courts, social services, schools, business and industry. As an innovation of Phase II, training will be provided directly to students in law enforcement, criminal justice and human services programs. A project team experienced in local issues of diversity, racism and hate crimes will decide where to target training resources; provide access to community agencies and businesses; and plan future activities. Evaluation will include documentation of training events and participants, measures of attitude change and advisory team project critiques. Innovations: a collaborative regional approach, reliance on existing community expertise, and human resource and legal system focuses for reaching potential trainees. $7,000 (second award)
Rochester Community and Technical College - White Privilege and Social Justice: Awareness to Action: This proposal addresses white privilege and the unearned advantage it gives to white people. It continues from an initial phase of awareness-raising on campus and in the community. This second phase involves moving from awareness to skill-building and ultimately positive and purposeful social action. The Rochester Diversity Council continues to be a major collaborator with Rochester Community and Technical College in developing curriculum to train participants to develop dialogue skills. It is expected this will bring about individual and institutional commitment to long-term systemic change in how people of color are treated within the institutions and in the community. Grant: $7,500 (second award)
Southwest Minnesota State University - Developing Community Leaders: The university intends to develop student leaders capable of safely intervening with their peers when confronted with prejudicial, discriminatory or racist behaviors. Their skills will extend far beyond the end of this project, and the university anticipates their future behaviors will help their peers and communities become more tolerant and inclusive. The project utilizes a multigenerational concept with university students learning from faculty, staff and community leaders who then train the youth who then interact with their peers. The networking with the regional schools and community organizations will be an excellent example of cooperation possible between higher education and community representatives. Grant: $7,500

More information about the first round of grants in the initiative can be found at www.mnscu.edu/NewsReleases/2003/0908antiracismgrant.html.