CSB and SJU awarded $600,000 grant from Mellon Foundation

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February 19, 2018

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University recently received a $600,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support initiatives focused on inclusive pedagogy and community building. 

The goal for BECOMING Community is to teach and enable CSB and SJU faculty, staff and students to become agents of change by preparing them to dismantle oppression rather than simply learning about oppression. 

“At the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, we remain steadfast in our mission to ensure that every student we serve, and every person who works here, is fully included in defining our community: to have a voice, to be treated with respect; to be valued; to be transformed as they transform us,” said Mary Dana Hinton, CSB president. 

“This significant Mellon grant aligns with our belief that community is constitutive to who we are as Benedictine colleges and that community is an ongoing, dynamic and inclusive process that includes students, faculty, staff, our founding orders and the geographic community within which we dwell. The BECOMING Community grant supports our efforts toward intentionally creating community and will propel us forward as we seek to transform who we are in BECOMING Community for all,” Hinton added. 

“We are very appreciative of the generosity of the Mellon Foundation,” said Michael Hemesath, SJU president. “The BECOMING Community grant will allow members of our community to become agents of change in our community and beyond. The goals of this grant are completely consistent with our Benedictine emphasis on living in community and our responsibilities to each other in that community.  The grant will also allow us to move forward with many of the goals of Strategic Directions 2020, which recognizes the challenges of ensuring all members of our increasingly diverse student body have the fullest possible educational experience at CSB and SJU.” 

The goal of transformational inclusion in the CSB and SJU community reflects a number of broad objectives. CSB and SJU aims to:

  • Build on and move beyond the work of awareness raising and programming to the work of culture shifting and becoming a transformatively inclusive community.
  • Analyze and begin to dismantle systems that support and promote exclusion.
  • Design and implement changes in how the institutions recruit, hire and support underrepresented faculty.
  • Empower students, faculty, staff and local community partners to co-create mutually respectful partnerships, activities and structures in pursuit of a just, equitable and sustainable future for our region.
  • Disseminate our learning to others in higher education who seek systemic transformation and lasting substantive change as it relates to inclusion. 

“As our world becomes more diverse in every way imaginable, the ideas and practice of community and inclusion have become more important than ever,” said Jon McGee, vice president for planning and strategy at CSB and SJU. “The Mellon grant serves as a catalyst for the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University to leverage our history and missions to play a leading role in the creation of powerful communities. This is an extraordinary moment for us and our students, faculty and staff.” 

The project will roll out in three phases:

  • Phase One: Leverage and extend the work of individual and group inclusivity development begun with the current Mellon grants.
  • Phase Two: Unearth and address the underlying assumptions about inclusion and community.
  • Phase Three: Implement and disseminate the methods of transformative inclusion that the earlier processes will have revealed. 

“The BECOMING Community grant is an exciting opportunity to continue to pursue social justice through meaningful, transformative efforts to make the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University more inclusive,” said Amanda Macht Jantzer, assistant professor of psychology at CSB and SJU. “In doing so we recognize that inclusion is a process wherein a community is in a continual process of becoming, as inclusion requires communities that transform and are transformed by the people we engage. 

“The focus of this initiative is to pursue meaningful individual, group and institutional level change. We aim to extend the reach of a recent Mellon-funded grant initiative focused on inclusive pedagogy to those outside of the humanities and First-Year Seminar to include not only faculty, but also students and staff. This three-phased effort also features a cohort model wherein faculty, staff, students and community partners will be recruited to engage in learning communities for extended dialogue on issues of inclusion. The aim is to establish a dispositional change among a sizable group of individuals on our campuses. Seed grants will also be provided to units or departments to support group-level change and scholarship around inclusivity. This work will further inform simultaneous institutional change initiatives and will be disseminated broadly.” 

CSB and SJU each received a $100,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2015 in support of faculty formation to support liberal arts learning. Each was for planning or piloting curricular and pedagogical experiments. 

The CSB grant focused on professional development for humanities faculty that addressed successfully teaching, advising and engaging both CSB's and SJU's increasingly diverse student body. 

The SJU grant enabled professional development for all faculty who teach First-Year Seminar, to enhance understanding of and the ability to meet the needs of first-generation students and American students of color at CSB and SJU.