The Endeavor Foundation has awarded Franklin & Marshall College a grant of more than $1.5 million to fund several programs in concert with Lancaster City and the surrounding region that would focus on issues of poverty and social inequality, environmental sustainability and social action art.
The initial efforts, launched under the Center for Sustained Engagement with Lancaster, will include an emerging artist residency program, bonding programs for scholars and city professionals in government and nonprofits, and workshops.
In a letter to F&M President Barbara Altmann, Endeavor President Julie Kidd said, “In combining Franklin & Marshall’s impressive intellectual resources and research capacity with the on-the-ground expertise of Lancaster residents and leaders, the Center for Sustained Engagement with Lancaster will enrich the College and the community alike.”
The plan is to develop the Center and its mission over a nine-month period to engage the various constituencies involved. The College wants to use its resources to contribute and complement the work and data Lancaster City and County have long used to address these social and environmental issues.
“Franklin & Marshall’s faculty, staff and students will apply their research expertise, skills and studies toward the concerns of the community,” Kidd said. “The Center will demonstrate the tangible value of a liberal arts education in addressing society’s most pressing challenges.”
“As I have said from my first day as Franklin & Marshall president, the College is fortunate to find itself located in such a vibrant city,” Altmann said. “For many years, the Lancaster community has provided important opportunities for our faculty, staff and students. I am certain this new initiative will build on those opportunities and create new ones.”
F&M Provost Joel Martin spearheaded the initiation of this project in consultation with more than 30 faculty who have long engaged with the Lancaster community.
Among those efforts were Associate Professor of Biology Sybil Gotsch’s research on maximizing the mitigation of storm-water runoff with trees in a collaborative project with the City of Lancaster; and Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy Patrick Fleming’s surveys on the public’s response to the government policies on such issues as tax-dollar investments in water quality and green infrastructure to address storm-water pollution management.
“As part of a course on Poverty and Public Policy, I had students collaborate with the Lancaster Coalition to Combat Poverty,” Fleming said. “Teams of students worked with community leaders in five specific areas: housing, food security, education, community development and private sector.”
As a natural outcome of this work and more like it, the College will build the Center on the strong relationship already established among community partners and the F&M community.
“The first phase of the initiative will require significant investment in defining, inviting, and securing broad and democratic participation in structuring the Center,” Martin said. “We have no interest in multiplying fragmentary efforts and no desire to project a patronizing approach.”
A core partner in this effort is the Lancaster County Community Foundation, but as the Center’s efforts progress, the College will engage with more partners in Lancaster, he said. “We also have faculty expertise on participatory democracy and grassroots movements that will complement our community partners' track records in this work,” Martin added.
The Center will revolve around human interaction, incorporating experiences that build connection and friendship including art and food, contemplation, music, and close listening, Martin said. “This process may seem long and winding, but by design, our path will be bidirectional and will yield the friendships and trust required to sustain the Center.”
For faculty, the College will launch an Enhanced Sabbatical for Scholarship with Lancaster, awarded competitively to faculty who dedicate their yearlong sabbaticals to working with the Lancaster community.
For students, the Center will provide opportunities to engage in work that is aligned to the major collaborative tracks as summer scholars. These initiatives, coupled with community dialogues, emerging artist residencies, community response initiatives and “Catalysts for Change” boot camps are expected to create bonds that build on bolder work ahead, Martin said.