Kalamazoo College Receives $23 Million Grant From Arcus Foundation to Fund Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

CONTACT: Jeff Palmer, 269.337.5724

January 17, 2012

Kalamazoo, Mich. – Kalamazoo College has received a $23 million grant to endow the work of its Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership (ACSJL). The grant, made by the Arcus Foundation, will support a broad array of activities including: student scholarships and two endowed professorships, student internships and leadership development programming, faculty and staff fellowships, public lectures and conferences, local and global partnerships, and residencies for social justice scholars and practitioners.

“The breadth of the grant makes it exceptional,” said Kalamazoo College President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran. “The entire Kalamazoo College community is extremely grateful to the Arcus Foundation and its founder, Jon Stryker, for their belief in the mission of the College and the Arcus Center. Their support will help put Kalamazoo on a path to become a higher education leader in the field of social justice and leadership development.”

The mission of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership is to support the pursuit of human rights and social justice by developing emerging leaders and sustaining existing leaders in the field of human rights and social justice, creating a pivotal role for liberal arts education in engendering a more just world.

It’s a mission consistent with the College’s history, liberal arts tradition, and mission to develop enlightened leaders, said President Wilson-Oyelaran.

“The Arcus Center builds on the College’s strengths in the area of academics, career development, international engagement, and independent study—all elements of each ‘K’ student’s distinctive K-Plan. When combined with other curricular and co-curricular programs such as our Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Institute for Service-Learning, our Center for International Programs, and our unique Guilds initiative, this will take the K-Plan to a new level of excellence.”

The Arcus Foundation grant is the largest grant in the College’s 179-year history, and one of the largest given for a social justice purpose to an undergraduate institution in the United States.

“I know from my own experience the emphasis that ‘K’ College places on developing global citizens who can be effective agents of transformational change,” said Jon Stryker, a Kalamazoo College alumnus and trustee, who founded the Arcus Foundation in 2000.

“Our intent in making this grant is to foster diverse leaders who advance social justice in all its dimensions – from anti-racism to economic justice to equality for all sexual orientations and gender identities. We envision ‘K’ College becoming the place to be for young people who aspire to develop the strategies and lead the work that will make our world more just and humane. This ambition maps directly to the values shared by the Foundation and the College.”

Arcus CEO Dr. Yvette C. Burton added, “Social justice is critical to our future because it maximizes the societal value and impact of advances in a wide range of disciplines, including medicine, information technology and environmental conservation. Institutions of higher learning have a tremendous role to play in advancing social justice theory and practice. Kalamazoo College’s legacy in international study, service education, and other key areas position it for leadership in this exciting field.”

Among the numerous ACSJL programs that the $23 million grant will support are:

  • two endowed faculty chairs in areas  related to social justice (currently held by John Dugas in political science and Adriana Garriga-Lopez in anthropology-sociology);
  • fellowships for “K” faculty and staff to support projects and scholarship related to social justice leadership;
  • four-year Enlightened Leadership Scholarships ($5,000 per year) awarded to one “K” student each year (currently held by sophomore Colin Lauderdale and first-year student Mariah Hennen);
  • annual Social Justice Fellowships for visiting scholars, activists, artists, thought leaders, and faculty, as a way to introduce new scholarship, energy, and social justice activity and engagement to the Kalamazoo College campus and the Kalamazoo community. (currently held by Michelle Johnson from Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative in Kalamazoo and Irfana Majumdar, a scholar/artist in experimental theater based at the NIRMAN program in Varanasi, India);
  • an annual spring lecture series (The 2012 lecturer will be playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler, perhaps best known as the author of The Vagina Monologues.);
  • a Social Justice Leadership Fund that provides grants to students, faculty, and staff who propose innovative social justice projects and programs;
  • a summer internship program that offers qualified “K” students the opportunity to integrate social justice theory with practice as interns at social justice organizations across the United States and abroad;
  • the Catalyst Project, a community-outreach and support initiative that will provide consulting and technical support to selected Kalamazoo-area social justice organizations; and
  • the Praxis Center, an online resource center for scholars and practitioners of social justice work and leadership that will be launched later in 2012.

The grant will also fund ACSJL staff positions, including its co-directors Jaime M. Grant, executive director, and Lisa Brock, academic director.

Jaime Grant, Ph.D., has worked for more than 20 years with a variety of national and international organizations focused on social justice and human rights for women, youth, and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, as well as victims of sexual and domestic assault, and people living with mental illness. She’s published in major academic journals, and her commentaries have appeared broadly in the consumer press.

Lisa Brock, Ph.D., is a historian and activist who has merged her academic interest with Southern African social justice struggles. Her articles on Africa and the African Diaspora have appeared in dozens of academic journals and as book chapters. Her latest writing project is a comparative study of Afro-descended peoples in the United States and Cuba.

The Arcus Foundation and Jon Stryker have long supported Kalamazoo College. In 2009, the Foundation provided a $200,000 planning grant and a $2.1 million project grant to help launch the ACSJL. It provided a $5.6 million grant in 2008 to fund tuition and programming support for 50 students from Los Angeles public schools to attend “K” through the Posse Foundation, and a $5 million grant in 2001 to support the “K” study abroad program.

The Arcus Foundation (www.arcusfoundation.org) is a leading global foundation advancing pressing social justice and conservation issues. Specifically, Arcus works to advance LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) equality, as well as to conserve and protect the great apes. The Arcus Foundation works globally and has offices in Kalamazoo, Mich., New York City, and Cambridge, UK.

Founded in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1833, Kalamazoo College (www.kzoo.edu) is a nationally recognized liberal arts college and the creator of the K-Plan that emphasizes rigorous scholarship, learning by practice, and both international and intercultural engagement. Its 1,400 students hail from 30 states and 24 countries. Kalamazoo College does more in four years so students can do more in a lifetime.