The university's Office of Common Ground is looking to promote a more diverse and inclusive campus this year by offering grants of up to $2,000 for any student, staff or faculty member with a project idea.
The grant program offers funding ranging from $50 to $2,000 for any activity, event or research proposal that will help foster a discussion about diversity issues on campus.
"We ask that people demonstrate to us how the grant might help to make our community more diverse or inclusive," said Lisa Miles, Common Ground coordinator. "We want to try to answer questions like how do we support groups that haven't felt a lot of support before, how do we engage people in dialogue around issues that are challenging, like diversity?"
The program was started last year and awarded around $16,000 worth of grants, Miles said. Common Ground staff members said they hoped to increase that amount this year.
"We spent time thinking about the ways the office could have the most positive impact on the campus and we've allocated our resources according to that," said Common Ground Director Glyn Hughes. "That's one of the ways we can expand our impact and start supporting things all over the place."
Last year grants from the program went to sponsor diversity speakers for the Richmond College and the Law School, as well as a faculty field trip to the Smithsonian Native American exhibit, among other events.
Student organizations in need of extra funding can also look toward Common Ground for assistance. For example, the grant program helped sponsor the International Club's annual Culture Festival last year, in addition to several other projects.
"Sometimes student groups just don't have the kind of funding they need to pull off the events they want," Miles said. "We want to help them out with that."
This year the Common Ground grant program will provide funding to the Osher Institute's group tour of Richmond later this semester. The tour will focus on the history of race, class and poverty in the city.
The university's Common Ground Initiative began in 2002 with a series of student dialogues about race on campus. The discussions caught the eye of administrators, who wanted to expand the idea. In 2006, the Office of Common Ground was founded with the intention of overseeing the various student committees and advisory boards that spawned from the initial proposal.
"Part of what we've done in the office these first two years is really try to open ourselves to the campus and do a lot of listening, especially to those voices that are underrepresented or marginalized on campus," Hughes said.
Now, in addition to the grants program, the office coordinates the Diversity Roundtable, a gathering of representatives from the school's many groups committed to diversity and inclusion on campus. The 16 organizations meet to share plans for future events and possibilities for collaboration between groups.
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The office also is preparing an e-newsletter to advertise the many diversity events coming to Richmond.
"We're interested in becoming a clearinghouse of diversity information on campus," Miles said.
Miles encouraged students, staff and faculty to approach the Office of the Common Ground with their project ideas and apply for the grant.
"We're really excited about what ideas people will bring us," she said. "I'd like to see students doing something new, something challenging."
Contact reporter Michael Gaynor at email@example.com
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