ASU awarded Fund for Positive Engagement grant

Neal A. Lester, the founding director of Project Humanities and professor of English

Neal A. Lester, the founding director of Project Humanities and professor of English.


The 2016 election left many communities looking for better ways to communicate with one another, an issue that Arizona State University is working to improve for students on and off campus. 

The university is now one of 40 institutions to receive funding from Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education.

ASU’s Project Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a recipient of the Fund for Positive Engagement grant and is looking to bring the community together by launching a new public engagement series.

The series will focus on place and identity in the form of a dinner titled, "Aridity and the Desert." The series will begin fall 2017 continuing through spring 2018, with the first event on Nov. 14.

“Such a dinner and dialogue series builds upon the many strong connections the award-winning Project Humanities initiative has with various communities inside and beyond ASU,” said Neal A. Lester, the founding director of Project Humanities and professor of English. “Project Humanities will engage diverse individuals and communities in talking, listening and connecting to build bridges that promote civil dialogue and engagement and that demonstrate the power of our shared humanity.”

With the funding from Campus Compact, Project Humanities can address the immediate need to respond and participate in the effort to contribute in creating innovative interventions to build strong and diverse communities.

“We wanted to create an incentive for colleges and universities to come up with creative responses to the challenges they are seeing,” said Andrew Seligsohn, president of Campus Compact. “We have been hearing from our member colleges and universities that students and community members cannot hold conversations with people with differing political views. Immigrant and Muslim students are afraid to express their views.”

The first dinner will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Phoenix Public Market Café. The series will use music, performance and poetry to explore “aridity” and the basic human need for tolerance, social harmony and civility.

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