AUSTIN, Texas—The Ford Foundation has awarded a $100,000 “Difficult Dialogues” grant to The University of Texas at Austin to promote open scholarly inquiry, academic freedom and respect for different cultures and beliefs. The grant will be centered in Connexus: Connections in Undergraduate Studies, an initiative of the Office of the Provost.
The focus of the project is the development of four undergraduate forum seminars on topics of particular relevance to Texas and The University of Texas at Austin: Affirmative Action and Cultural/Racial Diversity, Religion and Sexuality, Church and State, and Islam in America. Each course will be taught by an interdisciplinary team of faculty and will provide students with the knowledge, skills and forum to engage in dialogue on issues related to the class. Faculty and students from the School of Law will help students in each course understand the importance of academic freedom to the exploration of controversial topics.
“We see this as a way of deepening the intellectual life of the university in areas that are important to the future of Texas,” said Dr. Lucia Gilbert, vice provost for undergraduate education. Gilbert will be the principal investigator for the project.
The University of Texas at Austin was one of 27 institutions nationwide to receive the grant. The Ford Foundation received more than 675 preliminary proposals and invited 136 institutions to submit a final proposal.
The Difficult Dialogues seminars will build on the model of the Connexus Forum Seminars, which introduce undergraduates to the wealth of faculty, course offerings and research at The University of Texas at Austin.
“UT sent us a wonderful project to show the effort that a large public research university is putting into improving undergraduate education,” said Jorge Balan, senior program officer for higher education at the Ford Foundation.
Difficult Dialogues is part of a broader, $12 million effort by the Ford Foundation to understand and combat anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry in the United States and Europe. It builds on the foundation’s history of supporting efforts by colleges and universities to foster more inclusive campus environments and to engage effectively with the growing racial, religious and ethnic diversity of their student bodies.
Created in 2000 as an initiative of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, Connexus is home to a growing and dynamic suite of programs that connect students with academic resources, interdisciplinary study, cross-cultural study and undergraduate research.
For more information contact: Dr. Lucia Gilbert, vice provost for undergraduate education, 512-232-3310; Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.