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Diversity Innovation Grants Enrich Spring Semester

Throughout the spring semester, several academic and cultural initiatives benefited from financial support from the Diversity Innovation Grant (DIG) pilot program launched by the Office of the Provost and Intercultural Center in December 2020.

Programs supported include, “Paradoxical Paradise: An African American Oral History and Mapping Project on Asbury Park;” a featured speaker program exploring “Genetics, Genomics, and Racism;” and an oral history project commemorating distinguished African American mathematical physicist and former Monmouth faculty member, Walter McAfee Ph.D,’85HN, through interviews with his former colleagues and family members.

Rekha Datta, Ph.D., interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said, “The goal of the DIG program is to encourage understanding and learning by investing in relationship-building across differences, and offer new ways to promote equity and diversity to achieve our goal of inclusive campus culture.”

“We are very grateful to the Board of Trustees for the dedicated endowment funding that makes these high-impact programs possible,” Datta said. “Their thoughtful investment has already supported a great deal of interdisciplinary scholarship this semester.”

While each of the initial programs was a self-contained effort, they are also part of broader institutional strategic goals to advance an inclusive campus culture. The hands-on opportunities for students to engage with each of the initiatives—and overwhelmingly positive feedback from students—helped make the case for the DIG program to transition from its initial pilot stage to a permanent source of institutional support for creative engagement with issues central to a comprehensive academic experience.

Zaneta Rago-Craft, Ed.D, director of the Intercultural Center, sees a bright future for the initiative. “Following the success of the initial pilot, the DIG program will continue to invite proposals for projects that encourage conversation, learning, and connection across race, religion, class, immigration status, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, and nationality to create opportunities for belonging and to strengthen a sense of community.” While the application process has closed for the initial pilot stage, new submissions will be welcomed for the 2022 academic year, with a deadline of August 1.

Additional developing programs that have received funding support include the Monmouth University Student Organizer Clinic (MU-SOC); The 369th: Together, We Rose documentary project; Black Student-Athletes: Paving the Way; Monmouth Artists for Diversity and Inclusion (MADI); Recreating the Black Brain Belt: Red Bank, New Jersey; and the forthcoming “Learn to be Antiracist” teaching and pedagogy resource site.