As grant ends, Lilly programs face cuts

By Peter Wright

As the Civic Engagement Center (CEC) is preparing to move into Markim Hall this June, one of its main programs, the Lilly Project, is preparing for a change in structure of its own. The project has been funded by grants from the Lilly Endowment, but that runs out at the beginning of the next school year, leaving the program to be absorbed into the Macalester budget at a time when the school is looking for cuts, not additions.Macalester’s proposed budget, which will be presented to the trustees in May, is aimed at making relatively minor cuts to different program budgets based on their perceived impact on students. As the Lilly Project faces new institutional funding, it too will undergo similar cuts, and it provides a possible preview for what to expect as Macalester faces a roller coaster economy.

“It may be that the full blown program will be shrunk for a while,” Chaplain and Lilly Project Co-Director Lucy Forster-Smith said.

According to its webpage, The Lilly Program funds eight different programs on Macalester’s campus, including Chiasma, which is aimed at students considering careers focused on religion, and a senior keystone program.

Its name is most directly associated with the Lilly Summer Fellows Program, which allows a group of Mac students to spend a summer on campus, in communal housing, working on projects that use the Twin Cities to study community issues.

Lilly Program Co-Director Karin Trail-Johnson said that the summer fellowship will continue, but it may have to be reduced.

“We hope to have almost as many students,” Trail-Johnson said. “[But] we have to cut back some students.”

One possibility for helping to sustain the summer program is finding outside donors to help fund each internship. Trail-Johnson said that this summer, two of the groups hosting Lilly interns have already agreed to partially support the Macalester students, one who is working with a Presbyterian church and another who is working with a local, community focused bank.

“We are going to be doing some additional fund raising,” Trail-Johnson said.

Trail-Johnson added that she also hopes to get support from alumni, who, she said, would have an opportunity to both support current Macalester students and see physical results of their donations in the Twin Cities community.

“This is a really concrete way that they can sort of have a twofer,” Trail-Johnson said.

The grant also funds Lives of Commitment, which places a group of first-years in different volunteer positions, providing guided discussions to reflect on their experiences.

“The LOC program is probably the program that gets the most play at Macalester,” Forster-Smith said.

LOC will continue, Trail-Johnson said, but participants may notice cuts in some of the more minor elements, like food or ‘paid-for’ meals at local restaurants. She said that the same type of budget cutting will affect all of the Lilly programs, but all of them will continue.

“The intent is to.sustain many of the programs,” Forster-Smith said.

“Lilly Kid”

Megan Macpherson, a senior Geography major considering going into the seminary when she graduates, had her first experience with the Lilly programs when she enrolled in LOC on a whim. Since then she has been a Lilly Summer Fellow, joined Chiasma, and is now working on her Lilly Senior Keystone project.

“I’m definitely a Lilly kid,” she said.

Macpherson said that her experiences with Lilly have helped her build connections with organizations in the Twin Cities and overcome her initial shyness around adults.

“I’m definitely a Lilly kid,” she said.

Macpherson said that her experiences with Lilly have helped her build connections with organizations in the Twin Cities and overcome her initial shyness around adults.

As a summer fellow, Macpherson worked with an organization focused on faith-based urban justice. In LOC she became a volunteer teacher and tutor at the Jane Addams School where she now helps organize other Mac volunteers.

“I chose to study abroad in Ecuador because of [connections] I made in Jane Addams,” Macpherson said.

She said that the programs go beyond simply opening the door to volunteering, they create a community on campus that carries on a constant conversation, reflecting on volunteer experiences and examining everyday ethical decisions.

“Lilly has pushed me to look at the premises on which I make my decisions,” Macpherson said.

That emphasis on reflection is the key to the Lilly programs, Forster-Smith said, whether in the religious programs based in the chapel or in the programs focused on the wider community currently housed in the Community Engagement Center (CEC). Trail-Johnson agreed.

“Lilly is kind of an institutional speed bump to really take a pause [for reflection],” she said.

Moving Towards Consolidation

The Lilly programs started at Macalester in the late 1990s, Forster-Smith said. The Lilly grant, based in an endowment created by stocks from the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company, was initially intended to fund programs focusing on religion and society. Forster-Smith said that Macalester changed the wording in its application to better fit the atmosphere of the campus.

“We actually had some amazing discussions about work in people’s lives,” Lucy Forster-Smith said.

Aspects of the grant began appearing on campus in 2000 and were scheduled to run out in 2006, but the Lilly Foundation offered to extend the grant for three more years with a couple stipulations.

“[They] offered up to $500,000 if the college agreed to sustain and match [the funds],” Forster-Smith said.

Because that additional grant is now running out, the leaders of the program are finding new sources within the school to keep the program going. Forster-Smith said that reorganization of the Lilly programs started three years ago when the college began developing plans to sustain the programs, and went in a new direction when the then new college president Brian Rosenberg began developing plans for the Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC).

The Lilly programs will now be headquartered in the IGC, but it will continue to be affiliated with the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and the CEC. Forster-Smith said that the change in the overseeing organization is part of a larger effort to combine different projects on campus.

“Rather than having 15 small projects, [Rosenberg] would like to have the programs that ask the big questions of leadership,” she said.

With the consolidation into the IGC, which she views as an opportunity to open the Lilly Program to new participants, and despite the cuts to different elements of its programs, Forster-Smith said that the power of the Lilly Program lies with its participants.

“In some ways it doesn’t matter what the program is,” Forster-Smith said. “It kind of gets infused into these students’ lives.