Ford Foundation awards Macalester grant

By Shannon Mills

The Ford Foundation has awarded Macalester a $100,000 grant to fund initiatives that promote better understanding of the Middle East. The grant will go to support a Mideast Peace Summit, the Classics Department’s ongoing archeological dig in northern Israel and a faculty development seminar to be held in the Middle East in 2008.

Among the 26 higher education institutions receiving the grant, Macalester is one of only two liberal arts colleges. Over 675 institutions applied for the grant.

International Studies professor Ahmed Samatar credited Macalester’s receipt of the grant to the college’s reputation in internationalism, international curriculum and programs, and the quality of the grant proposal.

“When you have the heritage in place, and you build on that with innovative and daring proposals, you attract external attention,” Samatar said.

Both Classics department professor Andrew Overman and Samatar emphasized Macalester’s deep tradition of international curriculum and programming, especially in the Middle East.

“Macalester has managed to have a presence in the Middle East, and we’ve done it without taking sides,” Overman said.
The grant is part of the Ford Foundation’s Difficult Dialogues program. The program is intended to encourage academic freedom and the discussion of sensitive subjects such as anti-Semitism and “Islamophobia” on college campuses, according to the foundation’s web site.

“I think that Macalester is well-positioned-I wouldn’t say uniquely positioned-to address these two issues because of faculty scholarship and the programs we’re already running in the Middle East,” Overman said. “It’s a real credit to the college and to the reputation of the college that we got it,” he continued. “I think it’s a reflection of Macalester’s reputation in the broader educational oikumene [Greek: inhabited world].