Brandeis Pluralism Alliance marking 10th anniversary looking for good ideas

Grants available for projects that deepen understanding of human diversity

Good ideas.  They’re a dime a dozen.
But for ten years, the Brandeis Pluralism Alliance has put much more than a dime behind good ideas for encouraging a better and deeper understanding of the diverse mix of religions, ethnicities and races present in the campus community and the world. At the start of each semester, the Alliance funds projects designed to expose students and faculty to a wide variety of viewpoints, often presented in novel ways.  This fall’s grant deadline is Wednesday, September 15.
Most of the projects are student-initiated; they are often interdisciplinary.

A sampling of projects staged on campus that have been funded over the past year includes:

• A coming-of-age story about two boys at a Catholic boarding school, presented as a pop opera.

• An exploration of the possibilities of Israeli-Palestinian peace through the performance of poetry, theatre and dance.

• A look at cultural clashes between North America and South Asia, seen through pop culture and the performing arts.

Past grant recipients who have staged events give the program positive reviews on the Alliance web site.  One wrote, “It strengthens communication and unity between the people who attend because they share an experience and can bring this experience and understanding of other traditions back to the Brandeis community.”  Another wrote, “The purpose of our project goes beyond cultural and racial boundaries.”
The Pluralism Alliance is made up of faculty, staff and students.  According to its mission statement reads in part that it was formed, “to create opportunities for a large cross-section of students to question identity and community at a deeper level, and to reach a more thoughtful and enduring understanding of these issues.” Once funded by the Hewlett Foundation, the grants now are sponsored by the Brandeis Department of Arts and Sciences, which not only funds projects, but provides guidance and helps publicize the events.

According to the Alliance web site, “preference is given to applications from teams of at least two individuals representing different backgrounds (such as, an instructor and student, or individuals from different races, clubs, religions or nationalities.)”

Program Coordinator Liane Grasso says the projects tend to revolve around race, gender, religion and culture.  On average, ten to twelve grants are approved each semester.  They average $400, but have ranged from $75 to “upwards of $1,000” says Grasso, depending on “how compelling the idea is and the funding needed.”

Grasso encourages applicants with ideas to “give as much detail as possible, show us your passion and network, network, network.” She says applicants who show initiative and come to the Alliance with partial funding already in hand are looked upon more favorably. Generating that seed funding is a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, she says, adding that “it’s pretty amazing how many sources are on campus…but it takes a lot of legwork.” Approaching various possible sources sparks collaboration, crosses interdisciplinary boundaries, and cultivates interest -- and an expanded audience -- for the finished project, Grasso says.

While this semester’s application deadline is just around the corner, a second round of grant-making, for spring semester grants, will be conducted, with a February 6, 2011, deadline for applications.

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