NEW YORK, June 18, 2019 — Barnard College announced today that The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has funded a $1 million grant to launch the Public Engagement Initiative (PEI), which will unfold over six years and foster 12 long-term collaborations between Barnard faculty members and partner organizations in New York City that focus on three thematic areas: immigration, poverty, and labor rights.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Barnard scholars to work hand-in-hand with partners in a variety of vitally important areas,” said President Sian Leah Beilock, who has emphasized the need for institutions of higher education to learn from and contribute to their communities. “Barnard students frequently take advantage of the opportunities offered by our location in New York City, and in turn we have a chance to work together with our neighbors to advance knowledge on issues that impact all our lives.”

Following the success of academic endeavors such as the Mellon-funded Barnard Teaches program and innovative courses such as Mississippi Semester and Seeking Asylum, which are taught in partnership with community-based organizations, a faculty steering committee was formed under the leadership of the provost to investigate the possibility of a campus-wide program. The PEI was designed to contribute in a deliberate and meaningful way to community-based partner organizations’ work, as well as to demonstrate to Barnard students the relevance of a liberal arts education in marrying theory to practice when approaching challenges faced by modern society. Faculty and students will learn from on-the-ground experts at partner organizations and co-create solutions appropriate to the communities served by those organizations. Partner organizations will similarly benefit from a deep connection with the Barnard academic community of scholars and students whose research can directly benefit public policy approaches.

“We are thrilled that the Mellon Foundation has chosen to sponsor the PEI,” said Provost Linda Bell. “Our exceptional faculty are known for their scholarship directed at finding answers to some of our nation’s most perplexing challenges. This initiative, and the support of the Mellon Foundation, will provide opportunities for faculty and students to partner in new and direct ways with nonprofit advocacy organizations in New York City and beyond, and it is truly an honor to be recognized by the Foundation for our efforts and ideas.”

PEI was inspired by public concern over humanitarian, economic, environmental, public health, educational, and other crises in the United States, particularly in New York City. Proposed collaborations will be reviewed and selected beginning in fall 2019.


About Barnard College

Barnard provides a singular educational experience, as a world-renowned college focused on excellence across the arts and sciences, with all the academic resources of Columbia University and the City of New York as an extended classroom. Founded in 1889, Barnard was one of the few colleges in the nation where women could receive the same rigorous and challenging education available to men. Today, Barnard is one of the most selective academic institutions in the country and remains devoted to empowering extraordinary women to become even more exceptional. For more information on Barnard College, contact Barnard Media Relations at 212-854-2037 or To learn more, follow Barnard on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.