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Bard College Receives $60 Million Challenge Grant to Expand the Reach of Liberal Education  

Matching Grant to Bard’s Center for Civic Engagement Will Bolster Link between Democracy and Education

Mark Primoff

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. — George Soros, chairman of the Open Society Foundations, today announced that he would give $60 million to advance Bard College’s mission as a private academic institution dedicated to the public interest.

The challenge grant will enable Bard to strengthen its worldwide network of projects—from assisting low-income students in struggling high schools in New Orleans, to helping people in New York state prisons earn degrees, to partnering with the first liberal arts institution in Russia. The grant requires Bard to match it with $120 million from other donors.

“The preservation of liberty, civility, and dissent in the United States—the realization of the promise of democracy—depends in large measure on the role played by colleges and universities,” said Bard College President Leon Botstein.

Bard College’s Center for Civic Engagement is a hub for Bard’s wide array of innovative domestic and international initiatives and is key in its efforts to redefine the role of the modern university in society. The Center focuses on projects, often anchored by the granting of degrees, seeking to affect long-term change in education and public policy. It also focuses on undergraduate and graduate student development by integrating in the need for civic engagement with education.

“We believe that institutions of higher education must create a sense of civic duty and be willing to lead in finding solutions to the challenges facing the nation and the world,” Botstein said. “The Center for Civic Engagement at Bard is realizing the potential of colleges and universities to forge an effective link between education and democracy.”

George Soros and the Open Society Foundations have placed a high priority on education for three decades from funding scholarships for black universities in Apartheid South Africa to challenging school segregation for Roma children in Eastern Europe.

The Center for Civic Engagement’s key areas of activity, and associated programs, include the following:

·      Prison Education: The Bard Prison Initiative, which brings certificate- and degree-bearing courses into New York State prisons.

·      Reform of Secondary Education and Teaching: Bard High School Early Colleges (Manhattan, Queens, Newark); Paramount/Bard Academy (Central Valley, California); The Bard Early College in New Orleans; Bard College Access and Preparedness Program (BCAPP); Bard MAT Program; Equal Opportunity for Early College: Associate Degree in a Box. These programs integrate college education into secondary school settings or promote innovative pedagogy, often in underserved or underrepresented student communities.

·      Innovations in Science and Sustainability: Citizen Science; Bard Center for Environmental Policy (CEP); CEP/Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Program; C2C/Campus–to-Congress Program; Bard/Rockefeller Program.

·      International Partnerships: Bard-St. Petersburg State University, Smolny College, the first liberal arts college in Russia; Al Quds-Bard in the West Bank; Bard-American University of Central Asia; International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE) in South Africa.

·      Local Initiatives:, promoting electoral participation among students; ‘All Politics is Local’; Red Hook Together; La Voz magazine; the Migrant Labor Project; Red Hook ESL; West Point-Bard Exchange.

·      Student-Led Projects: TLS Program, a leadership and civic volunteer program; Bard-Palestinian Youth Connection; New Orleans Project; Nicaragua Education Initiative.

·      Service Learning and Internships: Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program; International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE); Bard Urban Studies in New Orleans; Environmental and Urban Studies Program; Human Rights Project.

As a liberal arts college, Bard uses its campus and resources to develop robust and sustainable projects that address social problems in practical ways, reach underserved and underrepresented populations, and tackle critical issues of education and public policy. With social consciousness and entrepreneurial spirit, Bard shapes policies, implements programs, and demonstrates public leadership. Few other higher educational institutions have comparable track records of successful innovation in the public sphere. This extraordinary gift will enable Bard to build upon and expand these programs far beyond the college’s existing means.

For additional information about the Center, visit or contact Vice President for International Affairs and Civic Engagement  Jonathan Becker at 

A news article about the matching grant appeared in the Tuesday, May 17, edition of the New York Times.


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This event was last updated on 05-17-2011