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About the Program
Beyond Impasse to Dialogue: A Teaching and Learning Initiative on the Middle East Conflict

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ahmed Samatar, James Wallace Professor and Dean of International Studies and Programming. Project housed at the Institute for Global Citizenship.

Building upon two well-established initiatives at Macalester, continuing archeological work in Israel and a 2002 Mideast Peace Summit, this project explores the premise that difficult dialogues can be sustained even as they approach or return to impasse.  For over a decade, faculty and students have participated in an archeological excavation at Omrit in northern Israel headed by Classics Professor Andy Overman. There they draw upon the expertise of Macalester alumni in the region to deepen their understanding of the current political climate.  Macalester has also hosted a Middle East Peace Summit, inviting leading citizen advocates from the region to campus to hold private talks and make public presentations. This project will increase the student cohort participating in the archeological dig and seminars on Middle East peace in Israel in the summers of 2006 and 2007.  It will also support a Middle East Peace Summit on campus in the Fall of 2006 and/or 2007.  Students who participated in the dig and seminar in Israel will help plan and execute the Summit.  This project also supports the creation of courses on citizenship and leadership for the global citizen certificate program to be offered by Macalester’s newly established Institute for Global Citizenship.  Select Macalester faculty will also attend on-campus seminars conducted by Middle Eastern scholars in anticipation of three weeks of travel and study in the Middle East as part of the seventh biennial Macalester Faculty Development International Seminar in 2008.

Contact at Ford Foundation:
Joe Voeller, (212) 573-5128


College will participate in national initiative to promote academic freedom and constructive dialogue

New York, NY – December 12, 2005. After a national competition in undergraduate education that drew more than 675 proposals, the Ford Foundation has selected Macalester College as one of 27 higher education institutions to receive $100,000 grants for projects that promote academic freedom and constructive dialogue on their campuses.

The grants are part of Ford’s Difficult Dialogues initiative, created in response to reports of growing intolerance and efforts to curb academic freedom at colleges and universities. The goal is to help institutions address this challenge through academic and campus programs that enrich learning, encourage new scholarship and engage students and faculty in constructive dialogue about contentious political, religious, racial and cultural issues.

“Macalester College has proposed to build upon well-established academic initiatives to promote better understanding of the conflict in the Middle East,” said Jorge Balán, a Senior Program Officer at the Ford Foundation. “Its project shows that higher education institutions can use existing programs to promote informed and open debate about sensitive issues.”

Over the course of the two year initiative, the Difficult Dialogues grantees will be invited to share their experiences and ideas at regional conferences coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Center will also host a Web-based forum for project directors to share ideas online.

“Colleges and universities are uniquely suited to expand knowledge, understanding and discussion of controversial issues that affect us all,” said Susan V. Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation. “The selected projects illustrate the thoughtful and creative ways institutions are promoting intellectually rigorous scholarship and open debate that is essential to higher education.”

The Ford Foundation launched Difficult Dialogues in April 2005 by inviting proposals from all accredited, degree granting, non-profit institutions with general undergraduate programs. A panel of external higher education experts reviewed the preliminary proposals and selected 136 institutions to submit final proposals.

Difficult Dialogues is part of a broader, $12 million effort by the Ford Foundation to understand and combat anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry in the United States and Europe.  It builds on the foundation’s history of supporting efforts by colleges and universities to foster more inclusive campus environments and to engage effectively with the growing racial, religious and ethnic diversity of their student bodies.

For more information on the Difficult Dialogues initiative and a complete list of awardees, visit:

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than half a century it has been a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide, guided by its goals of strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation and advancing human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Russia.  




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