$25,000 Teagle Foundation Grant to Create New Civic Leaders Program at Fisher

March 29, 2021

A new program at St. John Fisher College will prepare undergraduate students to be educated and engaged civic leaders and citizens of the region and find answers on how to create a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable community.

Students gather on the Campus Center Quad.

Fisher Connects: The Next Generation of Civic Leaders program offers students the opportunity to engage with the City of Rochester, exploring the history of ideas and people who have given voice to critical issues facing the community and shaped democracy for the last 150 years.

Thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation, the College has launched a planning team for the program, which is a part of the new Core curriculum. The Fisher design team is comprised of Dr. Ann Marie Fallon, co-project director; Erin Budd Barry, co-project director; Dr. Rob Ruehl, Lead Faculty Fellow; Dr. Kristin Picardo; Dr. Melissa Goodwin; Dr. Ryan Thibodeau; Dr. Jeff Liles; and Dr. Carolyn Vacca. The community design team is comprised of Simeon Banister; Dr. Shaun Nelms; Ed Doherty; Dr. Lomax Campbell; Rev. Myra Brown; Dr. Rick DeJesus; and Erin Turpin. The Fisher faculty and community-based leaders will use their expertise to embed meaningful civic engagement in the humanities coursework and experiential opportunities.

“The Fisher Core represents the educational heritage of the Basilian fathers and our mission. Every Fisher undergraduate will have the chance to work in a series of classes that build to a Cardinal Capstone, an experience where students from different majors and backgrounds will become experts in the room, working together to solve real-world issues facing our community,” said Dr. Ann Marie Fallon, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

The team is engaged in a six-month planning phase for the program, and then will implement a pilot launch of the curriculum that includes civic learning and engagement and a Cardinal Capstone course, a hallmark of the new Core. The courses will start with two first-year learning communities and one research-based writing course focusing on the representation and uniqueness of Rochester in American history. The second and third-year community will focus on American government, the impact on current social inequities, the stories of the suffragist and abolitionist movement, and end in a Cardinal Capstone experience taught by a faculty member and community context expert. An additional 52 students in the College’s service-based scholarship programs will benefit from the enhancement of preparation included in the program’s curriculum. The pilot year for the program will target up to 216 students and will increase over a three-year implementation period to include all undergraduate students.

Fallon said that the new Core curriculum aims to not only have a positive impact on the College’s students but also on the Rochester community and the College’s faculty and staff. “Along the way, students will hone key skills that citizens of the 21st century need: the ability to communicate with different people across divergent issues; the capacity to think deeply and critically and analyze information from multiple sources to form one’s own opinion; and the leadership to draw on history, philosophy, and religious traditions to guide one’s life work,” she added.

Erin Barry, director of the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement said Fisher Connects reimagines civic education at the College by embracing a place-based perspective. “The design team will undoubtedly rise to community members’ calls to action for all of us at Fisher to move forward supporting a community-driven agenda, while creating opportunities for Fisher students to cultivate leadership skills through humanities curriculum,” she said.

In 2018, the College began to re-examine civic education, both through the development of a new general education curriculum and new civic education curriculum supported by the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement. The Institutes’ collaboration with the School of Arts and Sciences for Fisher Connects will build on the College’s expertise in community-engaged scholarship, humanities, and liberal arts.