75th Anniversary of the Teagle Foundation-“Educating for Freedom-For All”
It was truly an honor to attend the forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the Teagle Foundation on Thursday October 3rd, 2019, entitled: “Educating for Freedom-For All”. The Teagle Foundation works to support and strengthen liberal arts education, which they see as fundamental to meaningful work, effective citizenship, and a fulfilling life. I would like to personally thank Desiree Vazquez Barlatt, the former Program Officer, and former President Judith R. Shapiro at the Teagle Foundation that issued the grant to fund the first iteration and pilot of the Futures Initiative Undergraduate Leadership and Peer Mentoring program. I also thank them for a subsequent Presidential Award that continued funding for another year. The program continues to thrive, supporting the values exemplified at this year’s 75th Anniversary event.
The Undergraduate Leadership and Peer Mentoring Program supports crucial leadership and mentorship among students and faculty within higher education, and advances the Futures Initiative’s mission of advocating for greater equity and innovation in higher education.
During the Liberal Arts For All panel I enjoyed hearing Dr. Roosevelt Montás, Director of the Center for the Core Curriculum at Columbia University, speak about the work he does with students from undeserved communities in Manhattan through the college-level humanities seminar he teaches at Columbia. Dr. Montás’s area of expertise is in antebellum American literature and culture, with an interest in American citizenship. Dr. Montás spoke about the history and future of liberal arts education, and is writing a book for Princeton University Press about his own experience as a student and a teacher. He spoke about how important mentorship and exposure is for students in low income communities and one of his students who he mentored through his program at Columbia, has excelled on many levels and is now running to be councilman of the district Columbia College resides in. His testimony reminds me that there is no limit to the heights students can rise to depending on if they have the right support and mentorship on their academic path.
On the same panel there was also an undergraduate speaker Damian Jungermann who is currently an undergraduate student majoring in American Studies at Columbia University. He served 15 years in the Navy as an explosive ordnance disposal technician and was stationed in Afghanistan on many tours. He won many military awards which includes three Bronze Star Medals, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon. Mr. Jungermann achieved a great deal of success in the Navy, but in turn also experienced a great deal of trauma which lead to him experiencing depression, post traumatic stress disorder and mental health issues which really was a challenging time in his life. This turn of events seemed like his life was on the decline but also lead him to enroll back in school. Mr. Jungermann has been forever changed by his decision to go back to school and it had everything to do with giving him hope and inspiration to continue down a new path. He spoke very fondly about the humanities and was inspired by Plato’s Republic.
During the Not Just For the Privileged panel, it was great to learn from Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times, Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, President of The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and Dr. Gail Mellow, former President of LaGuardia Community College and get an inside look into their thoughts on bringing the best education to the least- resourced college students. Dr. Hrabowski works to create an environment that helps under-represented students, specifically African-American, Black, Latino and low-income learners get degrees in math and science. He had several statistics of the number of undergraduate students he helped advance on their academic trajectory at UMBC from underrepresented communities in science and engineering. He emphasized that in order to make change in higher education the humanities disciplines need to work more closely with math and economic disciplines in order to redesign the curriculum and prepare students for a very competitive workforce.
In conclusion, the Teagle Foundation forum was an insightful day filled with discussion from educators who not only believe in creating a better experience for students in higher education, and believe in the principles surrounding this, but was about the educators who are doing urgent and inspiring work to help students attain their dreams.