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Philanthropist, arts leader, and social justice advocate Agnes Gund ’60 has designated a gift of $1 million to endow The Agnes Gund ’60 Dialogue Project at Connecticut College. The purpose of the Gund Dialogue Project is to build a generation of leaders capable of respecting and expressing a broad range of divergent ideas and opinions.
“We are so grateful for this wonderful gift from Agnes Gund, which allows us to establish one of the most comprehensive intergroup dialogue programs in the country,” said Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron.
“The Gund Dialogue Project responds to the urgent need for acceptance, understanding, and empathy in our increasingly divided world. Through this program our students will learn to embrace difference, listen deeply, and find common ground. These are critical life skills that inform the best kind of leaders.”
The Gund Dialogue Project combines critical theory and experiential learning to deepen intercultural awareness and understanding. Through workshops, interactive classes, cultural immersion experiences, community service projects and events on and off campus, students will build the capacity to engage in courageous conversations that speak across political, social, racial, and socioeconomic differences.
“It is wonderful to see Connecticut College taking the lead in educating students for a more just society,” Gund said. “I look forward to the flourishing of this project and to witnessing the changes brought by the capable young leaders who will emerge from it.”
“The Gund Dialogue Project is one way we are addressing the troubling and divisive sociopolitical climate we are experiencing in this nation and its impact within our campus community,” said Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion John McKnight.
“We will provide students with opportunities to develop the intercultural competence they need to prepare them for successful lives and careers and enable them to lead social change within their own communities. Ultimately, the Gund Dialogue Project will raise our collective consciousness, help us build stronger relationships across social identities, and equip us with new tools for taking action against inequality.”
Jonathan McBride ’92, managing director and global head of Inclusion and Diversity at BlackRock, Inc. and former director of White House personnel under President Barack Obama, said the skills students will gain through the Gund Dialogue Project are vital for today’s global economy.
“Connecticut College students who have gone through this program will be uniquely prepared to enter the global workforce. So many corporations today are investing in programs like this one to equip their talent pool with exactly these capacities. Conn graduates will have the skills as they come in the door,” McBride said.
The Gund Dialogue Project is being implemented in several phases. The initial phase includes intergroup dialogue training for faculty and staff and a First-Year Seminar for students, “Conversations on Race,” which was launched this fall with seed funding from David Carliner ’82. Over the next several years, it is anticipated that more than 200 students will have participated in the program, along with dozens of faculty and staff with training to integrate these pedagogical approaches into their work.
Gund is the president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), chair of its International Council and chair of MoMA PS1. In 2017, she provided seed funding for the Art for Justice Fund, which supports criminal justice reform and combats racial inequality in America. She is also the founder of Studio in a School, a non-profit organization that engages professional artists as art instructors in public schools and community organizations.
In 1997, Gund received the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the U.S. government, from President Bill Clinton. In 1984, she received the Connecticut College Medal, the highest honor awarded by the College.