The Davis United World College Scholars Program, an initiative “committed to building cross-cultural understanding across campuses and ultimately throughout the world,” recently accepted UR as a partner institution. Now, students who attend Davis Foundation high schools throughout the world can consider UR as a viable option, and students currently attending UR can compete for the Davis Projects for Peace.
Director of Fellowships Belinda Redden spearheaded UR’s efforts to become a partner institution of the Davis Foundation.
“I had learned about the Davis Peace Fellowship from colleagues,” Redden said. “It piqued my interest. It was a summer grant focused on peace, and it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to make available to our students. Students often come looking for funding to do things in the summer.”
An application for a position as a partner institution was submitted in 2011, highlighting the international composition of UR’s student body, resources at the college like Rochester Center for Community Leadership, the Gandhi Institute, other opportunities for community and civic engagement, and efforts by the admissions office at outreach and recruitment of students from developing nations.
This petition was denied, but after revisions and another submission in 2012, UR was approved by the Davis Foundation for membership this August and is now one of 90 partner institutions.
“This was really important to the admissions office,” Redden said. “[When] you look at the other institutions on the list of participating schools you’ll see a lot of our competitors. Now that we are in the partnership, more students [will] look at us very seriously.”
Students from high schools that the Davis Foundation operates around the world receive funding from the foundation to attend college at member institutions.
Redden saw an example of the impact for admissions firsthand during Renaissance and Global Scholar interviews on March 20.
“I met a student who goes to a Davis high school in Norway,” she said. “He learned about [UR] because we were a new partner school.”
As Fellowships Director, however, the original source of interest in become a partner school was the Davis Project for Peace opportunity, which offers $10,000 in funding for the completion of one to two project proposals from each member institution.
“I encounter a lot of high achieving ambitious students,” Redden said. “I was convinced we would get enthusiastic interest from our students for this kind of opportunity.”
At UR, nine proposals were submitted, and sophomore Fatima Bawany’s project “Voices of Hope: Empowering the Next Generation of Refugees” was chosen in UR’s selection process as the school’s top proposal.
Proposals can be international or national in focus and can be designed by an individual or a group.
After submission of a proposal, budget, and letter of support from an organization the student plans to partner with, a committee convened to evaluate the proposals and interview the candidates.
In this inaugural year, Redden, Dean of Admissions Jonathan Burdick, Director of the Gandhi Institute Kit Miller, Director of RCCL Glenn Cerrosaletti, and professor of Religion and Classics Anne Meredith served on the committee.
Bawany’s proposal was comprised of three parts: education about responding to situations of conflict constructively, empowering youth to pursue their goals, and offering resources to aid in the pursuit of higher education.
Bawany has a long history of working with the refugee community: throughout her time at high school in Brighton and during her time at UR she has volunteered at Mary’s Place and volunteers as a Gandhi Service Fellow.
“I really saw so much potential in [refugee students],” Bawany said. “A lot of the time they’re almost marginalized. Maybe they have accents, they look different, they sound different. I wanted to do something to help them feel confident in themselves and in their ability to succeed.”
Bawany’s proposal also includes a community outreach component in which a gallery of photos taken by refugee students will be accessible to the community.
“We’re hoping to open this exhibition to the community not only to inspire the refugees but for the community to see that they have a lot of potential and to get the community to be more aware of the refugee community,” Bawany said.
Members of the committee expressed confidence and support in Bawany’s proposal.
“Her project was very well thought out, very detailed, very professionally presented,” Redden said. “She inspired a lot of confidence that she has the wherewithal to execute this project and a considerable amount of maturity and thoughtfulness behind the project. A very sincere commitment to the youth of this community was displayed not only in this project but in her past work.”
Miller noted that the local impact of the project also addresses a global issue: “Service to a population of young people known as refugees meant that the proposal dealt with the consequences of international consequences of war and violence while also serving our local community — a potent combination.”
As a partner institution of the Davis Foundation, UR has found a new way to engage students and advance university goals.
“We think that this kind of program is very well-aligned with UR’s commitment to promoting student engagement in the local community and globally bringing to bear their academic interests on work that they do beyond the campus,” Redden concluded.
Remus is a member of the class of 2016.