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Center for Study of Race and Ethnicity, Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship create joint grant program to address anti-Black racism

Grants up to $2,500 will support student projects that further goals of both centers

The Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship established a new grant program to provide funding for students who create and lead projects that address anti-Black and systemic racism, according to a Feb. 11 Today@Brown announcement

The Anti-Black and Systemic Racism Venture Grants program, which is overseen by administrators from both departments, provides students with grants of up to $2,500 to pursue projects. 

“It is our hope that this grant program will encourage all students to contemplate the actions they can take to contribute toward a world that works for everyone,” Associate Director of the CSREA Stephanie Larrieux wrote in an email to The Herald.

The grant system was created to inspire students to think in innovative ways about how to address systemic racism using entrepreneurial resources from the Nelson Center. It is important for students to think of systemic racism as “an addressable problem rather than as a natural condition or simply the status quo,” Larrieux wrote. 

The creation of the grants was also inspired by the “renewed national focus on social justice issues as a result of the events of 2020,” Larrieux added.

“Most big problems are often made up of lots of smaller problems that all fit together,” Associate Director of the Nelson Center Jonas Clark said. “Part of the challenge for students is identifying, ‘What is a piece of the puzzle that I think I can tackle?,’ and then that will help contribute to the overall picture.”

The problem that a team chooses to address is one of the three main criteria that reviewers examine in a project application, Clark said, along with the team’s proposed solution and the skills of the team itself. 

“Usually most problems have a variety of solutions or approaches that could be taken to address (them),” Clark said. “Why have you chosen your solution as opposed to others?”

Reviewers additionally consider applicants’ passion and commitment to their identified goal, Clark said. 

Each grant consists of two rounds of funding: an initial grant of a few hundred dollars followed by a second round of additional support conditional on the progress the team has made. The second round of funding could make the total grant as much as $2,500. This “milestone-driven” approach has worked well for Nelson Center grants in the past, Clark said. 

In line with the institutional goals of the CSREA and the Nelson Center, the grant program works toward better understanding and addressing large societal problems, according to Larrieux. “Working together in this way not only fosters greater connectivity between the centers, but it also signals that we all benefit from thinking creatively and collaboratively about complex issues.” 

The partnership also benefits students because applicants will receive feedback and support from both centers, Larreiux added. 

Clark often meets with teams during their application process to learn about their ideas and to offer developmental support such as mentors or contacts he thinks could help them in their project. Application reviewers give feedback to teams as well. 

Michelle Liu ’22 has applied for a grant to further her goals of promoting racial literacy in elementary, middle and high school students in local New Jersey school districts. She and her teammates have presented to more than 1,000 students to educate students on more subtle issues related to racism, such as racialization and code-switching. 

“We often had conversations about race, and we wanted to educate others, like high schoolers, and provide them with more meaningful explorations and engagements of race,” Liu said. “Things that you don’t have the terminology for in high school, you just brush it aside and you don’t understand it as well.” 

Applications for grants are considered on a rolling basis with no current limit on the number of grants that will be given, and recipients will be chosen jointly by members of both departments. This program is “a priority,” Clark said, and the centers hope to support as many projects as possible. 

“Students should know that tackling big problems requires creativity, collaboration, tenacity and heart,” Larrieux wrote. “Addressing structural racism and its systemic reach can feel daunting, overwhelming and too big to take on. But keep in mind that all problems, regardless of their scope or size, are approached exactly the same way — one step at a time.”

Corrections: A previous version of this article stated that Liu and her team have given presentations to schools in West Windsor Plainsboro school district. In fact, they have not given presentations to schools in this school district. The article also stated that Liu and her team have given more than 1,000 presentations. In fact, they have presented to more than 1,000 students. The Herald regrets the errors.


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