St. Olaf College | News

Mellon Foundation grant to support new institute at St. Olaf

StOlaf470x325The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded St. Olaf College a $150,000 president’s discretionary grant. President David R. Anderson ’74 will use these funds to support a new cross-disciplinary institute dedicated to improving the quality of public discourse.

The Institute for Freedom and Community aims to foster intellectual inquiry and meaningful discussion of important political and social issues. The institute is based on the belief that when individuals are free to explore multiple viewpoints and to acknowledge the paradoxes and complexity of today’s problems, they can more effectively challenge presuppositions and engage in productive dialogue. The institute will promote the exercise of this freedom in ways that also preserve and strengthen the common bonds that unite us.

One of the goals of the institute is to promote productive discourse in a democracy. Through its programs and educational offerings, the institute will underscore the value of having free and spirited exchanges on highly controversial subjects in a respectful and constructive manner.

“The need for Americans to engage in informed debate about the relative merits of different theories of government and the different approaches to public policy that would flow from them is self-evident,” says Anderson. “This generous grant from the Mellon Foundation will provide the seed money for St. Olaf to grow a forum for our students and others to participate in those debates.”

The institute will also incorporate the principle of civil disagreement into the academic program and campus life at St. Olaf. An annual symposium will address a significant public policy issue and encourage the exchange of divergent ideas. Through the institute, nationally prominent thinkers, activists, and leaders will be invited to campus during the academic year to learn alongside St. Olaf faculty and students.