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Wabash Receives $4.5 Million LEI Grant

Wabash College has received a $4.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. as part of its initiative, Charting the Future for Indiana’s Colleges and Universities.

“Restoring Hope, Restoring Trust” includes an array of programs, partnerships, and strategies that support a single vision: to expand the national reputation of Wabash as a place where young men from new majority backgrounds find a college dedicated not just to their enrollment, but to their success and belonging. New majority students include underrepresented minority students, first-generation college students, and students who qualify for federal Pell Grants. 

This new grant follows on the heels of a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment to increase opportunities for first-generation college students, Pell Grant recipients, and Black, Latino and Native American students who are currently underrepresented in higher education. 

“In a historic moment when Americans are experiencing a loss of hope in democratic institutions and are struggling to envision a path to a more just society, we believe Wabash is uniquely positioned to restore hope and trust in the power of education to transform lives,” said Wabash President Scott E. Feller. “Our commitment to new majority students is an extension of our long-held core values and we are honored and grateful that Lilly Endowment is supporting us as we produce the diverse young leaders who will reestablish hope and rebuild trust in our communities.”

One of the goals of the grant is to increase the enrollment and graduation of young men from new majority populations.Wabash is one of 16 Indiana colleges and universities that will benefit from grants made through the final, competitive round of grantmaking in Lilly Endowment’ Charting the Future initiative. Lilly Endowment launched the three-phased Charting the Future initiative in 2019 to help leaders of the state’s 38 colleges and universities engage in thoughtful discernment about the future of their institutions and to advance strategic planning and implementation efforts to address key challenges and opportunities. In the three phases, Lilly Endowment awarded grants totaling more than $138 million to the schools.

The goals of “Restoring Hope, Restoring Trust” include increasing the enrollment and graduation of young men from new majority populations; creating academic courses that demonstrate how a timeless liberal arts education speaks to the timely issues of equity and inclusion; offering more cultural and artistic programming for Wabash and Montgomery County; providing support for research on African American historical sites in Indiana and on men’s success in higher education; and significantly expanding the engagement of Wabash students with the Crawfordsville community.

The Wabash Democracy and Public Discourse initiative will partner on some of the community engagement initiatives in the grant.“This is a game-changer for equity and student belonging and success at Wabash, said Dr. Jill Lamberton, Senior Associate Dean of the College and co-author of the grant proposal. “We want to establish the collaborations and the student and faculty support that will best educate the diverse leaders desperately needed in all segments of our society. Thanks to Lilly Endowment, we will now have time, talent, and resources to build and test programs that greatly expand how our campus thinks about and practices inclusion.”

The Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies (MXIBS), founded 50 years ago, will be the hub of the enhanced cultural programming, leadership development, and student support proposed in this grant. In recent months, MXIBS leaders have worked closely with the Mayor’s Office in Crawfordsville, local church leaders, and public safety officers to build stronger relationships and to make the community more welcoming to Wabash students of color. A collaboration with the Steward Speakers Series in Indianapolis enables the College to increase the number of high-profile leaders who visit the Wabash campus.

“Prolific, phenomenal speakers inspire individual action and collectively ignite a movement,” said Steven Jones, Director of the MXIBS and Dean for Professional Development. “By collaborating with Steward Speakers Series, we will continue the legacy of the MXIBS as a campus and community leader in breaking down barriers among people who perceived their differences were impossible to overcome. In addition, engagement with national thought leaders will prepare our graduates to lead effectively and live humanely in a country that desperately needs leadership.”

“We must ensure that all our students, regardless of background, graduate with the necessary skills to lead the thoughtful conversations and meaningful action our society needs to build more equitable and inclusive communities,” said Feller. The College’s well-established Wabash Democracy and Public Discourse initiative (WDPD) will partner on some of the community engagement initiatives in this grant, teaching Wabash students to research, design, and facilitate productive conversations on difficult topics related to race, class, equity, and inclusion that are key to restoring hope and trust in democracy.

Wabash is one of 16 Indiana colleges and universities that will benefit from grants in Lilly Endowment’ Charting the Future initiative. Nine collaborators, including the City of Crawfordsville and the Montgomery County Youth Service Bureau, will partner with Wabash on programs ranging from building stronger race relations between the community and public safety to mentoring and program development for first-generation college students and their families. A Community Partnerships Coordinator will build and maintain relationships with local organizations.

“Just as exciting to me is the grant proposal’s vision for sharing our cultural and educational resources with the local community and K-12 students in Montgomery County,” added Dr. Lamberton. “Our proposal makes a commitment that Wabash will not just use Lilly Endowment’s generosity for our own purposes. We will share our knowledge and skill with others to expand engagement with questions of equity and justice beyond our campus.”

The partnerships extend from the three school districts in Montgomery County to the Indianapolis-based Center for Leadership Development, and from the Providence Cristo Rey College and Career Preparatory High School to the IDEA Public Charter Schools in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Critical to Wabash’s collaboration with K-12 public and charter schools will be the “Pathway to Your Future” summer residence program for high school sophomores and juniors, who will live on the Wabash campus and take courses that promote college readiness and provide new majority students with the tools they will need to succeed academically and socially in college.

“Over the next decade, the number of young people graduating from Indiana high schools is projected to fall as much as 15%,” said President Feller. “The simple truth is that to continue to thrive, Wabash must attract more students from groups historically underserved by higher education and from a wider geographic area, as well as graduate a greater fraction of each incoming class. Thanks to support and encouragement from Lilly Endowment, Wabash has a profound opportunity to expand these efforts. The grant will allow Wabash to continue to be recognized as a training ground for diverse leaders, where young men from all backgrounds find a campus and surrounding community dedicated their success.”