Photo by Talisman

Undergraduates from the School of Public Affairs will have an opportunity to study north or south of the U.S. border as part of a new cross-cultural project designed to teach them about the role of nongovernmental organizations and civic culture in other lands.

Called “The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Sustainable Community Development,” the three-year project will also bring students from Canada and Mexico to study at Baruch. The project is supported by a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).

Public Affairs Dean David Birdsell called the project a “splendid opportunity to internationalize our curricula, something SPA is committed to doing.” Because Canada, the U.S., and Mexico are distinct societies with varying levels of civic engagement, the project will also let students experience “what policy environments look like in other nations,” Birdsell added.

The program is the brainchild of Associate Professor of Public Affairs John Casey, who hopes that it will become a “template” for future student and faculty exchanges. For SPA, the grant couldn’t come at a better time. “By a happy coincidence, we are just putting together a new MPA track in housing and community development,” Casey says. The concentration will dovetail nicely with the grant, which also supports curriculum development.

Under the terms of the grant, visiting students and SPA degree candidates alike will take part in internships at a grassroots level, working with settlement houses, block associations, and other local action groups. They will also intern with Mexican immigrant organizations in New York and Toronto, because, as Casey notes, sustainable community development “is a key issue in supporting the integration of immigrants who move between NAFTA countries.”

—Zane Berzins