February 21, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 10

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    Students, faculty utilize Darfur Action, Education Fund

    By Julia Morse
    News Office


    Jonathan Wildt, a second-year in SSA, is helping construct an early-childhood education center in Dereig Displacement Camp near Nyala, Sudan.

    Photo courtesy of Jonathan Wildt


    When the $200,000 Darfur Action and Education Fund was established last year, University administrators asked for boldness and creativity in proposals—and that is exactly what they got.

    “Members of the Committee for the Darfur Action and Education Fund have been extremely impressed by the quality of the proposals received so far.

    “The topics have been broad and very creative and have originated from students to University departments and programs,” said Deputy Provost for Research Keith Moffat, who is chair of the faculty-student committee. “But, of course, we are interested in attracting additional proposals and will continue to be committed to the action, education and research this fund supports until every penny of the $200,000 has been exhausted.”

    Three rounds of reviews have been held thus far, and the committee has approved five “high-quality” proposals, Moffat said, noting that a fourth review will take place this quarter as well as subsequent reviews in the future.

    During the committee’s first reviews in April 2007, one proposal was approved: “The Biology and Sociology of AIDS: A Lecture Series for Autumn and Winter of 2008.”

    Harold Pollack, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, and Jose Quintans, the William Rainey Harper Professor in Pathology and the College and Associate Dean and Master in the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division, will lead “The Biology and Sociology of AIDS” lecture series in the College during the upcoming Autumn Quarter this year and Winter Quarter 2009. Funding from the Darfur Action and Education Fund will support an associated public lecture series of nine speakers, three of whom would speak on AIDS and public health topics directly connected to issues surrounding the conflict in Darfur.

    Following a June 2007 proposal review, the committee selected two additional projects: “International Conference on Genocide” and the “Darfur Education and Community Participation Project.”

    Organized by staff in the Human Rights Program of the International Studies Center, the “International Conference on Genocide” will be held this year on campus.

    Three panels of speakers, ranging from international to national to local figures, will discuss the topics “Crime Without a Name: Genocide in Comparative Perspective,” “Judicial and non-Judicial Responses to Genocide” and “Never Again? Darfur, Sudan and Genocide.”

    The committee’s approval of the “Darfur Education and Community Participation Project” has sent Jonathan Wildt, a second-year student in SSA, to Darfur. He is participating in the construction of an early-childhood education center in Dereig Displacement Camp near Nyala, Sudan, while working with the Education Development Organization, which planned the project.

    Wildt is documenting the process and working to learn more about community organization of displaced peoples of the Sudan, and he is assisting in planning future aid and development programs. Moffat noted that judging from a recent e-mail, Wildt is happy with the progress of his project in Sudan.

    A third proposal review in November 2007 yielded two more approved research projects: “The Humanities in Difficult Circumstances” and a series of Human Rights internships.

    Led by Bart Schultz, Senior Lecturer in the Humanities and Director of the Civic Knowledge Project, “The Humanities in Difficult Circumstances” will consist of a series of workshops with University faculty members and students who are enrolled in the Division of the Humanities. A large conference will be held at Chicago and will feature academics, artists and intellectuals who live in Sudan and still find a way to make humanities part of their lives, even under the most extreme circumstances.

    Finally, four summer internships will be funded for students whose interests lie in general issues surrounding the conflict in Darfur. In its 10th year at the University, the Human Rights Program has run a very popular summer internship program for about 30 students annually. The approval of this project, led by Susan Gzesh, Director of the Human Rights Program in the International Studies Center, will allow for four additional internship spots.

    The Darfur Action and Education Fund was established in early 2007 after President Zimmer allocated $200,000 for research connected to the human-rights crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, writing in a statement at the time that he hoped the fund would “encourage creative and entrepreneurial thinking about University-based activities that will broaden knowledge and help prepare our students—through real-world experience and scholarly work—to advance human rights and the well-being of people around the world.”

    Committee members include Gzesh; Clark Gilpin, the Margaret E. Burton Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School and the College; students Aliza Shira Levine and Daniel Kimerling; and until his recent retirement, Fred Stafford, Senior Director of Special Projects in the office of the Vice-President for Research and for Argonne Laboratory.