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It Takes a Grant (to Build a Village)

The SUNY team on a recent trip to Haiti includes, Chairman H. Carl McCall and Chancellor Kristina Johnson (center, in straw hats) and CID’s Heather Senecal, in green dress. (Photo courtesy of SUNY)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 27, 2017) —The University at Albany is part of a network of SUNY campuses and nonprofits that will be working together to build a 40-acre sustainable village and learning community in Arcahaie, Haiti.

Under the leadership of SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and the SUNY Office of Global Affairs, 10 SUNY campuses and five non-profit organizations will develop educational, economic and social programs and services as envisioned by the Arcahaie community and its roughly 200,000 residents. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded the statewide SUNY network an $800,000 grant for the project, which also will create new learning opportunities for UAlbany and Haitian students, as well as research opportunities for faculty.

The intent of the SVLC campus is to design education programs that respond to the demands of the community (and Haiti); encourage collaborative learning between professors, researchers, and students; and provide both SUNY and Haitian students with service learning and experiential learning opportunities.

This multi-disciplinary approach will bring together complementary data and research for development, and will include mapping the property and surrounding areas of Arcahaie, capturing community census information, identifying environmental constraints and capacities, and compiling data to build an understanding of community needs regarding education, socio-economic development, civil society involvement and local business support.

“It’s a wonderful thing to bring so many talented people together to do good,” said James Stellar, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “The SUNY-Kellogg Foundation partnership will make it possible to bring something positive to the hard-pressed people of Haiti.”

Center for International Development to play key role

UAlbany will provide technical assistance in international development and management to the project through its Rockefeller College Center for International Development (CID) by developing a framework for Learning through Development (LtD), which will focus on building university partnerships among the SUNY campuses and partner institutions, leading to capacity-building efforts in the region and programs for students that enhance access, completion and success, inquiry and engagement, according to Heather Senecal, project administrative officer at CID. These outcomes will be achieved through applied learning, service learning, research, development, learning in a digital environment and community led, collaborative programming.

Senecal said capturing community census information and identifying environmental constraints are some of the steps the project is taking to “understand the community’s needs regarding education, socio-economic development, civil society involvement and local business support so that the project is designed from the community’s perspective and with the community.” This work is a continuation of a visioning process Arcahaie undertook in 2013/2014 and the SUNY project is working to put their vision into action.

The land for the project was donated by Carmelle Bellefleur, a Nassau Community College professor emeritus.

A multi-disciplinary approach

Another key goal of the project is to provide SUNY students with service learning and experiential learning opportunities, according to Gina Volynsky, director of CID.

For example, CID intern and Rockefeller master’s student Kyle McQuay is with a team in Haiti this week conducting a needs assessment in Arcahaie, Volynsky said. The research he collects will be used as part of his capstone project for a master’s degree in international affairs.

“The CID is looking forward to working with the people of Arcahaie in Haiti, along with others within the SUNY system, to support the community, while providing opportunities for our students to contribute to the world, learn and grow,” Volynsky said.

Each campus to bring expertise

Each SUNY campus will specialize in a different area, making this project truly a collaborative effort. The areas by institution are:

  • UAlbany, international development
  • Binghamton University, public administration
  • University at Buffalo, social work
  • Buffalo State College, performing arts
  • SUNY Cobleskill, agriculture and fisheries
  • SUNY-ESF, landscape architecture
  • Nassau Community College, nursing
  • SUNY New Paltz, disasters mental health
  • Stony Brook University, health sciences
  • Upstate Medical University, public health

Also participating are the African Methodist Episcopal Church Service and Development Agency (AME-SADA), Effort Commun Pour Le Developpement de L'Arcahaie (ECODA), Haiti Development Institute, Hope on a String and YouthBuild International.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.