USIA Awards Grant to Montgomery College for CIVITAS Project,
Forging Links to Strengthen Democratic Institutions in Caribbean

– A new three-year grant from the United States Information Agency (USIA) will enable Montgomery College to forge new links with academic partners in Washington, DC and the Caribbean. The grant, CIVITAS, was announced formally during an Inaugural Luncheon at the USIA’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, on Thursday, December 10, 1998.

The $120,000 grant, which comes from the USIA’s College and University Affiliation Program (CUAP), will team MC with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (one of the preeminent graduate research centers), the University of Puerto Rico Institute for Caribbean Studies, and the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO)/Dominican Republic. The long-term reciprocal ties among participating institutions will be forged through faculty exchanges that promote civilian expertise and participation in security matters.

CUAP is the USIA’s institutional grant program that fosters sustainable linkages in humanities and social sciences between U.S. and foreign academic institutions. These linkages are designed to contribute to a more secure and prosperous world. The grant program supports curriculum, faculty and staff development, collaborative research, and outreach activities that have a multiplier effect and a positive long-term impact among the institutions involved.

MC is one of the few community colleges to ever receive such an award, says Barbara Strunk, MC Director of Grants. According to her, awards of this kind are normally given to leading American universities with extensive international constituencies, and rarely given to community colleges.

"The grant puts Montgomery College in the same league as Duke University and the Georgetown University School of Foreign Services, which were funded at the same level by USIA last year," said Strunk. "It reflects the growing involvement in international issues at the College, which last year won a grant from the Department of Education to strengthen its international education program."

MC is considered one of the most ethnically diverse community colleges in the nation, with a full-time enrollment of approximately 20,000 students, more than 50 percent of whom are non-White. Nearly 26 percent are African American, 15.9 percent are Asian, and 10 percent are Latino. The international student body represents more than 150 countries of origin.

The College has also recently initiated collaborations with scholars from the Brookings Institution and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies that bring the expertise of major think tanks and universities in international affairs to the community college through faculty development seminars and public programming.

The grant builds on PROCIVIL, an innovative program launched by FLACSO/Dominican Republic and supported by the Ford Foundation. PROCIVIL reinforces Dominican democracy by strengthening civilian expertise and participation in security matters. The program has two phases. In phase one, the program will bring Dominican and U.S. academics together to create a multilingual bibliography on civil-military relations in the Caribbean; a college-level curriculum on the same theme; and a newsgroup and database to encourage study of the role of security forces in the Caribbean. It also creates a permanent PROCIVIL office to promote research in civil-military relations and discussion between government officials and members of civil society.

In the second phase, Dominican professors will travel to the U.S. to take semester-long courses in political science, law, sociology, and history, and to present seminars on topics relating to democratic transitions in the region. U.S. professors will also travel to Santo Domingo to offer specialized courses on comparative military history, constitutional government, and rule of law.

"The grant will afford opportunities for faculty collaboration and exchange that will build lasting ties between U.S. and Dominican institutions," says Dr. Michael Fischetti, MC professor of Political Science and CIVITAS project director. "At the same time, it promotes the ongoing transition to democracy in Central America."

Fischetti is a distinguished and longstanding member of the faculty. His expertise in politics is frequently called upon as commentary by local and regional media. That expertise, particularly in comparative international politics, and his research projects in conflict resolution will enable him to make a significant academic contribution to the project.

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