Through Children's Eyes
Rutgers–Camden Earns Mellon Foundation Grant to Explore Race and Social Justice Through Childhood Studies
The Rutgers University–Camden Department of Childhood Studies will bolster its international reputation as a leader in its field with an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Higher Learning Program. The prestigious four-year grant, which began January 1, 2023, supports Rutgers–Camden’s “Rethinking Race and Justice Through Childhood Studies” project, which will study race through a series of interdisciplinary programs in education, civic engagement, and professional development.
Rutgers–Camden Chancellor Antonio D. Tillis applauded the childhood studies department for its trailblazing scholarship around race, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“We are driving the conversation while giving our students firsthand opportunities to see and experience social justice in action,” Chancellor Tillis said.
Susan Miller, an associate professor of childhood studies in the Rutgers University–Camden College of Arts and Sciences and the principal investigator on the project, noted that the grant will allow the department to develop courses and professional development initiatives for students of all levels and disciplines. By offering a “complete look” at the humanities, the university will help students make connections between the skills they are learning and their professional goals.
“Students will realize the fuller scope of careers they could pursue in this world,” Miller said. “This grant will support those experiences while building community partnerships.”
The award will also support the expansion of the existing Centering Black Childhoods Speaker Series, which is free and open to the public as an avenue to build collaborations and encourage ongoing discussion and actions. The series is funded by the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy (IDEA) Innovation Grants Program, and emerged from the Childhood Studies Racial Justice Initiative, a collaboration between Department of Childhood Studies faculty and graduate students developed in response to the reinvigorated movement for racial justice in summer 2020.
The grant will also benefit efforts to host a biennial conference in childhood studies. Project leaders note that, as an interdisciplinary field, childhood studies does not currently have its own professional association or conference; the proposed conference would establish Rutgers–Camden as an institutional hub.
Dan Cook, chair of the Department of Childhood Studies, affirmed that the Mellon Foundation grant is not only transformative for the department, but for Rutgers–Camden as a whole.
“The project will bring new voices and perspectives to questions and issues of race and identity,” Cook said. “Like many things in our program, this project is a collective endeavor arising from our dedication to the core values of Rutgers–Camden: racial inclusivity, accessibility, and partnership.”
Creative Design: Douglas Shelton