Students and faculty make use of the University of Chicago’s Darfur Action and Education Fund

When the Darfur Action and Education Fund was established last year at the University of Chicago, administrators asked for boldness and creativity in the 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."

The Darfur Action and Education Fund was established in early 2007 after University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer allocated $200,000 for research connected to the human-rights crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, writing 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."

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 future subsequent reviews.

During the most recent round of reviews in November 2007, the committee approved two projects: "The Humanities in Different Circumstances" and a series of Human Rights internships.

"The Humanities in Different Circumstances" will consist of a series of workshops with University faculty members and students who are enrolled in the Division of the Humanities, led by Barton Schultz, Senior Lecturer in the Humanities and Director of the Civic Knowledge Project.

The workshops will finish with a large conference on campus on May 31, featuring academics, artists and intellectuals who live in Sudan but still find a way to make humanities a part of their lives-regardless of the extreme circumstances surrounding them.

"This will bring a human face to the effort that's being made for the arts and humanities to survive in very threatening circumstances," Schultz said. "The conference will be a truly unique opportunity for this community to learn about an entirely different dimension of the crisis in Sudan and Darfur."

The four internships will be "a very valuable" addition to the Human Rights Program's very popular summer internship program, said Susan Gzesh, Director of the Human Rights Program. "These are highly coveted spots," she added.

More than 125 students apply annually for the Human Rights internships-this year about 140 students applied. There were 30 internships available, but the addition through the Darfur Action and Education Fund will bring the total to 34.

Following proposal reviews in June 2007, the committee approved two projects: "International Conference on Genocide" and the "Darfur Education and Community Participation Project."

The "International Conference on Genocide" was held April 4-5 on campus and drew students, faculty, staff and members of the greater community. Ambassador Francis Deng, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, delivered the keynote address.

Three panels of speakers, including international, national and local figures, addressed 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 Darfur Education and Community Participation Project sent Jonathan Wildt, a second-year student in SSA, to Darfur, where he is helping construct an early-childhood education center in Dereig Displacement Camp near Nyala, Sudan. Wildt is working with the Education Development Organization, which planned the project.

Moffat said that Wildt is documenting the process and working to learn more about community organization of displaced peoples of Sudan and is assisting in future aid and development programs. Moffat added that judging from a recent e-mail, Wildt is happy with the project's progress thus far.

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.

Additional information is available at http://fundfordarfur.uchicago.edu.

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Photo by Dan Dry

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