President’s Initiatives Fund program updates
As WestConn President James W. Schmotter had hoped, the anticipation and excitement about new programs, ideas and possibilities was high around campus when the recipients of the President’s Initiatives Funds were announced in January. Nearly nine months later, seven of the dozen programs selected to receive funding have been launched and the rest are well underway.
Here’s a recap of what’s taken place so far:
- Step into the World in New York City
“On a scale of one-to-10, I was hoping for a seven — and we got a 12,” said Friar Mike Lasky of WestConn’s Newman Center, describing how things went when he and Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Walter Bernstein took nine WestConn students to New York City in March to learn firsthand about human rights issues.
The five-day New York trip, a President’s Initiatives Fund program, was the result of a collaboration between WestConn and Franciscans International, a non-governmental organization (NGO), which “works on behalf of the poor for peace, justice and the care of creation at the United Nations in New York and Geneva.” Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, the trip offered participating students the opportunity to learn about women’s issues in the context of a larger global reality, Lasky said.
Nearly two-dozen students applied, via essay, for the 10 spots to go on the trip. Bernstein and Lasky selected the participants after reading the essays, which detailed what the students hoped to bring to — and learn from — the experience. Although they were mostly strangers before the trip, the students — whose majors ranged from political science to English, psychology to illustration, and communications to community counseling — successfully gelled as a group.
Together they toured the United Nations (U.N.) and received a briefing at the United States’ Mission to the U.N. They attended NGO discussions about international women’s issues, heard about human rights and immigration issues from Franciscan advocacy workers, enjoyed a performance of the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical “The Color Purple” and made a pilgrimage to Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain — the first major commissioned work of art in New York City created by a female artist, Emma Stebbins, in 1868.
The students also actively participated in experiences designed to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals in the area, serving lunch at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen — one of the largest in the world — and rolling up their sleeves at a youth program at the Henry Street Settlement, a social services, arts and health care resource on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. They held an open screening and discussion about “Hotel Rwanda” upon their return to campus and plan to participate in a walk for Uganda in the fall, so the impact of the experience will continue long past the five days spent in New York.
“One student was blown away at the soup kitchen,” Bernstein said. “She never realized people live this way. Being made aware of it was helpful to her. That’s what is so powerful about experiential education in real-world settings.”
“It really opened the students’ eyes to the plight of the poor in ways they had not imagined,” Lasky said. “Educating the whole person includes a spiritual dimension and these students came away with an understanding of the fundamental dignity of the human person. I’m grateful to Dr. Schmotter for having the vision to make this possible.”
- The World at Our Doorstep: A Series of World Music, Dance and Cultural Events
Nearly a half-dozen world music events took place between January and April 2006, thanks to The World at Our Doorstep: A Series of World Music, Dance and Cultural Events series supported by the President’s Initiatives Fund. As many as five more are planned between September 2006 and May 2007.
Proposed by Executive Assistant to the President for Multicultural Affairs Barbara Barnwell, Director of Diversity Programs Daryle Dennis and Judith Cook Tucker, director of the Connecticut Folklife Project, the series seeks to “reflect, and draw upon, the ethnic diversity of the college and the community that surrounds it.” Examples of the extent to which this is true are abundant.
In January, Gabriel Alegria and 4FutureMusic: Afro-Peruvian Jazz Fusion offered a master class for music students before performing before an appreciative audience of more than 550 people. February featured Gideon Ampeire, who conducted two workshops in the music and culture of Uganda for Black History Month. In March, Puerto Rican musician Lorena Garay spoke at a Women’s History Month event before performing four days later with Trio Surcarci, a group featuring the traditional music of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Latin America. A Diversity Month performance featuring a Scottish Tartan Day celebration with Celtic artists MacTalla Mor capped the first group of World Music concerts in April.
The planned schedule for fall 2006-spring 2007 will feature even more examples of musical diversity. September will offer the Klezical Tradition, Eastern European Jewish music. October will bring Rossijanochka Folkloric Youth Dancers and music from St. Petersburg, Russia, as well as Chilean guitarists The Alturas Duo with special guest Javier Farias. In November, a Swiss or German folkloric performer will be featured during International Education Week. Preliminary plans are underway for spring 2007 artists to include a Chinese dance troupe, an African performance group, a mini Folklife Festival and more.
"One of the most satisfying outcomes of this series has been the outpouring of support from each highlighted ethnic group,” Cook Tucker said. “They have been issued a heartfelt ‘invitation to the party’ and are attending the events in strong numbers. Hand-in-hand with their participation is that of the general public, which has embraced each performance, filling the venues to capacity. Many audience members have expressed delight in joining the celebration of the cultures found in our community. In particular, they have been excited to be part of a culturally mixed audience, and have been grateful to come onto campus for the events that firmly establish WestConn as a true ‘People’s University’.”
- Student Writers’ Conference
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt’s keynote talk provided the exclamation point to a story of impressive achievements during the statewide conference for student and community writers held May 6 and 7 on the WestConn Midtown campus.
Professor of English Dr. John Briggs, a principal organizer of the writers’ conference and sponsor of the President’s Initiatives Fund proposal, said the May 6 program of group workshops, panel discussions and readings, capped by McCourt’s public lecture, drew a robust registration of more than 120 high school, undergraduate and graduate students from across the state. The total marked an increase of nearly 50 percent from the student enrollment at the 2005 writers’ conference at Central Connecticut State University. This year’s event introduced a new second-day program of writing workshops open to the general public that attracted about 30 community participants.
Student participants in the May 6 conference workshops enjoyed the privilege of gaining insights into their craft and receiving critiques of their work from some 45 published writers, including faculty members from the four Connecticut State University campuses as well as guest faculty from outside the CSU System. The May 7 workshops for community writers were led by four award-winning professional writers: authors Pete Duval and Daniel Asa Rose, poet Vivian Shipley and screenwriter Hassan Ildari.
Briggs credited the success of this year’s conference to the strong participation of faculty members from WestConn and other CSU institutions, as well as solid cooperation from WestConn’s administrative and support services. He worked closely in planning and staging the 2006 conference with the principal co-organizer for the event, CCSU Poet-in-Residence Ravi Shankar.
Briggs said the conference succeeded in raising public awareness of WestConn’s strengths in the teaching of creative and professional writing, and provided a welcome opportunity for faculty members to work with students “who are there not to get a grade, but because they are passionate about writing.”
“Writers tend to see themselves, and are seen, as working in their garrets in a solitary exercise,” he noted. “That certainly happens, but in other respects it’s also about collaboration, gathering information, just knowing other people are going through the same kind of agonies you’re going through. What we hoped to do at many different levels was to foster a sense of community among writers in Connecticut among students, faculty and professional writers.”
Lisa Smith-Overton, a student participant in the conference, said she found the workshops on specific writing genres especially helpful.
“The smaller group setting contributed greatly in the constructive feedback needed for a ‘struggling writer,’” she said. “I was able to make important contacts and received extremely useful advice in marketing my writing experience.”
- Theater Collaboration with Teatro de Arte in Guayaquil, Ecuador
A troupe of 20 WestConn theatre arts students became the toast of Guayaquil this spring following their performance in Ecuador of a contemporary musical adaptation of the Shakespearean play “Twelfth Night,” part of a collaborative theater project supported by the President’s Initiative program, Guayaquil’s Teatro de Arte and other Ecuadoran sponsors.
WestConn Theatre Arts Chairperson Frank Herbert and Associate Chairperson Sal Trapani organized the eight-day visit to Ecuador’s most populous city in late April to present a series of technical and performance workshops at the Teatro de Arte and schools in the surrounding community. The visit was capped by the WestConn student troupe’s staging of “Twelfth Night: The 1960s San Francisco Psychedelic Musical,” which drew an enthusiastic reception at the Teatro de Arte and favorable reviews in Guayaquil’s leading newspapers.
Herbert noted the WestConn group left a lasting mark on the Ecuadoran arts scene. In addition to the exhilarating Teatro de Arte performance before a sold-out house of 800, the workshops led by WestConn faculty and students reached out to as many as 1,500 students from elementary school to university level, and a gala reception sponsored by the U.S. consulate brought the WestConn guests together with leading arts, business and political figures in Guayaquil.
“From my perspective, it was a win-win situation,” Herbert said. “Our students had the opportunity to experience another culture, to perform to a full and appreciative house. We had never presented a theater production to a non-English-speaking audience before, and we thought it would be a terrific opportunity to do so. We received a standing ovation.”
Trapani found the “Twelfth Night” production’s rich visuals, music and dance easily bridged the language gap between actors and audience. In lively exchanges with theatre-goers and with students and teachers at their well-attended workshops, he found Ecuadorans both perceptive in their understanding of the theater and eager to learn from their WestConn mentors.
“Our students discovered what it is like to be in a country where freedom is not so readily taken for granted, which reminded us how much we should appreciate what we have here,” Trapani said. “They are culturally starved as well, and this gave us an opportunity to give something back. They were so appreciative for what we gave them — they didn’t want to let us go!”
- Practicum in Global Business Environments
President James W. Schmotter led a WestConn mission to China in July for discussions with faculty and administrators at Sias International University, an important step in laying the groundwork for the Practicum in Global Business Environments project sponsored by the President’s Initiatives Fund.
Schmotter was accompanied by Ancell School of Business Dean Dr. Allen Morton, Assistant Professor of Marketing Dr. Karen Koza and Enrollment Management Officer William Hawkins. The visit afforded an opportunity for team members to meet with Sias administrators and faculty including Shawn Chen, founder and chief executive officer of Sias. Representatives of the two institutions discussed appropriate criteria and logistics for future instructional collaboration between the Ancell School and the business management department at the six-year-old university in Henan, China’s most populous province.
A central objective of the Practicum in Global Business Environments initiative will be to develop at least one marketing project each semester during the 2006-07 academic year, to be conducted in courses offered concurrently at WestConn and Sias. Each project team formed for course assignments will include students from both universities, who will use video conferencing, e-mail and other means of communication to collaborate on completion of assignments. Ancell faculty members also will seek ways to develop and incorporate team-teaching strategies with business department faculty at Sias.
The project builds upon the partnership forged in the spring 2006 semester to team Sias business students with WestConn students in the marketing department’s capstone course, Marketing Management 490: Analysis, Planning and Implementation. Under the guidance of Koza, instructor for Marketing 490, WestConn students overcame logistical and technical problems in communications and differences in educational philosophy to work with their Sias counterparts on development of marketing plans for a Chinese bus company considering a foray into the U.S. marketplace. As part of the project, WestConn members of the team produced a four-hour, real-time presentation to their student colleagues at Sias. Partial funding was provided by the Davis Grant Foundation through the university’s Center for Business Research.
One of the most successful experiments during the pilot project was the presentation of “The China Forum,” a program that brought business professionals from the Chinese community to WestConn to share their insights on the commercial, social and cultural environment in their native country. Morton noted the positive response to the initial event, produced specifically for Marketing 490 students, has encouraged the Ancell School to consider organizing a new “China Forum” open to the entire WestConn community during the 2006-07 academic year.
Other WestConn faculty participants in the Practicum in Global Business Environments project include Professor of Marketing Dr. Ron Drozdenko; Donna Coelho, coordinator of community relations for the Center for Business Research; Associate Professor of Management Dr. Fred Maidment; Professor of Justice and Law Administration Dr. Charles Mullaney; and Xiaomei Gong, research librarian in the Robert S. Young Library.
- Danbury Global Heritage Project
Professor of Education Dr. Darla Shaw has been building bridges between the classroom and the community throughout her teaching career — and with support from the President’s Initiatives Fund, she has brought some of Danbury’s youngest and oldest citizens together in a surprising society of mutual admiration.
As a collaborative venture launched under the umbrella of Shaw’s Danbury Global History initiative, fifth-grade students from Danbury’s South Street School met with senior citizens at the nearby Elmwood Hall Senior Center to interview the longtime Danbury residents about their life experiences and recollections spanning more than half a century. Shaw, herself approaching her 50th anniversary as a teacher, knew the seniors had much to teach their young interviewers, and the curiosity to learn from the students as well.
“I really didn’t know how this was going to work out,” Shaw said, “but it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. The interaction between these two groups was remarkable — they showed the most incredible respect for each other.”
The fifth-graders from South Street School returned several weeks later to read excerpts from the reports they had written for a class book to be presented to their new friends at Elmwood Hall. What happened next caught even Shaw by surprise: The seniors organized a visit in June to South Street School to learn first-hand from the fifth-graders about their elementary school experience. The overwhelming enthusiasm evidenced by young and old participants alike has persuaded Shaw to discuss fresh ideas for collaboration between South Street School and Elmwood Hall in the 2006-07 academic year.
The student-senior linkup is just one among half a dozen Danbury Global History projects that will continue well into 2007. Among the first to be completed is WestConn fine arts graduate student Betty Ann Medeiros’ mural celebrating the legendary contributions to classical music of composer Charles Ives and soprano Marian Anderson, who had longstanding ties to Danbury. The mural will be unveiled at an artist’s reception to be held in mid-November at the Ives Concert Hall in White Hall.
Deepening Danbury residents’ appreciation of the rich history and immigrant experience of their community is the common theme in other projects including the collection and archiving of oral histories from longtime local residents, and the development of a Danbury history brochure to be used for community promotions and future walking tours. A chance encounter at a community aerobics class with nationally acclaimed cartoonist Orlando Busino inspired Shaw to propose a collaboration to create a book on Danbury’s hatting industry suitable for students at the third-grade level, targeted for completion in spring 2007.
Shaw also has reached out to students and professionals in the performing arts. A theatrical reenactment presented this spring by WestConn students at Danbury schools portrayed scenes from the lives of Anderson, Ives and other notable figures in Danbury history. In October, WestConn will host the premiere of “Historical Ghost Tours,” a mixed-media program of film and live performance sponsored by the Danbury Historical Society to feature six celebrated spirits associated with various campus and community sites. In a new production slated for March 2007, WestConn’s theatre arts department will join with the new magnet school on the Westside campus to stage “Give My Regards to Danbury,” a musical revue re-creating performances from the Great Danbury Fair prior to its closing in 1982.
“We’re trying to make Danbury come alive for the children, for the immigrants in our community, for everyone,” Shaw said. “Many people here have no idea of the importance of Danbury to the region, the state and the country.”
The most ambitious endeavor in the Danbury Global History initiative is the project to produce a feature film about the Danbury hatting industry directed by Irv Jarvis, whose credits include a previous documentary about the Danbury Fair. Jarvis has begun researching historical and photo archives on the industry and conducted interviews with individuals connected to the major hatting companies, with the objective of completing work on the film by mid-2007 for marketing to PBS and other broadcast companies.
Shaw said the diverse projects currently in progress reflect her underlying educational philosophy that the learning experience does not end at the borders of the campus.
“My joy is working in the community, making contacts and bringing people together who wouldn’t normally come together,” she explained. “I love my students to go out into the community, because they will learn so much more than if they simply remain in the classroom.”
- Global Academy in Puerto Rico
For Dr. Stacey Alba Skar, chairperson of the world languages and literature department, the debut this August of WestConn’s Global Academy in Puerto Rico is about much more than a two-week immersion in the Spanish language — it’s about experiencing the fullness of Puerto Rican culture and society, and bringing that experience home to classrooms across Connecticut.
Inspired by preparations for opening this fall of the new Western Connecticut Academy of International Studies Elementary School on the Westside campus, Skar began brainstorming with Professor of Education Dr. Darla Shaw to craft a proposal for a multi-disciplinary program designed to deepen cross-cultural understanding among current and future teachers at the elementary, middle and secondary school levels. The Global Academy gained the university’s endorsement as the recipient of a President’s Initiatives Fund grant, which provided major support for the Academy’s launch with a two-week program in Puerto Rico from Aug. 7-21.
Skar designed a unique program that begins with instruction and field experience at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) at Mayaguez, followed by an intensive introduction to teaching theory and practice at a model school in Mayaguez serving students from kindergarten through grade 8. UPR-Mayaguez faculty members will lecture and lead field trips exploring Puerto Rico’s politics, economy, ecology, social dynamics and popular culture, presented within the framework of a comprehensive language-immersion experience. The Global Academy will conclude with a week of pedagogy workshops, field observation and teacher shadowing at the Winnie’s Active Learning Kids’ School (WALKS) in Mayaguez.
Skar said the 16 participants in the 2006 Global Academy represent a cross-section of experience levels, from teachers in the field and recent education graduates to current undergraduate students preparing for a career in teaching. Levels of language proficiency vary just as widely, and Skar emphasized the program was structured to enable every participant to benefit from the experience of language and cultural immersion.
“They’re not only going to be taking lessons in the language, but also in the sciences, business, art, history and more,” she observed. “We wanted it to be a true cross-cultural exchange, instead of just taking Spanish in a different place.”
“No matter what their discipline, they will be able to bring this all together to gain a greater cultural awareness when they come back and work with students in our local schools who come from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Ecuador and other places in Latin America,” she added. “They also will understand better what it means for these students to learn a new language, and why it is not always easy to make the transition.”
The selection of Puerto Rico for WestConn’s first Global Academy program was especially appropriate, she added, since it afforded participating students an opportunity to “gain a better understanding of the complex and ambiguous historical and cultural situation of Puerto Rico, and its relationship with the United States. In the context of the current immigration debate, Puerto Ricans face ignorance among those who still assume that anyone who speaks Spanish is not part of the United States. From the Puerto Rican perspective, they didn’t come to the U.S. — the U.S. came to them.”
Skar received significant assistance in curriculum planning for the Global Academy from Shaw; Dr. Rick Asselta, the Jane Goodall Institute Roots and Shoots Program director who now resides in Puerto Rico; Judith Cook Tucker, director of the Connecticut Folklife Project and adjunct professor of music; and Dr. Maribel Acosta Lugo, a former teaching colleague of Skar who now serves on the faculty of the UPR-Mayaguez.
“I think it’s one of the most important projects we’ve ever done here,” Shaw said. “We were co-teaching in the classrooms, sharing our techniques and learning about their techniques. This is such a rich experience for someone coming back to teach in our area of Connecticut.”
President’s Initiatives Fund projects still on the drawing board or about to be undertaken include the following:
- Red River Project
Plans are well advanced for introduction of customized curriculum offerings in Vietnamese language, history and public policy during the 2006-07 academic year to prepare participating undergraduate students for a six-week research trip next spring to the Red River basin in northern Vietnam.
As coordinators of the Red River Project, Assistant Professor of History and Non-Western Cultures Dr. Wynn Wilcox and Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Christopher Kukk have set a busy instructional and research agenda over the coming year for a select team of students drawn from five academic disciplines. In the fall 2006 and spring 2007 semesters, students will take an introductory course in the Vietnamese language and an interdisciplinary research seminar, Globalization in Northern Vietnam, led by Wilcox and Kukk with guest lecturers from other disciplines. The seminar will explore development, water resource and globalization issues in Vietnam’s Red River basin, stretching from the nation’s agrarian heartland upriver to the heavily populated and industrialized delta region centered around Hanoi.
Students also will define and develop research proposals in preparation for their trip to northern Vietnam from May to July 2007. Under the guidance of WestConn faculty advisers in several disciplines, students will pursue their chosen research topics at relevant sites, ranging from anthropological field study in highland regions to archival research at Hanoi libraries on the history and development of the Red River region.
“This project will give students not only the ability to do primary research in the field, but they also will learn how to publish materials in this area,” Wilcox observed. “We hope to present our findings at WestConn and Connecticut State University research conferences, and ultimately to publish the research papers from this project in an edited volume.”
- The Challenges of Global Community: Immigration, Assimilation and Diversity, Past and Present
Documenting the immigrant experience in the Greater Danbury area over the past century is the primary focus of The Challenges of Global Community: Immigration, Assimilation and Diversity, an oral history project supported by the President’s Initiatives Fund.
Associate Professor of History and Non-Western Cultures Dr. Burton Peretti, one of the lead faculty coordinators for the project, said initial project meetings have focused on planning specific course assignments during the 2006-07 academic year dedicated to recording oral histories of immigrants and their descendants in the Greater Danbury region. The goal of these assignments, confirmed for four classes in the fall semester, will be to train students in oral history technique and methodology and to begin the collection of immigrant interviews that will become the basis for creation of a western Connecticut oral history archive.
Peretti noted the project team also is exploring alternative technologies to determine the most effective choice for recording, transcribing and storing oral histories. An oral history Web page designed by WestConn librarians Jenny Innes and Veronica Kenausis will facilitate Internet access during field research. Adjunct Professor of History Shannon Doherty attended a conference in July on use of digital technology in oral history collection to gather useful information for future recordings.
WestConn faculty and student participants in the project are collaborating with area historical society and immigrant community representatives to organize for collection of oral histories over the coming year. Coordinated class assignments to document the immigrant experience in the region in turn will enable the university “to establish an online oral history repository by June 2007,” Peretti said. A conference to be convened at the conclusion of the project will provide an opportunity for “participants and the wider university community to share the sum of the project’s accomplishments.”
In addition to Peretti, faculty coordinators of the immigration project include Associate Professor of History Dr. Marcy May and Professor of Sociology Dr. Steven Ward.
- Passport to Paideia: Global Citizenship at WestConn
WestConn students will journey to lands of learning far removed from their fields of academic specialization in a President’s Initiative Fund project designed to encourage every participant to sample the rich diversity of the university’s vibrant extracurricular life.
The concept for the Passport to Paideia: Global Citizenship at WestConn project took root when Associate Professor of Health Promotion and Exercise Dr. Jeffrey Schlicht and Professor of Social Sciences Dr. Robert Whittemore began to trade ideas about how to get students more involved in campus life outside the classroom, Schlicht recalled. Whittemore hit upon the novel idea of providing students with an incentive to attend extracurricular events in a wide range of fields by giving them a “passport to Paideia,” a Greek term for the Hellenist ideal of “educating man into his true form.”
Schlicht and Whittemore are exploring means to enable every WestConn student to create a permanent record of participation in any university event designated as a Passport to Paideia function. Students would scan their WestConnect IDs on a portable card reader as they entered the event, making a data entry that could be used for purposes such as issuing commemorative “postcards” confirming event attendance or creating a transcript of extracurricular activities to be entered in the student participant’s academic record.
The objective is to define specific clusters of broadly similar extracurricular activities, and to use the Passport to Paideia program as a vehicle to provide incentives for students to attend a minimum number of activities in each of these cluster areas with a view to gaining a well-rounded extracurricular experience at WestConn. Inquiries to university departments about participation in the project are expected to be circulated during the fall semester, with a pilot test to be conducted in the spring and campuswide implementation slated for fall 2007.
Schlicht said the Passport to Paideia promises to bolster student attendance at a wide variety of campus events and generate valuable information for future event planning. But the most important beneficiaries will be the students themselves, he said.
“By participating in extracurricular events, you’re learning outside the classroom — learning something outside your field that sparks your interest, and maybe inspires you to decide to explore that topic further,” Schlicht said. “At the least, it makes you more aware of the world beyond your major.”
- The WestConn European Institute for the Study of Arts, Humanities and Politics
WestConn students looking for a “life-changing” experience have less than a year to wait before they can attend the WestConn European Institute for the Study of Arts, Humanities and Politics next spring in Madrid, Spain. The month-long program in June 2007 will feature classes in Spanish language, arts, culture, history and politics at the College for International Studies in Salamanca, and at museums and historic sites in Toledo, Cordoba, Granada and Seville.
Participating students will receive room and board from a local host family, enabling them to fully experience the region’s culture. They will participate in one of two relevant history classes: Modern Europe or Europe Since 1945; and one of two Spanish language classes: Introductory Spanish II or Intermediate Spanish - Language and Culture during their four-week stay. The courses will satisfy general education and language requirements at WestConn.
“Every student should have a chance to go see other cultures,” said Assistant Professor of World Languages and Literature Dr. Galina Bakhtiarova, who proposed the European Institute along with Professor of History Dr. Michael Nolan. “Teaching a language is impossible without teaching the culture. This program will involve not only language but also other disciplines, making it truly trans-cultural,” Bakhtiarova said. “It will be a life-changing experience.”
- Thematic Guest Speakers in English 101
Professor of English Dr. Edward Hagan has been forced to postpone this project until 2007 as he has continued his recovery from injuries suffered in an auto accident in December 2005. The project will provide five notable guest speakers to lecture at English 101 sessions, for the purpose of stimulating group bonding and discussion among WestConn freshman enrolled in the megasection classes.
Looking back at what’s been accomplished as a result of President’s Initiatives Funds so far, Schmotter is pleased.
“I’m delighted with the progress of the projects funded by the President’s Initiatives Fund. In New York, Puerto Rico and China, as well as in Danbury and Fairfield County, these efforts are providing engaging learning experiences that are indeed changing our students’ lives.”