Thought Leaders: The Public Voices Greenhouse at Connecticut College

Connecticut College is the first liberal arts college to take part in the Public Voices Greenhouse through the OpEd Project, in partnership with Brown University

Over the next three months, a select group of faculty from Connecticut College and Brown University will meet with professional journalists to learn strategies and techniques for sharing their academic expertise with the public through the media.

A cohort of 21 faculty—11 from Conn and 10 from Brown—are participating in The Public Voices Greenhouse through The OpEd Project, which works with universities, foundations, nonprofits, corporations and community organizations across the country to train thought leaders from underrepresented groups to add their voices to the public sphere.

The Public Voices Greenhouse provides participants with the necessary tools to increase the scope and impact of their work. Whether through newspaper articles, television interviews or guest commentary, faculty members learn to drive the national conversation and debate with the aim of making meaningful change in the world.

The Spring 2017 Public Voices Greenhouse launches on March 10, when the cohort of faculty from Conn and Brown will convene at Connecticut College with their mentors.

“The Public Voices program is about more than just preparing faculty to write the typical op-ed on an emergent news topic—it’s about working with underrepresented scholars and artists to translate their work into different and more accessible forms, cultivating their presence as public intellectuals,” said Sandy Grande, professor of education and director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Connecticut College.

The unique partnership between Conn and Brown—a first for the OpEd Project—opens additional opportunities for collaboration between the institutions, said Dean of the Faculty Abigail Van Slyck.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Brown faculty to Connecticut College for the first convening of this exciting new partnership,” Van Slyck said. “This is an opportunity for faculty—the majority of whom are from underrepresented groups—to make a significant impact on our public discourse. The results will be inspiring.”

The Connecticut College faculty members are: Sunil Bhatia, professor of human development; Sandy Grande, professor of education; Liz Reich, assistant professor of  film studies; Nathalie Etoke, associate professor of French and Africana studies; Lauren Anderson, associate professor of English; Sheetal Chhabria, Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Assistant Professor of History; David K. Kim, professor of religious studies; Afshan Jafar, associate professor of sociology; Waed Athamneh, professor of Arabic studies; Eileen Kane, associate professor of history; and David Canton, associate professor of history.

Court Baxter, chief of staff at The OpEd Project, said the Public Voices Greenhouse is designed to get faculty thinking about what they know, why it matters and how they might have a bigger influence with their ideas.

“One of our core tenets is the idea of connection: how do you connect across difference and with those who work in completely different fields. There’s never been a more important time to be thinking about who narrates our voice, who is shaping our history, and which voice is rising to the top,” she said.

For Sunil Bhatia, professor of human development, one of the most anticipated aspects of the partnership is collaborating on topics and ideas with faculty from Brown.

“I’m looking forward to learning new techniques of writing that will allow me to share my academic study with the larger public and non-academic audiences. And I am excited to have the opportunity for deeper conversations with colleagues from both Connecticut College and Brown University about their own research and scholarship.”

The OpEd Project has a nearly 100 percent placement rate for participating faculty in media outlets, which have included The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN and Inside Higher Ed.‌

The Public Voices Greenhouse at Connecticut College is sponsored by the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, the Office of the President and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.

March 1, 2017