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Mellon Foundation awards St. Lawrence University $150K for public-health program

By Eric Reinhardt

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Mindy Pitre, associate professor of anthropology, is a member of St. Lawrence University’s public-health faculty. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the school a two-year grant worth $150,000 so the school’s faculty and students can “explore” health and health-care issues through the arts and humanities. (Photo credit: St. Lawrence University/Tara Freeman)

CANTON, N.Y. — St. Lawrence University will use grant funding of $150,000 over the next two years to support a program focused on public health.

The funding from the New York City–based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will help the school’s faculty and students to “explore” health and health-care issues through the arts and humanities.

The financial support is “aimed at infusing its new minor with more humanities- and arts-related courses while creating partnerships with local colleges and community organizations,” the school said in a news release.

The project is called “Wide-Angle Learning: A Humanistic Lens on Public Health.”

Starting with the semester that’s currently underway, St. Lawrence students may now choose to minor in public health.

The program consists of more than 50 course options across five different academic areas. The goal of the Mellon-funded project will be to create even more humanities- and arts-driven programming.

“We know the demand is high on campus from students thinking about how they could positively influence the world by bringing together different knowledge and methods from many fields into the public health program, from the global to the local,” Karl Schonberg, dean of academic affairs, said. “We also considered those with an existing interest in health and how we might be able to leverage their interest in other health-related fields.”

The grant will provide funding for St. Lawrence faculty to develop new courses, course components, guest lectureships, art exhibits, theatrical performances, and related enrichment activities.

It will promote projects on the local level, such as collaborating with neighboring colleges and nonprofit organizations, and sponsor international engagement with St. Lawrence’s international programs in Kenya and London, for example, to emphasize global public healthcare delivery.

The grant will also fund a postdoctoral teaching fellow to teach health humanities courses and to help implement various aspects of the program in the 2018-19 academic year.

Some students are “already” seeking public-health professions, but it’s important for faculty to get these and other students to think about other aspects of health beyond medicine and biology, Madeleine Wong, associate professor and co-coordinator of the public-health program, said.

“There has been a missing piece to public health and that’s where the critical humanities, communications and the arts will play a role,” Wong said. “We need the government majors to work on policies related to health access and critical resources; we need the environmental studies majors to work on analyzing the connections between environmental factors and public health crises and to inform local governments how to fix them; we need sociology majors to look at public health in prisons or how the drugs are impacting our communities; and, we need the global studies majors to put public health into historical, political and transnational contexts so we can better understand both the interrelated problems and the causes of global public health issues.”

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com