EngagePerspectivesNiarchos Foundation Gift to Launch Paideia Program
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Niarchos Foundation Gift to Launch Paideia Program

The University of Pennsylvania today announced a $6 million gift to launch the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Paideia Program (Paideia) for its undergraduate students.

Penn College Hall
College Hall; Photography by Eric Sauer

The Program will reimagine the ancient Greek ideal Paideia—which translates into “education of the whole person” and “educating citizens”—for the twenty-first century and beyond, with courses focusing on wellness, service, and citizenship. Paideia will place a particular emphasis on informed civil discourse and deliberation, and will incorporate co-curricular experiences through which future civic leaders and members of local, national, and global communities practice productively engaging across ideological divides. Penn will begin Paideia as a five-year pilot program, building on and collaborating with existing programs and organizations on Penn’s campus.

“Among the many aims of a great university, none is more essential than fostering the free exchange of ideas and the robust civil expression of divergent views,” says Penn President Amy Gutmann. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Paideia Program at the University of Pennsylvania will be dedicated to doing just that, and more. Paideia will combine courses and co-curricular activities that focus on the role of dialogue across divides in enabling students both to serve others and to thrive themselves.

This charge of fostering wellness, citizenship, and service has never been more important than it is today, with social, cultural, economic, and political divides—and the inability to talk across them in constructive ways—straining the very fabric of civil society and democracy.

Beginning in the fall of 2019, the Paideia Program will serve as Penn’s central hub for developing courses, events, and co-curricular activities around a robust civic education for undergraduates from their first year on campus through their senior year. Built around a core of 12 new, interdisciplinary courses taught by leading faculty from across Penn’s 12 schools, the Program will also identify and curate existing courses and co-curricular activities that address topics of relevance to Paideia’s mission from across all of Penn’s four undergraduate and eight professional schools.  The Paideia Program ultimately aims to provide as many Penn undergraduates as possible with the knowledge and skills, ethical frameworks and experiences necessary to be informed, engaged, and effective citizens.

“The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is committed to supporting civil discourse, civic engagement, and informed leadership, and we believe that educational institutions have a crucial role to play in each,” said Andreas Dracopoulos, Co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

“The concept of ‘paideia,’ of educating young people not only to become successful professionals, but also active and engaged citizens, who are part of something greater than themselves, has particular resonance today. We are excited to partner with the University of Pennsylvania in helping educate citizens who will contribute to—and have faith in—fair and thriving democracy.”

For smaller cohorts of student leaders selected as Paideia Fellows, the program will provide a more structured experience. The program will also sponsor and cosponsor events designed to model civil, informed and solutions-oriented deliberation on major public issues of the day; serve as networking hub for other Penn programs and organizations that focus on issues of wellness, service and citizenship; and provide internships as part of its mission.

About the Stavros Niarchos Foundation

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is one of the world’s leading private, international philanthropic organizations, making grants in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and sports, and social welfare. Since 1996, the Foundation has committed more than $2.75 billion, through more than 4,400 grants to nonprofit organizations in 124 nations around the world.

The SNF funds organizations and projects, worldwide, that aim to achieve a broad, lasting and positive impact, for society at large, and exhibit strong leadership and sound management. The Foundation also supports projects that facilitate the formation of public-private partnerships as an effective means for serving public welfare.

“Niarchos Foundation gift to launch Paideia Program.”

Originally published in Penn Today, March 14, 2019.

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