$500,000 grant goes to increasing inclusion on campus

By Tori Pender

Rider received a $500,000 Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund II Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge Grant to support low-income students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this grant, Rider created an initiative called Project Inclusion-Equity- Retention (PIER) that will promote a safe and inclusive learning environment for underrepresented students. PIER will be overseen by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen and Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg.

According to the university press release, the grant was “Administered by the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and the United States Department of Education, the grant to Rider was among 35 awarded to New Jersey institutions, representing an overall $28.5 million federal package.”

Fenneberg explained that the funds in this grant were made available for institutional initiatives to help advance efforts supporting low-income populations.

“Some of Rider’s initiatives are indirect in that they seek to advance cultural competence, change culture and advance systemic changes that have a longstanding impact on students with marginalized identities. We are excited that this grant will advance goals and initiatives identified in Rider’s Inclusive Excellence Plan, advancing equity and inclusion for Rider’s diverse student body,” said Fenneberg.

Rider’s Inclusive Excellence Plan is Rider’s goal of creating a safe campus that promotes inclusivity and equity. PIER will fall under the umbrella of programs that follow this plan.

Fenneberg said that parts of the PIER project will include professional development for employees, implementing the Intercultural Development Inventory across employees and student participants. Enhancing mentoring programs on campus and implementing campus-wide diversity will be included as well. While also improving staff and training in the Counseling Center and having laptops, mini-fridges and microwaves available to loan to students with financial needs.

“Each of the component initiatives in PIER are underway. The last two months have included gathering relevant campus stakeholders to define the project and a timeline for completion. All of which will occur within the two-year grant period by the end of summer 2023,” said Fenneberg.

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