More Information

Robert Fanuzzi, Ph.D. Associate Provost and Director of Civic Engagement Reflects on Success of the Sandy Ground Action Grant!

January 19, 2017

Robert Fanuzzi, Ph.D., Associate Provost and Director of Civic Engagement, Staten Island campus reflects on the success of an Action Grant from Humanities New York. “The project, ‘Sandy Ground at St. John's: Faces of the Underground Railroad,’ started with my academic research in African-American culture and my Academic Service-Learning partnerships with Sandy Ground Historical Society. The partnership brought over 500 high school students to the campus to learn more about Sandy Ground, the oldest continually existing African-American community in the United States, and the ‘Faces of the Underground Railroad’ exhibit.”  

Four public lectures featuring nationally recognized scholars and writers were held from April 28 to December 12, 2016, in the newly renovated Loretto Library Learning Commons. A range of lectures--"Liberia/America: Shared Stories," a forum on Liberian-American emigration and immigration; "Betwixt and Between: Black Communities and City Neighborhoods in 19th Century New York," a lecture on hidden African-American genealogies; "When Black Communities Disappear," a literary reading and reflection on fragile African-American working class communities; and "Sandy Ground's Past and Staten Island's Future: A Colloquium on Arts, Education, and Historically-Based Community Development"--addressed the past, present and future of diversity on Staten Island.

In addition, the exhibit attracted English Language Learners from four Staten Island high schools. History, Social Studies, and English classes from Staten Island high schools and Wagner College continue to visit the exhibit until March 1, 2017, for advanced research in African-American history and US civil rights.

“With this grant and its public programs, I was powerfully reminded that humanities scholarship in areas of social justice is sought after and highly valued outside academia and in the community. ‘Sandy Ground at St. John's’ also shows that humanities scholarship can help drive universities' business plans and enrollment strategies, as it engaged St. John's Staten Island campus with more high schools and prospective students than ever before as well as elected officials, government offices, houses of worship, and community organizations. An outreach program based on academic research and the university's social justice mission truly lifted St. John's public profile-a crucial Strategic Priority.”