I am writing to invite you to consider supporting an initiative that will give selected UT students encouragement, recognition, and support when they undertake projects that blend their scholarship with community service and work for social justice.
This is the SCOUT award—Service and Community Outreach at UT—funded by a newly established endowment.
As the chair of our Interdisciplinary Program in American Studies, every week I advise brilliant, goodhearted, and immensely appealing students who want to find career paths that make a positive difference in our world. It is inspiring to work with them. However, at times it can be heartbreaking, too, because their options are so sadly constrained by debt and the bleak job market. Possibly worst of all, they hear a message, bombarding them from all directions, that education for critical thought and work for the common good are priorities for chumps. Education is supposedly worth pursuing (if at all) only for its "bottom line" measured in someone's profit margin.
The SCOUT award is a way to encourage our students to swim against this stream. SCOUT provides a small monetary scholarship and named award for exemplary students—especially majors in American Studies—who use their time at UT to explore forms of learning that include community engagement and social justice commitments.
Here are a few projects that recent American Studies majors have undertaken:
- Doing summer work-study projects in South Africa and Uganda
- Learning concrete labor organizing skills in New York with NYU's Labor Semester
- Working at Beardsley Farm on community gardening projects
- Volunteering at the Pond Gap Elementary Afterschool Program
- Interning at the Museum of Appalachia and the Appalachian Heritage Center
I could describe many other students who might have done equally interesting and commendable projects—but actually did not because of a lack of resources and imagination. In fact, my frustrations on this very front were the catalyst for creating SCOUT.
Thus I am excited to launch this award, and eager to see it grow as much as we can manage. Would you consider supporting this award, either by donating and/or spreading the word to others who might do the same?
Director, Program in American Studies