The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) believes firmly in the value of strengthening civic engagement and fostering civil discourse as twin pillars of democratic health.
In March 2019, SNF announced a $6 million grant to the University of Pennsylvania to imagine a new paradigm for its project of educating students as whole people and citizens. The result, drawing inspiration from ancient Greece and the concept of “paideia,” which indicated the rearing and education of the ideal citizen, was the SNF Paideia Program.
The five-year pilot of the program now underway aims to offer a holistic approach to the civic skills and ethical frameworks Penn already works to impart to its students, building on and leveraging the University’s existing resources. At the core of the program, as it has been designed, are academic courses, both culled from the offerings of Penn’s twelve schools and purpose-created for the SNF Paideia Program. Co-curricular programming offering students practical experiences in civic engagement and inculcating leadership skills supplement these courses, and public events address timely issues.
Penn hopes to engage a significant portion of its 10,000 undergraduate students through the program, as well as communities beyond campus. The program’s aims parallel those of the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
Faculty and Executive Directors for the program were announced in October 2019.
“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,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos, a Penn alumnus. “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.”
Related: An interview with SNF Paideia Program Faculty Director Michael X. Delli Carpini