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Bard College

Grantee:        Bard College
Ranking:       8th highest grantee, 2005 — 2009
Received:     $7,034,743
Type:             Academic Endowments
Issues:           Prisoner Education, Creating Public Experts (in St. Petersburg)

About:  Bard College is a small, elite, private liberal arts college north of New York City.  George Soros has maintained a close working relationship with Bard since his his first wife, Susan, sought to create a graduate center in decorative arts there; Soros offered Bard College President Leon Botstein $5 million to accompany the offer, which Botstein accepted.  Soros’ close personal and intellectual relationship with Botstein has continued; at Soros’ behest, Botstein assumed the Chairmanship of the American University of Central Asia.

[Although it is not yet reflected in this database, in 2011, the OSI gifted $60 million to Bard College “in recognition of its global involvement, which includes programs in New Orleans, Nicaragua and Russia.”1]

Mission Statement: Since its founding in 1860, Bard College has maintained a firm commitment to the liberal arts and sciences education along with a readiness to innovate that has enhanced the undergraduate experience with compatible intellectual and artistic ventures at its Hudson Valley campus and at affiliated institutions around the world. Bard seeks to provide a challenging academic program; a supportive environment that fosters a collaborative interchange of ideas in the classroom, studio, and laboratory, as well as the ambition to achieve excellence; and access to world-class scholarship and research.

Soros Funding:  Soros funds four projects at or through Bard:

  • Bard High School Early College: public high schools in Manhattan, Queens, Newark, and in 10% of public schools in New Orleans take college level classes.
  • Al-Quds Bard Partnership: Al-Quds University and Bard College have joined forces in a comprehensive partnership that seeks to raise the level of Palestinian education, as the best means of preparing young Palestinians to assume the responsibilities of leadership and self-governance in a future democratic state. The joint venture is the first in the region to offer graduates a U.S. and a Palestinian degree€”both at the Bachelor’s and at the Master’s level. The Al-Quds Bard Partnership believes that to educate future leaders and foster economic development education should encourage a critical turn of mind and an entrepreneurial spirit. Students should have a chance to achieve excellence in the social sciences and humanities as well as the natural sciences . . . The partnership between Al-Quds and Bard College seeks to help realize the two institutions’ shared educational goals in ways that are effective and sustainable, and that contribute to systemic improvement of the Palestinian education system. The partnership is a source of invaluable knowledge and experience for the international faculty, students, and institutions involved in the exchanges, as well.
  • Endowment for Smolny College, St. Petersburg, Russia: Soros administers his Smolny College endowment through Bard, and the two institutions maintain exchange programs for students and faculty.
  • Bard Prison Initiative: brings degree-granting programs into five New York correctional facilities. Mission Statement: As the largest program of its kind in the United States, BPI enrolls 250 incarcerated men and women across a full spectrum of academic disciplines, and offers over 50 courses each semester. By 2011, Bard granted 157 degrees to BPI participants and enrolled a total of nearly 500 students. BPI began in 1999, when then-student Max Kenner set out to engage Bard College in the effort to restore meaningful education to the prison system. At the start, Kenner organized other Bard students to volunteer as tutors in local prisons. In 2001, BPI outgrew its role as a student organization and became an academic program of the College. In 2005, BPI awarded the first Bard College degrees to incarcerated candidates. It now operates a network of 5 satellite campuses across New York, engaging students up through their release and after. With the help of a significant private grant, the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison was created to support other innovative college-in-prison programs throughout the country. Wesleyan University in Connecticut and Grinnell College in Iowa have now established programs, and the Consortium plans to establish programs in as many as ten more states within the next five years.


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