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University to start environmental, racial justice institute

January 16, 2021 GMT

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The University of Oregon says it will create an institute focusing on environmental and racial justice after receiving a grant of more than $4.5 million, the biggest humanities award in the school’s history.

The Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justice will foster collaboration between the university’s College of Arts and Sciences and College of Design in conjunction with the University of Idaho and Whitman College in Washington.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave the university the grant, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

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“Oregon has a dark history of racial discrimination,” John Arroyo, professor of planning, public policy and management and director of the new institute, said in a statement. “This institute will build a bridge between statements and action toward achieving racial and climate justice on the (university) campus and across the Pacific Northwest, and offer a model for the rest of the country on addressing the most pressing issues of our time.”

Climate change has been shown to have a disproportionate impact on communities of color and people who depend on natural resources for their livelihood. Stephanie LeMenager, an English and environmental studies professor and co-organizer of the institute, said the initiative would focus on those issues.

“This institute will combine the imaginative and scholarly work of the humanities with expertise in policy, design and historic preservation to help communities around the Pacific Northwest,” LeMenager said in a statement.

The grant will also fund a post-doctoral scholarship program and environmental leadership training for students, officials said.