Small Grants Committee to fund Diversity and Leadership Initiatives


Photo by Maria Montero Silva.

John Blashke, Staff Writer

A new subcommittee of the Diversity Committee at Utica College has implemented a new small grants initiative. Students and organizations can now request small loans that typically range between $200 to $500 for thoughtful community building projects. 

Students can apply during the fall semester. In the spring, the committee convenes to review proposals and then discuss which of the projects should receive grants. 

Hamza Allahditta, a senior, is one of the student members of this subcommittee. 

“After receiving the applications, each of the committee members choose their top three projects, from there we decide which three overall should get the grants,” he said. 

Not every project can be approved since the funds are limited. Choosing the best three projects out of so many ideas is never easy. However, there are some special instances. 

“If there is one that we think really stands out but does not meet the top three criteria, then we discuss if we should make an exception for the project with some stipulations,” Allahditta said. 

The goal of the initiative is to promote student projects that are aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion. Students and organizations can submit proposals to the committee that detail their intent on the use of the funds, should they receive them. Each of the projects will have a faculty advisor, but are ultimately student led. 

One aspect of this project is on student leadership. It aims students in the right direction and teaches them how to apply for similar grants as well as how to prepare to properly execute their community driven projects. 

Alane Varga, dean of diversity and inclusion, is  pleased with the initiatives goals. 

“We are looking for folks who are thoughtful in terms of their application and are willing to figure out the best way to be able to meet their goals for creating a more inclusive and equitable environment,” Varga said.  

Typically, the Utica College Diversity Committee might allocate funds for a speaker on campus. While such events are impactful, they may not have the long lasting effects on the community as a whole as the small grants committee intends to have.

“We wanted to start small because we were looking for ways for people to be creative and work together,” Varga said. “They are projects that are potentially ongoing and will be able to be sustained — all coming from a relatively small sum of money.” 

The reason why these projects have the potential to be long lasting is because of the initiatives ability to incentivize bridge building between the college and the Utica community at large. This allows students to form personal connections that not only make them want to return, but will be welcomed by the community they have assisted in fostering.

Some campus organizations have already achieved success through the use of these small grants. For example, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. was able to bring back a traditional fundraising event Bare Necessities with the assistance of these allocated funds. Jordan Rowe and Troy Edwards are both brothers of the fraternity and were excited to see the return of such an important fundraiser started by their brother, Keron Allenye, in 2012. 

“This idea is so important in an area like this,” Edwards said. “If you look at the financial needs of the people in this area, a lot of them fall below the poverty line, therefore they have to rely on outside resources and assistance to meet the basic standard of living.” 

The Bare Necessities campaign is an example of what the small grants committee is looking for. The brothers of Phi Beta Sigma placed bins in the residence halls at the beginning of last spring semester asking for donations for things such as hats, gloves, toothpaste and brushes, deodorant, shampoo and other essentials that the less fortunate in the greater community needed. The donations were dispersed with the help of the brothers later in the semester to ever thankful citizens. 

“The smallest things count the most towards people that have nothing,” Rowe said.