Posted by: bluesyemre | February 18, 2018

A College in Brooklyn Public #Library


Bard College opens its second “microcollege” in Brooklyn Public Library. The free program, which selects ambitious applicants from underprivileged backgrounds, culminates in an associate’s degree.

The local public library is a treasured (if sometimes forgotten) American institution, free and open to all. Recognizing this, Bard College has opened a satellite college in the main branch of the public library in Brooklyn, N.Y., offering disadvantaged students a free pathway to higher education.

The so-called microcollege, run by the private liberal arts college and Brooklyn Public Library, welcomed its inaugural class in January. Seventeen students, all of whom have each confronted hurdles to higher education — including poverty, homelessness and incarceration — were accepted to the two-year associate degree program.

The microcollege offers only one associate degree, in the arts. Students in the initial cohort will take the same three classes this semester, however, courses will multiply as the college grows, Madhu Kaza, the microcollege program director, said. The microcollege is taught entirely in person at the public library. Kaza was a writing professor at Bard’s prison initiative, a higher education program run by the college for inmates in six New York correctional facilities. The microcollege is modeled on this prison initiative, which began in 2001.

Delia Mellis, the prison initiative writing program’s director, is overseeing an intensive writing course, Susanna Kohn is teaching grammar, while Lara Pellegrinelli will lead an ethnomusicology class. The courses are similar in structure and level to those offered at Bard’s main campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., Kaza said.

In keeping with the college’s unconventional nature, the application process was conducted in an alternative way, too, devoid of standardized test scores and requests for extracurricular activities. Applicants were required to interview in person and write an essay on a text given to them at the library.

Of 1,000 applications, 17 students were selected, based on need, ambition and intellectual curiosity. Most of the students have a connection to Brooklyn, Kaza said, although some live as far away as the Bronx. The student body is diverse, ranging in age, nationality, race, gender and sexuality, Kaza said. In this semester’s class, nine students are women while eight are men.

The program pays for several costs associated with studying in addition to tuition, including transportation, textbooks and a Google Chromebook.

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