UEP receives $325,000 from Barr Foundation for racial equity program

The Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning building is pictured on Jan. 31. Natalie Brownsell / The Tufts Daily
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The Barr Foundation awarded Tufts’ Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning a two-year grant of $325,000 to fund the department’s new Racial Equity in Policy and Planning program. Beginning in fall 2022, the REPP program will educate and prepare five graduate students per year as they pursue their degree in either of the UEP department’s two master’s programs. 

The Barr Foundation is a Boston-based nonprofit organization that is committed to advancing education, climate advocacy, arts and creativity, according to Emily Sidla, climate program manager at the foundation.

“Barr focuses regionally, and selectively engages nationally, working in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector, and civic and business leaders to elevate the arts and creative expression, advance solutions for climate change, and connect all students to success in high school and beyond,” Sidla wrote in an email to the Daily. “Barr has grown to become one of the largest private foundations in New England with assets in excess of $2 billion and a 2021 grantmaking budget of nearly $120 million.”

Penn Loh, interim associate chair of the UEP department, explained that the goal of the REPP program is to solve the persistent legacy of racism in urban policy and planning.

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“This program is … trying to bring a new generation of folks who have closer connections and actual experiences in some of these marginalized communities [and help them] be better prepared to figure out how they can help to dismantle some of the white supremacist culture and dynamics that have led to perpetuating these inequalities in the urban landscape,” Loh said.

Loh spoke about the connection between the UEP department and the surrounding region, as well as the local expertise that the REPP program aims to foster among its fellows.

“We are prioritizing bringing people into the REPP Fellowship who intend to do their careers in this region because our department is very much embedded in our region,” Loh said. “We have a good majority [of the department] who are developing their careers in Massachusetts and New England.” 

Loh said that the REPP fellows supported by this program will build upon the accomplishments of UEP professors and alumni who have transformed the field of urban policy and planning.

“We already have a rich network and people who have been really shifting the fields out there in housing, community development, environment [and] transportation,” Loh said. “We’re hoping that this generation of REPP fellows … continues to build upon that.”

Loh explained how the REPP program will be structured similarly to the Tufts Neighborhood Fellows (NF) midcareer program, which pays for up to five “urban leaders” each year to enroll in UEP’s Master in Public Policy (MPP) program. 

“[Neighborhood Fellows] has been around for 20 years, and through that program, we’re able to bring in five experienced urban leaders of color with full-tuition scholarships,” Loh said. “We’re basically creating a parallel process for the REPP fellows.”

Sidla outlined the joint efforts of the UEP department and the Barr Foundation to provide a high-quality fellowship experience to the selected students.

“UEP will select Fellows from underrepresented groups who also demonstrate a commitment to advancing racial justice in the policy and planning fields,” Sidla wrote. “Fellows will receive full-tuition scholarships, stipends provided by the Barr Foundation, paid internships, and other additional programming to build leadership skills and develop networks.”

Mariella Puerto, director of the climate program at the Barr Foundation, explained why the Barr Foundation selected the Tufts UEP department for the grant.

“We are excited to partner with Tufts UEP to build a pathway for leaders of color in the policy and planning fields in our region,” Puerto said in a Tufts Now article.Supporting the next generation of leadership in our region reflects our long-term commitment to centering racial equity in the climate movement.”

The UEP department is running the REPP program in partnership with the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. Dayna Cunningham, the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar dean of Tisch College, described Tisch College’s role in advancing the experiences of the REPP fellows.

“Tisch College will serve as a second home for the REPP students,” Cunningham wrote in an email to the Daily. “The Tisch College family is committed to supporting the development of engaged active citizens to effect meaningful change at Tufts University and in the world. We intend to work hand-in-hand with our UEP colleagues, REPP students, and community partners to position the Boston region as a hub for racial equity in the planning field.”

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