Yale program hosts inaugural Knowledge for Freedom Faculty Institute

The three-day event will explore strategies for engaging high school students in challenging conversations about fundamental moral and political questions.
Sterling Library

(Photo by Allie Barton)

Faculty members from more than 30 American colleges and universities will convene in New Haven this month for the inaugural Knowledge for Freedom Faculty Institute conference, a three-day event that will explore strategies for engaging high school students in challenging conversations about fundamental moral and political questions. 

The conference, which is hosted by the Yale Citizens Thinkers Writers program, will be held Jan. 11 to 13 at Yale University.

The conference will gather members of the Knowledge for Freedom (KFF) Network, an initiative of the Teagle Foundation that invites underserved high school students to study scholarly works that raise questions about leading lives of purpose and civic responsibility. Those attending run programs that bring aspiring first-generation students from schools in their home communities into seminar-style classes on their campuses.

Yale’s Citizens Thinkers Writers program, a founding member of the network, has been inviting students from New Haven’s public high schools to campus for intense summer sessions on philosophy and politics since 2016. It was inspired by the Freedom and Citizenship program at Columbia University.

The growing KFF network includes 28 active programs at all sorts of institutions — community colleges, state universities, small liberal arts colleges, and private universities. They share a commitment to giving local students experience in reading transformational books about political thought and discussing the complicated questions that they raise.

The institute, which is the first in-person gathering of the network, will offer an opportunity for participants to reflect on how the KFF mission is carried out in classrooms, campuses, and communities across the United States. During the conference, they will hear from experts on college access and completion and share challenges and successes from their programs.

Participants will also hear how the Citizens Thinkers Writers program links the academic conversations to issues in New Haven today. Local leaders working with Citizens Thinkers Writers and presenting at the conference will include Joseline Tlacomulco, the New Haven mayor’s director of legislative affairs; Jorgeliez Casanova, program manager for New Haven Promise, a college scholarship and career development program founded in 2010; Hossna Samadi, outreach coordinator for Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), a Connecticut-based nonprofit that provides relocation assistance to refugees and asylum seekers; and Anthony Campbell, chief of the Yale Police Department and former chief of the New Haven Police Department. 

Participants from Yale include Tamar Gendler, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid; Bryan Garsten, a professor of political science and humanities, former chair of the Humanities Program, and founding director of Citizens Thinkers Writers; Clifton Granby, associate professor of ethics at Yale Divinity School; and Stephanie Almeida Nevin, a Yale instructor who is also co-founder and associate director of Citizens Thinkers Writers.

The three-day conference will feature student alumni of KFF programs as well as faculty from programs around the country, such as the House Divided Project at Dickinson CollegeElon University’s Freedom Scholars; and Fordham University’s Visions of the Good in the Bronx

The conference will feature leading national voices on the purposes of college, including Andrew Delbanco, author of “College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be,” the Hamilton Professor of American Studies at Columbia, and president of the Teagle Foundation; Mary Dana Hinton, president of Hollins University; and Roosevelt Montás, director of Columbia’s Freedom and Citizenship program and author of the book “Rescuing Socrates.”

Also participating will be New Haven resident Henry Seyue, a student alum of Citizens Thinkers Writers, who made local headlines in 2022 when he was selected to read a Langston Hughes poem to kick off the prestigious Jefferson Lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C.

The main conference will be held in the Humanities Quadrangle, 320 York St., New Haven, CT, on Jan. 12 and 13. Members of the media interested in attending can obtain details by emailing citizensthinkerswriters@yale.edu.

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Media Contact

Bess Connolly : elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu,