Click here to view in a gallery.
GOSHEN -- Jim Brenneman told his wife he hoped Goshen College could become a model of diversity, but he didn't know where money would come from to help make it happen.
"Sometimes you get more than you ask for," the Goshen College president said Wednesday as he announced a $12.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund a new Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning.
The center will conduct research, work on creating an "intercultural learning environment" on campus and recruit and retain Latino and other minority students from this region with scholarships.
Brenneman, an Old Testament scholar, said the grant could help the college become a great liberal-arts school rather than just a good one.
The school has gained national acclaim for its international Study-Service Term program through which students study and serve in other countries. Officials hope the grant will help the college improve cultural education and attract local Latino students who may not have access to higher education.
"We believe this grant will transform us into becoming global citizens in the truest sense of that value," Brenneman said.
The grant will pay for programs to start next fall. The five-year grant started in September after more than five years of conversation between the endowment and college.
For Goshen High School students and others, scholarships from the grant may make the difference in whether they can attend college.
Maricela Lopez, a GHS junior, said money is an obstacle for many students, including her family. She's looking for scholarships so she can continue her education in international relations.
"We need opportunities for college," she said, adding that she is pleased with the announcement.
Sophomore Christina Gutierrez said she wants to be someone her family can be proud of and that colleges should help students who get good grades. She wants to be a teacher. Junior Oscar Gaytan wants to be a computer programmer. The GC money could help them reach their goals, he said.
But that doesn't always happen, particularly for Latino students, said Jen Eberly, the girls' English as a New Language teacher. Her students often struggle to get financial aid and don't know where to look for help. The new center and scholarship money could change that.
"It's going to open up a lot of opportunities for people," she said.
Jim Alvarez, a Goshen College graduate and former faculty member, said the grant will give hope and inspiration to many in the Hispanic community.
"Goshen College and northeast Indiana communities are now given an exciting opportunity to build bridges across cultures," he said, adding that both can gain insight and understanding as they improve communication.
The college has $7 million to give in financial aid this year to all students. Some of that money is given to Latino students who are documented U.S. residents, Brenneman said. The campus has about 45 Latino students, including 20 in their first year.
Minority enrollment in public schools, particularly in Goshen, has shot up since 1990 but minority enrollment in higher education in Indiana and locally hasn't kept up.
"We believe it's in the best interest of both our community and the college to close that gap," Brenneman said.
He believes diversity increases learning, that Goshen could produce research that will have a local and national impact, and that the education that results from the money could change lives as people become better community and global citizens.
People may disagree with how the private funds are used, but Brenneman wants the college to be welcoming and a model of diversity and liberal-arts education.
"We hope to break down some of the stereotypes," he said.
The grant is not the biggest gift in college history, but with it, Lilly Endowment is now the biggest donor in college history, said John Yordy, provost and executive vice president. The endowment also gave $5 million toward construction of the Music Center and other programs.
Contact Marshall V. King at firstname.lastname@example.org.