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New Center for Ethnic and Racial Understanding To Be Established at Queens College
Untitled Document


Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services

(718) 997-559

Maria Matteo
News Assistant
(718) 997-5593


-- Federal Appropriation Will Be Used for Cross-Cultural Activities Designed to Bring Together Ethnic Groups Traditionally in Conflict --

FLUSHING, NY, March 3, 2009 ─ The establishment of a Center for Ethnic and Racial Understanding at Queens College has moved a step closer to fruition with the passage of “The Omnibus Appropriations Bill” by the U.S. House of Representatives on February 25.  Introduced and sponsored by Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Queens/L.I.), the bill includes funding for this and other local projects.  It is expected to be passed by the U.S. Senate the first week of March and to be signed into law by President Barack Obama soon after. This initiative will be administered through the U.S. Department of Education, which reviewed and approved the project.  

According to Ackerman’s press office, an appropriation of $285,000 has been designated for Queens College. The funding will be used to create a series of programs and outreach activities—including lectures, films, and discussion groups—that will be attended by both the college’s students and members of the many ethnically and racially diverse community groups in Queens. Student and community leaders will also be trained in conflict resolution. The programming and funding will be based in the college’s Center for Jewish Studies, whose director is Mark Rosenblum, a Queens College professor of history.

Queens College President James Muyskens points out that the center is an excellent fit for the college and the borough of Queens. “We are very grateful to Congressman Ackerman, one of the college’s most accomplished and public-spirited graduates, for helping to obtain the funding that will establish the new center,” says Muyskens. “This innovative program is a natural step forward for the college, which has received national accolades since 2004 for ‘The Middle East and America: Clash of Civilizations or Meeting of the Minds,’ an education project launched by Professor Rosenblum that brings together Jews, Muslims and Christians. With students coming from 140 different countries and a campus located in America's most diverse county, Queens College is the ideal place to base an initiative dedicated to promoting ethnic and racial harmony.”

Administration of the new program will be under the direction of William Helmreich, who wrote the original proposal. Helmreich is a professor of sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and deputy chairman of the sociology department at City College (CUNY).  He stresses that one of the center’s most innovative approaches will be to involve individuals who are known to actively dislike members of  groups traditionally in opposition to their own, such as Turks and Armenians; Bosnians and Serbs; Jews and Arabs; and Pakistani Muslims and Indian Hindus. “A major goal of the center will be to influence and change the people who feel and exhibit hostility and who are confrontational,” says Helmreich. “In the past, programs of this type have almost always attracted the more tolerant members of the groups in conflict, but they are the people who least need the intervention.

“This award offers a unique opportunity to promote tolerance through creative approaches,” he adds. “Queens College is the ideal location for this center not just because of the diversity of its student population, but also because of the commitment of its faculty and administration to promoting cross-cultural harmony.”

To date, this is the largest gift ever received by the Jewish Studies Center. “I want to especially thank my friends Arthur Anderman, president of the Center for Jewish Studies Board, and Professor Mark Rosenblum for their help in obtaining this award,” Helmreich adds.

Helmreich has served as director of the City College Conflict Resolution Center and has written books and numerous articles about the Middle East crisis, terrorism and racial conflict.  He is currently working on a book about New York City’s racial and ethnic groups to be published by Princeton University Press.

 Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY) is dedicated to the idea that a first-rate education should be accessible to talented individuals of all backgrounds and financial means.  Its more than 19,500 students come from over 140 nations and speak scores of languages, creating an extraordinarily diverse and welcoming environment. Founded in 1937, the college offers an exceptional liberal arts curriculum, with over 115 undergraduate and graduate majors and a variety of specialized honors programs. Located on a beautiful, 77-acre campus in Flushing, Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. Queens College was named one of the nation's 25 “hottest” and “most interesting” colleges by the 2008 Kaplan/Newsweek How to Get into College guide and is rated one of America’s 100 “Best Value Colleges” by the 2009 Princeton Review. The college will open its first residence hall, The Summit, in August 2009. More info on Queens College at .  Info on The Summit at .



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Deputy Director of News Services
(Position vacant)

(718) 997- 5597

Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services
Queens Hall, Room 270B
(718) 997-5593

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