The nearly 10,000-square-foot building on the corner of Academy and Monroe Streets in Kalamazoo is still under construction, just bare cement and crews in hard hats covering its rising steel skeleton like worker ants. But while the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership (ACSJL), at Kalamazoo College, is still months from its anticipated grand opening in June, its reach is already extending across the globe.
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Kalamazoo College has had a commitment to social justice and leadership development as part of its curriculum since its founding in 1833. In 2009, the college took that commitment one step further with a $200,000 planning grant from trustee and alumnus Jon Stryker’s Arcus Foundation for the establishment of a social-justice leadership center. A year ago, the Arcus Foundation made a $23 million endowment grant to fund the new center. Within that funding was money for the construction of a new building on the edge of the college’s campus, in the West Main Hill neighborhood, that is estimated to cost $5 million and was designed by Chicago architect and MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang.
“Our vision is pretty clear,” says Lisa Brock, the academic director of the ACSJL and the center’s interim executive director. The center aims for a world in which “every person’s life is equally valued, the inherent dignity of all people is recognized, the opportunity to develop one’s full potential is available to every person, and systematic discrimination and structural inequities have been eradicated.