College of Arts and Sciences


  • Gates Foundation Grant Will Help Raise Awareness of “Invisible Families”

    March 25, 2011

    The Center for Strategic Communications(CSC), directed by Professor Barry Mitzman, has received a second major grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue and evolve the center’s Project on Family Homelessness. The new $180,327 grant will support media projects, public forums, arts performances and community partnerships that explore and illuminate stories of the thousands of Washington families who are homeless.

    The 2011-12 effort comes out of a successful program of journalism fellowships that resulted in extensive news coverage of family homelessness last year. The fellowships, made possible also by a grant from the Gates Foundation, were awarded by SU to professional journalists from some of the region’s most prominent news organizations, including the Seattle Times, radio stationKUOW and the PBS Newshour. The journalistsdeveloped in-depth reporting projects that explored the causes and effects of family homelessness and profiled innovative strategies to reduce and prevent it.  Eight Seattle University students received scholarships to participate as research assistants to the journalists.

    The reporting sparked a large response from readers, listeners and viewers. In at least one instance, the reporting resulted in changes in school district practices related to the education of homeless children and youth. 

    This year’s project will again incorporate in-depth news projects, particularly coverage in Pierce and Snohomish counties. Additionally, a series of civic and cultural events will engage the public and challenge them to look at the issue in new ways, says project director Barry Mitzman, who also directs the CSC and is a professor in the Communication Department.

    Four additional Seattle University students will be awarded scholarships and will serve as project assistants.

     “The quality and extent of the news coverage that resulted from the journalism fellowships far exceeded our expectations,” Mitzman says.  “The reporting significantly raised the visibility of family homelessness as a distinct, sizable, serious problem, yet one that is solvable.”

    The project reflects the university’s Jesuit Catholic mission of empowering leaders for a just and humane world. Three out of four Seattle U students volunteer in the community. In 2005, SU became the first university in the nation to host a homeless camp. 

    Recently, SU expanded its community involvement by launching the Youth Initiative, a partnership with Seattle Public Schools, the City of Seattle and more than 30 organizations to  improve the lives of low-income families in the area. 

    “We are very pleased to again partner with the Gates Foundation,” says David Powers, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “The Project on Family Homelessness exemplifies the university’s commitment to community service and to involving students in positive social change.”


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