Belle H. Bennett House Fellowship Program: Empowering Young Women for Sustainable Activism
By Marie Campbell
Apply now for the Belle H. Bennett House Fellowship!
In May 2011, I sat down with then-Executive Director of Scarritt Bennett, Rev. Sharon Howell, and explored a dream. I knew that in its college days, Scarritt was a place for women and men – but, given the reality that not many places were dedicated or even open to the idea of empowering women’s leadership, it was a place especially for women – that created the possibility for community building across regions, nationalities, races, and cultures. At Scarritt, young community workers built networks of solidarity and strengthened commitments to justice in an unjust world. This legacy moved me.
As a young justice-seeker myself, I identified with the women who came to Scarritt. Many of them were white, Southern women, like me, who yearned for a world in which poverty, violence, and unjust suffering would be no more. At Scarritt, as the archives testify, these women found a place to build relationships across barriers of race, gender, and class to explore how they might bring about such a world. They learned with students from countries around the world. And in September 1952, when Lelia Robinson and DeLaris Johnson entered the college as the first full-time black students making Scarritt the first white private college in Tennessee to be desegregated, they learned with women across racial divides. They worked with faith communities, settlement houses, nonprofits, and government agencies. They worked in rural and urban settings, building bridges between communities.
One of my favorite women from Scarritt’s history is Mabel Howell, who joined Scarritt faculty (1902-1916) as a teacher of sociology. She revolutionized the curriculum by highlighting the role of fieldwork; in her new Department of Sociology, she proposed to integrate service activities into the curriculum and to make fieldwork a valid academic course, supervised by the department. She believed that students learned best in “places where practice accompanied theory.”
Imagine the environment! A campus buzzing with social workers, ministers, organizers, advocates, activists who practiced justice together. My dream was to re-ignite this vibrant environment… to bring back the spirit of those early years where learning for justice happened in non-traditional classroom settings, i.e. in the field! And I wanted young women to have an opportunity to stretch beyond their college experiences – to learn about intersectionality, social justice, and radical politics by living and breathing it, in community. And so, the Belle H. Bennett House Fellowship Program was birthed. The program is named for Scarritt’s original dreamer, Belle Bennett, whose vision and dedication made Scarritt Bible and Training School come to life in 1892 and Scarritt College for Christian Workers in 1924.
Belle H. Bennett House Fellowship Program is a unique leadership development program that trains, inspires, and sustains emerging female leaders committed to social justice. The program is available to five female/ woman-identifying post-undergraduate applicants.
For the duration of the program, fellows are empowered to explore the dynamics of spirituality, justice and social change and encouraged to discern their vocations within this context. Fellows gain practical experience engaging social justice and anti-oppression work through placements in community-based organizations in Nashville, as well as experience working on personal and group dynamics, conflict management, community building, and self-care for feminist activism.
The purpose of the program is to prepare young women to lead social justice movements and organizations with integrity, global awareness, and the capacity to engage oppression with intersectionality. The program also builds capacities necessary for women to articulate deep, personal conviction about their work and integrate self-care for sustainable, life-long leadership.
Each year, 5 participants are selected from around the country for this ten-month program.
Fellows are placed for ten-months with community-based organizations engaged in social justice and anti-oppression work at the local level, such as grassroots organizing groups and nonprofits. Each site placement identifies specific goals and outcomes for the fellows and provides the supervision and resources necessary to accomplish them.
Fellows also work as team assistants with Scarritt Bennett’s Office of Education, Programming and Connections, connect one-one-one with a mentor, build community at the Center, and meet weekly for personal and professional development trainings.
Participants live together in an intentional community practicing a simple and sustainable lifestyle. Scarritt Bennett supports the well-being of each fellow throughout the program so that these young women will be able to dedicate their lives to the work of the program. For the allotted program length, each participant will receive housing with all utilities paid, full health insurance coverage, 40 hours of paid work per month at Scarritt Bennett Center, street or lot parking, and help in getting student loans deferred.
- Arranged unpaid internship with Nashville nonprofit
- Part-time paid work with Scarritt Bennett Center
- Health insurance
- Housing and utilities
- Membership in a learning community of fellows
- Experience with community leaders
- Training / Mentoring / Leadership Development
- Experience with project management
To apply, read the information and download application documents here: http://www.scarrittbennett.org/educational-programs/belle-h-bennett-house/application-information/
The priority application deadline for the 2015-2016 program is February 16, 2015. The final deadline is March 1, 2015.
Invest in Young Activists
The work of the program could not happen without the support of our community of friends and donors. To support the Belle H. Bennett House Fellows, please contact Joanne Reich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions? Contact the program director, Marie Campbell, at email@example.com.
Marie Campbell is currently Assistant Director of Education, Programs, & Connections at Scarritt Bennett Center. In her current position, Marie coordinates the Belle H. Bennett House, a 10-month fellowship program for young women discerning vocation at the intersection of radical social justice and spirituality. She holds a Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School and a B.A. in Sociology from Belmont University. Marie is passionate about environmental justice, liberatory education, and bold, intersectional feminism.