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Release date:
Nov. 14, 2001
Contact: Deb Hammacher, Associate Director, 404-727-0644, or

Kenneth Cole Foundation Funds Fellowships in Community Building, Social Change

Fashion industry executive Kenneth Cole has long combined social consciousness messages in marketing his products, and now he will help Emory University train agents for social change through a gift from his foundation to create The Kenneth Cole Fellows in Community Building and Social Change Program at his alma mater.

The Kenneth Cole Foundation has committed to give Emory up to $600,000 to establish a program that will train Emory students in community-building skills to mobilize residents, community-based groups, government agencies, businesses, foundations, universities and nonprofit organizations to work together in strengthening low-income families and rebuilding the inner-city neighborhoods in which they live. The initial term of the program is expected to be three years.

"As an Emory alumnus, I have been searching for a creative way to stay involved with the university," says Cole, a 1976 graduate of Emory College. "An idea I have struggled with over time is how to play a role in energizing the eager and enthusiastic youth of this country—perhaps our nation’s greatest resource. With that in mind, The Kenneth Cole Foundation, in association with Emory University, has created The Kenneth Cole Fellows in Community Building and Social Change Program. We hope and believe that this program can help mobilize a group of students who are willing and able to effect badly needed social change today and tomorrow."

Cole is a trustee of the Kenneth Cole Foundation and founder, president and chief executive officer of Kenneth Cole Productions Inc., one of the top labels in contemporary fashion that uses humor and social consciousness to market shoes, clothing and accessories in more than 85 stores worldwide. In 1985, Cole was the first member of the fashion community to take a public stand in the fight against AIDS. Since then, he has served as a national board member of The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). Other social issues on which Cole has taken a public stand include homelessness, gun control, domestic violence, capital punishment and reproductive rights.

The Kenneth Cole Fellowship Program will introduce 20 selected undergraduates during each of the next three years to the challenges and opportunities for building community in contemporary urban America.

"Hopefully, the fellows will explore evolving opportunities of bringing together the public, private and not-for-profit sectors for the ultimate benefit of all," says Cole. "To the degree that we can encourage Emory students to be more connected and committed to their surroundings and to take ownership of the health and well being of the communities in which we live, we will have succeeded in creating a better environment for all."

Through academic coursework, a 12-week paid summer field experience, site visits, small group meetings and an annual leadership conference, Kenneth Cole Fellows will see first-hand the critical role that collaboration plays in the resolution of important public problems, such as increasing the supply of affordable housing, promoting comprehensive school reform, expanding access to health care and addressing sprawl and environmental conservation.

Another objective of the program is to integrate Emory’s teaching, research and service missions to create more effective partnerships with local organizations. "The Kenneth Cole Fellows Program will enable Emory to engage in more intensive projects with its community partners," says Michael Rich, associate professor of political science and director of Emory’s Office of University-Community Partnerships. "For example, the fellows will work on projects ranging from needs assessment and strategic planning to comprehensive program evaluations. These are the types of projects that are difficult to accomplish through a service-learning course in a single semester or through the work of a single intern over the course of the summer."

"If any doubts as to the viability of this program existed at its initial inception, there are none in the wake of Sept. 11," says Cole. "The recent tragic events have confirmed the need for this program. We have watched in awe as people everywhere rallied together for a common cause that is greater than any of us individually. As I’ve said before, we may not ‘heel’ the world alone, but we can hope to be an accessory."

Fellows will be chosen by a faculty advisory committee of 11 faculty from nine departments and programs. Students selected for the program will receive a summer stipend of $3,000, a summer housing allowance, 12 semester hours of academic credit and an educational scholarship covering full or partial tuition for the four-credit-hour summer field practicum, depending upon financial need.


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