Project Pericles is a national consortium of colleges and universities committed to including participatory citizenship and social responsibility as essential elements of their educational programs. Founded by educational philanthropist Eugene M. Lang in 2001, Project Pericles is at the forefront of promoting civic engagement in areas including faculty and curriculum development, research into best practices, and student engagement. Working in the classroom, on the campus, and in the community, Project Pericles and its member institutions have a wealth of experience in developing programs that integrate civil dialogue, civic engagement, and community-based learning across the college experience, most importantly, in the curriculum.
Periclean colleges and universities offer curricular and co-curricular initiatives that prepare and encourage students to become active, responsible citizens. These initiatives include signature Periclean programs including Debating for Democracy (D4D)™, the Periclean Faculty Leadership (PFL) Program™, the Periclean Voting Modules, as well as programs that are unique to each campus.
We have a diverse membership of predominately liberal arts colleges with endowments ranging from $10 million to $2 billion on rural, suburban, and urban campuses. Three of our members are HBCUs and many have a high percentage of Pell-eligible or first-generation college students. Project Pericles collaborates and works with a diverse range of constituents including presidents, provosts, deans, faculty, staff, students, alumni, trustees, and community members.
In addition to The Eugene M. Lang Foundation, supporters of Project Pericles include Bringing Theory to Practice, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, The Henry Luce Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Spencer Foundation, The Teagle Foundation, Students Learn Students Vote, and Up to Us/Net Impact.
Project Pericles is a 501(c)3 public charity governed by an independent Board of Directors.
Project Pericles is an association of American colleges and universities committed to reawakening American undergraduate education to its responsibility to prepare students to be effective citizens and leaders of their communities, nations, and world.
We believe that alongside equipping students with the content and skills required for success in their careers, higher education must develop their capacity and motivation for critical examination of the priorities that societies set; for informed evaluation of policies, candidates, and actions in the light of those priorities; and for making a personal difference, through and beyond their careers, towards realizing those priorities. If undergraduate education does not make this broader responsibility more central to its mission, it will, we fear, fail to prepare the leadership our democracy and world need and may place at long-term risk the future of our democracy itself.
Through the courses they offer, the community-based experiences and opportunities for service they design, and the campus policies and practices they set, Periclean institutions, individually and collaboratively, explore, develop, and model means through which they and fellow undergraduate institutions can deliver on this educational imperative.
Eugene M. Lang and 'Reclaiming the Legacy of Pericles'
Eugene M. Lang, a retired entrepreneur well-known for his philanthropic ventures in education, was asked to write an essay for Daedalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, on the continuing relevance of the traditional mission of liberal arts colleges. In his 1999 essay, Lang addressed a national concern: the growing political cynicism and civic disengagement of young people. He was aware that many colleges and universities have responded to this concern with student-driven community service programs. He felt, however, that most of these programs have been peripheral to curricula, with little lasting impact on the civic attitudes of students. In effect, Pericles’ legacy to higher education was eroding, threatening the ultimate viability of American democracy.
Lang believed that colleges and universities, by reason of their historic mission and uniquely respected position in society, can and should assume a central responsibility for revitalizing Pericles’ vision, ‘reclaiming the legacy of Pericles.’ In 1999, he organized a distinguished Planning Committee that named the nascent organization 'Project Pericles.' Discussions with hundreds of educators and civic leaders helped Lang refine Project Pericles' mission and the basic framework within which colleges and universities can commit to educating students for civic and social responsibilities.
Pericles and Athenian Democracy
Under the leadership of Pericles, Athens established the historic prototype of a democratic society. By recognizing that every citizen, regardless of economic or social status, had both a duty to serve and the potential to lead, Pericles and his fellow Athenians established what became the foundation of modern democracy. The legacy of Pericles is the core precept of America’s founding philosophy and has been historically connected to higher education in the United States. Its mission has embraced the preparation of students for active participation in an expanding, pluralistic society in which citizenship, social responsibility, and community are inseparable.