New Dartmouth institute focuses on Black intellectual, cultural life

The Institute for Black Intellectual and Cultural Life will act as the focal point for the Black community's scholarly, artistic and cultural expression at Dartmouth and beyond.

A vibrant new Institute for Black Intellectual and Cultural Life recently opened at Dartmouth College, one of the top educational institutions in the world.

IBICL will act as the focal point for the Black community’s scholarly, artistic and cultural expression at the Ivy League school and beyond. College president Sian Leah Beilock said Monday she was “pleased to announce the launch” of IBICL, according to Dartmouth’s news hub.

The institute will begin operations with an initial investment of $2.3 million, $1 million of it raised through the Call to Lead campaign, and will fund student internships and provide research grants to Dartmouth faculty and staff, among other things.

Dartmouth cultural life institute
The Institute for Black Intellectual and Cultural Life is now open at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Adobe Stock)

Kimberly Juanita Brown, an associate professor of English and creative writing, will be its first director.

“Dartmouth is the right place, and this is the right time for an institute that centers the research of Black studies in all of its iterations,” Brown said. “This moment calls for expansive vision and profound imagination, and this is what the institute endeavors to bring to Hanover. My goals are to create a space that fosters scholarly engagement and collaboration.”

Brown added that she wants to ensure the institute’s survival and that it serves as a thriving platform for the work of the Black diaspora.

As director, Brown will work to center the institute’s research efforts on a select group of long-term, multidisciplinary research pillars, including climate change, arts and activism, histories of race at Dartmouth, and race in New England. The subjects will draw on academic expertise and foster partnerships with other centers, institutes and programs on campus and elsewhere to create research and creative projects accessible to the general public about Black history and culture.

The institute will also act as a hub of culture, hosting community lunches and dinners, promoting mentorship of Black students, encouraging engagement with Black alumni, completing the work of the Black Caucus employee resource network, and fostering reciprocal connections between Dartmouth and communities of color and other organizations in New England.

Brown, a two-time author, joined the Dartmouth faculty in 2020 and was co-director of the Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration, and Sexuality. She is an expert in African-American and African diasporic literature and visual culture studies.

The IBICL will be co-led by a full-time executive director, who is a faculty member. 

The institute is part of a $60 million, extensive package of initiatives announced by then-president Philip J. Hanlon in 2021 and backed equally by Beilock to enhance racial equity and justice at Dartmouth and bring about constructive change in higher education and society.

Barry Caldwell, a Call to Lead executive committee member who oversaw the fundraising drive, said it was “very encouraging to see this new initiative clear its initial funding hurdle” and applauded Dartmouth’s commitment to the effort.

“The institute, along with other Dartmouth social justice initiatives, promises to enrich future Dartmouth students, enhance inclusiveness and belonging, and help attract and retain more Black and other ethnically diverse faculty and staff,” Caldwell added.

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