Two years ago, SUNY Cortland and many Cortland County not-for-profit agencies began informing students and the community about economic inequality-related issues. In early 2015, participants in the Economic Inequality Initiative added the goal of raising low-wage Cortland County residents’ incomes to its agenda.
Initiative participants now include people from government, business, health, faith-based, not-for-profit, and education communities – including K-12 teachers and SUNY Cortland students, faculty, and staff. People from these fields are innovating ways of raising low-wage residents’ incomes. By doing so, new applied-learning opportunities for SUNY Cortland students emerged. These opportunities, available to students from all disciplines, strengthen students’ understanding of, and experience in, civic decision-making processes.
Through educational events such as the Cortland County Community Action Program’s State of Poverty Simulation, participants try to survive a simulated month while earning minimum wage. Many of the participants in our September 26, 2016 simulation will apply information that they learned at the event to their own personal situations as well as to service learning projects.
As part of the Economic Inequality Initiative, SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement will also collaborate with colleagues from Broome Community College to deliver a series of “Deliberative Dialog” sessions. These sessions will engage students in civil, proactive discussion and problem-solving. Participants will then develop strategies designed to improve our county’s low-wage residents’ incomes. The Dialog is supported by the New York Campus Compact (NYCC), an organization of college presidents who promote service-learning. SUNY Cortland’s President Erik Bitterbaum is a member of NYCC.