99-022 (Making a Civic Investment)
Distributed September 21, 1999
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

A Brown University-MCI WorldCom Technology Partnership

$5-million plan will enhance learning in underserved communities

Under a five-year, $5-million program funded by MCI WorldCom and administered by Brown University, schools and community groups nationwide may apply for grants of $25,000 to $40,000 in support of education technology projects for schoolchildren and their parents in underserved communities.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University and telecommunications leader MCI WorldCom announced today a new nationwide program that will use information technology to improve educational attainment. The program, Making a Civic Investment, will engage civic organizations, schools and universities in local projects designed to foster new models of technology-enhanced education.

“Our work will focus on the child, not the computer,” said Bernard J. Ebbers, chief executive officer of MCI WorldCom. “Our purpose is to improve learning, not merely to distribute machines or network connections. Here, technology will help kids to learn and live better.”

The five-year, $5-million program, funded by MCI WorldCom and administered by Brown, will link schools and community organizations around the country with a local college or university to implement technology learning projects for children in grades K-12. Between 25 and 30 multiyear grants of up to $40,000 will be awarded for projects each year.

“With thousands of the nation’s college students eager to make productive contributions, America’s colleges and universities are a ready and uniquely valuable resource for communities determined to bring about positive change,” said Brown University President E. Gordon Gee. “The partnership between Brown and MCI WorldCom will provide direct and lasting benefits to communities across the country and will give colleges and universities an important opportunity to advance the public mission of higher education.”

This community investment is also the culmination of joint efforts between MCI WorldCom and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition to expand MCI WorldCom’s outreach to minority communities. Rainbow/PUSH founder the Rev. Jesse Jackson said the group is pleased with the results of its year-long discussions with MCI WorldCom. “This is an example of the type of commitment our communities need from corporate America,” Jackson said. “If we provide our children with the technology to learn, we empower a new generation to compete in our technology-driven world.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, inadequate access to information technology limits educational and economic achievement among underserved populations. Research also shows that access to technology is divided sharply along ethnic, racial and class lines. By making computers and the Internet a part of daily life at schools, community centers, and civic organizations in underserved areas, the program will help children and their parents discover how information technology can enhance their experience in classrooms and communities.

Previous experience demonstrates that there are limitless ways to accomplish that goal. For example, a Providence elementary school built a web site that depicted how different waves of immigrants had changed their neighborhoods over the last 100 years. The children interviewed local residents and undertook extensive neighborhood research. In Philadelphia, youngsters worked with University of Pennsylvania students to research the life of political activist and performer Paul Robeson, whose home is a neighborhood landmark. They created web sites to disseminate their research and to inform their community of its historical connection.

Making a Civic Investment will support community-led projects across the country, using a well-established national network of colleges and universities developed by Campus Compact and other organizations at Brown. Campus Compact, an organization of more than 600 college and university presidents founded in 1985, is one of the nation’s foremost advocates for service learning and community involvement on the part of college students, faculty, and staff.

Brown’s Institute for Elementary and Secondary Education (IESE) will provide project leaders with annual professional development programs at Brown and will document the learning that occurs in the projects. All projects will include plans for evaluation.

Member institutions of Campus Compact, the Leadership Alliance, and all historically black colleges and universities are eligible to participate in the program. Information about applying for grants will be available from the national office of Campus Compact at Brown University. For additional information, please contact the Compact at http://www.compact.org or at (401) 863-1119.

MCI WorldCom is a global leader in communications services with 1998 revenue of more than $30 billion and established operations in more than 65 countries encompassing the Americas, Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions. MCI WorldCom is a premier provider of facilities-based and fully integrated local, long-distance, international and Internet services. MCI WorldCom’s global networks, including its state-of-the-art pan-European network and transoceanic cable systems, provide end-to-end high-capacity connectivity to more than 40,000 buildings worldwide. MCI WorldCom is traded on NASDAQ under WCOM. For more information on MCI WorldCom, visit the World Wide Web at http://www.wcom.com.

For additional information:

Brown Contacts: Mark Nickel or Kristen Cole (401) 863-2476
MCI Contact: Barbara Gibson (202) 887-2757
PUSH Contact: Dahlia Hayles (202) 333-5270