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Building the SNF Agora  Institute

Development of the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins took a major step on November 15. That was when its first cohort of endowed professors was formally installed. This happened against the backdrop of progress on the building that the institute will eventually call home. Construction fencing has been erected, heavy-duty vehicles and machinery are in position, and site excavation has commenced. 

The event, Join the Agora: A Celebration of Faculty and Facilities,” recognized that progress and the eight endowed SNF Agora Institute Professors. An enthusiastic group of faculty, donors, and supporters gathered at Mason Hall to witness the installation of the professors, recognize the philanthropy that helped establish the SNF Institute, and raise a toast to what will be a gleaming new space. 

“We could not be more pleased to have this extraordinary group of scholars with us at Hopkins to shape the SNF Agora, to sharpen our shared understanding of the challenges facing democracy, and to advance bold, evidence-based solutions that can begin to remedy those challenges,” said Johns Hopkins President Ronald Daniels.  

In addition to Daniels, participants in the event included Christopher S. Celenza, James B. Knapp Dean, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; Hahrie Han, inaugural director of the SNF Agora Institute, and professor in the Department of Political Science; and Andreas Dracopoulos, co-president of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and a member of the Johns Hopkins University Board of Trustees. 

Discovery, design, and dialogue

“At the core of the SNF Agora Institute are three driving elements: discovery, design, and dialogue,” Celenza said as he formally presented the SNF Agora Institute professors to the university. “Our scholars discover new avenues to understanding democracy; they collaborate with others to design ways to translate and apply academic research in ways that can make a real-world impact; and they initiate productive dialogue to bridge divides and share new knowledge with students and the broader public.” 

SNF Agora, founded in 2017 with a visionary $150 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, is an academic and public forum dedicated to strengthening global democracy through powerful civic engagement and informed, inclusive dialogue.  

Guests were invited to join the SNF Agora community by signing stones inscribed with the phrase “I am the agora.” The phrase is a creative nod to the similarly inscribed boundary stones that demarcated the ancient Athenian agora. Then, members of Johns Hopkins and community leaders also signed stones. The stones are intended for an art installation in the new building. 

Each stone, and each signature, signifies our individual and collective civic engagement in the community and our shared belief that inclusive dialogue is the cornerstone of a robust global democracy.”

—Christopher S. Celenza, James B. Knapp Dean

Scholarship by the inaugural professors spans a wide range of topics, including political polarization; civil discourse and civic engagement; the changing politics of information flows in our globalized world; race and inequality; the role of science in society; the ability of people to work across difference; political violence; and voting rights reform.