Building the Agora

November 17, 2021 by Kate Pipkin

The SNF Agora Institute celebrates endowed professors, marking a significant moment in the university’s endeavors to foster democracy

Development of the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins took a major step on November 15, when its first cohort of endowed professors were 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.

“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 JHU President Ron Daniels. He concluded, “This faculty and this institute are moving reminders of the vital and indispensable work of universities like ours and the contributions we have to make to democracy.”

SNF Agora, founded in 2017 with a visionary $150 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), is an academic and public forum dedicated to strengthening global democracy through powerful civic engagement and informed, inclusive dialogue. The name comes from the ancient Athenian agora — a marketplace that became the heart of democratic governance in Athens by providing a forum for debate, disagreement, and deliberation. The institute aims to renew the promise of the agora in modern times, by creating a vibrant space for the contestation of ideas and offering evidence-driven tools for effective participation in the democratic project.

In addition to Daniels, participants in Monday’s 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 SNF, and a member of the Johns Hopkins University Board of Trustees.

“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 Professorships 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.”

As part of the celebration, guests were invited to join the SNF Agora community by signing stones inscribed with the phrase “I am the agora” — a creative nod to the similarly inscribed boundary stones that demarcated the Athenian agora. All of the signed stones are intended for an art installation in the new building.

Read the full story on The Hub.

Topics: Faculty and Staff, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Fuel Discovery