Grants in Higher Education

November 18, 2005


Click here for other projects in Teaching and Learning

November 2005
Calvin College
Strengthening Liberal Arts Education by Embracing Place and Particularity | White paper
Project Leaders: Gail Heffner


$99,340 over 19 months. Calvin College has always worked at the nexus of theory and practice, infusing liberal arts education even through the teaching of its professional programs, and placing high value on engaged scholarship, service learning, and the development of educational partnerships with its community. Building on this history, Calvin will convene a working group—composed of faculty, administrators, trustees, alumni, students, and community members—to study the relationship between the liberal arts and the particularity of place. Key questions for the group include: “How can the liberal arts tradition serve the common good in a particular place? How should this particular place influence and shape the liberal arts tradition at Calvin? How can we use our city as text to strengthen liberal arts education for our students?”

Informed by the literature on the subject, invited speakers, interviews with faculty, students, and alumni, and consultation with other colleges and universities, the group will work as a whole and in sub-groups over the grant period to produce three deliverables:
  • A white paper that will identify how the liberal arts can influence the burgeoning “civic engagement” / community-partnership literature and practice in higher education.
  • Long-term partnerships between local colleges and universities to do collaborative planning on ways to help college students understand and embrace their role as liberally educated citizens of a particular place.
  • Transferable resources for the liberal arts community, including six city-based case studies for liberal arts classes that will provide other institutions with not only the studies themselves, but bibliographies of relevant theory that links liberal arts content with the specific local issue, suggestions for how the case might be used in courses, as well as pedagogical suggestions for individual or team-based work, and suggestions for how to involve community leaders in the design of a locally situated study.

College of Saint Benedict / St. Johns University
Controversial Conversations: Gender Dialogue in a Faith-Based Liberal Arts College | White paper
Project Leaders: Dan McKanan


$91,657 over 18 months. The College of Saint Benedict, in partnership with Saint John’s University, will investigate the topic of controversial conversations in the context of a faith-based, liberal arts college, focusing specifically on conversations about gender. The ability to hold open conversation on a wide variety of topics, even on—especially on—difficult topics is central to a liberal arts education, yet a variety of factors conspire to silence these opportunities that educate our students on important issues. These factors include certain understandings of the Catholic faith tradition, fear of loss of donors and bad publicity, enrollment pressures, and a simple lack of skills for conducting effective conversations. Seeking to address these problems, the college proposes a project focused on conversations around gender-related topics such male and female roles, homosexuality, women priests, abortion, and birth control.

A working group consisting of faculty, students, alumni, administrators and trustees will conduct initial research to bring together scholarship on gender and learning, pedagogical approaches to controversial issues, and scholarship on learning and teaching in Catholic institutions. A campus-wide survey will glean baseline data from faculty, students, and staff about factors that currently shape controversial conversations on campus; faculty-directed student researchers will then develop focused research projects to address issues identified by the survey. The working group’s overall goals are to:
  • Identify two or three especially effective pedagogical strategies for facilitating “civil and courageous” conversations about gender and sexuality;
  • Persuasively analyze how gender shapes such conversation in the context of these colleges;
  • Make informed recommendations for creating a campus culture hospitable to such conversations;
  • Provide a template for future research on the impact of specific factors—religion, class, race, for example—on such conversations.

Lawrence University
A Study of the Lawrence Fellows in Liberal Arts and Sciences | White paper
Project Leaders: William Skinner


$100,000 over 24 months. Lawrence University will assemble a working group comprised of faculty, staff, students, and administrators to study the Lawrence Fellows in Liberal Arts and Sciences, a new postdoctoral teaching fellowship program. The Lawrence Fellows Program aims to develop the professoriate of the future by providing recent doctoral degree recipients with mentoring, teaching opportunities, and research collaborations that will better prepare them for tenure-track positions in academia. At the same time, the program seeks to enrich student learning, more quickly introduce to the curriculum and undergraduate research programs the newest research techniques being pursued at distinguished graduate programs, enhance faculty research and performance, and further augment the college’s robust offerings of one-on-one learning experiences for all students.

The working group will assess the degree to which the Fellows Program is achieving these goals, gathering data through a variety of methods (self-assessment of teaching and scholarship, video/class observations, course evaluations, surveys, and other reports), and then analyzing those data. Results should benefit not only the Lawrence Fellows program, but post-doctoral fellowship programs in other places as well. To ensure the latter, the group will disseminate its results through various means, including a webpage dedicated to this project, and through a conference the college will host.

Mount Holyoke College
Expanding Learning Abroad Opportunities for All Students | White paper
Project Leaders: Eva Paus


$100,000 over 20 months. Mount Holyoke College will develop a working group of faculty, students, staff, and alumnae to investigate strategies for making it possible for their students to have a meaningful learning experience abroad. Whether through study abroad, international internships or research experiences, the college wants all students to have the opportunity to live and learn abroad for some period during their undergraduate years. The college wants, moreover, to connect those experiences abroad more intentionally to its overarching educational goal of preparing students for global citizenship. Its purpose is to develop in all of its students, whatever their major areas of study, a more active engagement with cultures and perspectives outside the United States, an understanding of the impact of globalization on human well-being, and a deeper appreciation for the complexity inherent in addressing the critical problems of our world. Mount Holyoke believes that liberal arts colleges have a duty to encourage their students to feel a sense of responsibility for the common good, grounded in respect and concern for others, while providing them with the skills they will need for a successful and responsible life in today’s rapidly changing global environment. To accomplish this end, there is not substitute for the experience of living abroad.

A working group of faculty, students, administrators and alumnae will systematically examine the constituent elements of achieving this goal. They will survey students to identify and address perceived obstacles to going abroad, and compile comparative information from peer colleges that already send a majority of their students abroad. The group will enlist faculty across the disciplines to help identify appropriate programs or research sites abroad for those students who may be reluctant to go abroad because of concerns about curricular or research continuity. The group will involve alumnae to help further develop a model network for creating international internship opportunities around the world. Administrative staff members of the working group will help develop feasible plans for financing learning abroad experiences for an increasing number of domestic students. The results will be compiled into a strategic plan for expanding the global education of all Mount Holyoke students and shared in the White Paper that the group will submit to the Teagle Foundation.

Wheaton College (Massachusetts)
Expanding Quantitative Analysis as a Framework for Interdisciplinary Learning and Applied Problem Solving | White paper
Project Leaders: Bill Goldbloom-Bloch


$99,500 over 20 months. Wheaton College frames its proposal for a Working Group most broadly in terms of the United States’ lagging competence in math and science relative to the rest of the world, arguing that liberal arts colleges can play an important role in reversing this trend. An understanding of quantitative analysis and quantitative literacy is essential for comprehending data that describe life’s intellectual, economic, and political realities. Such abstract and applied knowledge and skills establish a framework for evaluating relationships between entities, for understanding perspective, and for interpreting change in spatial and temporal terms.

The working group will consist of a core of three, and augmented by faculty and students from a range of departments, the head of the College’s Multicultural Center, trustees, alumni, and external advisors. They will propose new pedagogical approaches, new campus-wide and external collaborations, exercises, and displays to instill interest, improve performance, and engage faculty and students to pursue quantitative analysis knowledge and skills more aggressively and successfully. The work to be accomplished includes:
  • Enhancing two existing initiatives (peer tutoring in the QA Resource Center and “Course Connections,” which asks faculty to design and link courses across disciplines);
  • Developing a Math Practicum in which teams of eight students and two faculty members will work for a semester with local and regional businesses and industries on research projects that demand mathematical solutions.
  • Scheduling events and speakers;
  • Developing ways to foster work in quantitative analysis in participating departments;
  • Assessing the impact of the work done over the grant period;
  • Producing a White Paper to be submitted to the Foundation.

Indicators of success will include a greater number of math majors, math minors, and non-majors in course connections that feature math courses; a greater number of students making use of peer tutoring activities; a greater number of course connections offered; successful launch of the Math Practicum.