Mellon Program: Grants for 2017-2017 Academic Year

February 20, 2017

From Catherine Epstein, Dean of Faculty

Dear Colleagues:

I am pleased to invite proposals from Amherst College academic departments and interdisciplinary programs for a grant program to support them in reviewing and revising their curriculum to best meet the needs of our current students. This effort is funded by Amherst’s “Reimagining the Commons” grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional funding from the Dean of the Faculty. To maximize flexibility and to help departments plan around leave schedules and other commitments, we are instituting a rolling deadline rather than a single annual competition. Proposals will be reviewed by a faculty committee within 60 days of their submission, with funding available as soon as the proposal is approved.  Two departments, Economics and Geology, were funded in 2016. Up to ten additional grants are available for proposals submitted between now and December 2019.

Grants are intended to support departments and programs as they review and redesign course sequences and majors at the college in order to help all students, regardless of background or preparation, engage more deeply with what they are learning. Departments may choose to address questions of access, inclusion, and effectiveness, such as (but not limited to): How can we cultivate foundational capacities for all students in areas such as writing, argumentation, quantitative literacy and research? How can courses offered within a major connect classroom work with research, collaborative projects, or community-based learning? How can majors more fully reflect emerging scholarship and practice in the discipline? How can we increase student engagement with ideas, perspectives, or communities other than those most familiar to them, including communities outside the United States? And how can an Amherst education help all our students find their way in a world that is both highly interconnected and deeply divided?

I encourage departments to consult with hari stephen kumar and Riley Caldwell O’Keefe in our Instructional and Curricular Design Services department to discuss how their ideas can be developed into a proposal that aligns with the guidelines (click here for the call for proposals). The ICDS team will work closely with staff from other offices as needed to offer resources as departments develop their proposals.

We see this grant program as an opportunity for departments and programs to implement promising ideas across their curriculum. I look forward to your proposals.

All best,

Catherine

Reimagining the Commons

From announcement on December 19, 2015:

Amherst College has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to adapt residential liberal arts education to a new population of students and changing circumstances. The grant will allow the College to enhance its longstanding commitment to rigorous education in the liberal arts and expand its efforts to create a vibrant and inclusive community in which diversity benefits all students, faculty and staff. The grant follows a successful, decade-long approach to recruitment and financial aid that has made Amherst’s student body one of the most diverse among its peer institutions. The grant also comes as a generational shift in the faculty has brought a new wave of professors to campus.

The foundation funded the grant proposal, which was submitted in August, to provide funding over nine semesters, beginning in spring 2016, to support Amherst’s holistic approach to rethinking residential liberal arts education, including three areas of the College’s work:

  • Developing the capacity of an increasingly diverse faculty to meet the needs of today’s population of students, drawing on insights from research into high-impact practices and the science of learning and on a long-established culture of great teaching.
  • Expanding curricular and co-curricular opportunities for students to learn by doing, including more opportunities to identify and solve problems collaboratively and to connect their academic growth with possible careers.
  • Reimagining living and learning on a residential campus, with a focus on enabling faculty, staff and students to collaborate, build community, participate in difficult conversations, and address questions of consequence from a range of perspectives.

“We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for providing this generous support,” said President Biddy Martin. “It will help us ensure that all students have what they need to be successful at Amherst, that every student reaps the benefits of our diversity, and that the College is changed for the better as a result of it.”

Today, 43 percent of Amherst students identify themselves as students of color, and another 10 percent identify as international students.

Among other initiatives, the funding will enable Amherst to:  

  • Engage more than half of tenure-line faculty in seminars that explore the best methods of teaching across learning styles.
  • Hire a second instructional designer to help faculty incorporate new pedagogies into their courses. By mid-2017, the College expects to have a core team of specialists in place to support innovation in teaching and learning.
  • Support at least 12 academic departments or programs in bringing fresh pedagogical approaches to the curriculum.
  • Create a program in which students work in teams with faculty, staff and alumni, using principles of design thinking to develop solutions to campus and community challenges.
  • Bring in local and national experts to help faculty, students and staff learn to lead difficult conversations and contribute to local and national debates on issues important to them.

The College’s work on the goals specified in the grant is ongoing and will include new steps this spring, when the dean of the faculty will add new faculty seminars and which will be followed by calls for proposals to integrate high-impact practices at the departmental level.

Call for proposals : 2017-2018 Academic Year

2017-2018 CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Departmental Support for Pedagogical Transformation

Across the Major

 

With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Amherst is implementing a grant program to support departments and interdisciplinary programs as they think about how their courses and majors reflect and further the goals of an Amherst education described in the College’s Strategic Plan. These include enabling students to connect work in the classroom with research, collaborative projects, study abroad or community engagement; to recognize and pursue foundational capacities that help them succeed in multiple disciplines and life experiences; to engage with communities other than those most familiar to them; and to consider how their Amherst education helps them to find their way in a world that is both highly interconnected and deeply divided. In a departure from previous, grant-supported projects, which invited individual faculty participants, this call requests proposals from departmental teams, and it asks departments and interdisciplinary programs to think strategically about clusters of courses that are core to their teaching and to the major.

Priority will be given to projects that demonstrate the support of their departments or programs and accomplish at least two of the following objectives:

  • Redesign syllabi, course materials, or assigned projects to clearly identify the learning goals of courses and the intellectual capacities (such as writing, critical reading, quantitative reasoning, or research) that students can anticipate strengthening in those courses.
  • Develop or revise courses, including at least two courses that fulfill major requirements, to engage all students in those courses with one or more high-impact practices.
  • Incorporate new content or methods of instruction that have been shown to deepen learning for all students.
  • Respond to recommendations from a recent self-study, external review, or departmental retreat.
  • Provide an opportunity for faculty to revise or rethink courses that are offered regularly, rather than electives or experimental courses that are unlikely to be repeated.
  • Identify new or alternative pathways within a major, and develop materials to show students and advisors how the new pathways will work.
  • Promote cross-departmental collaboration between two or more departments, either by creating jointly offered, cross-listed core courses, by creating interdisciplinary pathways within each participating major, or by improving coordination between introductory/prerequisite and upper-level courses that cross departmental lines (e.g., chemistry or mathematics prerequisites for other STEM courses).

Above all, we seek to direct support toward those departments and programs that demonstrate that they are thinking about the goals of their curriculum or about the relationship between their department and another in a comprehensive way. Departmental grants are not intended simply to add activities (e.g., group projects, travel) to existing courses with no other revision. 

Eligibility
In order to submit a proposal, two or more faculty from the same department or program, including tenure-track and tenured professors and lecturers whose appointments extend at least through the grant period, should agree to work on the course development/revisions during the grant period, which will run for up to 18 months from the start date specified in the proposal.  Along with a proposal and budget, applicants must submit a letter from the department chair confirming the department’s support of the proposal, and departments must agree to offer the courses developed or revised with grant funds at least twice during the three years following the grant period. All departments receiving funding are asked to develop structured methods for assessing the work they undertake, using criteria developed in consultation with the Instructional and Curricular Design Services team.

Technical Support

We recognize the significant effort involved in developing or revising multiple courses within a department or interdisciplinary program. Colleagues from the Instructional and Curricular Design Services team are available to help with proposal development, project implementation, and evaluation. Support can take many forms, from curricular consultation to staff help in implementing new teaching methods. A project webpage includes a summary of the resources available to departments and programs.

Funding
Individual departments may request support of at least $10,000 and up to $30,000 in 2017. Beginning this year, we are offering the possibility of collaborative grants for 2 or more departments that wish to work together on curricular concerns; the funding range for collaborative proposals is $10,000 to $30,000 per department. We anticipate issuing additional calls for proposals in 2018 and 2019.  Funding may be used for the following expenses:

  • honoraria for faculty to review curriculum, develop or revise courses, conduct research on methods they seek to adopt, or gain expertise in new pedagogies. The maximum honorarium per person is $5,000. Departments wishing to provide honoraria to a large group of faculty should align the compensation requested with the roles and responsibilities of each participating faculty member.  At least one faculty colleague will need to be responsible for reporting on the project, as described below;
  • honoraria for outside consultants (up to $2,500 total);
  • wages for Academic Interns assisting with course revision or development;
  • travel directly related to course development (rather than faculty scholarship). Such travel might include site visits to other colleges and universities or attendance at conferences or workshops about pedagogy;
  • materials, software, or other expendable supplies; and
  • modest meeting costs (up to $500 per project). 

We encourage requests for expenses other than honoraria, within the $30,000 maximum. Please note: the terms of the grant award do not permit us to fund domestic or international student travel, including course-related field trips. 

Proposals should include the following items:

  • A three- to five-page narrative describing the project, its rationale and goals, how it meets the funding priorities listed above, team members and their proposed roles (including who will be responsible for reporting), and specific plans for offering and assessing courses that are created or revised under the project.
  • A one-page budget listing estimated expenses, with notes detailing any proposed travel, consultants, or supply purchases.
  • A letter signed by the Department/Program Chair indicating the department’s support of the proposal, describing the proposal’s relationship to departmental/program goals and plans, and confirming the commitment to offer resulting courses at least twice in the three years following the award.
  • Optional supporting materials, such as course descriptions or summaries of relevant previous work (If you plan to collaborate with a community organization or colleagues at another college or university, consider including a letter of support.)

To ensure that proposals align with the guidelines, departments are encouraged to consult with the staff of Instructional and Curricular Design Services. Complete proposals should be submitted to Catherine Epstein (cepstein@amherst.edu). A faculty committee will review proposals within 60 days and will either approve funding or ask the submitting department to respond to a list of concerns. Departments not approved for funding in the initial review will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit their proposals.

Selection
Proposals will be reviewed by a committee led by the Dean of the Faculty, according to the following criteria:

  • Feasibility of the proposed project
  • Ability of the project to address at least two of the priority criteria listed above
  • A clearly stated rationale for the proposed changes
  • Evidence of department-level commitment to revising courses in the major, and
  • Specific plans for offering courses and for assessing them.

Reporting
Departmental teams will be expected to submit two reports: a brief progress report six months into their grant period, and a two- to four-page final report summarizing the results of the project and plans for offering new or revised courses at the end of the grant period. Teams will be asked to participate in a public talk about their work during the academic year following their grant.

Resources for Curricular Design & Implementation

The following offices and staff are available to provide support and design consultations for faculty and departments considering applying for funding through the Reimagining the Commons Mellon grant. These offices also work closely and collaboratively with one another, through cross-functional project teams comprising members drawn from each department.

  • Instructional and Curricular Design Services
    Also a good starting point of contact for initial questions in developing course design proposals for the grant, this team is led by hari stephen kumar and will include a soon-to-be-hired additional curricular designer. The team provides faculty with in-depth consulting on a range of pedagogical matters including course and curriculum design, student engagement, inclusive and innovative pedagogies, learning assessment, coaching and feedback, and integrating technologies with teaching. The team offers individual consultations, collaborative design sessions, workshops and seminars, private coaching, and relevant research and resources from contemporary scholarship in teaching and learning.

  • Center for Community Engagement
    Led by Sarah Barr, the CCE staff provides faculty and students with opportunities to engage the world in sustained, collaborative, reflective and meaningful ways that enrich an innovative liberal arts education. Specializing in experience-based active learning opportunities, CCE staff are available to meet with faculty for course planning and curriculum development, outreach to community organizations, reflection tools and techniques for learning from community practice, and references on community-based teaching and learning.

  • Writing Center
    Led by Jyl Gentzler, William R. Kenan Professor of Philosophy, associates of the center provide faculty with consultations and workshops on a wide range of writing pedagogies. The center offers faculty seminars on the teaching of writing each semester, facilitates conversations and individual consultations about writing instruction, and offers in-class writing workshops for students.

  • Research & Instruction Librarians
    Led by Missy Roser, this team works with hundreds of classes each year in teaching research skills within the context of specific courses and assignments. R&I librarians partner with faculty to craft assignments and to sequence research across semesters or throughout majors. Members of the team teach approaches, strategies, tools, collections, bibliographic management, etc.