Home » ACM Receives $700,000 Grant for Series of Liberal Arts Faculty Seminars

ACM Receives $700,000 Grant for Series of Liberal Arts Faculty Seminars

ACM Receives $700,000 Grant for Series of Liberal Arts Faculty Seminars January 24, 2011

ACM has received a $700,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a series of five faculty development seminars designed to foster collaborative and interdisciplinary investigation of a substantive topic and the subsequent creation of interdisciplinary curricular elements for juniors and seniors at ACM colleges.

The ACM-Mellon Liberal Arts Faculty Seminars will focus on topics that raise broad, enduring questions, and will be held in locations that provide relevant, cross-cultural contexts to the topics.  As they engage faculty from across the academic spectrum – the humanities, arts, sciences, and social sciences – the Seminars will use the challenge of cross-cultural and other off-campus contexts to create a setting that requires fresh thinking and collaboration among the participants.

ACM Vice President John Ottenhoff sees the ACM-Mellon Seminars as an “extraordinary opportunity to help faculty build on their disciplinary expertise with new pedagogical tools and models for interdisciplinary learning.”

As the Mellon Foundation has recognized, although most colleges offer first-year and other introductory seminars highlighting integrative perspectives, they tend to focus on the discipline in teaching more specialized courses at the advanced level. Faculty members typically teach as experts, drawing on what they know in depth, in part because it is difficult to combine the roles of expert and novice that are needed to lead interdisciplinary scholarship at advanced levels.

Meanwhile, said Ottenhoff, “many ACM students have ‘high-impact’ learning experiences hrough internships and off-campus study programs. The Seminars will give faculty their own ‘high-impact’ learning experiences and help them build into the upper levels of the curriculum the insights students gain through off-campus and similar transformative experiences.”

Over a seven to ten-day period, each Seminar will bring together an interdisciplinary group of 15 faculty to apply their areas of expertise, learn from each other and from outside experts, and work together to increase their collective knowledge of the topic. Participants will then build on the Seminar experience to develop innovative, advanced-level coursework for their students that takes a liberal arts approach.

The Seminars will draw on the collaborative strengths of the consortium by using locations, both international and in the U.S., where the ACM and/or its member colleges have established networks of faculty, local staff, partners, and facilities that can provide academic expertise and logistical support.

Potential Seminar themes will likely include both critical contemporary issues and topics that are venerable and longstanding. As an illustration, the topic of “Water” could be taken up at Colorado College’s Baca campus in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, at the shores of the Great Lakes, or in Pune, India. All are sites where the ACM has a presence and that would be propitious for considering the critical role of water from various disciplinary perspectives. The Seminar could ask questions such as “What patterns of social organization assure stable water supplies?” “In what ways can effective political policies reinforce the findings of science?” “How do art and literature represent this resource in places where it is scarce as opposed to where it is abundant?”

By convening at appropriate locations and with local experts, the Seminars will allow faculty to create learning communities. Each Seminar group will engage complex problems from a broad, interdisciplinary perspective, fostering collaboration and the development of new approaches. At different points during the Seminar, participants will combine both specialist and non-specialist roles as they work together to incorporate expertise brought by participating faculty and local professionals.

In effect, the Seminars will constitute “temporary research centers” in which faculty develop new and interdisciplinary expertise in topics that interest them. These temporary research centers will be models for the advanced curricular activities the faculty will develop for upper-level students at their colleges.

During and following the Seminars, participants will develop and implement specific curricular projects aimed at helping junior and senior-level students make connections between disciplines and cultures. Projects might include new courses or significant modifications to existing courses, new pedagogical approaches, and collaborations with other faculty, especially those who participated in the Summer Seminar.

To provide models that can be used broadly throughout the ACM and liberal arts colleges, the curricular and intellectual results of the ACM-Mellon Faculty Seminars will be presented at ACM conferences at the midpoint and at the end of the project, as well as through campus presentations, panel discussions at national meetings, and on the ACM website.

The Faculty Seminar project is designed to have an impact on individual faculty leaders and their colleagues, on the cohorts of advanced liberal arts students who study with them, and more broadly throughout the ACM and the liberal arts sector. If successful, this project will:

  • Assist ACM faculty in developing expertise in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural topics that enriches their teaching and their capacity to improve curricula at their colleges.
  • Add significant and exemplary innovations to the curricula at ACM institutions by creating new courses, sequences, modules, or faculty collaborations to help upper-level undergraduates synthesize the strands of general and disciplinary education across disciplines and cultures.
  • Strengthen the member colleges of the ACM through clusters of re-engaged faculty who have benefited from collaborative work with colleagues and experts.
  • Strengthen consortial collaboration by building research communities among the member colleges and by using program sites for intensive faculty development.
  • Contribute to the making of new knowledge within the liberal arts context, highlighting the contributions of interdisciplinary collaborations, cross-cultural perspectives, and the connections between strong teaching and research.

The first of five annual ACM-Mellon Liberal Arts Faculty Seminars will be held in summer 2012. A Call for Proposals for the topic, location, and faculty leaders of the first Seminar will be issued to faculty at ACM colleges this spring. A Call for Participants will be issued later this year, after the topic, location, and date have been selected.

Visit the ACM-Mellon Liberal Arts Faculty Seminars webpage to read excerpts from the grant proposal.



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