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Mellon Grant Supports Teaching Innovation

The long-term outcome of curricular innovation is an even more distinctive educational program and a renewed understanding of “who we are as a liberal arts college.” — Jeff Abernathy

Alma College has received a $100,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to explore curricular innovation that leads to more effective learning.

“Over the past several months, we have invited faculty to think about innovations for the college and what might help shape the college for the years ahead,” says Alma College President Jeff Abernathy. “Our faculty are asking: What do we do when we do our best? What is distinctive about what we do?

“The answers to these questions will guide our exploration of curricular change that highlights our strengths, improves student learning and enhances what a liberal arts college is all about,” says Abernathy. “The grant from the Mellon Foundation provides financial support for improving teaching and learning.”

The major components of the project include structured campus conversations, led by a coordinating faculty committee and consultants from The Learning Alliance for Higher Education, about the prospects and opportunities for academic initiatives that improve the student experience.

In addition, the grant provides financial support for faculty — in the form of $3,000 stipends — who wish to revamp their courses in ways that excite and motivate students.

“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is one of the largest and most respected champions of humanities research in the United States, and we are fortunate to be among the exemplary institutions it supports,” says Matthew vandenBerg, vice president for advancement at Alma College. “This grant and the curricular innovations we explore will help ensure that Alma thrives well into the future.”

The anticipated long-term outcome of these initiatives is an even more distinctive educational program and a renewed understanding of “who we are as a liberal arts college,” says Abernathy.

“Our goal, as always, is to assure that Alma graduates are prepared to be lifelong learners and contributors to their local, regional and global communities,” says Abernathy.

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Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.

Alma College, founded in 1886, is a four-year residential liberal arts college located in the heart of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. A deep regard for students as individuals is fundamental to an Alma education, with small classes and many opportunities for one-on-one collaboration with dedicated faculty. Alma’s academic programs encourage students to put the ideas and theories that they discuss in the classroom to work in real world settings through internships, research fellowships, campus leadership, study abroad or service to others.

Story published on January 12, 2016