College awarded Presidential Leadership Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Publication Date

Union has received a $150,000 Presidential Leadership Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support an interdisciplinary program within the College’s Common Curriculum.

President Stephen C. Ainlay was invited to apply for the grant in recognition of his eight years of leadership at Union.

The three-year grant will be used to enhance the curriculum through cross-disciplinary, global experiences for faculty.

Therese A McCarty, the Stephen J. and Diane K. Ciesinski Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, is the project director for the grant. Professor John Cramsie, who serves as Director of General Education is working closely with McCarty on the project.

As part of the grant, 20 faculty members will be chosen to participate in two 10-day intensive international experiences that examine an interdisciplinary subject area of global import from disparate perspectives, such as STEM and the humanities. Faculty will engage in preparatory discussions and readings, visit international locations linked to academic content, and share ideas and intellectual connections. Upon their return, participants will attend a campus retreat to integrate the experience into Union's curriculum.

Using two foundational courses in the Common Curriculum, First-Year Preceptorial (with its emphasis on critical reading or writing) and the Sophomore Research Seminar (with its focus on research practices), faculty will develop new courses or redevelop existing ones around content inspired by the trip. Select faculty will then link their particular course with those of at least one other participating faculty.

For example, students might have the opportunity to take an SRS with an historian on the environmental history of China that is linked with a science course on current environmental challenges in China.

“Union has students whose curiosity transcends disciplines and who are ready to learn from the surprising connections among courses and perspectives that faculty members help them to see,” McCarty said. “Exposing students to more of these surprising connections will give them a deeper, more holistic understanding of questions of great import to humanity.”

This is the second Presidential Leadership Grant Ainlay has received from the Mellon Foundation. Shortly after becoming president in 2006, he received a $50,000 discretionary grant that was used to support the integration of liberal arts and engineering. This included the creation of an annual symposium in the spring, which has attracted national attention, including a feature in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“I am grateful to receive this generous grant from the Mellon Foundation,” Ainlay said. "The Foundation has done so much to enrich higher education and Union College."

He also noted that “These innovative faculty study tours will help us strengthen our curriculum and the College as a whole.”