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Mellon Foundation awards W&M grant for COLL curriculum

$900,000 grant to support implementation of new general education curriculum

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded William & Mary a $900,000 grant to support implementation of the university’s new College (COLL) Curriculum, the set of general education courses required of all undergraduate students. The grant will be distributed over four years beginning July 1 and will help to fund startup costs for the new curriculum. The COLL curriculum launches officially with the undergraduate class entering in fall 2015. Faculty already are preparing new courses to be piloted in 2014-15, and more than 100 faculty participated in collaborative May workshops focused on the design of new COLL courses.

“We are gratified that the Mellon Foundation shares our enthusiasm for the new curriculum, and very grateful for its willingness to support its implementation in such a substantial way,” said Provost Michael R. Halleran. “This funding will allow us to maintain the momentum generated by our faculty’s hard work over the past three years.”

The COLL Curriculum intentionally extends throughout the four undergraduate years, beginning with two specially designed small classes in the freshman year and ending with a capstone experience in the major. It builds on and adds coherence to the signature strengths of a W&M undergraduate education: emphasis on inquiry-based learning, with close interaction between students and faculty; broad understanding of the range of our academic disciplines; and deep learning in a chosen major. All COLL courses emphasize skills in communications and collaborative work. In addition, the overall framework places new emphasis on students' understanding of international contexts, where and how the academic disciplines intersect and diverge, and how the broader liberal arts can inform and enhance a given major.

W&M’s strategic planning process, initiated in 2008-09, identified the need for a faculty review of the general education curriculum, last revised in 1993. In December 2013, the faculty completed their review and adopted the new College Curriculum, which elaborates overall goals, specifies requirements and the intentions of COLL courses and defines broad knowledge domains.

The Mellon grant will help to bridge the transition as current students complete the previous curriculum and the 2015 entering freshmen begin their studies under the new curriculum. The two curricula will run side by side for three years, resulting in a short-term increased cost. Extending the senior-level capstone experience to all majors will also involve additional teaching positions.

 The grant will support faculty as they develop and introduce new COLL courses at all four levels of the curriculum, provide crucial early funding to the work of the new Center for the Liberal Arts, and seed the planning and rollout of enhancements to the faculty-based student advising system and a new suite of academic resources to support student learning.

Kate Conley, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, will serve as principal investigator for the Mellon grant. "Part of the purpose of a curriculum review is to engage the faculty in a sustained discussion of the purposes of the liberal arts and how best to contribute our individual expertise into an integrated whole for the students,” Conley said. “I'm delighted with the many ways our faculty have embraced this opportunity. This substantial support from the Mellon Foundation matches our own high level of energy and engagement."