Occidental Awarded $700,000 Mellon Grant for Curriculum Planning
A $700,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will support Occidental College's integrated planning process as it enters its second phase, focusing on curricular planning in the humanities and social sciences.
The 3½-year grant will make it possible for faculty to set aside time to think deeply about curricular change, introduce them to fresh thinking brought by visiting faculty fellows and outside experts, and allow them to travel to other campuses to study best practices.
Launched in 2009, Occidental's planning process has involved faculty, staff, students, trustees and alumni in broad discussions about critical strategic issues. "This is an opportunity to build on the college's mission, further articulate its identity, and chart a clear direction for the future," said Occidental President Jonathan Veitch. "We are grateful for the Mellon Foundation's vote of confidence in the scope, ambition, and progress of our effort."
With an unprecedented number of faculty retirements expected in the next five to seven years, the appointment of a talented new vice president for academic affairs, and the planning process well underway, now is the time when the Mellon Foundation's support will make a critical difference, Veitch said.
"The Mellon grant will provide us with the resources to make thoughtful, informed choices about the future composition of the College's faculty in the context of a changing landscape for liberal arts education," he said.
Dean Jorge Gonzalez, a highly regarded scholar and professor of economics, came to Occidental from Trinity University last summer. He arrives at a time when almost one-third of the faculty in the College's 14 departments of the humanities and social sciences are over age 60. "We are educating our students for a world that is dramatically different from the one in which our senior faculty members were educated," Gonzalez said. "There is no better time to rethink our core curriculum and instructional methodologies and contemplate new directions."
To allow Occidental to get the most out of its planning process, the Mellon grant will fund:
- Three visiting faculty, to be known as Mellon Fellows, for two-year appointments in departments with retiring faculty members. In addition to teaching, the Fellows will engage in the departmental planning process, intended to lead to the hiring of a new tenure-track position.
- Faculty workshops and retreats to provide uninterrupted time for faculty to focus on the future of the curriculum.
- Planning task forces focusing on global citizenship, environmental studies, and the arts, among other areas.
- Travel for faculty and staff to visit other colleges and universities where innovative programming is taking place.
- Outside experts to review best practices, help faculty think about how to implement and integrate the college's strategic themes, and respond to issues raised in the planning process.
The grant is the Foundation's second major award to Occidental during the past 12 months. In 2010, the college received a three-year, $700,000 grant to integrate digital resources into student and faculty learning, teaching, and scholarship as part of its effort to re-imagine its library as an academic commons at the center of campus life.