Mellon grant to fund growth at McDaniel

The Baltimore Sun

McDaniel College will give faculty development and curriculum a closer look this year because of a $200,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Liberal Arts Colleges Program. The 2 1/2 -year grant, a second for the college from the foundation, will help McDaniel launch its Center for Faculty Excellence, as well as two programs that respectively emphasize interdisciplinary education and writing skills.

"We really do pride ourselves on the quality of our teaching, and because we do, we think it's important for the college to provide support for good teaching to become even better," McDaniel President Joan Develin Coley said.

While McDaniel has long focused on faculty development, the center takes those efforts "to the next level," she added.

The center is expected to open in the spring, Coley said.

The first Mellon award of $48,000 was a planning grant for a curricular review of the college's general education program, said Eugene Tobin, program officer for the Mellon Foundation's Liberal Arts Colleges Program.

"We're looking at colleges, like McDaniel, that focus exclusively on liberal [arts] education, often in a residential setting where the student-faculty relationship is critically important," Tobin said. "When you can help an institution that maximizes its impact on students and faculty, then you're really doing something good for an academic community."

The Center for Faculty Excellence is "both an idea and a place," said Thomas Falkner, provost and dean of the faculty at McDaniel.

"We're sort of conceiving the Center for Faculty Excellence as both an intellectual and a logistical center to support faculty development" in their roles as teachers, mentors and scholars, Falkner said.

The center will be on the second floor of the college's library, Coley said. The space should give faculty a setting for "thoughtful planning and reflection," Falkner said.

With new knowledge and technology, professors are facing more expectations and teaching in different ways, he added.

"We sort of see the need for this as a way of recognizing the demands on college teachers today," Falkner said. "I think they've never been greater."

Coley said the center would fit well with the college's plans for a revised curriculum -- one that introduces interdisciplinary, team-taught courses for sophomores and a "junior writing experience" for different subjecs.

While faculty have experience preparing their own work for publication, Falkner and Coley said, many weren't trained to be writing teachers.

The center's resources and training opportunities could help show them how to do so, Coley said.

The Center for Faculty Excellence should encourage change among professors, Tobin said.

"You would hope that this kind of an initiative would stimulate new faculty thinking, help the faculty introduce new courses that would replace others," he said.

Faculty members tend to stay at an institution for their entire careers, he added, which makes programs that keep them vibrant and intellectually alive all the more important. "Small colleges need to be able to provide the opportunity for renewal," Tobin said.

The grant should facilitate that opportunity. It provides funding for training and professional development workshops, along with modest summer stipends for limited numbers of faculty engaged in course development projects for the new sophomore and junior-year programs, Falkner said.

McDaniel still hopes to keep the center open after the Mellon Foundation funding ends, Coley said.

"By then, it will be so successful that there won't be any question but that we will keep it," Coley said.

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