Mellon Foundation awards college grant for new core curriculum

Photograph courtesy of Grizzly Staff

Erin McKinney

ermckinney@ursinus.edu

Ursinus’s new core curriculum has attracted attention—and money.

Recently, Ursinus College received a grant of $500,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This grant is being directed to the creation and development of a new core curriculum to be implemented over the next few years.

The mission statement of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation states that the organization provides “support [to] exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.”

Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs Nathan Rein helped to provide insight on the goals Ursinus wishes to achieve with this grant, and exactly what this will mean for current and incoming students.

“Basically, we’re taking what we do well with CIE and trying to infuse it into other parts of the student experience,” said Rein.”

According to Rein, much of this large grant will be designated to different training and incentive programs for professors and will greatly change the way the school handles first-year advising.

“The grant will give faculty funding to take a summer to design a new course, or towards training for new strategies and techniques,” he said.

The impact of the grant and the mission of the Mellon Foundation will be reflected in their assistance to the goals of the newly created Institute for Academic Success.

“One of the things the Institute has been set up to do is work on some of the equity issues that exist in higher education institutions everywhere,” said Rein. “Making sure that everybody gets served as best as possible, including those with disabilities or those coming from a background where they might not have quite the same high school preparation [as other students].”

Members of the faculty will be able to, with assistance from the grant, provide better academic assistance, and to understand the need for such assistance, for students from various backgrounds.

The grant will directly change first-year advising the most. There are plans to “make the first-year advising practices a little more systematic and more structured … so the students have a more consistent experience across the board,” said Rein.

This will most likely come to fruition in the grouping of first- year students together to meet with their advisors once a week, as well as setting up  one-on-one meetings when needed.

“We’re really hoping that creating groups like this will put you in a situation as an incoming student with some other students who are going through the exact same thing,” said Rein.

According to Rein, this encourages groups of students to get through their first year together and make lasting connections with their peers. The changes to first-year advising are intended to provide a no-stress check-in point for all freshmen, and a shared community experience on par with CIE. Additionally, upperclassmen will see changes in how the core operates.

Though Rein stressed this is still a pilot program and is subject to change, there are going to be shifts in current courses and new courses will be created to make the core curriculum less of a checklist and more of an intersectional opportunity for learning and personal growth.

The changes, though still under review, will be implemented over the next three years through funding by the generous grant from the Mellon Foundation.

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