Teagle Foundation

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Lawrence University Participating in Project to Study, Promote Core Curricula Best Practices

Lawrence University is joining three other national liberal arts colleges in a collaborative effort to identify best practices in common core curricula and communicate the significant benefits of liberal education to a wider audience.

Supported by a $243,000 grant from the New York City-based Teagle Foundation, Lawrence will partner with Pennsylvania’s Ursinus College, Tennessee’s Rhodes College and The College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts to examine how core courses help students develop the judgment needed in their careers and in their lives. The 30-month-long project—“Gateways to Liberal Education”aims to invigorate core curricula in American colleges.

Beginning this summer, a series of four conferences will be conducted with faculty from each of the four schools to discuss ways in which a common course or syllabus identifies essential texts, skills and experiences that prepare students for fulfilling careers and lives as responsible citizens.

The conferences also will explore benefits to faculty teaching such courses, how common inquiry can bond faculty and students and how colleges can assess their accomplishments.

Subsequent conferences will be open to faculty from other schools interested in incorporating similar pedagogies and courses in their general education programs.

The Gateways to Liberal Education project is expected to produce a volume of essays directed at both academia and prospective students and their parents that highlights the importance of this education model.

Provost David Burrows

“The goal of liberal education is to develop the human capacity for critical thought, judgment and creativity and to infuse that capacity with a passion for effective action in the contemporary world,” said David Burrows, provost and dean of the faculty at Lawrence. “This goal has never been more important than it is right now.  We must look to liberal arts colleges to lead the way to a bright future for our society. This grant will help ensure that we find that way.”

Four Common Core Programs

The four-school consortium involved in the project each offer its own common core program. Lawrence’s multidisciplinary Freshman Studies program exposes students to enduring works in the humanities, fine arts, social and natural sciences to foster students’ abilities to think critically, write effectively and speak persuasively.

Initiated in 1945, Freshman Studies spans two terms of a three-term academic year and strives to awaken first-year students to the excitement of liberal learning. Faculty from all disciplines teach the course in sections of approximately 15 students.

“The Teagle project will have many benefits for Lawrence,” said Timothy Spurgin, associate professor of English and the campus’ project leader on the grant. “It will give us an opportunity to share what we’ve learned from decades of experience with Freshman Studies and also help us to learn from other schools and their programs.”

Ursinus, which will serve as the lead institution on the project, features the Common Intellectual Experience, a two-semester common syllabus core course required of all first-year students. The program uses texts to engage students in discussing three perennial questions: How should one live? What does it mean to be human? What is the universe and my place in it?

Rhodes provides a comprehensive experience that links a rigorous academic program with experiential learning in the community. The college’s commitment to a values-based liberal arts education is based on 12 “foundation” requirements that emphasize students’ integrating their in-class work with research and experiential learning outside the classroom.

Holy Cross’ Montserrat program enrolls all first-year students in small, intensive, full-year seminars that are grouped into five thematic clusters, each of which incorporates interdisciplinary and experiential learning opportunities through shared texts, lectures, field trips and other events. Each student is enrolled in a small, yearlong seminar that explores a specific topic while developing critical thinking, writing and communication skills.

Associate Professor of English Timothy Spurgin

“None of these other programs is exactly like our Freshman Studies, but there are enough similarities to make the idea of collaboration very exciting,” said Spurgin. “If this collaboration does nothing more than to remind us all of why we do these things—why we aren’t giving into outside pressures and embracing the latest fads—it will have accomplished a lot.”

Joining Spurgin as Lawrence faculty representatives on the project are Elizabeth Carlson, associate professor of art history and Lori Hilt, assistant professor of psychology.

The “Gateways to Liberal Education” grant aligns with The Teagle Foundation’s interest in seeking and supporting courses and programs that equip students to deal effectively with questions of meaning, value and responsibility that will persist throughout their lives.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Lawrence University Awarded $100,000 Grant for Study of its Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

Lawrence University has been awarded a $100,000 grant by the New York City-based Teagle Foundation to support an assessment study of its new postdoctoral fellows teaching program.

Lawrence was one of five institutions nationally the Teagle Foundation recognized with a grant through its Working Groups in Liberal Education Program, which supports projects designed to generate fresh thinking about how to strengthen liberal education.

Announced in June, the Lawrence Fellows in the Liberal Arts and Sciences program provides recent Ph.D. recipients with mentoring relationships, teaching opportunities and research collaborations to better prepare them for professorial careers at selective liberal arts colleges.

The program also seeks to enrich student learning, more quickly introduce the newest research techniques being pursued at distinguished graduate programs to the Lawrence curriculum and its student research programs and further enhance Lawrence’s extensive offerings of one-on-one learning experiences for students.

The $100,000 Teagle Grant will support a working group of faculty, staff, students and administrators who, over the course of the next 20 months, will study the fellows program and assess the degree to which it is achieving its intended goals.

The group will analyze data gathered through a variety of methods, including self-assessment of teaching and scholarship, video and in-class observations, course evaluations, surveys and other reports. The results, when compiled, will be widely disseminated through a variety of means, including a webpage dedicated to the project as well as a conference that Lawrence will host.

“The results of this study are expected to provide beneficial information not only on the Lawrence Fellows program, but be helpful to postdoctoral fellowship programs conducted at other institutions as well,” said Bill Skinner, Lawrence’s director of research administration, who will oversee the study. “The impact of postdoctoral programs has rarely been assessed and this study will place Lawrence in a unique position to demonstrate the role liberal arts colleges can play in preparing the future professoriate of higher education.”

Eight fellows were selected as the program’s first appointments and joined the Lawrence faculty in September for the start of the 2005-06 academic year. They were chosen from a pool of more than 240 applicants, who pursued their doctorate or terminal degree at top-ranked research institutions in the United States, as well as Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Lawrence fellows are appointed for two years, during which time they teach courses, offer individualized instruction opportunities to students and continue their professional activities as scholars and or performers. A goal of the program is to have up to 20 fellows on campus in any given year.

“Liberal education should provide students with the intellectual tools they need as they struggle with life’s big questions about themselves, their morals and values and their place in society,” said W. Robert Connor, president of the Teagle Foundation, in announcing the five Working Groups in Liberal Education Program grants. “We hope the ideas that emerge from these projects will help strengthen liberal education not only on these campuses but at other institutions as well, so that all students in the liberal arts get the help they need in answering these big questions.”

The Teagle Foundation ( www.teaglefoundation.org) was established in 1944 by the late Walter C. Teagle, longtime president and later chairman of the board of Standard Oil Company (New Jersey), now the Exxon Mobil Corporation. The foundation supports intellectual and financial resources to ensure that today’s students have access to challenging, wide-ranging and enriching college educations through broad and intellectually stimulating curricula that engage students in active learning, explore questions of deep social and personal significance, set clear goals and systematically measure progress toward them.