Liberal Arts Colleges Program
Philip E. Lewis, Vice President
Eugene M. Tobin, Program Officer
Mary Bates, Program Associate
Susan I. Dady, Program Associate
Sharon Blackwell, Executive Assistant to the Vice President and Program Officer
More than 125 liberal arts colleges benefit either from direct grants or from support the Liberal Arts Colleges Program provides through various consortia and associations. The seven consortia currently affiliated with the Program include the Appalachian Colleges Association, which, prior to 2010, was the beneficiary of a separate Foundation program. All grants made by the Liberal Arts Colleges Program result from invitations issued by the Foundation to institutions and organizations with which staff have engaged in preliminary exchanges. Uninvited proposals are not considered. On the basis of criteria, established over several decades, by which the Foundation distinguishes the liberal arts college from other postsecondary institutions, the program has selected approximately seventy colleges that are eligible to seek direct grants from the Foundation. Fundamental among these criteria is a preponderant institutional commitment to a broad liberal education, as opposed to pre-professional training.
The discussions that lead the program’s officers to request proposals typically involve presidents and/or chief academic officers and bear primarily upon academic needs and priorities. The program does not provide support for facilities or financial aid to students, nor does it make grants to individuals. Since grants are usually subject to no more than one or two renewals, the program expects proposals either to involve finite projects or to include commitments to sustain the Foundation-supported activity with institutional resources after grant funds are exhausted. Staff do not expect to expand the cohort of institutions eligible for grants in the foreseeable future. This stems in part from the Foundation’s practice of maintaining grantmaking levels that are responsive to substantial institutional needs and in part from the program’s long-term objective of developing and strengthening multi-institutional consortia.
Like the Foundation’s other grant programs that support higher education, the Liberal Arts Colleges Program regards the humanities, arts, and “humanistic” social sciences as its primary domain of interest. In general, the program’s grants are aimed at providing additional research and professional opportunities for faculty members (Faculty Career Enhancement), strengthening the academic infrastructure of the liberal arts college (Libraries and Information Technology), and assisting colleges as they review and refurbish their curricular offerings (Curricular Development and Educational Effectiveness). In addition, Foundation staff work with liberal arts college presidents to devise grant support that addresses institutional and/or strategic planning goals (Presidential Support).
In recent years, the Liberal Arts Colleges Program has established two non-profit organizations that serve institutions of higher education:
- The National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) helps liberal arts colleges and universities use technology strategically and collaboratively to advance teaching and learning across the disciplines.
- The Emeriti Consortium for Retirement Health Solutions enables member institutions to offer their employees a tax-advantaged way to accumulate assets during the working years to help pay medical costs in retirement.
Grants awarded in the Liberal Arts Colleges Program can be grouped under the four primary rubrics that were noted above:
- Faculty Career Enhancement:
Grants in this category aim to address the professional needs of faculty members across the distinct stages of a professorial career. Proposals to support opportunities for faculty to pursue research, pedagogical training, course or program development, and study in fields outside of the individual’s specialty may emanate from either single colleges or groups of cooperating institutions. Proposals that incorporate post-doctoral fellowships for recent recipients of the PhD are expected to provide not only opportunities for scholars embarking on academic careers to pursue their research, but to emphasize their initiation to teaching and to productive participation in a liberal arts college community.
- Libraries and Information Technology:
This effort seeks to strengthen the library’s role in a rapidly changing technological environment and to promote both intra- and inter-institutional collaborations and cost-saving efforts. Many of the grants in this area have assisted faculty members, librarians, and information technology staff in making effective use of electronic resources for teaching and research.
- Curricular Development and Educational Effectiveness:
The objective of grantmaking under this heading is to enable institutions to: (1) address ongoing needs to revise or enhance the curriculum and restructure degree requirements; (2) promote interdisciplinary academic and research programs across the arts, humanities, and human sciences; (3) foster student and faculty research partnerships; and (4) support curricular continuity by ensuring some overlap of new and retiring faculty members.
- Presidential Support:
This initiative supports presidential efforts to articulate an institutional vision or strategy for development, to make and carry out plans for academic renewal, to foster a sense of community on campus, to promote productive town-gown relations, and to form constructive alliances with sister institutions.
From time to time, Foundation staff convene academic leaders for discussions of the liberal arts college sector—its mission, challenges, prospects, and aspirations—of higher education.
Before writing, please review the Foundation's general requirements for grant proposals in the Grant Inquiries section of this Web site.
Please direct grant and reporting inquiries to:
Susan I. Dady