October 22, 2009

Mellon Foundation generous with grants

In recognition and support of Knox’s outstanding faculty, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recently awarded the college $400,000 in grant money to support faculty research and creative work.

“Knox faculty are doing new and different things,” said Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lawrence Breitborde. “This [grant] will provide additional resources […] to help move faculty further along and let them be more ambitious.”

Normally, faculty submit research proposals to Breitborde two times a year. The grant money will simply be integrated into the pool of existing funds.

The grant will support everything from pilot research to projects already in their final stages. Grant money will also enable Knox to hold workshops on different teaching methods, as well as subjects geared more towards newer faculty, such as how to develop research proposals.

“You may get your PhD, but you’re not finished,” said Breitborde. “A good teacher creates new scholarship, and Knox faculty are unusually prolific.”

The Mellon Foundation is one of the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States, giving millions of dollars every year to higher education, museums and other organizations. It has a special interest in liberal arts colleges and over the past several years has become particularly interested in Knox.

In 2001, Breitborde and President Roger Taylor went to New York City to talk to the foundation about providing funds for Knox’s new curriculum, which was under development at this time.

“[The Foundation] was clearly interested and thought it was really good stuff,” Breitborde said. Knox ended up receiving a $50,000 grant to help develop writing-intensive courses and other elements of the curriculum.

A year later, the college was invited to apply for another grant, this time for $200,000, to go towards the curriculum as well as faculty development. Since then, Knox has received an additional $50,000 from the Mellon Foundation to create an institutional plan for digital resources and $228,000 for undergraduate research, which helped create the Center of Research and Advanced Study.

Despite the generosity of organizations such as the Mellon Foundation, the recession presented Knox with new challenges.

“I was at a meeting of deans of the ACM colleges and members of the Foundation, and they asked us, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ My answer was that we have an incredibly creative and productive faculty beyond our level of support,” said Breitborde.

The Mellon Foundation is now one of the major donors to Knox. Breitborde stressed that this is meaningful for more than financial reasons.

“Recognition from the outside is important stuff,” he said. “[The Foundation] has a lot of regard for this college. It shows that what is happening here is of the highest quality.”

A history of Knox and the Mellon Foundation:

2002-Dean Larry Breitborde persuades Mellon Foundation Vice President Mary Pat McPherson that Knox should be on Mellon’s list of liberal arts colleges eligable for grants.

2002-Knox receives $50,000 offercer’s grant for Plan for Renewed Knox.

2003-Knox awarded $200,000 to strengthen curricular programs and support faculty career development. From this money, Knox developed key competencies and foundations courses, revised the first-year

preceptorial course and supported faculty research for 15 faculty members over three years.

2005-Knox receives a $49,000 grant to strengthen classroom technology and establishes the Office of Instructional Technology and Moodle capabilities.

2006-Knox is awarded $227,750 to fund the Center for Research and Advanced Study as part of Renewed Knox.

2009-Knox receives $400,000 for faculty career enhancement.

Anna Meier

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