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Mellon Grant to Support Faculty Development at Washington and Lee

Washington and Lee University received a $50,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to examine the role of faculty at liberal arts colleges. The grant will enable W&L to focus specifically on the relationship between teaching and scholarship.

W&L, like many of its peer institutions, recruits faculty who are actively engaged in their academic fields and equally committed to teaching. “The current teacher-scholar model assumes there is a seamlessness between scholarship and what is taught in the classroom,” said President Ken Ruscio ’76, who will oversee this study, along with Provost June Aprille. He noted that the teacher-scholar model is in the midst of a fundamental redefinition. Faculty at liberal arts colleges pursue a particular form of scholarship that is in some ways more creative, more interdisciplinary, than their counterparts at research-intensive and graduate-level universities. “We hope to highlight the unique professional opportunities faculty enjoy in a liberal arts setting,” Ruscio added.

Over the last year, W&L held several on-campus discussions among faculty to discuss such questions as:

  • How can a liberal arts college encourage and foster a distinctive kind of scholarship?
  • Does scholarship improve student learning and does it help faculty teach their subjects?
  • What policies and procedures can promote what is best about the teacher-scholar model?

The Mellon grant will allow W&L to continue exploring the teacher-scholar model through additional faculty discussions among related departments. The study will also help the University consider professional development policies for the faculty and those at other liberal arts colleges.

A second phase of the grant will invite outside experts on faculty issues and student learning to campus. Finally, W&L will hold symposia for colleagues at peer institutions to address the difficulty of balancing the breadth often required by the demands of teaching and the depth often required by the need to specialize in a particular field.

“Through this grant, we would like to clarify the teacher-scholar model, particularly for our institution, and in doing so provide potential best administrative practices that would help other similar liberal arts institutions hire, support and effectively develop their faculty,” said Ruscio.