Colorado Springs hosts two nationally-ranked undergraduate institutions ~ Colorado College and the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) ~ separated by a short 15 minute drive. Due to cultural, scheduling and administrative differences, however, interaction between the two academies has been limited. This is a shame--each academy has significant resources, committed students, and accomplished faculty. One of the revelations of our meetings was just how far behind our sister academies we are in the area of military-civilian educational cooperation. We each have a lot to offer the other. In light of this greater need, CC and USAFA have sought and received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to increase intercampus dialogue.
This project seeks to build a platform of networked faculty from which we can breakdown unnecessary barriers to cooperation. Our goal is to create inter-academy communities of faculty charged with identifying and realizing potential collaborative synergies.
Our initial efforts seek to build strengths at three points. First, we build on the existing relationship between the political science departments of each academy and seek to extend this relatively rich cooperation to other disciplines in the social sciences. Second and third, we create new focal points for network development in the humanities and natural sciences, respectively.
Our means of change and community-building will be a monthly forum to be initially designed and decided by the organizers of each group, but open for amendment as the year progresses. Organizers host monthly dinners; organize receptions around an existing event; and set up interdepartmental research seminars.
Most importantly, however, we allow our interaction to unfold organiciall as we share research interests and areas of potential collaboration, and benefit from the expertise of visiting speakers, talented faculty, and pedagogical resources and strategies. We seek to build a communal identity—rather than an institutional one; an identity that will produce leaders willing to work on behalf of a community that extends beyond departmental and institutional silos.
Due to their mutual interest in global studies and international relations, the political science departments of CC and USAFA have a long history of informal collaboration. They attend each other’s events, host reciprocal student visits, and on occasion share research before a joint gathering of departmental faculty. While both departments appreciate these collaborations, they have been irregular due to a lack of resources. The Mellon grant enables us to put this relationship on firmer foundations and allow the departments to extend the model to cognitive disciplines—especially economics, where there has also been a great deal of collaboration.
Within the humanities and natural sciences, USAFA and CC faculty have had less contact. The Mellon grant is helping to “break the ice”--enabling groups of initial core faculty to begin to identify partners and avenues for cooperation.
Our goal is self-perpetuating cooperation between the academies—cooperation based on shared scholarly and pedagogical interests rather than new institutional obligations. The Mellon grant in institutional collaboration provides an unprecedented opportunity to overcome the initial costs and barriers to community building and realizing inter-institutional synergies.