Colorado College has received an $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support its strategic plan, which is aimed at guiding the institution for the next decade. The grant is the largest the college has ever received from the foundation.
The award will allow the college to strengthen its signature Block Plan by focusing on three key areas. The Mellon Foundation support allows Colorado College to:
- Encourage systematic innovation in engaged teaching and learning.
The Block Plan allows faculty to offer students innovative opportunities for experiential education, undergraduate research, and deeper, uninterrupted explorations into the arts, sciences, and humanities. The next step is to enable more collaboration and to launch pilot programs and innovative work across disciplines to make better use of faculty time and give students an even more meaningful academic experience. The college will develop an Office of Field Study to serve as a resource for faculty seeking to institute field-based inquiry into their courses.
- Intensify collaborative learning through undergraduate research.
The Block Plan facilitates student research by providing time for concentrated work and interaction with faculty. Students can take a course one block and spend the next block continuing their research project with a thesis or independent study block. Students can also experience immersive research experiences in the summer. Creating multiple opportunities for powerful, coherent, and sustained research can be transformative both for students and communities. A new program will allow faculty to mentor thesis/research students in an interdisciplinary workshop throughout the academic year and in the summer. With more structured cross-campus coordination, the collaborative nature of research and scholarship that already exists at CC would be enhanced and pointed in a new direction and strengthened by an Office of Undergraduate Research and Thesis/Fellowships.
- Investigate the distinctive learning outcomes of the Block Plan, using what CC has learned in the process to refine the model and share it with others in education.
CC plans to develop a higher profile for the Block Plan, delving into the unique academic experience it offers and sharing data with other institutions, particularly high schools that are interested in how the plan supports learning. Among the activities envisioned are visits from higher education scholars who want to study learning on the Block Plan, a national conference on language immersion study, and a journal on innovative learning approaches. Many institutions offer some form of condensed learning (such as a Jan-plan or a May-mester) and are interested in learning how to organize their programs effectively.
The Mellon Foundation grant, to be used over the course of four years, enables the college to develop the programs that will be housed in a new Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching, the centerpiece of the college’s strategic plan. The center will be located in the intellectual hub of campus, the to-be renovated Tutt Library. The new center will become the focal point for students and faculty to explore new innovations; share discoveries; and learn more about opportunities for community-based research, field trips, undergraduate research projects, blended learning, and international program support. The new center also will provide programming, space and other activities to support the dissemination and exchange of information regarding engaged and immersive teaching and learning.