Mellon Foundation awards Willamette University $710,000 for student-faculty collaboration

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Willamette University $710,000, including $250,000 to support scholarship and teaching. The remaining $460,000 will fund a pilot program to test a new model for collaborative work among faculty and students.

A quarter-million dollars is dedicated to three purposes: opportunities for tenure-track faculty to perform and present research; support of creative and enhanced teaching; and faculty innovations to promote learning, scholarship and faculty-student collaboration.

The remainder of the award will fund a three-year pilot program that builds upon Willamette's exceptionally successful Science Collaborative Research Program, in which tenure-track faculty collaborate with students on summer research projects.

The new Liberal Arts Research Collaborative (LARC) created by the grant is designed to maximize collaboration among students and faculty by creating an interdisciplinary learning community.

Each faculty member associated with LARC will lead a one-year project team of one or two students beginning in the fall, with the bulk of each project taking place over the summer. At the end of the summer, students collectively write an epilogue reflecting on the experience.

To increase collaboration among institutions, the grant will also allow Willamette to create the Northwest Conference for Collaborative Research, a yearly gathering for undergraduates and faculty to present their research. A new online, blind, peer-reviewed student research journal, also funded by the grant, will strengthen the student experience.  

"LARC has the potential not only to change the way that collaborative research is conducted at Willamette, but also to advance the understanding and theory of undergraduate student research at large," said David Douglass, interim dean of Willamette's undergraduate College of Liberal Arts. "By creating an interdisciplinary learning community focused on significant, long-term issues, the pilot program combines best practices for learning and scholarship."

Faculty and staff will begin planning this summer. Students will undertake projects in summer 2011, presenting their findings at the first Northwest Conference for Collaborative Research later in the year.

"We are pleased to be able to offer these innovative learning opportunities for our students,"  interim President Larry D. Large said. "These experiences prepare our graduates for success in graduate and professional school, or for lives of meaningful work."