Ripon receives $800,000 grant from Andrew W. Mellon foundation for new curriculum

Ripon College has received a four-year, $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the implementation of the College’s new core curriculum, Catalyst. Catalyst, which launches with the class entering in fall 2016, places at the center of a Ripon education the continuous development of the intellectual and practical skills valued by employers and essential to human flourishing and career success.

“Our faculty’s extraordinary work to design an entirely new vision of liberal arts education ensures every Ripon College graduate applies core skills to real-world problems while extending our fundamental commitment to integrate the arts, sciences, social sciences and humanities,” said Vice President and Dean of Faculty Ed Wingenbach. “The success of this bold new strategy is made possible by the resources of the Mellon Foundation grant, and we are grateful that they share our commitment to develop innovative approaches to liberal arts education.”

The Mellon funds will support the creation of up to 140 new Catalyst seminars designed to develop transferable skills that will be applied to problems of significance, provide robust faculty development support, and ensure deliberate and careful oversight of implementation. The funds also will support visits by external experts, and allow Ripon College to send faculty to national conferences to share the lessons of our work with a broader audience of peers. Because Catalyst is an entirely new approach to liberal arts education, and all the seminars are custom designed, faculty can incorporate cutting edge research on skill transfer and learning cognition and will assess student skill development directly.

“Ripon College’s new Catalyst curriculum offers a capacious and creative re-imagination of the curriculum while promoting the central values of a liberal arts education,” said Cristle Collins Judd, senior program officer at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Catalyst consists of five seminars, two in the first year, two in the sophomore year, and the applied innovation seminar in the junior year. The first four seminars are designed to develop the essential skills students need to work collaboratively and independently in the junior seminar, in which they work in teams mentored by faculty members as they develop and present proposed solutions to large, open-ended questions. The seminars also provide grounding in essential college-level academic skills and expose students to a range of disciplinary approaches. Every seminar taught in the Catalyst curriculum will be a new course specifically designed to foster the key skills necessary for effective application of the liberal arts to real world challenges. Graduates who complete the Catalyst curriculum earn a Concentration in Applied Innovation, which documents that a graduate has mastered the skills of oral communication, writing, critical thinking, collaboration, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, disciplinary integration and intercultural competence.

“The Mellon Foundation’s incredible support for our new curriculum is a great testament to the creative work of our faculty who have developed a new and cutting edge series of courses for our students,” said Zach Messitte, president of Ripon College. “Ripon’s focus on developing skills within an authentic liberal arts curriculum is the wave of the future.”

To learn more about Catalyst, visit ripon.edu/Catalyst.


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