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Strengthening Liberal Arts Education
December 14, 2005

Calvin College has received a grant of $99,340 from the Teagle Foundation, one of five such grants given by Teagle to generate fresh thinking about how to strengthen liberal arts education.

Calvin's project is titled "Strengthening Liberal Arts Education by Embracing Place and Particularity."

Calvin director of community engagement Gail Heffner says the money will allow Calvin to deepen current community partnerships and focus some academic work on issues of greatest importance to the city of Grand Rapids.

"Calvin is embedded in a particular community with particular strengths, issues and needs," she says. "The needs here, such as urban revitalization, literacy, racial tensions and environmental concerns, create the context from which our scholarship of engagement grows."

The Teagle-funded project will see Calvin convene a working group, composed of faculty, administrators, trustees, alumni, students and community members, to study the relationship between the liberal arts and the particularity of place.

Heffner says some key questions for the group will include:

How can the liberal arts tradition serve the common good in a particular place?
How should this particular place (Grand Rapids) influence and shape the liberal arts tradition at Calvin?
How can we use our city as text to strengthen liberal arts education?

At the end of the project Calvin will produce a white paper that will identify how the liberal arts can influence the burgeoning civic engagement and community-partnership literature and practice in higher education.

The college also will produce six city-based case studies for liberal arts classes that will provide other institutions with not only the studies themselves, but bibliographies of relevant theory that links liberal arts content with the specific local issue, suggestions for how the case might be used in courses, as well as pedagogical suggestions for individual or team-based work, and suggestions for how to involve community leaders in the design of a locally situated study.

The idea behind the grants, says W. Robert Connor, president of the Teagle Foundation, is to strengthen liberal arts education not only on the campuses that earned the recent grants, but also beyond those campuses.

Other colleges receiving grants are College of Saint Benedict/Saint Johns University; Lawrence University; Mount Holyoke College; and Wheaton College (MA).

This round of Teagle Foundation grants also includes $500,000 to Dillard University and $100,000 for Tulane University to support efforts to recover from damage caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.