Program Development and Implementation

Establishing Program Areas

We establish new program areas through an extended discussion process. In the earliest stages of thinking about a program possibility, we do research on the general area that interests us: we read relevant literatures, consult informally with colleagues working in the area, and talk with our Board of Directors. When we have a sense of what is at stake, but before we have identified a specific focus for our work, we generally convene a Listening to help us decide how or whether to move forward. These guided but informal discussions generally bring together scholar-teachers, academic administrators and others to think through the issue with us from a variety of perspectives. Toward the end of our discussion, we ask those participating in the Listening what a foundation initiative in the area at hand might look like, if one were to be forthcoming, and then—with that feedback, plus the knowledge gained through the other methods described—we craft a Request for Proposals (RFP).

Request for Proposals

The next step is to decide where we should send the RFP, and here we are guided by a number of principles. Our primary focus is liberal arts education and we consistently seek to strengthen teaching and learning in undergraduate education. Many of our initiatives foster or even demand institutional collaboration, and we reach out mainly—but not exclusively—to private liberal arts colleges.

Institutions of particular interest to us are those that:

  1. explicitly put engaged student learning in the liberal arts at the center of their mission;
  2. allocate their resources to sustain this mission;
  3. have stable enrollments and finances;
  4. achieve good graduation rates, typically 65% or more after six years,
  5. systematically assess student progress.

If your institution meets these criteria and has not received an RFP from us in the past three years, we will welcome a brief email stating how it fits these criteria and sketching current institutional priorities. We do not typically respond to these emails, but over time and as resources become available, we try to expand our institutional outreach.

If your institution does not meet these criteria but you are still interested in working with us, or if your institution does meet these criteria and you would nonetheless like to be part of a significant multi-institutional project, we encourage you to stay apprised of the work of national college associations (such as the Council of Independent Colleges, the Association of American Colleges and Universities) and regional college consortia (such as the Appalachian College Association, the Associated Colleges of the South, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, the Great Lakes College Association). We have made and will continue to make grants to organizations like these, through which we will be able to support many more institutions than those to which we can make direct grants.

For a listing of our funded initiatives, click here.