Centre College has received $750,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch a four-year effort to enhance diversity and inclusion on campus.
Over the years, the Mellon Foundation has been a generous supporter of important initiatives at Centre, and with this new grant it has provided more than $2 million in funding over the last six years alone. This is the largest single award from the Mellon Foundation in the College’s history.
John A. Roush, Centre’s president since 1998, says that the grant comes at a pivotal moment.
“We have been increasingly successful at strengthening diversity in our student body,” he said, “and the Mellon grant will support in a significant way our ambition to achieve similar success in our faculty and staff.”
Thirty percent of Centre’s current first-year students come from a historically underrepresented group, for instance, which is 8 percent more than the previous year. The number of first-generation college students, now at 20 percent, has also seen impressive increases.
“Centre is committed to educating global citizens who are prepared to contribute meaningfully in a diverse marketplace of ideas where innovation and creativity is influenced by a broad array of perspectives,” Roush said. “We want our graduates not just to be able to thrive in such a setting; they should be prepared to assume leadership roles because of what they’ve experienced on our campus, in their classes and in their everyday interactions with our faculty and staff.”
Of the several initiatives supported by the $750,000 Mellon grant, an initial campus climate study will lay the groundwork, with diversity addressed in the broadest sense, including socio-economic, religious and political differences, in addition to categories such as race, ethnicity and gender.
The grant will also support the recruitment of two tenure-track positions, one each in the humanities and the social sciences. Centre is committed to support a third hire in the sciences. Faculty who focus specifically on topics of diversity will also be hired to teach during the three-week CentreTerm courses offered each year in January.
Stephanie Fabritius, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, is excited about the grant on several levels.
“This is a game-changer for Centre,” she said. “With the help of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we can think and act more intentionally to create a more rich and diverse campus.”
In addition, the Mellon grant will support the programming and initiatives of Centre’s new associate vice president for academic affairs and diversity initiatives, who, among his many duties, will lead training of search committees and faculty workshops on the topic of diversity and inclusion. The grant will support faculty attendance at national diversity conferences and mini-grants for faculty wishing to restructure a course to utilize new pedagogies or tie in new content material related to diversity.
“Overall, through work on Centre’s curriculum, pedagogy and faculty diversity,” said Fabritius, “the Mellon grant will help the College better respond to an increasingly diverse student body and world.”
Previous awards from the Mellon Foundation supported similar transformational initiatives at Centre.
A Mellon grant in 2009 provided $452,000 to support curriculum and faculty development in global citizenship, a trademark of a Centre education. Two years later, in 2011, Centre received $250,000 from the Mellon Foundation to support East Asian studies. In 2013, a $600,000 Mellon grant provided resources to strengthen undergraduate research at Centre.
by Michael Strysick
October 19, 2015