Grant promotes collaboration between St. Olaf and Carleton

With the recent performance of Ann Millikan’s opera “Swede Hollow” and the Thursday, March 14 “Both Sides of the Bridge” faculty reading event, St. Olaf and Carleton continue to pursue opportunities for collaboration as the colleges approach the end of their $1.4 million “Broadening the Bridge” grant, awarded in 2013 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The grant has funded projects meant to “strengthen liberal arts learning and teaching in ways that each college could not accomplish individually,” Associate Director of Communications Kari VanDerVeen wrote in a 2013 article.

The colleges have since used the funds for new courses, joint training for supervisors, workshops, joint art exhibits and many other activities. As part of the grant, the St. Olaf Libraries and Information Technology departments have increased staff sharing with Carleton in pursuit of cost savings for the Strategic Resource Allocation Project (SRAP), the College’s cost-cutting and revenue-growing initiative.

Carleton Dean of the College Beverly Nagel and St. Olaf Provost and Dean of the College Marci Sortor have allocated a sizable portion of the grant to new courses for students of both colleges, as well as other forms of academic collaboration.

Faculty members at the two colleges have collaborated “to offer courses [in] Art/Art History, Political Science, and Education, and a Carleton faculty member teaches Arabic courses on St. Olaf’’s campus,” Sortor wrote in an email.

Several of the projects the grant  funded focus on bolstering the colleges’ burgeoning neuroscience offerings. A 2015 grant financed a series of neuroscience lectures and faculty dinners, a 2016 grant funded the development of a jointly-taught capstone seminar and a 2017 grant supports continued efforts to establish a neuroscience major for students at both colleges

The grant also looks to improve equity and inclusion in certain academic departments. In fall 2016, TRIO/Student Support Services (SSS) Quantitative Skills Coordinator Kristin O’Connell and Professor Matthew Richey launched an “Inclusive Excellence in Science and Mathematics” lecture series. The series aimed “to highlight the important achievements and perspectives of underrepresented scientists and mathematicians,” according to the “Broadening the Bridge” website.

The grant funded a series of conversations led by scientists at both colleges in spring 2015 aimed at building professional networks for women in STEM.

Faculty members have also periodically used grant money to collaborate on research. Over the past several years, faculty at both colleges have worked together to study socioeconomic inequality, the St. Olaf natural lands and Carleton Arboretum and “positive psychology,” among other topics.

The colleges have also displayed jointly-curated art exhibitions, such as the fall 2016 exhibitions on Japanese art and Chinese art materials and the upcoming spring 2019 exhibit on the Japanese tea ceremony.

The final round of grant funding took place fall 2018 with Nagel and Sortor issuing “eight awards to previous grantees to advance particularly successful and influential projects,” according to the  “Broadening the Bridge” website. “The awards provided $45, 595 in funding.”