$1 million Mellon grant is latest to support faculty initiatives

Bates College has been awarded $1 million to enhance the integration of scholarship and research into the lives of the college’s 180 faculty members.

The grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York City will be used specifically to support year-long sabbaticals. Given the intense focus on teaching and collegial service at Bates, these leaves for research are essential to the scholarly vitality of the faculty.

The Mellon award “addresses our critical need to offer faculty enough time to reflect and to innovate, to renew and advance their scholarly and pedagogical skills,” explained Bates President Elaine Tuttle Hansen. “This enhanced sabbatical program will make it easier for Bates to sustain an academic community distinguished by the engagement of its faculty, as well as its students, in lifelong learning and growth.”

This is the third grant overall, and the second from Mellon, that Bates has received for faculty support since the start of the academic year. The Mellon Foundation last fall awarded Bates a three-year, $450,000 grant to support faculty in three areas: the implementation of a new general education curriculum, new resources for faculty scholarship and research, and the infusion of diversity into the overall academic program.

Also last fall, the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation of New York City invited Bates to participate in a program to provide year-long sabbaticals to pretenure faculty in the humanities who have demonstrated that they are outstanding teachers. A Whiting Teaching Fellowship will be awarded to one faculty member a year for the next four years.

“This remarkable series of successful grant proposals is a tribute to achievements of the Bates faculty,” Hansen said. “Our scholar-teachers strive to be leaders in their academic disciplines, as well as in their classrooms and pedagogical communities. These grants help the College continue to attract and retain faculty who have such a strong commitment to teaching and learning.”

The latest Mellon award enables the college to increase the length of a typical sabbatical from six months to a full year. “To do their jobs well, Bates faculty routinely devote many hours to teaching and advising, to curriculum development, to recruiting, mentoring and evaluating fellow faculty, and to other tasks that promote the well-being of the institution,” Hansen said.

“Without punctuating this work periodically with the kind of focused and concentrated time that a year-long sabbatical provides, they can’t pursue the scholarly endeavors that ultimately sustain the excellence of a Bates education.”

The Mellon award will also help Bates cope with a phenomenon affecting colleges nationwide: the graying of its faculty. According to an analysis conducted by Margaret Maurer-Fazio, Betty Doran Stangle Professor of Applied Economics at Bates, 17 percent of tenured Bates faculty are expected to retire within five years, more than a third within 10 years and more than half within 15 years.

In recent years, the college has strengthened its support for faculty through more competitive compensation and other forward-looking measures. Helping to attract top-notch new faculty, as well as to support their professional development throughout the many stages of an academic career, the enhanced sabbatical program is an important part of this strategy whose end result is the best possible learning experience for students.

“Liberal arts colleges like Bates are distinguished by the excellence and dedication of the faculty,” Hansen said. “So we need to find ways to support faculty who, throughout a long career at one small institution, balance a complex mixture of roles as teachers, scholars and collegial participants in a variety of communities.”

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