LEWISTON — Bates College has received a $1.2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to make the college’s curriculum more inclusive by paying greater attention to issues related to power and privilege.

The five-year grant is meant to help create a curriculum for the 21st century that will help students from traditionally marginalized groups succeed academically.

“This grant comes at a crucial moment for Bates,” President Clayton Spencer said in a prepared statement.

“Moving forward, we must ensure that our teaching and curriculum excite the interest and creativity of all of our students, preparing them to function as leaders in a pluralistic society.”

Added Malcolm Hill, dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs, “Bates is committed to being a national leader in liberal arts education, and the Mellon grant is another example of the way our colleagues in the humanities and humanistic sciences are engaging in the national dialogue,” 

The grant comes on the heels of a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to transform Bates’ programs in science, technology, engineering and math to offer more support for students in STEM-related fields.

Bates unveiled a new professorship last month with the mission of bringing more equity and inclusion to the STEM studies.

Bates said the grant will help fund efforts to “evaluate and strengthen the curriculum in many of the college’s 22 departments and programs in the humanities and humanistic social sciences,” such as history and sociology.

The college said the Mellon Foundation grant will speed up ongoing efforts to review courses, major requirements and other academic frameworks.

“The Bates faculty have already been deeply engaged in discussions about how best to transform the curriculum to include a stronger focus on equity and inclusion,” said Kathryn Graff Low, a psychology professor who served as interim dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs during the last academic year.

“At each turn, their hope is to go beyond a ‘checklist’ approach and, instead, address equity and inclusion in a comprehensive way.”

One goal is is to try to have Bates’ first-year seminars and other distinctive courses “emphasize critical thinking about power and privilege, and reflect an approach to teaching and learning that invites student engagement,” according to the college.

The new grant is also meant to help Bates build on its efforts to pay more attention to issues related to diversity.

“The grant will allow us to expand our network and deepen the faculty’s shared understanding of the path to transform learning at Bates,” said Melinda Plastas, a Bates faculty member in gender and sexuality studies who played a key role in designing the Mellon grant proposal.

Mellon has provided Bates with two previous $1 million grants — in  2013 and 2015 — to help the college “redefine academic excellence in a way that encompasses greater equity and inclusion” in its academic programs.

Bates said it is also a leading member of the Creating Connections Consortium, which received a $5.5 million Mellon grant in 2017 “to help to prepare young scholars from underrepresented groups for careers in liberal arts colleges.”

Bates has worked closely with the Mellon Foundation since 1970, when the college received money to help it hire more faculty and improve salaries.

Over the decades, Mellon has assisted Bates to develop its curriculum, undertake collaborative programs with peer colleges and interact more closely with the Lewiston-Auburn community.

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Bates College in Lewiston has received a $1.2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to make the liberal arts college’s curriculum more inclusive by paying greater attention to issues related to power and privilege. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)


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