$150,000 grant will advance research

Professor of Biology Robert Morris
Professor of Biology Robert Morris

Wheaton College has received a $150,000 grant that will expand support for student and faculty research projects.

The three-year grant, a Presidential Leadership award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will enable faculty members to continue scholarly work beyond the classroom, and it will create opportunities for students to participate in original research.

“This grant addresses one of Wheaton’s most essential priorities: providing the resources for faculty and students to conduct scholarly work,” said President Ronald Crutcher. “The excitement of intellectual discovery that comes from engagement in scholarship is central to the college’s mission and to keeping our curriculum vital and evolving.”

The grant will increase the number of stipends the college can offer faculty members in support of their research. Professors’ scholarly activity represents a form of professional development that allows faculty to enrich their teaching as well as develop new courses. For example, faculty have introduced new levels of scholarship in the areas of environmental studies; geography, in relation to feminist inquiry; and the pedagogy of writing.

In addition, a portion of the grant will support ongoing evaluation of Wheaton’s curriculum. The college’s interdisciplinary approach to teaching connected and infused courses is reviewed periodically. Using input from both students and faculty, funds will be used to support best practices in this area.

The Mellon grant also will benefit students directly, by providing support for them to participate in faculty research as well as conduct independent projects for senior honors thesis work.

Student-faculty research collaborations have become a hallmark of the educational experience at Wheaton, and the college has several programs dedicated to supporting these learning opportunities. For example, the Mars Faculty/Student Research Fellowships provide funding for teams of students and faculty to work together on scholarly projects during the summer.

During the school year, the Wheaton Research Partnership program allows faculty members to hire student research assistants using the college’s work-study funds. Among the many research efforts that are finding support through the program is the highly successful “Lexomics” research project. The term “Lexomics” was coined by the research team to describe the use of computer programs to conduct statistical analyses of text. This project is so cutting edge that, as one faculty participant noted, “a team of students and faculty from the University of Pennsylvania drove out to Wheaton (in the middle of a blizzard) to learn how to do this work from us.” Funds from the Mellon grant will enable successful projects like this to continue.

Comment? magazine@wheatoncollege.edu (Subject line: Feedback)

-More on the campaign: