Fairfield University's Center for Academic Excellence receives $200,000 grant from The Davis Educational Foundation to impact teaching of the core curriculum


The Davis Educational Foundation has awarded Fairfield University a $200,000 grant to further the work of the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE), which was established in 2003 as an on-campus resource for professors seeking to learn and share information about the newest educational tools and techniques.

The grant will help widen the Center's impact on promoting integrated learning at Fairfield, especially in the core curriculum - a pillar of the University's strategic plan. The work focuses on the College of Arts and Sciences, where the core is taught. Faculty will continue to support major goals of the strategic plan calling for a self-sustaining culture of integrated teaching and learning in ways that can be shared across the University. Another main objective is to assess outcomes and make changes based on results and evidence.

The faculty leaders are Larry Miners, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and director of the CAE; Roben Torosyan, Ph.D., associate director of the CAE; and Kathryn Nantz, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and director of core integration. This project is also partnered with the College of Arts and Sciences under the direction of Robbin Crabtree, Ph.D., dean.

Torosyan said, "The aim is to produce evidence that students are including diverse perspectives in their work, putting together ideas from different courses or disciplinary approaches, and applying theories to new problems or in new contexts."

A major goal of the University strategic plan calls for integration of the 60-credit core curriculum, so that students better understand the connections across disciplines and time. This strategic initiative, dependent on faculty efforts, will be bolstered by this recent Davis Foundation grant.  The grant will help the CAE build seamlessly on a previous grant awarded by the Davis Educational Foundation of $200,000 in 2006, of which $100,000 was awarded to help found the Center.

One of the new programs funded by the latest grant is a series of weeklong summer workshops for individual departments. Teaming within and across departmental cultures, faculty will identify common challenges, share strategies for helping students handle barrier concepts, map where the core curriculum targets integrative learning, and assess undergraduate learning outcomes. Another set of workshops will focus faculty attention on five integrative 'pathways' identified as vital. These broad interdisciplinary topics - of global citizenship, quantitative reasoning, communication skills, aesthetic appreciation, and scientific literacy - will act as entry points into the integration process.

The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis's retirement as chairman of Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 4, 2009

Vol. 42, No. 47