Call for proposals : 2019-2020 Academic Year

Grants for Pedagogical Transformation across the Major  

With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Amherst is implementing a grant program to support departments and interdisciplinary programs as they think about how their majors reflect and further the goals of an Amherst education described in the college’s strategic plan. These include enabling students to connect work in the classroom with research, collaborative projects, study abroad or community engagement; helping students recognize and pursue foundational capacities that help them succeed in multiple disciplines and life experiences; to engage with communities other than those most familiar to them; and to consider how their Amherst education helps them to find their way in a world that is both highly interconnected and deeply divided. In a departure from previous, grant-supported projects, which invited individual faculty participants, this call requests proposals from departmental teams, and it asks departments and interdisciplinary programs to think strategically about clusters of courses that are core to their teaching and to the major.

Priority will be given to projects that demonstrate the support of their departments or programs and accomplish at least two of the following objectives:

  • Redesign syllabi, course materials, or assigned projects to identify the learning goals of courses and the intellectual capacities (such as writing, critical reading, quantitative reasoning, or research) that students can anticipate strengthening in those courses.
  • Develop or revise courses, including at least two courses that fulfill major requirements, to engage all students in those courses with one or more high-impact practices.
  • Incorporate new content or methods of instruction that have been shown to deepen learning for all students.
  • Respond to recommendations from a recent self-study, external review, or departmental retreat.
  • Provide an opportunity for faculty to revise or rethink courses that are offered each year, rather than electives or experimental courses that are unlikely to be repeated.
  • Identify new or alternative pathways within a major, and develop materials to show students and advisors how the new pathways will work.
  • Promote cross-departmental collaboration between two or more departments, either by creating jointly offered, cross-listed core courses, by creating interdisciplinary pathways within each participating major, or by improving coordination between introductory/prerequisite and upper-level courses that cross departmental lines (e.g., chemistry or mathematics prerequisites for other STEM courses).

Above all, we seek to direct support to proposals that focus on the goals of a major or on strengthening connections among courses, departments, or programs in a comprehensive way. Grants are not intended simply to add activities (e.g., group projects, travel) to existing courses with no other revision. 

Two or more faculty from the same department or program, including tenure-track and tenured professors and lecturers whose appointments extend at least through June 30, 2021, should agree to collaborate on the course development or revisions. For the 2020–2021 round, projects should begin by June 1, 2020, and last up to eighteen months. Departments must agree to offer any courses developed or revised with grant funds at least twice during the three years following the grant period. All projects receiving funding are asked to develop structured methods for assessing the work they undertake, using criteria developed in consultation with the Center for Teaching and Learning team.

Technical Support
We recognize the significant effort involved in developing or revising multiple courses within a department or interdisciplinary program. Colleagues from the Center for Teaching and Learning team are available to help with proposal development, project implementation, and evaluation. Support can take many forms, from curricular consultation to staff help in implementing new teaching methods. A project webpage includes a summary of the resources available to departments and programs.

Individual departments or programs may request support of at least $10,000 and up to $30,000 in 2019–2020. Beginning this year, we are offering the possibility of collaborative grants for two or more departments that wish to work together on curricular concerns; the funding range for collaborative proposals is $10,000 to $30,000 per department or program. Funding support from the Mellon Foundation concluses this year, so this is the last year in which this opportunity will be offered.  Funding may be used for the following expenses:

  • Honoraria for faculty to review curriculum, develop or revise courses, conduct research on methods they seek to adopt, or gain expertise in new pedagogies. The maximum amount available for honoraria is $20,000 per project, with a maximum honorarium of $5,000 per faculty member. Departments wishing to provide honoraria to a large group of faculty should align the compensation requested with the roles and responsibilities of each participating faculty member. One colleague should be designated the project coordinator and will be responsible for submitting reports to the provost, as described below.
  • Honoraria for outside consultants (up to $2,500 total);
  • Wages for Academic Interns assisting with course revision or development;
  • Travel directly related to course development (rather than faculty scholarship). Such travel might include site visits to other colleges and universities or attendance at conferences or workshops about pedagogy;
  • Materials, software, or other expendable supplies; and
  • Modest meeting costs (up to $500 per project). 

We encourage the inclusion of costs other than honoraria, within the $30,000 maximum. Please note: the terms of the Mellon Foundation grant do not permit us to fund domestic or international student travel, including course-related field trips. 

Proposals should include the following items:

  • A three- to five-page narrative describing the project, its rationale and goals, how it meets the funding priorities listed above, team members and their proposed roles (including who will be responsible for reporting), and specific plans for offering and assessing courses that are created or revised under the project.
  • A one-page budget listing estimated expenses, with notes detailing any proposed travel, consultants, or supply purchases.
  • A letter signed by the department/program chair indicating the department’s support of the proposal, describing the proposal’s relationship to departmental/program goals and plans, and confirming the commitment to offer resulting courses at least twice in the three years following the award; and
  • Optional supporting materials, such as course descriptions or summaries of relevant previous work (If you plan to collaborate with a community organization or colleagues at another college or university, consider including a letter of support.)

To ensure that proposals align with the guidelines, departments are encouraged to consult with the staff of the Center for Teaching and Learning. Complete proposals should be submitted to Catherine Epstein at A faculty committee will review proposals In January of 2020 and will either approve funding or ask the submitting department to respond to a list of concerns. Departments not approved for funding in the initial review will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit their proposals.

Proposals will be reviewed by a committee led by the provost and dean of the faculty, according to the following criteria:

  • Feasibility of the proposed project
  • Ability of the project to address at least two of the priority criteria listed above
  • A clearly stated rationale for the proposed changes
  • Evidence of department-level commitment to revising courses in the major, and
  • Specific plans for offering courses and for assessing them.

Faculty teams will be expected to submit two reports: a brief progress report six months into their grant period, and a two- to four-page final report summarizing the results of the project and plans for offering new or revised courses at the end of the grant period. Teams will be asked to participate in a public talk about their work during the academic year following their grant.