President Shirley M. Collado announced two new initiatives, the Seed Grant Initiative and Fellows Program, on Nov. 30. Both offer collaborative opportunities for students, faculty and staff.
The Seed Grant Initiative is a onetime opportunity for teams led by a faculty or staff member to receive funding for interdisciplinary projects. The projects will build on pre-existing efforts or take a new approach to improving the college. Although students are not permitted to lead these projects, they may contribute as a team member.
The application deadline for the Seed Grant Initiative is Jan. 5, giving those who may be interested a month to apply during the weeks leading up to finals and winter break. Jason Freitag, an associate professor in the history department and member of the Presidential Transition Team, said the reason for this short timeline is because Collado wants to get the initiative off the ground quickly.
Funding for the Seed Grant Initiative will come from the Helen Gurley Brown Genius Grant of $100,000 that Collado received in August. Proposals that are selected may receive grant funding ranging from $2,000 to $25,000. Chief of Staff Melissa Daly said Collado plans to distribute the entirety of this grant to Seed Grant Initiative proposals.
In an email describing the initiatives, Collado said her choice to utilize the Helen Gurley Brown Genius Grant for funding the Seed Grant Initiative proposals was a conscious effort to encourage creativity at the college.
“I am excited to invest in bold, innovative ideas generated by our campus community and in leadership opportunities that will empower our faculty, staff and students,” Collado said.
The Fellows Program is still in an early stage of development and does not yet have a designated source of funding, Daly said, but will focus on providing opportunities for students, faculty and staff to gain experience outside of their usual area of focus or responsibility. A new group of fellows will be selected for the program every year. Each annual selection of fellows will consist of two students, two faculty members and one staff member. The first group of fellows will be selected for the 2018–19 academic year, and Daly said that more information regarding the Fellows Program will likely be released in January.
Freitag said that the specific criteria for selecting applicants for both of these initiatives have not been determined yet. Freitag said the Seed Grant Initiative will be specifically looking for proposals that incorporate collaboration in the project.
“[The initiatives] are looking to award grants for activities that push the mission of the college forward and that do it in a way that brings faculty, staff and students ideally together,” Freitag said.
This aspect of the Seed Grant Initiative and interdisciplinary nature of the Fellows Program also contributes to increased shared governance, Carlie McClinsey, Student Governance Council president, said.
“This plays directly into the thought that we all need to work together because we all have different perspectives,” McClinsey said. “By including those different perspectives, you’re creating initiatives that are beneficial for more than one group on campus.”
Thomas Swenson, professor and chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences and chair of Faculty Council, said that these two initiatives contribute to Collado’s efforts to increase shared governance at the college. Just as the initiatives encourage the combined efforts of multiple groups on campus, shared governance requires the feedback of multiple populations as well.
“It’s evolving, but this is my understanding of how she envisions shared governance on campus, decisions in many cases being made by representatives from all the constituents on campus,” Swenson said. “It [the Seed Grant Initiative] fits right into there. She’s looking for people to collaborate across silos.”
This shared governance is largely unprecedented at the college, even before the term of the previous president of the college, Tom Rochon, Swenson said.
Dialogue regarding shared governance has been ongoing at the college. After the vote of no confidence in 2015, the Shared Governance Task Force was created during the winter break of 2016 to tackle the issue. A shared governance draft was created by the Shared Governance Task Force, but Faculty Council voted to table the draft until Collado began her term. Collado has met with the members of the Shared Governance Task Force, but the shared governance draft has not been revisited.
Candy Ross, senior assistant director of Student Financial Services and chair of Staff Council, also said via email that the initiatives address concerns voiced in the climate survey. In the 2017 Campus Climate Survey, 19 percent of staff respondents strongly agreed or agreed that there were clear procedures on how they could advance at the college. The Campus Climate Survey also reported 31 percent of staff respondents strongly agreed or agreed that they are positive about their career opportunities at the college.