Foundation Grant to Olin College Aims to Promote Educational Innovation through Cross-Campus Collaboration

Needham, MA (PRWEB) May 24, 2012

Olin College of Engineering has received a multi-year grant from the Argosy Foundation that will encourage creative educational transformation through collaborative faculty exchanges. Under the program, committed faculty from several partner schools will be embedded in the innovative campus climate at Olin, and then partner with Olin faculty to implement curricular reform on their home campuses.

The program, formally known as the Argosy Collaborative Faculty Exchange Program at Olin College, will explore and exemplify best practices for transforming the culture of higher education, with a longer-term ambition to effect much wider reform on campuses around the country.

Substantive change is notoriously difficult in higher education, said Vincent Manno, provost at Olin and leader of the faculty team that will implement the program. By partnering with institutions and faculty committed to reform, we hope over time to create a new model for educational transformation that will promote a campus-to-campus exchange of innovative ideas and practices and build into a powerful movement for change.

The Foundation chose Olin College for the $ 1.3 million grant due to the colleges growing reputation for innovation in engineering education. Working from a clean slate to implement educational reforms urged by the engineering community, Olin has developed into a kind of educational laboratory where faculty and students can discover new ideas for learning and try them out together. Olins hands-on, team-based curriculum, which blends engineering with liberal arts, entrepreneurship and design, is increasingly seen as a model for the fundamental reform of engineering education.

I am proud we are partnering with Olin on this important work, said John Abele, founder and chairman of the Argosy Foundation. I can think of few efforts more vital to the world community than ensuring the education of a new generation of innovators with the collaborative skills needed to tackle the great challenges our planet faces. Olin has developed a provocative educational paradigm that goes a long way toward meeting this need. What is distinctive about this effort is that it will allow students and faculty from many institutions to participate in the evolution of the Olin model and create a team of diverse innovating schools.

The partner faculty, known as Argosy Olin Fellows, will work on their projects while at Olin for up to one academic year so that they can collaborate on a continual basis with Olin faculty and experience the colleges approach to curricular creation and innovation. Olin faculty and students will also benefit from the fresh perspectives that the visiting faculty will offer. Olin faculty will then spend time on the partner campuses to help implement the curricular innovations.

An extensive evaluation process will be set up to monitor progress and assess methods of fostering sustainable institutional change. Olin will recruit partner faculty for the first project residency in the summer and early fall of 2012, and annually thereafter. The initial residencies will begin in fall 2013.

The new faculty exchange will build on multiple efforts already underway at Olin to catalyze change in engineering education. Among them is the Initiative for Innovation in Engineering Education (I2E2), which offers workshops and custom programs on curriculum reform. Like I2E2, the new faculty exchange will adopt a collaborative approach.

We find that, rather than assisting faculty to replicate the Olin curriculum at their home schools, it is more effective to encourage faculty to construct their own new approaches to education that conform to their institutions unique culture and environment, said Lynn Andrea Stein, professor of computer and cognitive science and director of I2E2.

Faculty, who work every day in classrooms, laboratories and other informal spaces on and off campus, are in a powerful position to implement fundamental change in an institutions culture and the way a curriculum is designed and carried out, said Mark Somerville, associate dean for faculty affairs and research and professor of electrical engineering and physics. This program recognizes that fact, and builds on the strengths Olin has developed in encouraging change in engineering education.

In the Argosy Foundation, Olin has found a fitting partner for promoting collaborative and creative education reform. According to its mission statement, the Milwaukee-based foundation was established to support people and programs that make our society a better place to live, and it does this by working to solve systemic problems, build teams and communities and create replicable solutions. In pursuit of this mission, the foundation funds nonprofit organizations across the United States, supporting their work in education, arts and culture, the environment, health and disaster relief.

More information on the faculty exchange program can be found on the I2E2 website and those interested in submitting an application can email ACFEx(at)olin(dot)edu.

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