Mellon Foundation Grant for Computer Science

Trinity will share in an $800,000 grant, along with Connecticut College and Wesleyan University, designed to enhance curriculum, recruitment, and resources in the computer science departments of all three institutions. The alliance will create a new model for sharing financial responsibilities and intellectual resources—establishing a pool of newly trained teachers and scholars—and devise creative approaches to the recruitment and retention of students of diverse backgrounds. Trinity, Wesleyan, and Connecticut College have a long standing collaborative arrangement known as the CTW Consortium.

“This grant provides Trinity and its consortial partners a wonderful opportunity to remain competitive in the rapidly changing field of computing science,” says Interim Dean of Faculty Frank Kirkpatrick. “It will also permit faculty members to learn from colleagues about new fields and frontiers in the discipline. It has the added virtue of bringing together faculty and students from the three major liberal arts colleges in Connecticut.”

Within the framework of the grant, four post-doctoral fellows will be hired to teach research seminars and core computer science courses, offer workshops and seminars, as well as design new courses. Each fellow will have a home campus, but will teach at the other institutions and interact with faculty and students at all three colleges. Additionally, the program will help to encourage young computer science faculty to work in traditional liberal arts environments, as opposed to large research universities, and will expand the curricula of the three schools’ computer science programs. The grant will also allow for “trading” computer science faculty members among the three institutions—faculty members will be able to teach courses simultaneously at more than one school through a combination of video conferencing and on-site instruction.

The grant also strives to improve internal recruitment of women and students from underrepresented populations in all three colleges’ computer science programs. This goal will be achieved through faculty training that focuses on working with and mentoring diverse student constituencies; peer mentoring; workshops and programs on career and research opportunities; and funding for materials designed to increase enrollment of nontraditional students in introductory computer science courses.

“A collaboration of this type will enable us to provide our students with a much broader range of learning experiences than would otherwise be possible in a small department like ours,” explains Madalene Spezialetti, associate professor and chair of the Computer Science Department. “We hope that the methods of interaction we explore and the approaches we develop will serve as a blueprint for computer science departments and programs at other institutions to follow.”

Established in 1969 through the consolidation of the Old Dominion Foundation and the Avalon Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation makes grants in the areas of higher education, museums and art conservation, performing arts, conservation and the environment, and public affairs. Among the foundation’s goals is “to strengthen institutions and their capacities rather than encourage them to take on ancillary activities, and it seeks to stay with programs long enough to achieve meaningful results.”



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