An ethnographic summer field school in Ecuador. A translation and performance project with theater students at the University of Damascus. Lego Mindstorm robotics kits for courses in computer science and control theory.

These are three of nine projects designed by 14 Whitman professors that were selected for funding through the college’s new Support for Innovation in Teaching and Learning initiative.

“I am impressed with the wide range of creative proposals generated by the faculty, all building on Whitman’s exceptional curriculum and designed to provide new learning opportunities for students,” said Provost and Dean of the Faculty Lori Bettison-Varga. “I look forward to the implementation of these projects.”

Whitman established the innovation fund earlier this year to support “new approaches to advancing student learning.” The initiative encourages collaborative projects across divisions, departments and programs.

Members of the Innovation in Teaching and Learning Grant Committee reviewed 26 proposals submitted by 38 faculty and staff. Their recommendations were reviewed by the Committee of Division Chairs and forwarded to President George Bridges for final consideration.

“The committee evaluated both the value and impact of the proposed projects, as well as the feasibility of each project based on the information provided in the proposals,” said Bridges. “All had elements that the committee found innovative.”

Albert Schueller, associate professor of mathematics, captured the essence of the first group of proposals in the description of his own project. “The goals are to develop a fun and robust curriculum that may be used nationally and to provide new avenues of computer science exploration for students here at Whitman,” he wrote.

“These new grants underscore Whitman’s commitment to academic innovation that provides our students with an individual and highly original learning experience,” said Bridges. “The projects of our faculty and staff reflect the heart of the liberal arts tradition: intellectual curiosity, creative enterprise and rigorous critical inquiry across a broad landscape of disciplines.”

Here is a complete list of grant recipients and synopses of their projects:

  • Phil Brick (Politics)
    “Kinetic Media and Integrative Learning on Semester in the West”
    Grant purpose: to enhance Semester in the West final projects. Funds will support expertise and equipment for students to create sound and image podcasts, with the aim of integrating soundscapes and visual images into spoken narratives.
  • Cynthia Croot (Theatre)
    “U.S./Syria Theatre Exchange”
    Grant purpose: to establish a exchange in theater with the University of Damascus. Initial funding for the U.S./Syria Theatre Exchange will cover research and travel to Syria for the purpose of creating a joint translation and performance project between theater students at Whitman and Damascus.
  • Heidi Dobson (Biology) and Brian Dott (History)
    “History and Ethnobiology of the Silk Roads”
    Grant purpose: to create two interdisciplinary courses on the history and ethnobiology of the Silk Roads. 
  • Frank Dunnivant (Chemistry)
    “Redesigning CHEM361 and Creating CHEM420”
    Grant purpose: to offer a new instrumentation course for science students who plan to use the college’s new Instrumentation Center. The grant will support the development of student laboratory exercises for various applications in chromatography and mass spectroscopy.
  • Sarah Hurlburt (Foreign Languages and Literatures — French) and Mike Osterman (Technology Services)
    “Interactive Timeline Tool for the Sakai Learning Environment”
    Grant purpose: to create a graphic, interactive timeline application for the college’s online course management system (CLEo/Sakai) in collaboration with staff and faculty from Pomona and Claremont-McKenna colleges. The new application will have the potential to enhance visual and kinesthetic learning in nearly all disciplines taught at Whitman.
  • Kari Norgaard (Sociology and Environmental Studies)
    “Klamath Field Study Program”
    Grant purpose: to support a field study program in the Klamath Mountains region for students to study environmental conservation and regional natural history, and to conduct research of interest to the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources.
  • Jason Pribilsky and Suzanne Morrissey (Anthropology and Latin American Studies)
    “Whitman in the Andes”
    Grant purpose: to support an ethnographic summer field school in a rural community of the Ecuadorian Andes, where students will learn ethnographic research methods to study the relationship between health and social change in the developing world.
  • Albert Schueller – Mathematics
    “Programming With Robots”
    Grant purpose: to provide the Mathematics Department with a classroom set of Lego Mindstorm robotics kits that will be used to teach introductory and advanced topics in computer science and control theory.
  • Ginger Withers, Chris Wallace and Dan Vernon (Biology)
    “Building New Science Courses and Labs Around Discovery”
    Description: to develop new class and laboratory structures that emphasize inquiry-based learning, allowing the Biology and Biochemistry/Biophysics /Molecular Biology programs to offer several small, modular elective courses.

Visit for a complete program description and more information about the funded projects.

Keith Raether
Office of Communications
Whitman College