Whitman College received a new $900,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the Northwest Five Consortium’s initiative entitled “Revitalizing the Humanities in the Pacific Northwest through Community Engagement.” Whitman received the funding, which is to be used over the next four years, on behalf of all the Northwest Five Consortium schools, which also include Lewis and Clark College, Reed College, the University of Puget Sound and Willamette University.

The grant will enable continued collaboration among the five institutions of higher learning and will build on previous successes such as the NW5C Supporting Faculty of Color Workshop at Reed College in 2018, said Provost and Dean of the Faculty Alzada Tipton. Meanwhile, the consortium will expand into new areas of community engagement, both within each school’s respective local community and across the Northwest.

“I am especially pleased that the consortium plans to focus on issues relevant to the region, including indigenous communities, immigration and migration, the environment, and incarceration,” said Tipton, principal investigator of the grant. “The approach to these issues will involve community partners as full collaborators, which will further enhance our relationships with these organizations and individuals. This is an ideal opportunity for Whitman to expand on much of our existing work in deeply meaningful ways.”

The grant proposal highlights knowledge-sharing across institutions as a key function of the ongoing work, as well as guiding students in their exploration of these interdisciplinary subjects so that they have the skills necessary to continue engaging with their communities and workplaces after graduation. It envisions a series of faculty development seminars and workshops, the development of community-engaged learning projects, and annual symposia to bring all participants together and showcase and share the work from each year.

According to the proposal, “This work is critical to not only our ability to demonstrate the value and relevance of the humanities and liberal arts in the 21st century, but also to ensuring that both our students and our local communities … feel heard, served, and engaged in the co-production of knowledge. Gone are the days of the ivory tower and the sage on the stage; in a time of complex problems and polarized perspectives, our institutions must demonstrate our ability to thoughtfully merge theory and practice.”  

The Mellon Foundation previously awarded Whitman an $800,000 grant, titled “Diversifying the Curriculum through Community Engagement,” in 2017.

“Our goal with both of these grants is to develop ways for our faculty and students to connect their classroom learning with issues that are relevant to the wider community,” said Director of Grants and Foundation Relations Rachna Sinnott. “We are excited that the Mellon Foundation has endorsed our consortium’s efforts to extend our work across the Northwest. Our hope is that this project will not only emphasize to our students the importance of the humanities in addressing important community issues, but will also highlight more broadly the value liberal arts institutions such as ours bring to this work.”