(Posted September 29, 2014)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College has received a $100,000, three-year grant from the Andrew J. Mellon Foundation to assess and redefine its general education curriculum and ultimately reshape the college's liberal arts education model to better reflect the needs and values of students in the 21st century.

"This grant is important not just because of what it will enable us to do in assessing general education and ensuring the salience and primacy of the liberal arts throughout the curriculum, but because recognition by Mellon -- because of its reputation for recognizing excellence in liberal arts education -- affirms that Juniata belongs among the top liberal arts colleges nationally," says Lauren Bowen, provost at Juniata.

"This grant is important not just because of what it will enable us to do in assessing general education and ensuring the salience and primacy of the liberal arts throughout the curriculum, but because recognition by Mellon -- because of its reputation for recognizing excellence in liberal arts education -- affirms that Juniata belongs among the top liberal arts colleges nationally."

Lauren Bowen, provost at Juniata.

The grant will provide funds to help the college organize and implement an assessment of the courses that comprise general education. In so doing, the faculty will be engaged in conversation about the optimal design and content of a contemporary liberal arts education. This focus will strengthen Juniata's intentional commitment to define the content, skills and courses that every Juniata student must experience to ensure they graduate with a fully rounded education.

Juniata assesses student learning in every academic program annually. Much of the pertinent information and data have been gathered with regard to various elements of general education including the College Writing Seminar (an introductory "freshman composition" course), Information Access (an introductory technology course), as well as the Communication in Writing component.

The balance of pertinent data for other requirements will be gathered during the life of the grant. Most importantly, the grant will allow for synthesis of the information across the curriculum to help determine how best to modify the curriculum to best achieve the institutional mission with contemporary college students.

In the 2014-2015 academic year, the college will complete assessment of its Cultural Analysis courses, international courses, quantitative courses, communication courses, speech courses and courses in the social sciences will be completed.

"We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for recognizing what Juniata does well and providing the means for us to become an even stronger institution," says James A. Troha, president of Juniata. "We are pleased that the foundation found value and merit in our ideas to improve the college."

In order to analyze and interpret the data reveal in such a comprehensive assessment, Juniata will devote much of the Mellon grant funding to create an internal leadership group to oversee the long-term curriculum development project and nine faculty-led working groups devoted to singular curriculum categories, such as:

--Common Experience: This would include Juniata's Interdisciplinary Colloquia courses (classes team-taught by faculty from different disciplines) and Cultural Analysis (courses focusing on how relationships between ideas and institutions have shaped societies).

--Skills: This would include courses in communication, writing, speech or math-related courses.

--Wide-Ranging Experience: This would include courses in fine arts, international topics, social sciences or humanities.

Each working group will make curriculum recommendations to the leadership group based on meetings through the year and an intensive, weeklong summer workshop where participants are expected to resolve curriculum concerns or recommend new curricular ideas.

Juniata College is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation, specializing in experiential learning, science research and education, and personal attention for all students. Juniata offers a college experience that emphasizes a student-alumni-faculty community extending beyond graduation.

Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.