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Major Grant to Strengthen Interdisciplinary Departments, Programs with Dedicated Tenure-Track Faculty

Kohlberg Hall


Swarthmore College is the recipient of a grant of $800,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create two new tenure-track faculty positions in humanities or humanistic social science-based interdisciplinary departments and programs. The grant will advance one of the four priorities of the Changing Lives, Changing the World campaign, “Connecting the Liberal Arts,” in an effort to bridge and couple disciplines across the curriculum.

“This generous support will help to jumpstart the growth of emerging areas of study that we believe will enhance our students’ education,” says President Valerie Smith. Interdisciplinary programs provide greater opportunities for learning about complex topics that are best understood through the intersection of fields of study. Swarthmore is dedicated to investing in its interdisciplinary academic programs to broaden these valuable educational opportunities.

Currently, the majority of faculty members who teach in interdisciplinary programs (such as Black studies, environmental studies, and Latin American and Latino studies) hold joint appointments with another department such as chemistry, economics, or sociology. Only one interdisciplinary program (peace and conflict studies) has a dedicated tenure-track position. Adding full-time, tenure-track positions in other interdisciplinary areas will help to anchor those programs and heighten their visibility on campus and in the curriculum to attract student interest.

Swarthmore’s Council on Educational Policy (CEP) will determine which programs will receive the Mellon-funded positions. The CEP is responsible for long range curricular planning and the overall structure of the academic program. The CEP will review proposals from interdisciplinary programs beginning in 2018–19. The Mellon grant will seed these positions with 100 percent funding in the first year of teaching, declining to zero percent by end of the grant term in 2025.

“At the conclusion of the Foundation’s funding,” says Provost Tom Stephenson, “the College will assume the responsibility of the faculty lines as part of our regular operations, and we hope that our donors, through the campaign, will match the enthusiasm of the Mellon Foundation and endow these positions fully.”

In addition to the two new tenure-line faculty positions, the grant provides course development funding to faculty in interdisciplinary fields and summer research stipends for students. The College expects to develop eleven new courses with this funding and fund up to fifteen students undertaking research projects in interdisciplinary fields.

To learn more about how Swarthmore is investing in its vibrant intellectual culture, visit

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