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Swarthmore Awarded Mellon Foundation Grant for New Approach to Academic Leadership with a Focus on Diversity

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Swarthmore has received an $871,000 Mellon Foundation grant to expand a pilot program on academic leadership with a focus on diversity.

The grant supports the College’s vision for a leadership-development program for faculty in the arts and humanities from underrepresented institutions of higher education. The program “seeks to reframe academic leadership as an extension of humanistic study, research, and teaching,” the project leaders wrote in the grant proposal. President Valerie Smith was part of the project leadership team.

The College will design and implement the program over the next four years, partnering with the University of Pennsylvania in the initial phase of the effort. The program is planned as a series of conferences, workshops, and guest lectures on leadership in the humanities.

Participants will learn how to navigate competing ideas, perceptions, and narratives; react to unexpected situations and issues; and bridge competing ideas, wishes, and demands. Topics of workshops may include bridge-building across specialties, problem-solving, power dynamics, and conflict resolution.

“The skills of textual and contextual analysis, persuasive communication across diverse constituencies, and connecting historic traditions and contemporary innovations are foundational to academic leadership,” wrote Swarthmore’s project leaders, who also included Jean-Vincent Blanchard, professor of French and associate dean of faculty for academic programs; Tomoko Sakomura, professor of art history and dean of students; and Lynne Steuerle Schofield ’99, associate professor of statistics and associate dean of faculty for diversity, recruitment, and retention.

“[We intend] to draw connections between teaching and research skills and leadership skills and set the foundations for a much-needed new approach to promoting academic leadership more generally.”

Faculty from underrepresented groups will be strongly encouraged to take part as participants and session leaders. The program will tap the rich diversity of higher education institutions in the Philadelphia region, including Tri-College Consortium institutions, historically Black colleges and universities, and community colleges, before extending opportunities to faculty in other metropolitan areas. 

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