Stanford’s new Civic, Liberal and Global Education program – or COLLEGE – will replace the Thinking Matters first-year requirement. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Stanford University’s new Civic, Liberal and Global Education first-year requirement – otherwise known as COLLEGE – has been awarded a $250,000 implementation grant by the The Teagle Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The grant award is part of the broader Cornerstone: Learning for Living initiative designed to support U.S. colleges and universities as they help students engage with transformative texts that bring enduring questions and diverse perspectives to the challenges facing society. Awards totaling more than $1.6 million will support 14 planning grants and seven implementation grants at 21 institutions nationwide. The latest cohort of grantees join another nine institutions already participating in the initiative, bringing the total number of campus partners up to 30.

The grants support institutions committed to the kind of general education reform that will revitalize liberal education by reaching students of all backgrounds, majors and aspirations. The funded projects take different approaches and curricular formats in alignment with their institutional strengths and priorities, but each involve building a common intellectual experience for entering students and coherent pathways through general education that help students connect their professional aspirations to broader ideas about human purpose.

William H. Bonsall Professor of French Dan Edelstein, one of the project directors for COLLEGE, said the award will provide a strong foundational launch for COLLEGE and help enable a smooth transition from the previous first-year requirement, Thinking Matters.

“The grant is a wonderful opportunity for Stanford to support faculty and fellows in delivering our new first-year requirement, and for us to learn from faculty at other institutions about their own efforts, roadblocks, and implementation,” said Edelstein, who is also faculty director for Stanford Introductory Studies. “It’s exciting to see other colleges and universities reimagine their approaches to general education, and we’re grateful to the Teagle Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities for their generous support.”

Stanford’s other COLLEGE project directors include J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor of the Humanities Lanier Anderson; Associate Professor of Education Emily Levine; and Associate Professor of Religious Studies Kathryn Gin Lum.

The $250,000 grant will be used over the next two years to scale up COLLEGE, in which the first two seminars in the three-quarter sequence are anchored in a common set of readings for incoming first-year students, and to build more coherent cross-disciplinary connections between general education and students’ professional aspirations.

By the end of the grant period, over 75 faculty and 30 postdoctoral fellows will have been recruited to teach the required first-year sequence, staffing at least 225 sections serving 1600 students.

Faculty will also devise curricular “roadmaps” to satisfy distribution requirements with courses grouped by students’ professional aspirations (e.g., “liberal education and the engineer”) and to ensure that all students, regardless of major, have significant exposure to humanistic questions and are incentivized to pursue a humanities certificate or minor.

As colleges and universities around the country confront declines in the number of students choosing to major in the humanities and in enrollment by non-majors in humanities courses, the new Cornerstone: Learning for Living grants will expose students to the power of the humanities; strengthen the coherence of general education; and increase teaching opportunities for humanities faculty committed to helping students achieve a sense of belonging and community.

“More than ever, we need college graduates who bring both sensitivity and rigor to the problems of our world, who speak with civility, listen with respect, and know the difference between assertion and argument,” said Andrew Delbanco, president of the Teagle Foundation.“Through these Cornerstone: Learning for Living grants, students at a range of institutions, from community colleges to research universities, will grapple with core texts and questions that help them understand how the boundaries of race, class, gender, and cultural difference can be crossed, or at least recognized and respected, in a pluralistic democracy.”

Adam Wolfson, NEH acting chair, added, “Anchored in transformative texts, these new programs will put the humanities back at the center of general education at 21 colleges and universities, giving undergraduates the tools they need to make sense of the world and grow into engaged and informed citizens. The National Endowment for the Humanities is pleased to be part of this effort to create models for liberal arts education that meet the needs of 21st-century students.”