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The Global Partners Project

Phase One Proposal to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

New Models in International Collaboration
A Request to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation from
the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, the Associated Colleges of the South, and the Great Lakes Colleges Association



The Associated Colleges of the Midwest, The Associated Colleges of the South, and The Great Lakes Colleges Association request support for a three-year project to reconceive existing study-abroad programs through increased collaboration between the three organizations and their forty-one member institutions. We believe that by working together on specific projects we will be able to develop new models to address shared problems with greater resources and greater efficiency. Specifically, we propose to develop pilot International Learning Centers in Turkey, Russia and East/Central Europe, and Kenya, to institute a Best Practices Program for faculty and program directors, and to inaugurate collaborative Initiatives for Excellence.

This proposal is ambitious, creating an unprecedented level of cooperation among forty-one of the nation's strongest private liberal-arts colleges. While collaboration on this scale is delicate and complex, ACM, ACS, and GLCA are uniquely poised to succeed. The forty-one member colleges are committed to and actively engaged in consortial programs and activities through the three existing organizations, which have over many years demonstrated success in collaborative efforts. The presidents of ACM, ACS, and GLCA enjoy a strong collegial relationship and place a high priority on this effort. Further, the ACM, ACS, and GLCA leadership enthusiastically supports both this general direction and this specific proposal.


ACM, ACS, and GLCA have a great deal in common. The members of each are small, independent, academically excellent liberal arts colleges. Each was formed to lead and support collaborative efforts to allow small colleges to enhance their programs and realize efficiencies through cooperation. Off-campus study and faculty development have been primary areas of activity for each organization. There has been regular and collegial communication among the leaders of ACM, ACS, and GLCA and there is a history of collaboration among the organizations.

The Associated Colleges of the Midwest. The Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) are fourteen colleges located in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Colorado. The consortium was founded in 1958 with the aim of enabling its members to enrich their curricula through joint activity. To that end, ACM operates seventeen off-campus study programs in different parts of the world (eleven abroad) and creates a number of opportunities for professional development for faculty and staff.

ACM, like GLCA and ACS, is financially supported by its member institutions and has received grants from agencies of the federal government and from private foundations to support specific activities and projects. Many of these grants have underwritten faculty development efforts, and others have provided enrichment for students, including grants to overseas programs, grants for the study of less commonly taught languages, and support for a program to encourage minority students to consider academic careers.

The Associated Colleges of the South. The Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) is a consortium of fifteen liberal arts colleges located in the South, from Virginia to Texas. ACS was incorporated in 1991 to strengthen the academic programs of its member institutions and achieve administrative efficiencies and cost containment through cooperation. Since its inception, the ACS has taken a strong interest in international studies programs and overseas opportunities for faculty and students. It currently offers 16 study abroad programs. ACS's consortial offerings overseas build on the opportunities offered by the individual member institutions and fill important voids in the array of available programs.

The consortium has offered numerous workshops on critical academic issues, extensive faculty training in the use of technology (funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), a virtual electronic library among member institutions (also funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) and many other programs. As a result of collaboration, cost containment has been achieved through special efforts in joint purchasing and energy conservation.
The Great Lakes Colleges Association, Inc. The Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA), like ACM and ACS, is dedicated to leading and fostering collaborative projects which bring its member colleges together in order to strengthen their academic programs and administrative operations. The members of GLCA are twelve private liberal-arts colleges in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, all of which have been members since its founding in 1962.

Historically, off-campus study has been a primary area of GLCA activity, as has faculty development. Specifically, GLCA has strengthened off-campus study opportunities available to students on member campuses by supporting new program development, coordinating advisory and evaluation services for recognized programs, and providing professional development opportunities for faculty, international-studies advisors and program directors. Currently, GLCA recognizes and serves programs in Japan, Scotland, Africa, China, Eastern Europe, Russia, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Oak Ridge, and El Paso/Ciudad Juarez. (Some are joint projects with ACM.)


ACM and GLCA have cooperated in international and off-campus study programs since the early 60s. For example, ACM and GLCA have collaboratively supported the Japan Study Program for nearly twenty-five years. In the mid-1970's, ACM and GLCA established joint involvement in a number of off-campus programs, including programs in China and Yugoslavia. Collaboration was extended to new programs in then-Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union in the 1980's. From 1985-1995, ACM and GLCA maintained the Program for Inter-institutional Cooperation in Area Studies (PICAS) in cooperation with the International Centers at the University of Michigan and with the support of the Ford and Mellon Foundations and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

ACS has been welcomed as a sister organization by ACM and GLCA since it was established in 1991. For example, after consulting with GLCA leadership and faculty, ACS created a Summer Teaching and Learning seminar patterned after the GLCA Course Design and Teaching Workshop. ACS has also had access to the Oak Ridge Science Semester, a joint project of ACM and GLCA. Since its founding, ACS has been in frequent communication with the leadership of the other two organizations, gathering and sharing materials on various educational matters and learning from the experience of the two more senior organizations.

This proposal reflects a commitment to enhanced collaboration among the three organizations for the greater benefit of all forty-one member institutions. These are projects and efforts for which twelve, fourteen, or fifteen institutions may not yield a critical mass of interest or resources. Further, successful efforts disseminated among forty-one institutions will have much more significant impact on higher education generally. Finally, no one of our organizations could take on a project of this scope without partners: collaborating on these projects will leverage each of our individual efforts, creating a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.


ACM, ACS, and GLCA were motivated to explore extended cooperation by the recognition that we face similar challenges in the area of off-campus study and by the belief that collaboration and sharing resources will lead to more effective and efficient responses.

To quote from our planning grant application, "We recognize that in order to continue to lead in the area of off-campus study, we must reconceptualize our models in response to current challenges. The most important of these, in our view, are:

  • The implications of globalization. What kinds of off-campus study will shape students' understanding of a global economy? What distinguishes "international" education from "global" education?Financial integrity. Off-campus study, while of unquestioned intellectual importance, has financial implications which institutions must manage effectively. What models for off-campus study maximize benefits to students while controlling costs to programs and institutions?The role of technology. How can technology help integrate on- and off-campus experience, allowing on-campus faculty to participate in their students' off-campus learning? How do we combine the virtues of being away and of being connected?
  • Responsibility and safety. Students and families value both the opportunity for immersion in another culture and the protections and resources found on campuses. How can institutions best define and meet their responsibilities toward students in off-campus programs?"

In June 1998, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supported a meeting of ACM, ACS, and GLCA leadership to explore the possibility of further collaborative efforts intended to meet these challenges. From this discussion grew applications for the planning grants awarded in the fall of 1998, which supported the development of the current proposal.

"Internationalizing the curriculum" and "educating for a global society" are increasingly advocated as goals of liberal-arts colleges, yet there are serious and immediate problems with off-campus study. We wish to develop programs appropriate to the global and interdisciplinary educational vision which increasingly informs on-campus curricula. Many off-campus programs are constructed around once-fundamental notions of "nation" and "culture" which organized the study of literature, history, and peoples in terms of national, linguistic, and disciplinary boundaries. In this model, study abroad naturally emphasized language immersion and exposure to the "authentic" culture of a nation through disciplinary study.

Now, however, research and curricula explore the ways in which disciplinary, linguistic, and national boundaries are transcended. Comparative and interdisciplinary programs reflect awareness that cultures interact and influence one another, focussing on global issues such as environmental studies, peace studies, women's studies, or economic development. Increasingly few of the world's people live "immersed" in an "authentic" culture. Communications technology and global economics mean that human experience must be understood in a multinational, multicultural context. Off-campus study programs which respond to these developments will emphasize interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to global issues, will engage the interest of scholars outside the traditional fields of language and area studies, and will recognize that exposure of students to one specific culture does not preclude engagement or interaction with another.

The new Border Studies Program, managed by Earlham College and recognized by the GLCA, exemplifies a "global" approach. Located in El Paso/Ciudad Juarez, this program exposes students to the multilinguistic and multicultural environment of the border between Mexico and the United States. Through course work and internship placements, students study and experience the economic, social, and political engagement of two cultures. Students work in both Spanish and English, in Mexico and in the United States, in the classroom and in the field. The issues of cultural interaction they study are not inherently nation-specific, but could be extended to consideration of the borders between Northern and Southern Ireland, Israel and Palestine, or Francophone and Anglophone Canada.

There are practical, as well as intellectual, imperatives for rethinking off-campus study. The off-campus study marketplace has burgeoned, making questions of quality control, advising, and program proliferation increasingly challenging. Because colleges like the members of ACM, ACS, and GLCA take advising and the integrity of student programs seriously, the need for greater integration of on- and off-campus curricula is a pressing concern. Further, technology offers great potential for restructuring off-campus programs by creating connections with on-campus study, a potential which we would like to develop as rapidly and wisely as possible.

We are also convinced of the need for stronger professional development programs for faculty members and program directors, on whom the daily operations of programs depend. Too often faculty members are unprepared for the particular and unique responsibilities they undertake in directing or supervising off-campus study.

We believe that restructuring off-campus study in order to respond to these concerns is imperative to its continued vitality.

Taking these shared concerns as a starting point, each organization held a number of internal discussions meant to establish the specific priorities and interests of its membership. (These activities will be reported on separately when the planning grants are complete.) Further meetings brought together groups of planners from all three organizations to identify overlapping and complementary interests. A significant outcome of the planning process to date is that key people in each organization are enthusiastic about and involved in this effort. Specifically, the presidents, chief academic officers, and international and off-campus study advisers of each organization have been involved in discussions of this proposal, and representatives of the deans' and off-campus advisers' groups have been active in its preparation. They have expressed their enthusiasm for this project, their appreciation for Mellon's support of the planning process, and their commitment to making grant-funded activities successful.

Our various studies and discussions have led us to conclude that extended collaboration will, first, provide a critical mass of faculty, staff, student and institutional resources. Further, a three-way collaborative effort will allow for operational economies of scale and will anticipate and preclude redundant program development. Finally, we believe that our efforts could model the benefits of extended collaborative action to other colleges and organizations nationwide.

To meet this potential we propose three related initiatives in international learning. International Learning Centers will focus and consolidate our joint efforts in specific regions, providing collective representation for member institutions, providing leadership for discussions of curricular, programmatic, and pedagogical strategy in the region, and creating efficiencies and reducing redundancies so as to control costs. Best Practice Programs will promote excellence in teaching and program management by identifying and disseminating exemplary approaches. Initiatives for Excellence will strengthen advising, reduce redundancy, integrate off-campus and on-campus learning, and stimulate further program development.

Grant-funded activities will be coordinated and directed from each of the three consortial offices, with the Presidents of ACM, ACS, and GLCA serving as Principal Investigators. Each organization will take responsibility for the direction of one International Learning Center. The three organizations jointly will take responsibility for the direction of the Best Practices Program and the Initiatives for Excellence, creating a planning and oversight committee for each composed of representatives from all three associations.






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