Southwestern University has received a $500,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will be used to help liberal arts colleges implement specific collaborative projects.

The grant will support the work of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), which is based at Southwestern.

Michael Nanfito, executive director of NITLE, said that a growing number of colleges recognize the advantages of offering collaborative programs to accomplish innovative learning objectives. What these colleges need is a practical “roadmap” for how to implement such programs.

NITLE will use the Mellon Foundation grant to provide specific tools such as agreement structures, templates, checklists, case studies and experienced facilitators to help guide colleges as they negotiate the process of collaboration.

NITLE has a history of facilitating inter-institutional collaborative projects such as Sunoikisis (a national consortium of Classics programs) and the Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project, an online course management system that is used by 35 colleges.

“NITLE’s national scope and long history of facilitating inter-institutional collaboration provides liberal arts colleges and universities with a real advantage in pursuing innovation,” said Southwestern University President Dr. Edward Burger. “We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for supporting a programmatic approach that helps colleges collaborate effectively to fulfill their missions.”

Nanfito said several collaborative groups of liberal arts colleges have already approached NITLE about participating in the new program. In selecting groups to participate in the program, NITLE will give special consideration to institutions pursuing academic collaboration in one of these areas: digital scholarship, global education and cultural literacy, blended learning, inter-institutional teaching, and increasing support for diverse groups of students.

“The program begins when a specific group of institutions identifies where their needs overlap and what strategic objectives they share,” Nanfito said. “As these institutions move through the collaborative process, we provide them with pragmatic guidance and practical tools to help them achieve their objectives and share their knowledge widely so that the entire sector can learn and grow together.”