W&M's new general education system gets boost from Mellon Foundation

WILLIAMSBURG – The College of William and Mary on Tuesday announced the receipt of a $900,000 grant over four years from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support putting its new general education curriculum in place.

Earlier this year, William and Mary administrators estimated the new curriculum, called the "College Curriculum" or COLL, would cost about $1 million to launch and another $700,000 to operate annually. Currently, pilot courses are being developed for students entering this fall, although COLL won't be in full swing for incoming students until the fall of 2015. The college said the Mellon Foundation's grant is expected to offset the cost of running two general education programs side-by-side – which will result in an increased cost temporarily – until the previous general education curriculum for current students is completely phased out.

In a statement Tuesday, Provost Michael R. Halleran said the grant will continue the momentum the COLL curriculum has been building over the last three years.

"We are gratified that the Mellon Foundation shares our enthusiasm for the new curriculum, and very grateful for its willingness to support its implementation in such a substantial way," he said.

In its online mission statement, the Mellon Foundation says its philosophy is to "build, strengthen and sustain institutions and their core capacities."

The new curriculum was approved by the college's faculty in December with a vote of 101-83 and one abstention, with fewer than half of the full-time faculty voting. Members of William and Mary's Board of Visitors later voiced support of the COLL curriculum during a February meeting.

The COLL curriculum extends the general education requirements over all four years of a student's experience at William and Mary. According to a curriculum description released Tuesday, the curriculum emphasizes skills in communications and collaborative work, along with "understanding of international contexts, where and how the academic disciplines intersect and diverge, and how the broader liberal arts can inform and enhance a given major."

Sampson can be reached at 757-345-2345.