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Mellon Grant strengthens global education and interscholastic collaboration

By Julia Grace Brimelow ’14

January 30, 2014

The promise of a global education is built into Hamilton’s admissions materials. “Love it here…now go away,” reads number seven on the list of “Ten Things You Should Know About Hamilton,” referring to study abroad opportunities. Though a small school based in Central New York, Hamilton has long stressed a commitment to cultural exchange, international education and the development of a worldview that extends beyond local, state and national boundaries.

Earlier this month, international initiatives at Hamilton received a significant boost in funding when the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the New York Six, of which Hamilton College is a member, a three-year $1.25 million grant to support various programs and aimed at the expansion of global consciousness both inside and outside of the classroom. The grant will be used to advance The New York Six Update-Global Collective, increase Study Abroad collaboration among member institutions, promote the study of less-frequently-taught languages and support the international student community.

In Hamilton-specific terms, this grant will allow the college to build on its preexisting commitment to global education. With a study abroad rate at about 50%, and various programs of study devoted to world cultures, such as Asian Studies and Islamic World Studies, the College’s strength in delivering a global perspective to its students is apparent in both the academic culture and curriculum. The grant, however, will allow for greater collaborative efforts among the New York Six in expanding the reach and enriching the experience of international education.

“I don’t expect to see new programs established as a direct result of this grant,” said Dean of Faculty Patrick Reynolds. “[But] there may be indirect growth in how we think about study abroad as a result of greater exchange with our NY6 colleagues; I hope that happens.”

Hamilton College emerged as a leader among peer institutions in modeling elements of the international initiative serviced by the grant. In both study abroad offerings and language learning, Hamilton already has many of the proposed innovations in place. Hamilton-sponsored abroad programs in Beijing, Paris and Madrid, for example, are already open to students from the New York Six, as well as students across the country.

Hamilton’s Critical Languages program also delivers cost-effective access to less-frequently taught languages to interested students. These pioneering efforts will help in the larger exchange of ideas within the New York Six addressing how to effectively implement international education at all the schools in the consortium.

Another point of such collaborative engagement and exchange will be the development of  The New York Six Update-Global Collective. This educational initiative hopes to bring students and faculty across the New York Six together in the study of common themes that are significant on the world stage. The program will launch around the study of sustainability and human rights in hopes of creating a scholarly community around focused interdisciplinary study.

To a large degree, the benefit of this grant will be determined by how students and faculty capitalize on such opportunities for engagement. “It will be very much left to our faculty and students to decide to take advantage of any opportunities that emerge from the consortium and this component of the grant,” Reynolds said.

If past projects spearheaded by the New York Six are any indication, the international initiative will benefit greatly from the shared vision and commitment of member schools. Recent consortium success include expanding library material access, negotiating savings on office supplies, organizing faculty conferences, exploring health insurance options and providing grants for collaborative faculty development.

“The focus has always been on what can the New York Six institutions do better together than we can do separately, “ Dean Reynolds said.

In the case of global education, the Mellon Foundation grant will Hamilton to pursue the goal of integrative global education with greater resources and a mind for collaborative innovation.

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