Colorado Springs hosts two nationally-ranked undergraduate institutions, Colorado College and the Air Force Academy— separated from one another by a short 15-minute drive and wide cultural, scheduling and administrative differences.
However, a recently awarded $6,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation will allow the schools to break down barriers to cooperation through a series of monthly forums that can range from dinners to receptions before or after an event to interdepartmental research seminars. Colorado College and the Air Force Academy have since further expanded the program to include University of Colorado-Colorado Springs students and faculty in program activities, said John Gould, associate professor of political science and lead CC contact for the grant.
The initial efforts will focus on building communication and collaboration in three areas: social sciences, humanities and natural sciences, with each division receiving $2,000 for inter-institutional community building. Although the political science departments of CC and USAFA have a long history of informal collaboration due to their mutual interest in global studies and international relations, their interaction has been irregular due to a lack of resources. Within the humanities and natural sciences, the USAFA and CC faculty have had less contact. The grant money is aimed at creating new opportunities for network development in all three divisions.
Although the program was approved only a month ago, the institutions already have made arrangements for a number of collaborative programs. These include:
- A USAFA/CC student discussion group that will attend major speakers events this year at the two colleges
- A joint student outing of biology students to local fossil beds, with a common reading and group discussion relating to evolutionary biology
- A joint dinner of the political science faculties before a lecture from military analyst Andrew Bacevich
- A possible “Super Tuesday” primary event for students and faculty
- Group student/faculty trips to the theater
- A group discussion of Machiavelli’s “Prince”
- A program of activities relating to the theme of “freedom riding and writing”
It is hoped that as the year progresses, the newly found inter-institutional community will develop a forum in which members share information about research interests, areas of potential collaboration, visiting speakers, talented one-year visiting faculty members and academic resources and strategies. The goal is to create a communal identity—rather than an institutional one; an identity that will produce leaders willing to work on behalf of a community that extends beyond departments and institutions.
The Mellon grant provides an unprecedented opportunity to overcome the initial costs and barriers to community building and realize inter-institutional opportunities.