Skip to main content

ACM Notes-Spring 2008

ACM Notes is a newsletter for faculty and administrators at ACM member colleges.


Table of Contents

President's Column

At the half-century mark, a time for reflection

ACM turns fifty this year, which makes this a natural time for reflection about what has been achieved from the founders' vision and how we should move forward in the years to come.

How has liberal arts education changed in fifty years? What role did ACM colleges play in these changes? What values have kept the founding members engaged with the consortium even after changes in Division III athletics led them to join different conferences, given their original association forged through a common athletic conference?

Once we began to ask about our past, questions about the present and future quickly followed.

If the ACM did not exist today, what goals might this group of colleges find as a compelling basis on which to associate? What will be the most pressing strategic needs our colleges face in the future? What do growing differences in members' endowments and tuitions mean for joint action? Where would new collaboration add the greatest value for all of the member colleges?

While such broad questions, of course, do not yield definitive answers, they encouraged the vigorous discussion and debate so crucial to a healthy consortium.

They also prompted narrower questions. Should off-campus study continue as ACM's predominant activity in the face of widespread and growing alternatives on ACM campuses and from third-party providers? If so, what should be ACM's niche in this rapidly differentiating field? What ought to distinguish off-campus study programs designed specifically for liberal arts students?

Where and how should ACM expand faculty development opportunities? Can new media technologies enhance professional networking among both faculty and administrative leaders? How, and to whom, should ACM tell its stories?

ACM's mission and strategic priorities

During the past year, a committee of presidents and deans created by the Board of Directors has led this process of examining ACM's history, purpose and future. This group quickly decided it was time to define ACM's mission and set strategic priorities to fulfill it.

The ideas and draft texts that emerged from the group have been discussed in subsequent meetings by presidents, deans, faculty advisors, off-campus study directors, financial officers and others. Many drafts later, the ACM Board of Directors approved a Mission Statement and a set of Strategic Action Priorities this April. 

I invite you to share your thoughts about these directions and you can do so by writing to me at

Celebrating ACM's achievements

Achieving fifty years of collaboration in higher education is good cause for celebration, as well as reflection. Sustaining cooperation — especially through decades that dramatically changed the composition of student bodies, reshaped the curriculum, redefined faculty careers, shifted the financing of higher education and heightened competition — is simply remarkable.

This is undoubtedly a time to celebrate the enduring strength, and the compelling basis for joint action, that the core liberal arts mission of ACM colleges provides.

The ACM Board of Directors already endorsed several activities for the coming academic year to celebrate and highlight the liberal arts missions of ACM colleges:

  • A student research symposium featuring outstanding projects from all ACM campuses;
  • A student symposium on off-campus study (OCS), showcasing the top presentations on OCS from each campus by returnee students;
  • Invitational athletic competitions hosted by Macalester, Carleton and St. Olaf;
  • ACM faculty panels at the AAC&U and other professional association meetings;
  • A reading and discussion forum at Monmouth on the nature of liberal arts education and how it has changed in the past half century; and
  • An all-star ACM choral concert in late February at Lawrence.

To read about the schedule of events as it develops, go to the 50th Anniversary webpage.

A steering committee is helping to identify and plan activities. Members include: Lawrence President Jill Beck, Monmouth President Mauri Ditzler, Beloit Dean Lynn Franken, Lake Forest Director of Off-Campus Programs Jan Miller, St. Olaf Assistant Dean for Community Life and Diversity Bill Green, Lake Forest Director of Communications and Marketing Elizabeth Libby, and Beloit Director of Athletics Kim Chandler. Please share any ideas you may have about the celebration with me or with any of the committee members.

Over the past fifty years, ACM faculty, administrative leaders and students have quietly created among themselves a robust social and intellectual capital. Properly sustained, this resource can underwrite many more decades of meaningful joint action among the ACM colleges.

Our celebrations during the 2008-09 academic year will allow us to continue taking stock of what ACM colleges have accomplished together as well as what we can do in coming years to nurture our common purpose. We hope you will join us for the celebration and help us prepare for another half century of collaborative work on behalf of our common mission in liberal arts education.

Christopher Welna, President

Return to Table of Contents


Sweet Home Chicago (Programs, that is)

The ACM Chicago Programs will soon have a new home on State Street (that great street), and both the facilities and the location will be sweet, indeed. Together with energetic staff and a coordinated curriculum, it will be a perfect venue to foster the programs' inventive approach to living and learning in the city.

The office will be in downtown Chicago at 177 N. State Street, in between two of the city's icons -- the Chicago Theatre and the El tracks. The newly-designed space will house the three parts of the restructured Chicago Programs: Urban Studies, Chicago Arts, and Business, Entrepreneurship & Society. There will be classrooms, offices for faculty and staff, and room for students to gather. The central location has excellent access to public transportation that students use to travel throughout the city for their internships, seminars, field trips and housing.

Creativity across the curriculum is the theme of the Chicago Programs. Whether it's an entrepreneur starting up a new business, an artist interpreting urban life, or a community organizer developing networks and resources to effect social change, a spark of creativity is the catalyst for action. Every day, students on the Chicago Programs will discover the city's creative pulse in its many manifestations, and study some aspect of how the city works.

Participants will be led by an outstanding group of new and returning faculty and staff, who bring a wide range of backgrounds to the programs:

  • Executive Director Sally Noble, who came to ACM from the University of Chicago, will provide academic and administrative leadership for the programs. She will work closely with the three Program Directors to insure distinctive academic excellence in each program and connections across the programs.
  • The new Director of Chicago Arts, Dave Amrein, comes from Lake Forest College where he was Visiting Instructor of Music and Conductor of the Lake Forest Chamber Orchestra. He will teach an Arts seminar course, most likely focusing on the creative process across the arts disciplines, and will develop internship and independent study opportunities for students.
  • Leading the new program in Business, Entrepreneurship & Society is Robyne Hart, who comes to ACM from Hanover College in Indiana, where she founded the college's innovative Center for Business Preparation (CBP). She will teach a seminar course and work with students to develop internships and independent study projects.
  • At Urban Studies, Director Mary Scott-Boria stays on to share with students her years of experience with the city's community organizations. Continuing with her are Urban Studies colleagues Dorothy Burge (Faculty and Internship Coordinator), Zeva Schub (Faculty) and Julie Ruano (Office Manager).

More about the Chicago Programs and the new staff is on the Chicago Programs webpage.

Return to Table of Contents


University of Chicago withdraws from ACM, creates faculty development awards

The College of the University of Chicago, a member of ACM since 1988, has decided to withdraw from membership in the consortium effective June 30, 2008. As the University has expanded its own portfolio of off-campus study programs in recent years, University students have less need for the ACM programs.

At the same time, the University of Chicago has announced plans to create a new faculty development program in cooperation with ACM. Under the proposed five-year program, the University of Chicago will fund visits by ACM faculty to use the University's Regenstein and Crerar Libraries and to participate in University workshops in the humanities and social sciences organized through the Council on Advanced Study in the Humanities and the Social Sciences (CAS).

Return to Table of Contents 

Mellon Foundation helps underwrite ACM's vision for the future

 The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has cast a vote of confidence in ACM's vision for the future by awarding two grants totalling $7 million to the consortium. The grants will have a major impact throughout the ACM by funding post-doctoral fellowships on ACM campuses and supporting a wide range of new consortial initiatives in off-campus study, faculty development, and other areas.

The ACM-Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowships will attract young scholars from top research universities to ACM campuses and make the case to them for pursuing careers in undergraduate teaching and research at liberal arts colleges. The fellowships will also help ACM colleges advance institutional goals in academic programs or departments.

Supported by a $4 million grant, the fellowship program will place new PhDs in the arts, humanities, and humanities-related social sciences in two-year teaching and research residencies at ACM colleges. The program will provide opportunities for ACM colleges to bring in Fellows with expertise in newly emerging fields, so they can help to energize the research life on campus, enrich the curricular offerings of academic departments, expand collaboration with research universities, and increase individualized student instruction and research.

The grant program is expected to support up to 26 Fellows over the next five to six years. The Fellowships will be distributed among the ACM colleges through a competitive process in which the individual colleges will search for and hire the Fellows, while the ACM office will administer the program competition. Campus-based mentoring, with consortial orientation and workshops, will provide the Fellows a rich introduction to teaching and research careers at residential liberal arts colleges.

Innovative and cost-effective collaboration is the focus of the second grant, which establishes an endowment of $3 million to help support the ACM office in Chicago. As ACM continues to take a leading role in off-campus study for liberal arts students and expand its collaborations in professional development for faculty and staff at the member colleges, future projects may include:

  • Integrating on-campus and off-campus teaching, learning and research;
  • Creating tools for assessing educational outcomes for students on ACM's off-campus study programs;
  • Collaboration to offer less commonly taught languages;
  • Expanding interaction among faculty on different ACM campuses;
  • Creating a program of short-term appointments for performing artists in residence at ACM colleges;
  • Enhancing collaboration in institutional research and faculty recruitment;
  • Fostering interaction among students from ACM colleges through academic and co-curricular events.

The list above is just a beginning. The endowment award will help the ACM expand its organizational capacity to develop new grant proposals and undertake new projects in response to fresh ideas and emerging opportunities, without having to compromise programmatic objectives or tax the member colleges or grantors more heavily to cover the administrative costs.

Return to Table of Contents


How do our students learn? Project will apply new learning theories to ACM classrooms

A new ACM Collegium on Student Learning will focus on the special type of learning emphasized by small residential liberal arts colleges. Specifically, the project seeks to deepen understanding of current research in learning theories, particularly concerning "metacognition," to apply these theories to the classroom and to develop ways of determining their effectiveness. With support from research experts and teaching and learning colleagues, the Collegium group will create projects and gather evidence that can be widely disseminated throughout the ACM and the higher education community.

The project, supported by a $150,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation, will begin with a conference this fall on new learning research and its relevance for the classroom. The conference will bring together a wide spectrum of ACM faculty with research and learning experts from the ACM and other colleges and universities.

From this broad discussion will emerge a 13-member Collegium faculty group (ideally, one person from each ACM campus) that will commit to reading and discussing the literature about new research on learning in greater depth and to thinking about its application to the liberal arts college. The group's work will culminate in a project of classroom research investigating some aspect of the learning research. A final conference will highlight the projects and begin a new cycle of discussion and faculty research into learning. The grant period runs through 2010.

ACM Vice President John Ottenhoff authored the grant proposal with substantial assistance from David Schodt (economics and Director, Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts, St. Olaf), Paul Kuerbis (Director, Colket Learning Center, Colorado), Karl Wirth (geology, Macalester), Marion Fass (biology, Beloit), Rachel Ragland (education, Lake Forest), and Susan Ashley (Dean, Colorado). David Burrows (Dean, Lawrence) and Janet McCracken (Dean, Lake Forest) also wrote in support of the project.

Return to Table of Contents


ACM welcomes new staff to the Chicago office

Several people have joined the ACM Chicago office staff recently or will be arriving soon.

Scott Ozaroski fills the newly-established position of Director of Recruiting and Marketing. He will work closely with students, faculty and staff at each of the ACM colleges to present ACM's portfolio of off-campus study programs. Along with visiting and communicating with the campuses, Scott will be closely involved with upcoming overhauls to the ACM website, other web-based initiatives, marketing materials, and recruitment strategies.

Most recently, Scott spent seven years as Associate Director of Admissions for Hawaii Pacific University, a liberal arts university located in Honolulu, HI. He was based in Chicago and responsible for working with prospective students from across the Midwest. Prior to that, Scott spent five years working in a variety of capacities as touring road staff for the international education and leadership program Up with People.

Three new Program Associates, all of them graduates of ACM colleges, are joining ACM in June to work with ACM's off-campus study programs. Two will work with the international programs and one will work with domestic programs.

  • Heather Everst is a 2008 graduate of Lake Forest College, where she majored in business and Spanish, and participated in the ACM Costa Rica program. Heather brings experience organizing events, providing administrative support, and marketing from her previous work at Lake Forest College and with local businesses.
  • Amanda Dooley graduated from Colorado College in 2007, where she majored in history and studied abroad in Argentina. For the past year Amanda has served as a paraprofessional assistant to the Dean of Colorado College and as a writer for the College's communications department.
  • Emily Gaul, who will work with ACM's programs in Chicago, graduated from Beloit College, where she majored in sociology and participated in the ACM Urban Studies Program. Since her graduation in 2004, Emily has worked in Australia and New Zealand and has served as registrar and in fund development for the Holiday Home Camp in Wisconsin.

Dan Pallat is serving as the interim Chief Financial Officer, following Lucia Johnson's retirement this spring after 38 years of extraordinary service to the consortium and member colleges.

Return to Table of Contents


Acclaimed author Stuart Dybek praises stories by students in the ACM Nick Adams Contest

Knox College senior Myra Thompson was named the winner of this year's Nick Adams Short Story Contest. The final judge for the 2008 contest was Stuart Dybek, acclaimed author of short story collections centered on life in Chicago and Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University. Dybek praised Thompson's winning entry as "a mature, deeply imagined, convincingly realized story."

A double major in creative writing and Russian, Thompson recently received a Fulbright grant and will spend next year writing short stories in Russia, the setting for her winning story, "Recollection."

Dybek awarded an honorable mention to the story "Ten Occasions on Which Idalina Cried" by Iris G. Garcia of Coe College, commenting that "The writer's deep affection for the characters and the culture is compellingly rendered." Garcia was also awarded an honorable mention in the Nick Adams Short Story Contest in 2006.

Read "Recollection" and more about Stuart Dybek at the Nick Adams webpage.

Return to Table of Contents


First round of FaCE grants to be awarded soon

ACM launched the second phase of its Faculty Career Enhancement Project (FaCE) in January with a call for proposals from faculty at ACM colleges. The Project, supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, fosters collaboration within ACM by providing funds for research, meetings, development of internet-based outreach tools, and evaluation activities.

The first round of faculty proposals is being reviewed by the Evaluation Committee, and a list of the grants awarded will be posted soon on the FaCE webpage. There will be a second round of grants awarded in 2008-09; the deadline for proposals is November 15.

Visit the FaCE webpage for complete information about program activities.

Return to Table of Contents

<Go to the ACM Notes archive>

ACM Notes is published by the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) for faculty and administrators at the ACM member colleges.

Posted on June 6, 2008