Why W.M. Keck's Got a Soft Spot for Undergrad

And onward march the undergraduates: the great seething sea of sweatpants and headphones. Pile them five to a room, two to an Xbox. Keep the ranks sated on egg & cheese sandwiches and burnt coffee. But who among us could garner love for these creatures other than the W.M. Keck Foundation?

Keck's Undergraduate Education Program

promotes distinctive learning and research experiences in science, engineering and the liberal arts at four year undergraduate colleges only in Foundation designated states, or through national organizations that address undergraduate needs. Public institutions and research universities located in the designated states may apply but must demonstrate a compelling or unique resource to be competitive.

The grants Keck offers through this program start around $200,000 but in some cases fatten up to a substantial $1 million. (Read program director of undergrad education Mercedes Talley's IP profile). Their website features a map, indicating which states qualify for grants and which do not. In this department, Keck seems to favor multimedia-based innovations for traditional modes of teaching undergraduates. (See W.M. Keck Foundation: Grants for STEM Higher Education).

Two of the foundation's most recent grants went to California State University (CSU) campuses: Hayword and Stanislaus.

Last year, CSU East Bay's Department of Biological Sciences at Hayword campus received $250,000 from Keck to construct and install a "confocal laser scanning microscope." Eleven undergraduate courses in the fields of physics, biology, and chemistry integrated the microscope into their coursework.

This past February, Keck also gave CSU Stanislaus campus $250,000 to build a Visual Anthropology Lab. The lab will allow anthropology undergraduates to augment their written work with video documentaries.

As CSU Stanislaus Foundation explains on their University Advancement page, it is the long-term relationships they develop with their community that keep the money rolling in. Indeed, their relationship with Keck goes back at least a decade. In 2003, Keck granted Stanislaus $440,000 to found the W.M. Keck Language Laboratory, according to CSU Newsline.

Is that advice worth taking? Probably. Stanislaus averaged $2.3 million in gifts over the past three years. That's not shabby for a campus of its size, with an undergraduate population of 7,921, according to US News.