This Funder Believes There is Room in College for STEM and the Humanities

Some recent gifts by individual and institutional funders suggest a trend toward more funding for the liberal arts at colleges and universities. While a heavy emphasis on STEM programs remains, there appears to be a growing recognition that the humanities and social sciences still have a place in our technology-driven world and workplace. After all, these are the disciplines that foster the kind of creativity and critical thinking skills that are as essential for driving innovation as technological know-how.

Related - Six Million Bucks From Carnegie Says That Science Doesn't Have All the Answers

What’s more, an examination of the higher education philanthropy landscape reveals that funders may not be as siloed as you might believe. Sure, there are big-name STEM funders such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Sloan Foundation. There also are top liberal arts funders such as the Mellon Foundation. But there are funders favoring a balanced approach to higher education, as we've observed before, one that makes room for science and technology, as well as history and literature. We offer as evidence the Teagle Foundation and a recent series of grants it has awarded.

Teagle just awarded $2 million worth of grants aimed at integrating the arts, humanities, and social sciences into undergraduate professional education, including such fields of study as health care, business, and engineering. The grants involve nearly 60 colleges and universities, higher education consortia, and other nonprofit institutions.

Under its new Liberal Arts in the Professions initiative, Teagle awarded nearly $400,000 to six noted engineering schools, including Rochester Institute of Technology, Harvey Mudd College, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, to support greater integration of the liberal arts into engineering curricula. Teagle also awarded $50,000 to St. John Fisher College, Nazareth College, Alfred University, and Monroe Community College a part of an effort to embed the liberal arts into business education. Finally, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education received $41,000 to explore ways of integrating the liberal arts into teacher preparation, business, health, and technology.

Another set of grants under the Faculty Planning and Curricular Coherence initiative encourages college faculty to think about systemic changes to curriculum that involve more coherence and greater integration across academic disciplines. Grants under this initiative included $300,000 to the University of Texas system to support development of a core curriculum that connects the liberal arts with students’ career interests across 12 degree programs.

A separate grant will help five upstate New York colleges integrate foreign language studies into undergraduate preparation for the professions. Teagle awarded the schools $25,000 under its Hybrid Learning and the Residential Liberal Arts Experience to help them develop their foreign language course offerings in online and blended learning formats.

A special project at Teague, known as Liberal Arts Education Beyond the Academy, strives to provide outreach to veterans, helping them transition into higher education. Two $150,000 grants will pilot programs for underserved military veterans and their families to increase civic engagement and entry into college. A third grant for $150,000 supports efforts to bring liberal arts experiences led by college faculty to adults in workplace and community settings.

Teagle was established in the 1940s by Walter Teagle, longtime president and chairman of Standard Oil (now known as Exxon Mobil). With that background, you might expect this to be a STEM funder, but Teagle has always been committed to the value of a broad liberal arts education. As this series of grants demonstrates, this is a funder that believes four years of college leave plenty of time to learn accounting, engineering, or computer programming, while simultaneously reading the great books and engaging with the ideas of history’s greatest thinkers.