Susan Dady, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

TITLE: Program Associate

FUNDING AREAS: Higher education, liberal arts faculty career enhancement, liberal arts curricula development, digital humanities

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Dady's concern is anything and everything that relates to liberal arts colleges. She seems amenable to any ideas about how to save this endangered species of college from extinction and what can be done to make life easier for faculty in this area.

PROFILE: Susan I. Dady assists with the management of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's grant making portfolio of over 125 liberal arts colleges. According to its website, Mellon has a previously established list of 70 schools from whom they will accept proposals. They base their list on these schools' dedication to the "liberal arts" variety of education as opposed to a more vocationally-oriented approach.

Dady's program works to enhance faculty careers. Several of Mellon’s program officers in this initiative have finance work experience, including Dady, who was an executive assistant to senior management in Informational Technology and Institutional Investment Management at Morgan Stanley for eight years before joining Mellon. So Dady and the cohorts on her team don't shy away from ideas about how to make the financial aspect of academic life less of a nightmare. For example, they have funded research and solutions for faculty retirements at Union College since 1999. They started with a $19,000 research grant to a husband-and-wife led research initiative, Mellon College Retirement Project. Linda and Kevin Cool studied retirement decisions patterns of senior academic faculty. Mellon gave $768,000 in continued support for the program 2002.

Throughout the remainder of the decade, this project blossomed into The Emeriti Consortium for Retirement Health Solutions. The Emeriti Consortium combines several major providers of retirement services into a single package, specifically designed to meet the needs of retiring university faculty. The Emeriti Consortium had received more than $6 million from Mellon in 2005. Linda Cool told Union College's news organ that her and her husband's "research probably wouldn't have gone any further than a scholarly article or book," without the foundation's support.

Mellon's grantmaking to liberal arts colleges also works to develop information technologies at university libraries. Any time you've heard the term "digital humanities" swatted around on campus, there’s a good chance that Mellon had something to do with it. Here, they grant money to programs like the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). Founded on funding from Mellon in 2001, NITLE works out of Southwestern University in Texas. They make it their business to help liberal arts colleges "integrate emerging and newer digital technologies into teaching, learning, scholarship, and information management." The program received $800,000 in follow-up support during 2012. The foundation also gave seed money that led to the development of two widely used digital academic resources: Jstor and Artstor.

The foundation's liberal arts college initiative also helps academic faculty renovate antiquated curricula. The basic idea here is to figure out how to keep liberal arts teachings relevant in a rapidly changing culture. Mellon sponsored a symposium at Trinity University on what the university can do to help liberal arts programs do to prepare their coursework for the future. In 2012, the foundation gave $600,000 to Clark University's Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) program.

The fourth and final area of Dady's grantmaking jurisdiction at Mellon is to help university presidents implement specific ideas for their liberal arts colleges that they could not otherwise get funded. The foundation does so through what they call "Presidential Leadership Grants." The ideas most likely to win these grants are ones about how to improve, expand, or better integrate liberal arts colleges on campus.

Jake B. Shrum, president of Southwestern University, received a quarter million dollars in 2004 to hire a new information officer at their school and fund a business professor with a plan on "how the liberal arts can support undergraduate business education." After 11 years of distinguished service to Iowa's Grinnell College, former president Russell K. Osgood also won his university another $250,000 leadership grant to "conduct a needs analysis for a new campus library and for interdisciplinary teaching and learning spaces in the humanities and social studies departments" at Grinnell in 2010.