CIC awarded Mellon grant for "Enhancing the Midwest Knowledge Ecosystem" Project

Jul 02, 2012

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $109,000 planning grant to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) to explore areas of common ground and the potential for collaboration between the two groups.

Established five decades ago, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) is a consortium of academically excellent, independent liberal arts colleges located in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Colorado. They are among the oldest, most prestigious independent undergraduate institutions in the nation, and each has a distinctive identity and set of traditions. The CIC is an academic consortium of 13 top-tier research universities, including the members of the Big Ten Conference and the University of Chicago.  Since 1958, CIC members have collaborated to advance their academic missions, generate unique opportunities for students and faculty, and serve the common good by sharing expertise, leveraging campus resources, and creating innovative programming.

The CIC and the ACM have strong institutional structures to support the Enhancing Midwest Knowledge Ecosystem (EMKE) project. There also is an ongoing web of connections among the members of the two consortia arising through their students and faculty. Many students from ACM colleges are attracted to graduate study in CIC universities, and many CIC graduate students have gone on to teach at ACM colleges, comprising 30-40 percent of the full-time faculty at many ACM institutions.

"The colleges and universities of the CIC and ACM are among the most precious assets of the region; our collective presence extends across the Midwest and the world.  Working together, we can exponentially increase our impact, expand access, and create more teaching, learning, and research opportunities. We are deeply thankful to the Mellon Foundation for its interest and support of this project," said Amber Ward Marks, Associate Director of the CIC.

The EMKE project will gather faculty and campus leaders from ACM and CIC institutions at three planning workshops during the 2012-13 academic year, where they will share information about existing programs and the needs of their campuses, and consider ideas for collaborative initiatives focused on the humanities and the arts.

Initial discussions between the ACM and the CIC have identified five broad areas that seem promising for collaboration, and from which topics for the three workshops might be drawn:

  • Strengthening the humanities through the digital humanities;

  • Expanding models for undergraduate research;

  • Fostering joint learning communities and public engagement;

  • Enriching the creative and performing arts; and

  • Developing resources for less commonly taught languages.

An EMKE steering committee and consortial staff will build on the output of those meetings to generate proposals for long-term, large-scale collaborative projects to present to the Mellon Foundation for funding consideration.

"The project is structured to encourage faculty and their respective institutions to think more imaginatively about how we can draw on collective strengths to solve problems together. We’re very grateful to the Mellon Foundation for its support," said ACM President Christopher Welna.

The project's name grows out of a report for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs by James J. Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan, in which he recommends that the Midwest, as a region, needs to develop and support a "knowledge ecology" that can adapt to address the challenges of a rapidly-changing world. Colleges and universities would play an important role in this effort.

The first of the three workshops, expected to take place in early 2013, will be hosted by a CIC member institution. The remaining workshops will follow in summer and fall 2013 on ACM and CIC campuses, respectively.


Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM)
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
"A Master Plan for Higher Education in the Midwest: A Roadmap to the Future of the Nation's Heartland" by James J. Duderstadt. This was the third report in the Chicago Council on Global Affair's Heartland Papers series.

  • Academic Collaboration