SAIL Overview

Many faculty at ACM colleges help to engage new students with liberal arts education through structured first-year experiences and off-campus study opportunities. Yet outside of special majors, most students are rarely encouraged to engage with multiple disciplinary perspectives in the advanced coursework for their major. Just as rare are opportunities for faculty to engage in such cross-disciplinary experiences. Though faculty are ideally positioned to model integrative approaches for their advanced students, they have little chance themselves to explore a new topic through immersive, multi-disciplinary study with colleagues from other disciplines. SAIL aims to address this gap.

Seminar Topic

The topic will provide the theme for the entire 10-day seminar. It will involve a compelling central question with a corresponding set of questions that span the major divisions of study — math and natural sciences, arts and humanities, and social sciences — to facilitate cross-disciplinary inquiry. It will also be a topic that has clear relevance for the undergraduate curricula of ACM colleges and that would foster cross-disciplinary teaching approaches to upper-level students in the member colleges.

Refer to pp. 3-4 of the grant proposal(PDF) to see sample seminar designs, including:

  • Topics
  • Potential sites where the topic could be explored
  • Key questions about the topic that would span multiple disciplinary divisions

The topic will:

  • Be closely linked to a specific site;
  • Connect to enduring themes in the liberal arts and sciences curriculum and spark wide interest among ACM faculty and students;
  • Foster collaboration across math and natural sciences, humanities and arts, and social sciences;
  • Be capacious enough to sustain participation across disciplines; and
  • Create insights and resources that will promote innovation in the upper-level curricula of ACM colleges across institutions, disciplines, and departments.

Seminar Site

The site in 2012 will be in the U.S., and the 2013 seminar will take place at an international location. The site will offer a setting for faculty to explore the topic in a new context that is propitious for understanding the topic. Preference will be given to sites with existing consortial or individual college assets that could be tapped to help secure space and logistical support.

The site will:

  • Promote and inform a unique understanding of the seminar topic;
  • Offer specific geographic places or physical evidence, as well as other resources for exploration of the topic;
  • Together with the topic, provide a set of resources and issues that would facilitate cross-disciplinary study and that might also be imported into college curricula; and
  • Ideally, offer access to consortial or ACM college assets and resources, as well as other networks, facilities, and people that the seminar could draw upon.

Composition of the Chair/Leadership Team

The leadership team will convene and facilitate the seminar. The team members will have appropriate topic and site expertise, or a plan to make it available. The leadership team must include three individuals representing each of the three disciplinary divisions (math and natural sciences, arts and humanities, and social sciences).

Proposals for leadership may come from a three-person team from the same or multiple ACM institutions. A chair should be appointed to direct the activities of the leadership team and serve as the primary liaison with ACM staff.

Responsibilities of the leadership team: (ACM staff will provide administrative support and logistical coordination throughout the planning and curricular follow-up phases.)

  • Before the seminar, design the content and structure of the seminar;
  • After the seminar, lead the substantive interaction with faculty participants to shape and, where possible, implement cross-disciplinary curricular projects on their home campuses;
  • Design (with input from the seminar group) a project capstone — a volume, website, or other broadly accessible academic resource — and present these outcomes in a forum such as a panel at the annual AAC&U meeting.

Desired Qualifications of the Chair/Leadership Team:

  • Advanced knowledge of the seminar topic and of the site and its relevant assets;
  • Related academic experience, including teaching experiences, scholarship, and research;
  • Experience with similar faculty development activities, cross-disciplinary teaching, and/or off-campus study courses or seminars;
  • Ability to work well together and with logistical support staff.

Funding and Support

The Mellon grant will fully fund travel, lodging, and meals for all SAIL participants. ACM staff and a site coordinator will manage all logistics for the seminar and its follow-up (travel, lodging, site arrangements, communications with participants) while the seminar Chair and disciplinary facilitators will make most academic arrangements.

All seminar participants and the members of the leadership team will receive a $2,500 honorarium upon completion of project work (including the follow-up curricular projects). An additional honorarium totaling $6,500 will be available to the leadership team for their roles in the overall two-year period of planning, chairing, and following up the seminar. Contingent on campus arrangements and the approval of the Chief Academic Officer, the chair may apply the honorarium toward a course release while preparing the Seminar. While it is expected that the Chair might have the greatest portion of responsibilities and of the additional funding, the Chair can allocate the funding in the manner that best supports the internal organization and distribution of work among the Leadership Team members.