$150,000 Grant Boosts Project Renaissance

Lil Brannon

The University's innovative "Project Renaissance," a planned new approach to the education of freshmen, has received a boost with the award of $150,000 from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The grant will allow the University to offer 300 freshmen, in teams of 100 students each, a new introduction to the opportunities and methods of inquiry available on this campus. Each team will live together in a single residence hall and participate in the same year-long, unified course of study covering 12 hours of the University's general-education requirement.

"We want our students to experience the excitement of active learning from the very outset of their time here and to become aware of the special opportunities for active learning available at a research university like ours," said President Hitchcock. "Our faculty is very enthusiastic about the possibilities embodied in Project Renaissance."

The instructional team for each group of students will consist of three faculty members, two teaching assistants, one faculty adjunct, and six upper-division student tutors. Each team will choose its own course readings and projects, but the unifying themes will be "human identity" and "technology," according to Lil Brannon, director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

"Project Renaissance courses will reinforce the values of a research university. The courses will be interdisciplinary and designed to introduce our students to a community of inquiry," said Brannon. The courses will also be designed to ensure that students achieve computer literacy and a working knowledge of the new tools of the information age.

Project Renaissance is aimed at the freshman year, Brannon said, "because research on the quality of academic life indicates that the freshman year is crucial to the success or failure of most students."

Each team will live in one of Indian Quadrangle's low-rises. "By having students living together, discussion and exploration does not necessarily have to stop when the course period ends," said Brannon. "Peer tutors can also work with students in their living quarters, where most students study."

The Project Renaissance grant was awarded by the Hewlett Foundation through one of its new programs, "general education in research universities." The program supports efforts by research universities to review and improve general education in ways that take full advantage of their unique institutional character.

The Hewlett Foundation is based in Menlo Park, Calif.

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