A few years ago, I had a conversation about college collaboration with Washington & Jefferson College’s president, Tori Haring-Smith. We discussed the fact that Pennsylvania is home to a rather remarkable group of high quality liberal arts colleges—each of which has its own distinctive character—and we wondered if we could bring these colleges together in a more collaborative way.
Were there things we struggled with independently that we could more effectively accomplish together?
Were there possibilities for expertise-sharing or cost-sharing that would benefit us all?
Would a group of colleges, some of whom compete with one another for students, be able to overcome their normal competitive framework to work together cooperatively?
To test this idea, Tori and I invited a small group of college presidents to meet in Gettysburg in November 2012. After a thought-provoking discussion, we asked The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to provide us with a small grant that would allow us to explore our ideas further. Over the course of the next year, various administrative officers from several Pennsylvania colleges met to discuss the potential for collaboration. We were inspired by these conversations, and again wrote the Mellon Foundation—this time to secure funding that would allow us to put these ideas into action.
I’m proud to share with you that the Mellon Foundation has recently informed us that they will provide $800,000 to support this collaborative project. Over the next three years, Gettysburg will join Bryn Mawr, Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall, Haverford, Juniata, Muhlenberg, Swarthmore, Ursinus, and Washington & Jefferson to test out a new partnership, the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts (PCLA).
Together we’ll search for ways we can collaborate to share resources and expertise in seven core areas: academic programs, faculty development, study abroad, library resources, administrative services, compliance and risk management, and institutional climates for diversity. Some practical examples of these collaborations could include the increased use of technology to share courses across our campuses; combined faculty workshops and study abroad programs; and shared resources in health plans, IT security, and purchasing. You can learn more about the Mellon Foundation’s generous grant and our project on the Gettysburg College website.
While we don’t yet know the extent to which this effort will benefit our institutions, its potential is great. At a time when there is heightened concern about the cost of higher education, I believe that it is our responsibility as colleges and universities to experiment with new ways of “doing business”—new techniques that have the potential to help us contain costs, while allowing us to provide the high quality and personal education for which our institutions are known. Gettysburg is proud to be a founding member of the PCLA and we look forward to exploring the potential of this new partnership.