Awards and Honors, Institutional News

$300,000 Awarded to Support Academic Leadership Restructuring

Bennington College has received a $300,000 two-year grant from the Davis Educational Foundation, which will support restructuring the academic leadership team to strengthen the student experience.

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“Bennington College is at an inflection point in its long and honorable tradition of distinctive undergraduate education,” said Edward MacKay, Chair of the Davis Educational Foundation Board of Trustees. “The Davis Educational Foundation admires the adaptations Bennington College’s leadership have undergone to meet current challenges, and we look forward to seeing the College’s legacy build forward and expand.”

The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

“This grant will accelerate the College’s critical efforts to further improve the student experience,” said Bennington President Laura Walker. “With a more integrated approach to classroom and experiential learning, a strong leadership team and supported faculty, we can deliver on our promise of an exceptional and distinct education for every Bennington student.”

Supporting Strategic Academic Planning

The grant from the Davis Educational Foundation will enable Bennington College to transform its academic leadership structure. Led by newly-appointed Provost Dr. Maurice Hall, new academic leadership appointments in the first year of the grant will include faculty members Brian Michael Murphy, Dean of the College; Sarah Harris, Dean of the Faculty; and Barbara Alfano, Director of First-Year Forum.

In the second year of the grant, an Associate Dean of the Plan position will be added to the structure, building off of the work of Noah Coburn, the current Associate Dean of Curriculum and Pedagogy.

As Dean of the College, Brian Michael Murphy will oversee critical aspects of student success, particularly the Plan Process, Field Work Term, advising, and the First-Year Forum. This oversight will improve integration of the Capacities—fundamental skills of inquiry, research, creativity, engagement, and communication—across these elements of the student experience, facilitating the development of common language and consistent guidance for students. 

We are now able to make important changes immediately, but this grant will have very long-term benefits as well,” said Brian Michael Murphy, Dean of the College. “Our new structure facilitates efficient collaboration and communication among leaders, enabling the College to be responsive to students' needs in whatever forms they may take in the future. This adaptability is a key to our continued success. In this rapidly shape-shifting economy, new technologies are redefining the very nature of work, and a Bennington education, which equips students to think boldly and creatively, is more relevant than ever."

Importantly, this improved reporting structure will also provide greater support for faculty through the creation of a new dean-level position focused on their needs and concerns. 

The new leadership team will be equipped for success through trainings in strategic planning and team building. This work will facilitate cooperative relationships within the team itself, while also leading to effective collaborations with the president, senior staff, and faculty, and preparing the team for undertaking the College’s work in shared governance and strategic planning.

Improving Equity for The Plan Process

As a hallmark of the Bennington College educational experience, The Plan is a student-driven course of academic inquiry. Through one-on-one academic planning and graduate-style Plan Committee advising, Bennington students map their territory for study and practice that goes beyond the bounds of a traditional major.

At Bennington, faculty efforts to support students as they undergo the Plan Process occur within a well-designed framework, with attention to both best practices in liberal arts colleges and the specific qualities that make a Bennington education unique.

As Bennington’s student body becomes increasingly diverse, the College’s academic leadership wants to ensure that engaging in The Plan Process is a transparent and inclusive process for students from all backgrounds. 

The Davis Educational Foundation grant will help ensure that the structures, expectations, policies, and procedures involved in the Plan Process are clear and consistently applied in order to maximize students’ learning outcomes


About the Davis Educational Foundation
The Davis Educational Foundation, established as a public charitable foundation in 1985, supports the undergraduate programs of public and private, regionally accredited, baccalaureate degree granting colleges and universities throughout the six New England states. Elisabeth K. Davis and Stanton W. Davis co-founded the foundation after Mr. Davis's retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. The foundation is an expression of the couple’s shared support and value for higher education and has provided more than $115 million in grants to more than 174 institutions.

Mr. Davis contributed tremendous vision to his business and the industry during periods of remarkable growth and transformation. Through automation and technological changes, he remained true to his core value of listening to the customer. This core value continues in the foundation’s highly individualized approach to grant making