As a graduate of Amherst College, Arthur Vining Davis experienced first-hand the value of a liberal arts education. The broad training that he received as a student equipped him to play a number of roles during his career: scientific innovator, corporate entrepreneur, real estate developer, and orchid farmer, to name just a few. His recognition of the transformative impact of liberal learning led him to give regularly to numerous private colleges and universities, and to encourage his Foundations to continue to provide this support.
Although the Foundations fund a variety of programs in higher education, grants typically support projects that improve student outcomes or enhance faculty leadership. The Foundations do not provide grants to support capital projects or endowment.
Private Higher Education grants typically range from $25,000 to $300,000, although the Foundations will entertain larger requests. Grants may support projects that span multiple years.
For projects that involve an intervention or program intended to improve a measurable outcome, a Full Proposal will require an evaluation plan that is overseen by a qualified evaluator. In cases where applicants do not have a qualified evaluator available to them, the Foundations can provide guidance on how to engage a qualified evaluator.
The Foundations are committed to the value of the liberal arts in undergraduate education.
As a result, AVDF encourages proposals that aim to provide more students with opportunities to engage the liberal arts regardless of their major or course of study. In addition, the Foundations invite proposals which seek to educate parents, students, and the general population about the nature and benefits of the liberal arts.
Featured Request for Proposals in “Advocacy for the Liberal Arts”: Transfer Pathways Program
Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and the Teagle Foundation are partnering to provide grants that support the development of statewide, regional, or consortial academic partnerships between public two-year and private four-year colleges to facilitate transfer and completion of the baccalaureate in the liberal arts. This grant program aims to bring the lifelong benefits of a liberal arts education to students who historically have been excluded from higher education—including low-income students, first-generation students, students of color, and immigrant students—who now constitute the “new majority” of undergraduates and depend on community college as their gateway to higher education. Grants up to $25,000 over 6-12 months for planning and up to $350,000 over 24-36 months for implementation will be made to institutions participating in this initiative. The size of the grant award will be based on the number of institutions involved and the scope of the project. Planning grants are strongly encouraged. We expect this grant program will remain open for approximately three to five years. For more information, click here.
Learning and growth require the opportunity and ability to engage respectfully and empathetically across lines of difference and disagreement.
The Foundations encourage proposals to develop curricular and extra-curricular programs that promote civil discourse and dialogue across social, moral, political, and religious differences. This would include projects that help campus stakeholders to encourage and internalize characteristics that foster respectful, productive dialogue across differences, as well as programs that provide opportunities for such dialogue.
Featured Grants: Civil Discourse in Colleges and Universities
One of the most valuable skills that a liberal education can provide is the ability to engage effectively in civil discourse across significant disagreement. In recent years, however, many college students have found themselves with few opportunities to develop and practice this skill on their campuses. AVDF is taking steps to address this need, by supporting innovative and effective programs to cultivate and promote civil discourse in higher education.
The ability to dialog effectively across disagreement can yield benefits in many contexts and through all stages of life. Those equipped with this skill are better able to listen and understand opposing viewpoints, weigh the evidence for and against them, and respond in clear, reasoned, and respectful ways. Such traits are clearly conducive to learning. But they are also valuable strengths in personal and professional contexts. And they are indispensable in our civic lives.
College experiences that foster these traits are especially important in our present age, given the proliferation of informational sources and the prevalence of social media. For these developments make it much easier for us to choose echo chambers over constructive engagement with new ideas or challenging conversation partners. The result is that there are fewer opportunities for individuals to develop the skills needed for productive dialog at work or at home once they leave college.
In light of these trends and conditions, AVDF has selected civil discourse in higher education as a key funding priority for the next several years.
Our grants in this area fall broadly into two main categories. We are supporting training programs, like those carried out by OpenMind and the Greater Good Science Center, that teach students and other campus actors how to engage in civil discourse across disagreement. And we are funding projects that provide opportunities for students to practice such discourse in real life. Examples here include grantees like BridgeUSA, Braver Angels, and Simon Greer’s Bridging the Gap, all of which facilitate structured campus dialog on matters of moral, political, and religious disagreement.
We hope that this work will enable students to engage more respectfully and empathetically across difference, and to reap the benefits of doing so for years to come.
For many students, the undergraduate years are a time to explore how their interests and skills can translate into a life of purpose.
The Foundations encourage proposals aimed at developing courses or curricula that provide opportunities for students to discover and develop a sense of purpose concerning their education, their eventual occupations, and their roles as citizens.