Strengthening the University’s Academic Enterprise

Strengthening the University’s academic enterprise and supporting a culture of academic rigor and excellence.

A fundamental foundation upon which Colgate’s stronger future rests will be the extent to which the University seeks to continuously strengthen the academic life of the University and nurture a culture in which intellectual rigor marks all of its endeavors. 

Simply put, to attract students of the greatest potential, faculty of the highest regard, and staff who are leaders in their fields, Colgate must be an institution committed to the highest levels of academic excellence. This lies at the heart of the University’s mission. Its pursuit is essential to Colgate’s future.

To achieve this, as discussed above, Colgate must focus on building and maintaining a top-tier faculty, and supporting the creation of knowledge and its dissemination through teaching, publication, and public engagement. Further, Colgate must continue — in line with its broad mission in the liberal arts — to seek to engage students and faculty not only in the timeless questions but new areas of inquiry and concern, ensuring that Colgate remains a place deeply engaged in the pressing academic debates and areas of inquiry. These values lie at the heart of the University’s signature Core program and infuse the curriculum as a whole.

Related to this, the University must introduce its students to the challenges and power of rigorous, academic discourse. Colgate must also create and support a curriculum that is relevant and challenging. In an era of heated rhetoric and political divisions in which shouting is prized, Colgate will give its graduates a profound gift: the power to summon reason, to gather facts, and to engage in a discourse that is sound, fair, and powerful. Through those tools, we will send into the world the next generation of Colgate graduates able to shape our world as accomplished, empathetic leaders. 

In sum, Colgate must be known, even more than it is today, as an academic institution of the very first order; an undergraduate university distinguished by a world-caliber faculty engaged in rigorous scholarship and students trained in the habits of thoughtful intellectual engagement. To achieve this, Colgate should pursue the following initiatives:

1. New Academic Initiatives

Long-Term Goals and Vision: Foundational to Colgate’s future is the continuous strengthening of the intellectual reach and impact of the University. New large, cross-department academic initiatives in Arts, Creativity, and Innovation and Mind, Brain, and Behavior promise to establish Colgate as a leader in multidisciplinary ventures.

The habit of thinking, conversing, and collaborating across disciplines — the hallmark of the liberal arts — is essential at this moment in the University’s history. The endeavors described below, which spark conversations and foster collaboration across academic disciplines, promise to push pedagogical and research frontiers at Colgate, attract leading students and faculty, and increase the University’s reach and reputation.


A. The Middle Campus Plan for Arts, Creativity, and Innovation

On campus, faculty and student artists and creators offer weekly music series, regular theater productions, highly attended dance festivals, and intriguing museum exhibitions that connect closely to the curriculum. Through its signature creative writing programming, its Art and Art History Lecture Series, its links to documentary filmmakers from around the world, and its visiting artists-in-residence programs, Colgate gives its students regular opportunities to engage with world-renowned artists and creators. Yet, in spite of these and other high-quality programs, the arts have yet to be fully integrated into the intellectual fabric of the Colgate experience. In this third century, Colgate reaffirms its belief that artistic expression, creative thinking, and innovation must be hallmarks of a Colgate education.

The Middle Campus Plan for Arts, Creativity, and Innovation is not only a rethinking of the role of the arts and creativity at Colgate, but a rethinking of the campus itself. The Middle Campus — currently a set of large and unrelated buildings including Case-Geyer Library, James C. Colgate Hall, Little Hall, and the Dana Arts Center — comprises the space below the traditional academic quad and above the residential and athletic neighborhoods of Broad Street. Through the long-term development of this region of the campus, Colgate will address long-standing needs in arts and creative facilities and set a new standard for the teaching and creation of the arts, creativity, and innovation within a liberal arts context.

More specifically, the reanimated and rebuilt Middle Campus will be a place of experimentation, with rehearsal and performance spaces for student theater and improvisational groups, maker-spaces for traditional crafting and digital fabrication, and a media lab for interpreting old technologies and analyzing new. It will be a place of design, with studios for architecture, set, and costume design and gallery spaces for student curation. It will be a space of digital creation, with computer labs for coding and programming, digital music composition, and digital photography. It will be a place of hands-on exploration, with archaeological labs and classrooms designed for object-based learning. It will be a place of practice, with rehearsal spaces for music, theater, and dance classes. It will be a place of innovation, with student entrepreneurs conceiving of and creating new apps and new solutions for developing needs. And it will, of course, also be a place of exhibition and performance, with flexible gallery spaces for the University museums and flexible performance spaces.

This vision for the arts, creativity, and innovation at Colgate must be realized within the physical geography of the campus. Proper design and siting of buildings will bridge the lower and upper parts of campus not just metaphorically (as students find the arts figuring more and more vibrantly in their courses and activities) but quite literally, integrating the disparate spaces of the campus in a way that makes aesthetic sense and encourages students to see their experiences on campus as more closely integrated.

B. The Robert Hung Ngai Ho Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative

Just as the Middle Campus initiative will create a new academic hub to explore the connections between the arts, creativity, and innovation across the disciplines, a new Robert Hung Ngai Ho Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative (MBB) will enable new interdisciplinary research and teaching to explore the linkages between mind, brain, and behavior, which is one of the most urgent and exciting challenges of our time. The foundation of the MBB combines existing, cross-disciplinary strengths at Colgate with innovative, new faculty and student collaborations that will push the boundaries of our understanding of brain function at multiple levels, from genes and cells through behavior and decision-making. 

Scientific efforts to unlock the mysteries of the mind, from cellular to behavioral levels of analysis, will generate insights that hold great promise in addressing critical issues of our day. Past research in traditional disciplines has led to an explosive growth in knowledge in the cognitive and neurosciences, but it is clear that answering the fundamental questions about the nature of human thought, and how the mind, brain, and behavior are connected, will require an innovative, interdisciplinary approach. The Robert Hung Ngai Ho Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative at Colgate will provide faculty and students with opportunities to synthesize neurobiological, evolutionary, psychological, linguistic, philosophical, sociological, and other approaches to contemporary, critical issues.

Building on successes in funding from external agencies such as the National Science Foundation and significant growth in student interest, the MBB will share a research nexus in an updated Olin Hall with an interdisciplinary community of investigators from the Psychological and Brain Sciences and Biology, and build intellectual bridges supporting joint research, teaching, and programming initiatives across University divisions (Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and University Studies [particularly the Core]). A successful MBB will enliven Colgate’s intellectual and social community, energize an even broader culture of inquiry, and enable faculty and students to cross disciplinary bridges in research and teaching. The MBB community will cultivate undergraduate and faculty scholars with a common commitment to both empirical research and multidisciplinary dialogue.

First Initiatives

  • First Projects for the Middle Campus
  • MBB - Olin Hall Renovation

Developing Initiatives

  • Arts, Creativity, and Innovation Programming
  • Continued Development of the Middle Campus Region

Related Initiatives (described elsewhere in the plan)

  • Attracting and Supporting an Outstanding Faculty
  • Engaging the World: Olmstead House Artists- and Scholars-in-Residence

2. Curriculum, Teaching, and Engagement

Long-Term Goals and Vision: Colgate seeks to ensure that all its students and faculty are fully supported in all endeavors related to teaching, learning, and research. Colgate must provide the nationally competitive institutional support and mentorship necessary to foster learning and research for any member of its academic community who seeks it.

The critical issues of our time seem to become ever more complex. Never before have the skills of a liberal arts education been more needed to provide both broad and deep inquiry of these critical issues. In its third century, Colgate must invest in the highest impact teaching methods to create and sustain a community of learners among its faculty and students alike, working both within and outside of the classroom. 

Colgate’s sustained investment in the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum is a distinctive example of the University’s commitment to high-impact teaching and faculty-student engagement. Long a venue for cross-disciplinary teaching and robust intellectual exchange between faculty and students (as well as among faculty), the Core connects students in a common academic experience, engages a large proportion of faculty, and remains a key touchstone for Colgate alumni. Just as the initiative described above highlights the potential for new knowledge and innovative course offerings to emerge from cross-departmental collaboration, so, too, is the Core a site for rich intellectual exchange. In its third century, Colgate recommits itself to its Core program and to supporting pedagogical collaboration and innovation through the Core.

The opportunity for students to conduct high-level research in close collaboration with faculty members is both a hallmark of a Colgate education and another high-impact practice. Such research experiences position Colgate students not just for national fellowships and graduate schools, but for entry into a wide array of fields where the ability to carry out independent analysis and critical thinking is essential. Scholarship in the area of teaching and learning identifies a strong correlation between connection with faculty member and student academic outcomes, and student-faculty research opportunities provide for the type of close, collaborative work that enhances the intellectual growth and maturity of the student while often providing important professional rewards for the faculty member. Colgate is committed to maintaining and strengthening these existing high-impact programs. 

In addition, Colgate seeks to push the areas of curriculum, teaching, and engagement in the following ways:


A. Innovation Fellowships

In addition to supporting existing curricular efforts, Colgate must provide the resources necessary for faculty to invest in developing innovative approaches to teaching. Developing new and experimental approaches to teaching requires a significant and sustained effort on the part of a faculty that is already deeply invested in teaching and scholarship. Innovation Fellowships, which could be given to individual faculty members or to larger groups of faculty within a single department/program or across departments working together, will support faculty efforts to incorporate new and innovative pedagogies into the curriculum. These competitive fellowships are for projects lasting one to three years, and can be supported in the form of either course releases or financial remuneration.

B. The Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research

The Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research (CLTR) serves as the nexus that facilitates the development and success of many students as learners/researchers and faculty as teachers/scholars. The CLTR currently houses the Office of Undergraduate Research, the coordinator of Tutoring and Peer-led Team Learning, the director of disability services, and the Learning and Applied Innovation team and serves as an important touch point for many students and faculty. In the coming years, Colgate imagines an expanded CLTR that provides a centralized location for a range of existing and emerging resources for Colgate’s learners, teachers, and scholars.

First Initiatives

Innovation Fellowships

Developing Initiatives

Expanded Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research

Related Initiatives (described elsewhere in the plan)

3. Engaging the World: Colgate in and of the World

Long-Term Goals and Vision: Colgate has a number of existing strengths that support a culture of global engagement among faculty and students alike. These strong building blocks position Colgate well to establish global engagement as a defining feature of a Colgate education. Deepened and strategic investment in this area will establish Colgate as a leader among liberal arts institutions in connecting students with the world around them and the global challenges they face.

Colgate offers students a transformative educational experience just within the boundaries of its Hamilton campus. But in today’s interconnected world, no Colgate education can be considered complete without a robust and sustained engagement with the broader world outside of Hamilton. It is through engagement with the “real world,” in all of its richness and complexity, that a Colgate education comes to life and its value becomes apparent. This engagement often provides students with the best opportunities to challenge themselves and their beliefs, to learn new perspectives firsthand, and to reflect on their place in a broader global community. As a result, Colgate asserts that the broad and deep engagement of students and faculty in the world outside of the classroom is essential to the Colgate experience.

Colgate begins its third century with a strong foundation in this area. A robust and dynamic off-campus-study program provides a wealth of short-term to semester-long experiences linked to a wide range of academic experiences. Sophomore Residential Seminars (SRS) link a living-learning community to shared coursework and global programming. Colgate’s academic centers and institutes, including the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs, the Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute, the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization, and the Upstate Institute, work to bring students and faculty together across the disciplines and engage them with the broader world. The Office of National Fellowships and Scholarships links students to new opportunities, such as the Fulbright and Watson fellowships, to engage the world before and after graduation. Colgate seeks to maintain and strengthen these existing programs while implementing key new initiatives that will connect and amplify these efforts.


A. A New Center for Policy Analysis

Many of today’s most challenging issues — such as immigration, health care, education, race relations, climate change, criminal justice, and taxation — require policy solutions that can develop only through careful, multidisciplinary analysis. Colgate is fortunate to have a large number of faculty, concentrated chiefly in its social science division, whose wide-ranging and complementary expertise puts them in a strong position to understand these policy challenges and to articulate integrated solutions to them. Currently, however, that expertise is dispersed both intellectually (across disciplinary silos) and physically (across different buildings). As a result, Colgate loses an opportunity to highlight the major contributions of its faculty to the debate about important public policy issues. It also misses opportunities to bring students together from different departments to engage in the multidisciplinary complexity of policy analysis.

From conversations within the social science division, an emerging vision of a new Center for Policy Analysis has emerged, one that would allow Colgate faculty to engage in new research on current policy debates and model the value that a liberal arts approach can bring to such complex issues. Several factors — including the relative size of the faculty, the high level of faculty scholarship, substantial resources, and a demonstrated commitment to the importance of interdisciplinary understanding — position Colgate faculty to carry out this kind of work in a manner that would make Colgate a leader among peer schools, substantially enhancing the academic profile of the institution. Such a center will provide resources and course releases to allow groups of faculty to collaborate on policy questions and bring visiting experts to campus to engage in such research. Students would be closely involved in such efforts through summer research, theses, and coursework that would emerge from these efforts. While the policy center need not have a physical home, there are tangible benefits for anchoring such a center in a physical space, which would convene faculty from a wide range of departments across campus. The underutilized Spear House has the potential to be an ideal home for the center given its proximity to many social science departments and its size. The center’s goal, regardless of physical space, will be to create an intellectually serious and engaged community that makes important contributions to public debates and helps prepare Colgate students to do the same.

B. Career Services and Student Preparation

Colgate University’s rich liberal arts curriculum and institutional traditions have long catalyzed the career successes of its graduates. Invigorated by the opening of Benton Hall, Career Services launches into Colgate’s third century from a place of strength, with motivation to sustain Colgate’s reputation as a leader in this sphere.

The career preparation and success of students is a responsibility shared by the entire community, yet career services is best positioned to orchestrate the University’s efforts to prepare students to be competitive, career-ready professionals. In Colgate’s third century, career services should seek collaborations that integrate career and academic exploration, leadership, and identity development as complementary and edifying processes resulting in informed decision-making. Career services should also harness a greater representation of the Colgate community’s passion and influence. Expanding employer relations and programming to match students’ interests would model the breadth of ways a liberal arts education propels success.

Further, Colgate should increase students’ access to opportunities to build core skills and gain necessary experience by developing ways to offer applicable training to a wide proportion of Colgate students who seek them. In a competitive marketplace, internships, research, and certain skills-based trainings not only serve as career exploration experiences, but also increase competitiveness for hiring and admission cycles. Unfortunately, many internships are unpaid, and skills-based training is often cost-prohibitive. Aligned with Colgate’s commitment to financial aid, career services aims to provide all students access to opportunities to build critical skills, competencies, and experiences known to differentiate job candidates. 

Moving forward, behavioral, cognitive, and affective learning assessments will be more fully integrated with career services’ student engagement. Greater sophistication in this area will focus career services on providing timely, current, and relevant services for a greater segment of the population. This will lead to tailored approaches designed to assist students optimally, as well as less overprogramming. 

C. Olmstead House Faculty-in-Residence Program

Just as Colgate values faculty engagement beyond Colgate, so, too, does it value bringing ideas and experiences from beyond Colgate to campus. Every week, the Colgate calendar announces talks and performances given by distinguished scholars and artists from around the world.

Colgate proposes reconceiving and renovating the Olmstead House and Barn, the site of the University’s founding, to house the Olmstead Residencies for Visiting Faculty. Lasting as little as a few days or as long as a few months, Olmstead residencies will provide visiting scholars and artists with solitary spaces for work and reflection in a formative environment of communal living. Resident artists and scholars will benefit from a place to concentrate while finishing works in progress, embarking on new projects, or collaborating closely with Colgate colleagues. Colgate’s faculty, students, and staff — as well as community members — will benefit from opportunities for sustained engagement with distinguished visitors who have come to Hamilton to share their work and ideas. Rededicating this historic place to become a site for creative collaboration and intellectual exchange is a fitting third-century manifestation of the founders’ great “experiment in education.”

First Initiatives

Student Preparation through Career Services

Developing Initiatives

  • Center for Policy Analysis
  • Olmstead Residencies for Visiting Faculty

Related Initiatives (described elsewhere in the plan)