Mellon Foundation grant to support inclusiveness in undergraduate research

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded William & Mary an $800,000 grant to strengthen its undergraduate research program. The grant will be used to enrich the academic experience of first-generation college students, and students from lower-income and historically under-represented groups.

“Students from these three groups graduate from William & Mary at rates that are similar to the student body as a whole,” said Provost Michael Halleran. “However, fewer students from these groups participate in the research experiences that have become a signature element of a William & Mary liberal arts education. The Mellon grant will create many more opportunities for them to engage in faculty-mentored research in the arts, humanities and interpretive social sciences.”

Efforts will center on expanding the William & Mary Scholar Undergraduate Research Experience (WMSURE), a program that supports students who are the focus of the Mellon grant. WMSURE helps students develop skills and strategies for academic and career success, and exposes them to meaningful research experiences.

WMSURE is currently led by two co-directors; Cheryl Dickter, assistant professor of psychology, and Natoya Haskins Ph.D. ’11, assistant professor of counselor education.

“The Mellon Foundation grant will allow WMSURE to quadruple the number of research projects that provide students with faculty mentorship and financial support,” Dickter said. “We’ve already begun to expand our programming and recruit the first group of WMSURE faculty mentors.”

WMSURE faculty mentors will each work with at least three students to design and conduct research. Mellon funds are also being used to hire a new WMSURE associate director, expand advising programs and provide students with summer research grants. WMSURE’s programs and infrastructure will be sustained by William & Mary at the end of the five-year grant period.

“We have to go beyond a focus on admission and graduation rates and attend to the full inclusion of all students in the liberal arts experience,” said Joel Schwartz, Weingartner Professor of Government and director of the Charles Center, which supports WMSURE and other campus programs that promote undergraduate research. “William & Mary’s focus on this broader agenda will make a substantial contribution to the national discourse on inclusion in higher education.”

Private support is critical to expanding WMSURE and other William & Mary programs that strengthen the university’s commitment to inclusiveness. More than half of WMSURE’s financial support comes from private funding.

“William & Mary has established itself as a world-class institution for scholarly research and academic excellence,” said Matthew T. Lambert ’99, vice president for university advancement. “The Mellon Foundation’s generous grant highlights our continuing efforts to secure the resources needed to ensure that all of our students can benefit from William & Mary’s commitment to inclusive excellence.”