Lilly Grant Supports Wabash Center
by Richard Paige
January 15, 2015
Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded a $2 million grant to Wabash College to supplement programming for the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion through 2018.
This grant will enhance efforts by the Center to strengthen the preparation of faculty who teach in theology and religion at colleges, universities and seminaries across North America. The Center will offer multi-year grants of up to $75,000 to universities that have doctoral programs in theology and religion to help their faculty better prepare the next generation of teachers.
“Wabash College is exceedingly grateful to Lilly Endowment for its ongoing support of the important programs offered by the Wabash Center,” said Wabash President Gregory D. Hess. “This latest grant will continue to improve pedagogical best practices at the highest levels.”
This effort is the second phase of the Graduate Program Teaching Initiative (GPTI) at the Wabash Center. Launched in 2010, the project highlights the need to better prepare doctoral students for teaching.
The first phase of the initiative included an assessment of graduate programs in theology and religion. Research revealed that more than 90 percent of scholars with graduate degrees in theology and religion go on to careers in teaching. Although the doctoral students had received extensive training in research, many had little training in teaching.
The next phase will help doctoral programs focus more effectively on teacher preparation, said Nadine S. Pence, director of the Wabash Center.
“It’s a crucial preparatory step for faculty prior to hiring. Up until now, the majority of our work has been with the faculty themselves once they are hired,” Pence said. “If we can help these doctoral programs take seriously how they prepare faculty to teach then we believe that theological and religion education will improve across the board.”
Lilly Endowment has a deep commitment to strengthening teaching and learning in religion and theology, according to Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment.
“It is our hope that new professors through these programs will be able to teach more effectively in their first assignments at colleges and seminaries,” Coble said. “As a result student learning will be enhanced.”
Founded in 1996, the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion is devoted to strengthening education in theology and religion in North American theological schools, colleges and universities. Primarily through on-site workshops and grant-making, the Center offers teachers in higher education a space for reflective conversation about the best practices for teaching.
“Our mission is to strengthen and encourage learning within theology and religion,” Pence said. “We’ve used different strategies to meet that mission and this grant gives us the ability to enhance our work specifically with doctoral programs. The idea of working with the seminaries and universities more intensely is very appealing, and this gives us the ability to tailor programs specifically for them.”
Since its founding, the Wabash Center’s operations have been fully funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. with a total support of more than $50 million. During the last 19 years, the Wabash Center has hosted more than 1,200 faculty members in workshops or colloquies, held 120 conferences on teaching and learning, published more than 500 articles, and distributed more than 1,200 grants to nearly 900 institutions and individuals totaling more than $13 million.