October 16, 2017

With the new academic year well under way, we would like to provide the St. Olaf and Carleton campus communities with an update on our “Broadening the Bridge” project to foster collaboration between our institutions.

Though Broadening the Bridge formally started with a $1.4 million grant in 2014 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, St. Olaf and Carleton have been collaborating in formal and informal ways for decades. The grant focused our attention in two main areas:

  • exploring opportunities for academic and administrative collaboration that advance our mutual goal of providing an exceptional undergraduate education and
  • extending our libraries’ successful Bridge collaborative model to information technology and human resources.

Three years into the grant project, we can report significant progress in both of these areas and the development of new areas of collaboration.

First, the Broadening the Bridge grant has enabled the colleges’ faculty and staff to directly improve our curricula in significant ways. St. Olaf Provost Marci Sortor and Carleton Dean of the College Bev Nagel have overseen a grant program that has so far awarded 58 grants worth a total of $432,339 to faculty teams for collaborative curricular projects. Several hundred faculty members have participated in these projects (many in numerous capacities) along with about 200 staff members. Well over a thousand Carleton and St. Olaf students have had some aspect of their educations improved by these grants, including 55 who have crossed the river to take 23 different courses at the other campus.

All of the collaborative grant awards can be reviewed on the “Awarded Grants” page of this website. A few can be highlighted here. For instance, the colleges’ Education and Educational Studies faculty received funding to undertake the complex work necessary to integrate the two colleges’ teaching licensure processes, ultimately harmonizing the way that St. Olaf and Carleton education students receive their K-12 teaching licenses. Collaborations among the colleges’ neuroscience faculty have now led to the interconnection of several of the programs’ courses, offering neuroscience students a valuable opportunity for pre-professional training and networking. Marci and Bev considered a new round of proposals this fall and anticipate two more rounds of grantmaking in 2018. Details can be found on the project’s request for proposals page.

We have realized success beyond the classroom as well. The paramount achievement of the libraries’ collaboration was the successful launch in June 2016 of a new library management system, which is visible to users as the Catalyst catalog interface. A great deal of other software hides under the hood, and library staff – overseen by directors Roberta Lembke at St. Olaf and Bradley Schaffner at Carleton – have invested countless hours in training on the new system, which serves both colleges well and has become something of a model for other institutions, demonstrating our stature as leaders in higher education.

Thanks in part to the grant, the colleges’ libraries now share several staff positions, including the head of loan/access services, a systems librarian, and the electronic resources and media cataloger. The new library management system and these shared positions are part of wider efforts to advance technical work in numerous other areas and to hold collaborative public programs such as “Learning Community” events that feature experts in areas such as project management, family history, 3D modeling/printing, digital scholarship, and – this year – the future of publishing.

The information technology organizations – directed by Roberta Lembke at St. Olaf and Janet Scannell at Carleton – have followed their library colleagues by adopting some shared positions, exploring areas where the colleges can share hardware and software (including redundant connections between the college networks and the wider Internet), and working together on joint projects that can be more readily tackled together, such as unified help desk software.

We have also seen fruitful administrative collaborations beyond the library and IT organizations:

  • The human resources offices have co-sponsored a range of staff and faculty training opportunities, including a yearlong workshop in 2016-2017 on effective leadership for fifty supervisory-level staff members.
  • The colleges’ registrars organized a workshop in August 2016 on student educational rights and privacy that was attended by nearly 200 staff and faculty (evenly split between our colleges but including visitors from Grinnell and Macalester), and are now working on additional training on student educational records.
  • Inspired by the grant project, last year our colleges merged our separate environmental health and safety offices, which now serves both campuses with expertise in chemical hygiene and radiation safety, training, and compliance.

Finally, earlier this year, we solicited new ideas for collaboration from the two communities. We are presently considering many of these suggestions, and continue to seek more. Ideas can be suggested at any time by anyone to the grant project coordinator, Christopher Tassava at ctassava@carleton.edu or 222-5833.

For our parts, we welcome any questions or comments about the Broadening the Bridge project or collaborations between our colleges. We will look forward to providing another update in 2018.


Steven G. Poskanzer, President           David R. Anderson, President
Carleton College                                           St. Olaf College