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Mount Begins Project to Update University's History

Nicole Patterson

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Development of the first comprehensive history of Mount St. Mary's University in more than 100 years is being funded by a grant from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) that is supported by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. Work on the book begins February 1, 2021, and must conclude by January 31, 2023.

cic-image-in-text.jpg"Although there are some notable books and articles on figures in the Mount's 212-year history, the last comprehensive account was published in 1911," said Charles T. Strauss, Ph.D., associate professor of history, who is serving as project coordinator and the book's editor. "As we look to the next chapter in the life of the Mount, it seemed like exactly the right time to study our history and mission in light of ongoing efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive community, enhance our curriculum, and prepare our students to thrive after graduation."

The $38,883 Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) Grant for Reframing the Institutional Saga, administered by CIC with generous support from Lilly Endowment Inc., enables institutions with strong historical ties to a specific religious tradition, a particular educational philosophy or a pioneering educator to produce an updated account of their history and mission through one or more enduring products reflecting deep research. Given myriad changes in demographic profile, surrounding community and foundational organizations, the need to make clear the Mount’s significant elements can influence student recruitment and retention, curriculum design and faculty composition.  

“Your institution is among a select group of NetVUE members chosen to receive one of these awards, the purpose of which is to enable institutions to re-examine and reframe their history, identity and heritage in light of their present context,” wrote Richard Ekman, CIC president, in a letter of congratulations on November 30, 2020.   

The Mount’s grant proposal, titled “To Live Significantly: Mount St. Mary’s and American Catholic Higher Education, 1808-2020,” articulated “convening a group of 15 faculty, administrators and trustees to engage in long overdue research and reflection on the university’s history, identity, current realities and future.”  

The proposal detailed writing and peer review meetings, special speakers and workshops. Contributors will write a chapter in a volume that will be informed by archival research, oral interviews, data analysis, and be sent to a press for publication. The edited volume will be included in faculty professional development and intentional conversations with alumni, parents, students and benefactors.

A call for contributors has already been initiated and potential chapter titles include “The Founders’ Mission, Charism, and Legacy: John DuBois, Simon Brute, and Elizabeth Ann Seton”; “Orestes Brownson’s Anti-Slavery Oration”; “Women and Science in Catholic Higher Education”; “Financing the Mount, 1808-present”; “Intercollegiate Athletics, Campus Culture, and American Capitalism”; “The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Mount’s Core Curriculum”; and “Race, Justice, and Community in College Towns.”  

In addition to Strauss, who also serves as executive secretary-treasurer of the American Catholic Historical Association, the project leadership team includes Boyd C. Creasman, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs and the project's cabinet-level administrator, Assistant Dean and Director of the Center for Student Diversity Leon Dixon, Professor of English Carol Hinds, Ph.D., and Professor of Science Dana Ward, Ph.D., C’97. 

“This is an exciting and timely opportunity for the Mount,” added Grants Manager Kathy Criasia.  

The CIC has worked since 1956 to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society. With more than 700 colleges, universities and organizations, the national nonprofit helps member colleges and universities increase visibility, improve the quality of education and strengthen institutional resources.  

Nicole Patterson