They may be competitors in sports, but when it comes to academic research, the members of the Colonial Athletic Association enjoy a close working relationship.

The College of Charleston is currently working on two education-related research projects with several other CAA schools as part of a new research grant program funded by the Colonial Academic Alliance, which serves as the academic link between CAA schools and is governed by the provosts of the 10 member institutions. The alliance is based at CAA member Elon University.

Launched in 2017, the Innovate/Collaborate (IN/CO) Grant Program is designed to address pressing policy challenges in higher education, fuel collaboration between institutions and promote innovation in intellectual inquiry. The program provides grants from $5,000 to $20,000 per year, creating an opportunity for teams of faculty and staff from two or more Alliance member institutions to collaborate.

“The Colonial Academic Alliance is creating exciting and innovative new opportunities for partnership among the outstanding universities that make up the Colonial Athletic Association,” says Brian McGee, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the College of Charleston.  “The College of Charleston is pleased to collaborate on these research projects, which are intended to improve teaching and learning on our campuses.  Working together, we will accomplish far more than what can be done individually.”

In the first initiative, the College will join a multi-institutional team of faculty and staff from Drexel University and UNC-Wilmington to develop a cutting-edge tool to assess the impact of experiential and applied learning across multiple types of experiences and campuses. The two-year project is funded by a $40,000 grant from the Colonial Academic Alliance.

“The diversity of these three institutions is obvious in many ways, but also with regard to the types of experiential learning we provide and the challenges we face in assessing its impact on our own campuses,” says Beth Meyer-Bernstein, a biology professor, associate dean of the Honors College, and the lead partner for the College on the grant project. “Having these different perspectives at the table when we are discussing ways by which to develop, implement and sustain a universal assessment tool has allowed for a much broader lens by which to approach a solution, and as we move forward with the project, will likely yield a tool that has more widespread application than if it was developed on just one campus.”

Meyers-Bernstein believes that establishing relationships with the faculty, staff, and administrators at UNCW and Drexel will likely lead to the development of additional projects in the future.

In a second collaboration, CofC and the other members of the CAA will be studying access issues for student-athletes to high-impact educational practices and mental health resources. While student learning opportunities such as study abroad, internships, learning communities and undergraduate research have been shown to positively affect academic performance, not all students have access to these offerings. This is particularly true of student-athletes who may have limited time and resources. This project is also funded by a $40,000 grant from the Colonial Academic Alliance.

The Colonial Academic Alliance facilitates collaboration and communication across its 10 member institutions by engaging faculty, staff and students in meaningful initiatives that challenge the status quo, enrich the academic environment, and advance student success. Alliance members include the College of Charleston, University of Delaware, Drexel University, Elon University, Hofstra University, James Madison University, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Northeastern University, Towson University, and the College of William & Mary.

Lindsey Interlante, executive director of the Colonial Academic Alliance, says the grant program affords member institutions a unique opportunity to work together with other universities and develop creative initiatives to address shared challenges. “Given the diversity and geographic range of our members, we believe that IN/CO grant awardees will positively impact their institutions, advance scholarship on teaching and learning, and bring a fresh perspective to some of the shared challenges we face in higher education,” Interlante says.