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Lilly Endowment grant furthers support of Wabash Center

$8.5 million grant will extend important pedagogical work through 2025

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Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded an $8.5 million grant to Wabash College to support programming for the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion (Wabash Center) through 2025.

Established in 1996, the Wabash Center is committed to enhancing teaching in theology and religion in North American theological schools, colleges and universities. Through workshops in Crawfordsville, webinars and other online seminars, resource creation and curation, and a re-granting program, the Wabash Center offers faculty in higher education a space for conversation about critically reflective and socially responsive teaching in the fields of theology and religion.

“Throughout its nearly 200 years, Wabash College has valued the work of religion teachers, scholars, and theologians,” said Dr. Scott E. Feller, Wabash College President. “The high quality and longstanding influence of the Wabash Center continues our foundational endeavor: excellence in teaching and learning. We thank Lilly Endowment for 25 years of support for the Wabash Center.”

The Wabash Center’s impact is typically felt by participants from early career faculty to those close to retirement. In 2020, six digital salons convening 96 educators for nine months were launched online as faculties navigated the viral pandemic and the race pandemic. With this newly awarded grant, the Wabash Center will continue to offer both on-campus and hybrid workshops.

“The steadfast support of Lilly Endowment has given faculty colleagues the opportunity to engage issues of teaching and the teaching life,” said Nancy Lynne Westfield, Director of the Wabash Center. “Colleagues want to improve their teaching. The impactful work of the Wabash Center enables growth, creativity, and expanded approaches.”

Of the current presidents and deans presiding at schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, 27 presidents and 52 deans have participated in Wabash Center programming. This high number speaks to the role that the Wabash Center plays in contributing to the leadership capacity of its participants.

“The Wabash Center plays a vital and energizing role in religious and theological education,” said Dr. Jennifer Harvey, Professor of Religion and Faculty Director of the Crew Scholars Program at Drake University. “It provides robust support of faculty as we navigate our early- to mid-career years. It helps us build collaborative relationships as we hone our teaching craft in a supportive environment that is unique in the lives of higher education in religion and theological education. There’s no way to overstate what the Wabash center means for those of us in these fields.”

For educators committed to growth and development, the Wabash Center provides resources such as the Journal on Teaching, a multimodal academic journal; Teaching Hubs, a monthly e-newsletter; Wabash Media Drop, a monthly update of educational resources; consultants to support faculty in their institutional contexts; blogs, podcasts, and original artwork that focus on reflective teaching; and grants that promote sustained conversations on teaching and the teaching life.

“The Wabash Center is known for its outstanding efforts to improve the teaching skills of faculty in religion and theology,” said Dr. Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Excellent teachers in these fields are indispensable in educating a new generation of leaders who understand the role religion plays in shaping the world around us.”

Currently in its 26th year of programming, the Wabash Center has hosted 1,344 faculty members on the Wabash College campus for sustained conversation about teaching and learning in 92 workshops, colloquies, digital salons, and symposia; awarded 1,466 grants to 529 institutions (totaling nearly $16 million); held 118 conferences to consider issues of teaching and learning; provided 246 pedagogical consultations on higher education campuses across the U.S. and Canada; and edited 689 articles from 948 authors in Teaching Theology & Religion and The Wabash Center Journal on Teaching.

The Wabash Center has also produced 143 podcasts that have received more than 20,393 downloads, 650 blogs on teaching and learning topics with well over 200,000 views, and 37 videos and webinars related to contemporary issues facing faculty and academic administrators in theological seminaries and religion departments. This work has contributed in a substantial way to enhance and strengthen teaching and learning in religious and theological studies in seminaries, schools of theology, colleges and universities across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.

“As the U.S., as well as our global community, is challenged by the uncertainty wrought by the viral pandemic and the racial pandemic, the Wabash Center’s response of pivoting our work to online workshops, developing podcasts, expanding blog offerings, focusing our re-granting program, and evolving the consultant’s program is possible due to the generosity of the Lilly Endowment,” Westfield said.

Since its founding, the Wabash Center’s operations have been fully funded by Lilly Endowment with a total support of nearly $68 million. Awards come in three-year cycles with this grant covering the 2022-25 term.

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