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Southwestern Awarded $8.5 Million to Inaugurate Innovative Liberal Arts Program

Southwestern was selected to receive $8.5 million from the Robert & Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust of Wichita Falls, Texas, to inaugurate an innovative Paideia program.

Southwestern University, one of the nation’s premiere liberal arts institutions, has been selected to receive $8.5 million from the Robert & Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust of Wichita Falls, Texas, to be used to inaugurate an innovative program that supports the University’s focus on enriching its distinctive undergraduate liberal arts experience.

The grant will support 10 new faculty positions, a limited number of program scholarships, and funding for a program director. It also introduces two challenge grants to encourage support for the Center for Lifelong Learning facility and a larger pool of program scholarships.

As a key element of Southwestern’s Strategic Plan for 2010, the newly-envisioned “Paideia” (pronounced pie-DAY-uh) program–a Greek word that means the sum total of one’s educational experience–will provide Southwestern students with the opportunity to enhance their academic study through the incorporation and interconnection of experiences in four areas. These include an intercultural experience, a leadership experience, a service learning experience, and a collaborative learning experience. Students will work closely with “Paideia Professors” to map out their academic plan. Paideia professors also will play a vital role in helping students make intentional connections among these experiences in ways that encourage them to reflect on what they learned and how they grew through each experience. Such reflection supports what liberal arts study aims to do: encourage students to become critical thinkers and broaden their perspective on the world around them. The Paideia program was envisioned by Southwestern’s provost and dean of the faculty, James W. Hunt, with support from a variety of faculty and staff. Southwestern is one of six nationally recognized liberal arts colleges selected to receive grants from the Robert and Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust.

In the award letter to Southwestern, Mr. Robert Priddy, chairman of the Robert & Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust, said, “We considered the overall strength of each college, its adherence to teaching the traditional liberal arts, the resources available at the college, and our overall impression of the efficiency of the college in delivering a first-class liberal arts education.”

Southwestern University President Jake B. Schrum said that the Priddy gift, which ranks as one of the largest in the school’s 162-year history, will provide a distinctively enriched undergraduate student education at Southwestern. “We are deeply grateful to the Robert and Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust for recognizing Southwestern’s potential to provide transformational experiences for our students. Moreover, this gift will enable Southwestern to continue its emergence as one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the nation.”

James W. Hunt, provost and dean of the faculty added, “There are many outstanding liberal arts colleges across the nation whose profiles and programs closely resemble what one finds at Southwestern. While the vast majority of these small, residential institutions also support rigorous academic programs, ensure rich interactions with faculty, and provide abundant out-of-class experiences, what makes Southwestern’s Paideia program unique is the empowering opportunity for intentional and meaningful connections among elements that comprise a traditional liberal arts education. In essence, the Paideia program will inspire in Southwestern graduates a passion for lifelong learning and connectivity among otherwise distinct life experiences. We believe these will be persons who have the greatest potential to contribute to the well-being of humanity.”