Bates College Expanding Faculty, Launching Digital and Computational Studies Program

Funded by $19 million in gift commitments, including the largest single gift in the college’s history

LEWISTON, Maine--()--Bates College will add six new endowed professorships, three of which will establish a new academic program in Digital and Computational Studies, Bates President Clayton Spencer announced today. The expansion is made possible through $19 million in gift commitments from seven families, including the largest single gift in the college’s 161-year history.

“We want to give students a command of digital methods as well as the capacity to interrogate what it means to live in a world that is awash in data and mediated by electronics and by computer technology”

“I am enormously grateful for the generosity of this group of families who have chosen to support our most important priority — the academic program — in the most substantial way possible, through gifts to the endowment,” Spencer said. “I am thrilled that we can move forward immediately to build capacity in digital and computational studies, and very pleased that this new venture will happen in the context of bringing strength to existing disciplines as well.”

In addition to the three new professorships needed to launch the Digital and Computational Studies program, the college will create three endowed professorships in neuroscience, economics, and chemistry with a preference for biological chemistry.

These new faculty positions represent the first expansion of the Bates faculty in more than a decade, reflecting “Bates’ commitment to rigorous education centered on deep, sustained interactions among students and faculty,” Spencer said.

The college’s faculty last May approved the new program in Digital and Computational Studies, which will launch in the fall of 2017 with a major scheduled to follow in 2018-19. The new program will embody the foundational courses of a traditional computer science offering — coding, programming, and algorithmic thinking — while linking directly to disciplines across the college’s full academic program, where computational methods are becoming increasingly important.

“We want to give students a command of digital methods as well as the capacity to interrogate what it means to live in a world that is awash in data and mediated by electronics and by computer technology,” said Matthew Auer, the college’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty.

Students, not only at Bates but at other institutions, have shown a strong desire for these types of classes. In recent years, enrollments in computer science courses across higher education, including liberal arts colleges, have doubled and, in some cases, tripled. When Bates surveyed students on the topic in 2014, nearly 70 percent of respondents expressed interest in courses in Digital and Computational Studies, while 14 percent said they would choose the program as a major.

The new program in Digital and Computational Studies and the other faculty chairs are made possible by the $19 million in gift commitments from Bates families. This includes a $10 million pledge from Michael Bonney ‘80, chair of the Bates College Board of Trustees, and his wife, Alison Grott Bonney ‘80. Theirs is the largest single gift in the college’s 161-year history.

Michael Bonney has served as a Bates trustee since 2002 and as board chair since 2010. The Bonneys are parents of three Bates graduates, and Michael’s father and grandfather attended Bates.

“Humanity faces daunting challenges,” Bonney said, “but solutions will come as long as we equip our best young minds with the rigor, imagination, and drive to tackle the world’s hardest problems. Bates has been meeting this challenge for generations and I have never been more convinced about the future of Bates College and the power of liberal arts graduates to lead change.”

In addition to the Bonney gift, significant commitments have come from six other Bates families: George Colony and Ann Colony of Concord, Mass.; Darrell Crate of Hamilton, Mass.; J. Blair Frank and Tena Fishman Frank of Pacific Palisades, Calif.; and three anonymous families.

This historic set of gift commitments begins a new chapter for Bates — one focused on building the college’s endowment to provide meaningful future investments in faculty development and the student experience across the full academic program.

Contacts

Bates College
Kent Fischer, 207-786-8248
Director of Media Relations
kfischer@bates.edu

Release Summary

Bates College expanding faculty, launching digital and computational studies program. Funded by $19 million in gift commitments, including the largest single gift in the college’s history.

Bates College