Arisa White speaking to another person while wearing purple beanie and grey cardigan
Above: Arisa White, associate professor of English and Creative Writing

In Support of the Academic Mission

Investments in faculty have resulted in new programs and opportunities
Words by Bob Keyes
Photograph by Ashley L. Conti
Arisa White began working on her opera a decade ago when she adapted a chapbook of poems about sorrow into the first draft of the libretto for what would become Post Pardon: The Opera.
Colby Achievement Program in the Sciences (CAPS) fosters a more diverse and inclusive community of science students. Each year, 10 admitted students come to Colby for mid-summer science programming. Originally funded through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, it is now endowed through the support of Karen Linde Packman ’88, P’21, a member of the Museum Board of Governors, and Trustee Jeff Packman ’88, P’21.

The Haynesville Project, established in 2021, provides direct funding to talented teacher-scholars who are at pivotal points in their careers. Made possible by a $2-million gift from Tom and Cathy Tinsley P’10, the pilot project awards a $100,000 grant to newly tenured professors to foster creative and high-impact research projects and excellence in teaching through dependable financial commitments.

The Island Campus, comprising Allen and Benner islands, gives Colby students year-round access to a marine environment for research around climate change, the impact of air and atmospheric pollution, and the changing biodiversity of the Gulf of Maine. Colby became steward of Allen and Benner islands in 2022, acquiring them from the Up East Foundation and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

The Jennifer Jahrling Forese Writer-in-Residence Program was established in 2019 to build on Colby’s strengths in the literary arts and humanities. The residency is the vision of Trustee Emeritus Jamie Forese and Jennifer Forese P’16, ’18.

When she received support from Colby’s Haynesville Project, White, associate professor of English and Creative Writing, was able to envision the multidisciplinary piece through to its finished form. “I have spent a lot of time working on the project over the years. I would set it aside, but it wouldn’t let me go. When I learned I had become a Haynesville Project Fellow, I decided that I was going to put my funding toward finishing the production,” said White, who will stage her piece in spring 2025 at the soon-to-open Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts.

The Haynesville Project, which began in 2021 as a three-year pilot program, provides $100,000 grants to newly tenured faculty. It’s one example of how investments in faculty and academics have turned into tangible results for faculty, students, and the community.

As part of her grant, White will incorporate her work on the opera into her work in the classroom and community. In 2024 she will teach a Jan Plan course, Gone Mad: A Book & Printmaking Workshop, in collaboration with the Center for Book and Print, and a spring course, A Black American Opera Lab: The Poet’s Libretto. She credited her former department chair Mary Ellis Gibson, the Arthur Jeremiah Roberts Professor of Literature; Teresa McKinney, founding Diamond Family Director of the Arts; and the Haynesville Project founders, Tom and Cathy Tinsley P’10, for the opportunity to bring the opera to the stage.

To date, as part of the Dare Northward campaign, Colby has raised more money for academic innovation and partnerships than for any other area. That investment supports ongoing initiatives such as the Center for Small Town Jewish Life and the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs at Colby, as well as new initiatives. Colby has expanded the size of its faculty from 186 to 229 as it has developed new programs, including majors in computational biology, environmental computation, and data science. It has improved startup research support for new faculty and enhanced ongoing research funding for continuing faculty, and it has created the Center for Teaching and Learning to provide support and training.

Margaret T. McFadden Fund for Humanistic Inquiry, established by a gift from Trustee Emerita Anne Clarke Wolff ’87 and Benjamin “Ted” E. Wolff III ’86, provides funding for seven to 10 annual faculty grants focused on research in the humanities. The couple named the endowed fund to honor Provost and Dean of Faculty and Professor of American Studies Margaret T. McFadden, an academic leader at the College.

McVey Data Science Initiative, a multidisciplinary effort to integrate data science throughout the curriculum, was created with a gift from Trustee Rick McVey P’12, ’16. The initiative makes Colby one of the first liberal arts colleges to offer interdisciplinary coursework and research opportunities in data science, and it ensures that students are able to become the next generation of leaders in fields that use data in decision-making.

Pulver Science Scholars Program is designed to attract the most ambitious and talented students from all backgrounds to Colby and create a pipeline for them to pursue research at the nation’s top biomedical laboratories, including the Jackson Laboratory, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory. Life Trustee David Pulver ’63, P’93 and his wife, Carol P’93, made the commitment to ensure future discovery that will lead to treatments and cures in critical areas of human health.

Schmaltz Family Effective Communication Initiative was launched in 2019 to give faculty and students a systematic curriculum designed to enhance verbal communication skills. The initiative, which spans the disciplines at Colby, was funded through a gift from Trustee Emeritus Richard Schmaltz ’62, his wife, Joan Dignam Schmaltz ’63, and their family, including Heide Schmaltz Dolan ’87, Dana Schmaltz, and Megan Lasher ’15.

Michael and Eugenia Wormser Director of the Colby Libraries, established by Michael D. Wormser ’59, permanently names and supports the salary, benefits, and recruitment of the director. Kevin L. Smith was appointed the first Michael and Eugenia Wormser Director of the Colby Libraries.

Colby also is welcoming visiting faculty and academic fellows, who enhance campus life by adding their unique perspectives and specialties. For example, through the Lunder Institute for American Art, established in 2017 with a gift from Peter H. Lunder ’56, D.F.A. ’98 and Life Trustee Paula Crane Lunder, D.F.A. ’98, visiting artists and scholars come to Colby to conduct research and create art that expands the boundaries of American art. A collaborative initiative of the Colby Museum of Art, the Lunder Institute hosts artists, scholars, and museum professionals who engage with faculty and students; the College’s network of institutional partners, leading experts, and other creative collaborators; and the art collection itself. Since its inception, the Lunder Institute has welcomed approximately 50 visiting artists, resident and visiting fellows, and scholars and created opportunities for existing faculty and staff. Their research is directly evident in exhibitions at the museum, including Painted: Our Bodies, Hearts, and Village, on view through July 2024.

The Jennifer Jahrling Forese Writer-in-Residence Program in Creative Writing, established in 2019, builds on Colby’s strengths in the literary arts and humanities. The vision of Trustee Emeritus Jamie Forese and Jennifer Forese P’16, ’18, the program allows students to work directly with the writer in residence and learn from their area of expertise.

In 2022 Colby expanded its geographic footprint, adding the Island Campus in Maine’s Muscongus Bay to its academic landscape. Colby became steward of 450-acre Allen and 50-acre Benner islands, where artist Andrew Wyeth and his wife, Betsy, turned their grand visions for art, architecture, and preservation into bold realities. Colby is using the islands as centers for learning, research, and creative inspiration. With their interdisciplinary focus on the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences, students studying the arts, climate change, creative writing, and many other subjects have ventured to the islands for scholarship. In its first year of ownership of the islands, Colby hosted more than 100 groups and nearly 1,000 students, faculty, staff, and community members.