About the Williams Fund
"There are many factors and funding mechanisms that support the status quo in higher education. We have established something different. We want to support fresh thinking - thinking that will ignite new ideas and get beyond 'just business as usual.' We want to support those professors willing to search for better and more effective ways of learning."
Tom and Carol Williams, 1996
The Tom and Carol Williams Fund for Undergraduate Education was established to provide financial support for initiatives that enhance the quality of the educational experience for undergraduate students at the University of Oregon.
Understanding that normal institutional budget funds tend to reiterate a status quo, the Williams wanted to create a resource that if placed thoughtfully could have a revolutionary effect on the way the university addresses undergraduate education.
In order to focus the direction of the fund, President Dave Frohnmayer appointed a group of faculty who have been formally recognized as some of the university's best teachers to decide who should receive the Tom and Carol Williams grants. The resulting Williams Council was designed to differ from the usual administrative committees. They were to serve as an advisory council to the president and reflect the belief that a gathering of the university's best teaching faculty would provide equally creative insight into how the fund might most effectively be used.
To date, the Williams Council has pursued its work through two mechanisms, both of which reach deep into the entire teaching faculty. First, in 1996, the Council made a "call for Instructional Proposals" to all faculty who wanted to implement new ways of encouraging learning. This solicitation led to the submission of twenty-five proposals. In the years since 1996, "Instructional Proposals" have produced:
- innovations within specific courses;
- imaginative new cross-disciplinary courses;
- opportunities to introduce diverse, multicultural aspects into the undergraduate experience;
- new ways of providing peer to peer learning support, and
- new ways of conceptualizing teaching and learning within existing disciplines.
The success of the Williams Council in inspiring new initiatives led to the creation of a second form of faculty recognition and support—the Williams Fellowships. The council seeks out recipients who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to undergraduate education by challenging their students academically, creating an engaged learning environment, striving to improve the learning process, and fostering interdepartmental collaboration.
For more information on the Williams Fund:
Chair, Williams Council
Office of Academic Affairs