Case Study:

How do I create a new program?

Academic centers offer a chance for students to study topics outside the general curriculum or to approach the general education with greater rigor. The focus and structure of these programs vary greatly. Donors may choose to start a center if they notice that a particular topic or area of study does not exist or does not receive the level of attention it deserves. For instance, a donor may give to establish an academic program where students can engage with foundational texts at a campus that does not offer a Great Books curriculum. Or a donor who is concerned about free speech might establish a center that encourages open dialogue and robust debate. Structuring these programs can be complex, and donors may need to think creatively for the program to flourish. The Stephen S. Smith Center is an excellent example of how one donor succeeded.

The Stephen S. Smith Center at Xavier University

The Stephen S. Smith Center at Xavier University flourished through a collaborative working relationship between the donor and on-campus allies. The original vision of the gift was to establish a research center for the study of capitalism. But after a year, it became clear that the center needed to pivot in order to thrive. R. Stafford Johnson, director of the center, approached Stephen S. Smith with another plan: while maintaining the center, they would create a minor focused on the study of freedom and free market solutions to problems in society. Students in the business school would be able to take core classes that combined the Great Book with economics. The center would promote faculty and undergraduate research and create a new honors program for business students through a minor in political economy. Agreeing that these changes would fulfill his vision, Mr. Smith approved the strategic pivot.

The collaboration between Mr. Smith and the center’s faculty leaders has generated a flourishing program that supports research and scholarship for both undergraduates and faculty and hosts speakers and discussions on pressing topics like the opioid crisis and second-chance employment. With excellent faculty, new research initiatives and fellowships, as well as expanded outreach efforts, the program is positioned to grow even more robust in years to come.

FAR can help you:
  • Learn best practices for the establishment of a new, interdisciplinary program.
  • Connect with one of our nearly 80 “Oases of Excellence,” outstanding academic programs on campuses across the nation.

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