Bowdoin received a grant from the Mellon Foundation six years ago to keep programming strong as the college began to phase out its fraternity system. The grant is used to fund activities that expand the College's programming and stimulate both intellectual and social life.
In the years following the receipt of the grant, the College has used it to fund a variety of activities through the College House System. Past grant recipients have used the funds to support a student-run "restaurant" that served students and professors a gourmet meal in Ladd House, as well as trips to Boston to visit museums. The grant is currently sponsoring the tai-chi lessons in session.
In order to obtain money from the grant, students must submit a proposal to the Assistant Director of Residential Life, Julie Barnes. So far, Barnes has been impressed with the variety of proposals and encourages Bowdoin students to apply to use the grant in fresh and innovative ways.
"The sky's the limit," Barnes said.
Many students agree that the Mellon grant has expanded the opportunities available to them.
"It's a phenomenal resource, one that encourages us to expand beyond just holding social events," said Vice President of Quinby House Tobias Crawford '07. "It raises the intellectual vitality of the house system, providing funding for academic discussions which might not come up in the classroom."
Crawford also expressed his approval of the allotment of the grant money. "Res life does an excellent job of administering the grant," he said.
Plans for using the grant this year are already in the works. MacMillan house is using the Mellon grant to convert its library into a student art gallery to house overflow pieces from the VAC, and has organized a trip to a Portland art museum with Chair of the Art Department Mark Wethli. MacMillan has also arranged an alumni dinner, funded by the grant to discuss the differences between the House when it was a fraternity (Theta Delta Chi), and its current incarnation as a social house.
Quinby hopes to use the grant to purchase refreshments for lectures with Mellon money, and also to apply for money to bring in an outside speaker.
The Mellon grant was given in two installments, each for three years. This is the last year that the money from the second installment can be used without the College having to apply for additional time to use the money.
Barnes is enthusiastic about this year's prospects for the grant and is not concerned about using the entirety of the grant in the allotted time. She made it clear that she was open to all varieties of proposals, and indicated that she is receiving three to four a week. Members of the social houses appear excited as well.
"I know the students [in MacMillan] are really excited to bring some culture into the house, as well as some new people and a fresh reputation for the house and the college house system in general," MacMillan House President Zach Roberts '08 said. "College houses tend to be seen as purely social organizations, and this doesn't have to be the case."