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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications



(Portland, Or.)–Keeping up with the dizzying pace of technological innovation is often a struggle for small colleges, which lack the resources and economies of scale enjoyed by larger institutions.

But now, thanks to a new $1.2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, four leading liberal arts colleges have launched a joint project they believe will provide a new national model for cost-effective management of technological change.

Collaboration is the key, say officials at Occidental, Reed, Swarthmore, and Vassar Colleges, which make up the new partnership. Reed will serve as the project coordinator and host of the project web site at

"The cost of dealing with the web and other new technologies is getting so high that smaller colleges are being left behind," said Martin Ringle, Reed’s director of computing and information services. "This project is an effort to establish a method for small colleges to select and implement new technologies in a professional, cost-effective, and sustainable way."

During the first phase of the project (2000—02), the four colleges will evaluate costs, staffing requirements, and strategies for the use of web technology at more than 50 leading liberal arts colleges. Among the areas to be explored are training methods for faculty and students, the use of online tutorials, outsourcing versus in-house web development, and campus standards for web technologies. The four colleges also will collaborate on the development of various web utilities.

Using the kind of collaborative methods it intends to promote, the project will incorporate online information sharing, joint training sessions, staff exchanges, and multi-institutional task forces.

"The project is of great interest to the foundation because of its potential benefits for smaller colleges and universities across the country. While many of these institutions demonstrate leadership in the creative uses of new technologies, the cost of maintaining such leadership poses a significant challenge for them," said Dr. Mary P. McPherson, vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

During the second phase of the project under development for 2003—04, the four partners plan to invite other liberal arts colleges and regional consortia to join the collaboration.

"Preserving the ability of small liberal arts colleges to be competitive with technology in a rapidly changing market is a key goal of the project. It’s analogous to mom and pop grocery stores working together to find a way to stay in business when a Wal-Mart shows up in town," Ringle said.

Until now, most small college technology collaborations have been local or regional in scope, through such partnerships as the Five Colleges in Massachusetts or the Claremont Colleges in California.

"This project is far more ambitious–it is designed to be national in its scope and reach," said Thomas Slobko, Occidental’s associate vice president for information technology services.

Results will be posted on the project web site, and information will be disseminated regularly in professional publications and through presentations at meetings of such national organizations as the Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges.

"We consider the project to be fundamentally non-commercial, and all of our results will be freely shared," said Diane Balestri, vice president for computing and information services at Vassar.

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Occidental College

Tom Slobko, associate vice president, information technology services
323/259-2889 (

Jim Tranquada, director, communications and community relations
323/259-2990 (

Reed College

Nadine Fiedler, assistant director, news & publications
503/777-7590 (

Martin Ringle, director, computing & information services
503/777-7254 (

Swarthmore College

Judy Downing, director, computing and communication services
610/328-8507 (

Tom Krattenmaker, director, news and information
610/328-8533 (

Vassar College

Diane Balestri, director, computing and information services
845/437-7220 (

Diane Pineiro-Zucker, associate director, college relations
845/437-7404 (

Susan DeKrey, vice president, college relations
845/437-7400 (