Press Release, Faculty, Make The Connection

January 24, 2018

Ohio Wesleyan mathematics professor Craig Jackson (seated at left) and zoology professor Amy Downing (standing) team teach a class exploring how mathematical modeling can be used to better understand marine ecosystems. The university has received a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support more interdisciplinary courses. (Image by Mark Van Horn)

Ohio Wesleyan Receives $150,000 Mellon Foundation Award

Presidential Leadership Grant to Support Interdisciplinary Team Teaching

By Cole Hatcher

DELAWARE, Ohio – How about a class that mashes up marine biology and mathematics? Or one that combines music composition and computer science? 

Ohio Wesleyan University has received a $150,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support “enhancing interdisciplinarity” – an initiative by OWU professors to create classes that combine different academic areas with team teaching to deepen the educational experience for students.

“The grant has two major prongs,” said Ashley Biser, Ph.D., associate dean for faculty development. “The first is to support up to 15 team-taught courses over the next few years, and the second is to bring together the faculty to brainstorm about how to integrate more interdisciplinarity into our curriculum.” 

Ohio Wesleyan President Rock Jones, Ph.D., said understanding topics and issues from multiple academic perspectives helps students think creatively as they search for innovative, well-reasoned solutions. 

“The hallmark of a well-rounded liberal arts graduate is a holistic knowledge of many academic disciplines,” Jones said. “This foundation is even more important today as we prepare students to address the vexing, complex challenges of the 21st century. This initiative will focus on our general education curriculum and, we anticipate, ultimately expand to encompass our 90 majors.” 

The 21-month Mellon Foundation grant, and the planning it supports, will continue to enhance The OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan’s signature student experience. The OWU Connection is the university’s guided, personalized, four-year degree path that combines interdisciplinary learning with international, hands-on internship, research, and study-abroad opportunities. University funding is available to support many of these connection experiences through venues including competitive Theory-to-Practice Grants. Learn more at

Biser said faculty who already have created team-taught courses are excited about the educational innovation and eager to expand the initiative using the Presidential Leadership Grant. 

These faculty include zoology professor Amy Downing, Ph.D., and mathematics professor Craig Jackson, Ph.D., who collaborated to create “Marine Biology and Mathematical Modeling in the U.S. Virgin Islands.” 

Their OWU Connection course included a weeklong travel component, enabling students to study in class and on the island of St. John the properties of oceans, productivity and energy flow, plant and animal diversity, and human impacts on marine systems combined with a look at how mathematical models of biological phenomena can improve our understanding of marine ecosystems. 

Of the team-taught, interdisciplinary course, Downing said: “Having undergraduates get that experience where both math and biology are taught in a very integrated fashion is a very different experience than a traditional undergraduate gets.” 

Watch the professors and their students discuss the Travel-Learning Course at Learn more about enrolling at Ohio Wesleyan at

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 90 undergraduate majors and competes in 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through Ohio Wesleyan’s signature OWU Connection program, students integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at