For Immediate Release

David Tritelli
Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs
202-884-0812 (office)

AAC&U Launches New Project to Advance The LEAP Challenge

Grant from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Will Support Cohort of Eight LEAP Challenge Institutions Working to Ensure That Curricular Pathways Lead to Meaningful Capstone Experiences and Projects for All Students

Jun 30, 2015

Washington, DC—At a recent convening in Arlington, Virginia, teams of faculty and academic administrators from eight colleges and universities gathered to begin work on advancing the goals of AAC&U’s recently-launched LEAP Challenge.

Announced as part of its Centennial Annual Meeting and marking the tenth year of AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative, The LEAP Challenge is the next phase of LEAP.  It will entail multiple strands of work all designed to reposition inquiry-based, interest-driven learning at the center of any quality undergraduate education.  In releasing The LEAP Challenge, AAC&U urged all higher education institutions to prepare every college student to pursue their own “signature work”—a project related to a problem important to the student and to society.

A grant from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations will support this initial project in an emerging family of initiatives designed to advance the goals of The LEAP Challenge.   The project is housed in AAC&U’s Office of Integrative Liberal Learning and the Global Commons, and is being led by AAC&U Vice President David Paris and Kathy Wolfe, who will begin her term with AAC&U as Vice President on August 1st. 

“We know that about half of today’s college students report doing some sort of culminating work,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider.  “When done well, this opportunity can help students engaged in precisely the kind of complex problem solving employers and our society need.  We are very grateful to The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for their support of these leading institutions as they work to build on their existing capstone curricular designs and ensure that all their students are being prepared for and succeeding in completing integrative, inquiry-based signature work.” 

The cohort of LEAP Challenge Institutions includes:

  • Augustana College (IL)
  • Bates College (ME)
  • Clark University (MA)
  • College of William and Mary (VA)
  • Connecticut College (CT)
  • Elizabethtown College (PA)
  • Nebraska Wesleyan University (NE)
  • Oberlin College (OH)

These LEAP Challenge Institutions will be working on culminating or signature work projects and how to prepare students for them. They will examine which of their students currently complete capstones and signature work, identify gaps in students' access to capstones and signature work, and work to redesign curricula and programs so that all students are well prepared to engage in significant capstone and signature work before they graduate.

“I am excited to work with this cohort of truly innovative colleges and universities,” said Kathy Wolfe.  “We all look forward to seeing how they will build on their already-thoughtful curricula to better prepare students for meaningful culminating projects."

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,300 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education and inclusive excellence at both the national and local levels, and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

Information about AAC&U membership, programs, and publications can be found at

About The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations were organized in 1952 under a living trust established by Mr. Davis. The Foundations bear witness to his successful corporate leadership and acumen and his visionary, entrepreneurial spirit in philanthropy.

Mr. Davis envisioned his namesake foundation as a highly respectable organization with national reach and impact that would strengthen America in perpetuity through philanthropy to "religious, charitable, scientific, literary and educational purposes within the United States and its territories." 

Since its inception, the Foundations have given more than 2,600 grants totaling over $300 million to colleges and universities, hospitals, medical schools and divinity schools. AVDF also has funded visionary leadership in public television for scientific and historical documentaries, children's programming and distribution of high quality educational media.

Information about The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations can be found at