United We Stand: Lessons Learned from a Consortium of Small Astronomy Departments
In 1989, the astronomy departments of eight liberal arts colleges located in the northeast formed a consortium to broaden undergraduate research opportunities and to form a “meta- department” of approximately 25 research astronomers. Each of the participating departments is small (typically, two faculty members), so forming the consortium naturally broadened the research interests of this “virtual department.” With generous initial support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, we established a summer exchange program to allow our undergraduates to do research at any of the participating colleges. We also inaugurated a student research symposium at which all summer research students from the eight institutions could report their scientific findings in astronomy.