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Minerva College Start-Up Hires Academic Leaders

The Minerva Schools at KGI, an online liberal-arts-college start-up scheduled to open in the fall of 2014, is building out its administrative ranks.

The for-profit venture said on Tuesday that James D. Sterling, vice president for academic affairs at the Keck Graduate Institute—the KGI of the name—has been named director of Minerva Labs. Mr. Sterling will also serve as interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences for Minerva. Eric Bonabeau, a complex-systems expert and founder of the Icosystem Corporation, a science and technology company, has been named dean of the College of Computational Sciences.

They join Stephen M. Kosslyn, founding dean at Minerva and a former administrator at Stanford and Harvard Universities, and Daniel Levitin, Minerva’s dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and a researcher at McGill University.

Ben Nelson, a technology entrepreneur, started the Minerva Project in 2011, promising to build the equivalent of an Ivy League institution for online higher education. Armed with $25-million from Benchmark Capital, a team of 30 employees is designing the Minerva curriculum—which emphasizes critical analysis, effective communication, and innovative thinking—from scratch.

In July, Minerva signed an agreement to enroll a pilot class of about 15 students at Keck, one of seven institutions in the Claremont University Consortium, in Claremont, Calif. If approved by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the arrangement will mean accreditation for Minerva.

“The cooperation and support that we have gotten from KGI has been unbelievable,” Mr. Nelson said. “We are very much on track with the accreditation process. We hope to have our accreditation in the first half of next year.”

The application deadline for Minerva’s pilot class is December 31. Students will spend the first year living in San Francisco. All four years of tuition for the members of the pilot class will be waived. Annual tuition for subsequent classes will be about $10,000.

Correction (11/13/2013, 2:09 p.m.): This post originally said that Daniel Levitin, Minerva’s dean of arts and humanities, was a former researcher at McGill University. Mr. Levitin maintains that research relationship. The post has been updated to reflect that.

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