Lafayette opened its national conference, “The Future of the Liberal Arts College in America and its Leadership Role in Education around the World,” April 9 in the Williams Center for the Arts. President Daniel H. Weiss and Eugene M. Tobin, program officer for the Higher Education and the Liberal Arts Colleges Program at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, spoke on the first evening of the three-day event. Videos, abstracts, and a photo gallery from their talks are provided below.
The Changing Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities
Daniel H. Weiss, president, Lafayette College
During the past several years, the higher education sector has experienced dramatic change, both in terms of basic economic assumptions and the strategic environment in which colleges and universities operate. Precipitated in large part by the 2008 economic downturn, these changes transcend finances, and they are likely to endure well beyond the eventual recovery in the capital markets and the overall economy. Such an environment imposes significant challenges for all institutions, but so too does it provide the opportunity for increased organizational effectiveness and improved service to our shared educational mission.
I Just Want to Say One Word to You
Eugene M. Tobin, program officer, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Liberal arts colleges understand competition. With notable exceptions, they seldom look for connections with other institutions; their organizational cultures and educational programs tend to focus inward. They compete for strategic advantage in terms of students, faculty, academic distinction, fundraising, and grants in the belief that all relevant expertise and experience can be found on one’s own campus. Rarely do liberal arts colleges build on the work of their peers, and seldom do they engage in comparative study, except when benchmarking their progress against one another. They struggle alone with faculty development, curricular renewal, globalization, civic engagement, undergraduate research, staffing less commonly taught languages, integrating the digital humanities, and with the vast array of administrative and operational services common to all institutions. The lingering, pervasive effects of the Great Recession require the recognition that very few colleges and universities can do these things alone.