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December 17, 2013

Higher Ed’s Challenges and Opportunities: Leading the Dialogue

Essays first presented by college presidents and other educational leaders at a groundbreaking conference at Lafayette are featured in a new book, Remaking College: Innovation in the Liberal Arts.

The cover of the book Remaking College: Innovation in the Liberal Arts

Essays first presented by college presidents and others at a groundbreaking Lafayette conference are featured in a new book.

Entitled “The Future of the Liberal Arts College in America and Its Leadership Role in Education Around the World,” the April 2012 conference was attended by more than 200 presidents, faculty members, professional staff, students, board members, and others. It was sponsored by Lafayette and Swarthmore College, with the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The hosts of the conference, former Lafayette president Daniel H. Weiss and Swarthmore president Rebecca Chopp, are the editors of Remaking College, along with higher education consultant Susan Frost.

“The objective of the forum was to provide a context for thinking together about the issues that were emerging as game-changers for us all,” they write in the book’s preface. “Although we recognized that all institutionspublic and private, large and smallare facing comparable challenges, we held the view that liberal arts colleges, by virtue of their scale and focused mission, are positioned especially well to lead in developing new approaches for an uncertain future. The conference was intended to support the development of shared learning, innovative thinking, and bold proposals as part of a comprehensive process of review and assessment.”

Weiss and Wendy Hill, Lafayette’s provost and dean of the faculty, contributed essays to the volume, which is published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Weiss writes on “Challenges and Opportunities in the Changing Landscape,” and Hill on “Interdisciplinary Perspectives and the Liberal Arts.”

Weiss became president of Haverford College on July 1 of this year after serving eight years at Lafayette’s president. Lafayette has continued to lead national conversation on the changing landscape of higher education under President Alison Byerly.

In conjunction with her inauguration as Lafayette’s 17th president, held Oct. 4, Byerly convened a virtual conference in which more than 30 college presidents shared their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing liberal arts institutions. Inaugural events also included a lively and provocative roundtable discussion entitled “New Models for Higher Education.” The panelists were Elizabeth Boylan, director of STEM education programs for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; Steven Poskanzer, president of Carleton College; and Jeff Selingo, editor-at-large at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Hill was moderator.

Byerly is a nationally known commentator on emerging forms of digital scholarship, the changing role of the humanities in the digital age, the importance of curricular innovation, and MOOCs (massive open online courses), whose essays have appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

Next month, at the Council of Independent Colleges’ annual Presidents Institute, themed “Leading Wisely: Linking Tradition and Innovation,” Byerly will lead a session with Georgia Nugent, the former president of Kenyon College, who heads CIC’s initiative on making the case for the liberal arts.

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