Lafayette concluded its national conference on “The Future of the Liberal Arts College in America and its Leadership Role in Education around the World” after three days spent analyzing the state of higher education.
Talks from the final day focused on finding better ways to define the value of a liberal arts education, changes in teaching, and the importance of the residential experience. Abstracts and photo galleries from the talks are provided below.
Last night, William G. Bowen, president emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Princeton University, presented the conference’s keynote address, “More to Hope Than to Fear: The Future of the Liberal Arts College.”
Read articles about the conference in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed
Watch videos, view a photo gallery, and read about the opening night talks
View photo galleries and read about the second day of the conference
Visit the conference website
Distinctively American? Creating a New Narrative for Residential Liberal Arts Colleges
Rebecca S. Chopp, president, Swarthmore College
How can residential liberal arts colleges adapt and effectively articulate their unique contributions in the midst of the challenges and opportunities facing higher education? As American institutions, how do these colleges imagine a new social contract with this country and the world? This session will examine challenges to this distinctively American approach to education and ask how liberal arts colleges, with their unique residential communities, can do more to develop individuals; manifest diverse, inclusive, and engaged community; and build new models of democratic communities in the world.
Changes in Knowledge: Teaching, Learning, and Research
Back to the Future: Fostering Collaborations and Connections Within and Among Our Institutions
Wendy L. Hill, provost and dean of the faculty, Lafayette College
Although the specific subjects taught within liberal arts curricula have changed over history, the critical approaches to learning have remained relatively consistent and continue to provide enduring value. The current emphasis in higher education on interdisciplinary teaching and research in many ways brings liberal arts colleges back to founding principles and provides further opportunities for demonstrating the importance and relevance of our approach to education. To realize these opportunities, however, collaborations among faculty and staff need to be fostered and rewarded. Suggestions for how to overcome challenges to developing sustainable collaborations within our institutions will be examined and implications for hiring and reward structures will be explored. Lastly, a need for greater collaboration among liberal arts colleges will be presented as a means to realize continued excellence in teaching, learning, and research.
On Re-Routing the Curriculum: Which Turns Matter?
Philip E. Lewis, vice president, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
A spectrum of conceptual turns — the affective, cognitive, constructivist, digital, genomic, global, interdisciplinary, linguistic, religious, spatial, and visual turns, among others — have been prominent in the discourses about learning, interdisciplinarity, and critical competency of the last few decades. It is important not simply to ask how each turn might inflect the liberal arts curriculum, but whether the evolving turns can be synthesized or integrated by a dominant term. How would such a synthesis position such classic liberal arts imperatives as critical thinking, historical contextualization, ethical commitment, and social engagement? It remains important for liberal education to design curricula anchored primarily on ideas and values, rather than on the forms or processes of learning.
Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges in Our Teaching
David W. Oxtoby, president, Pomona College
Interdisciplinary research, bringing together contributors from a range of fields to collaborate on broad problems or bringing a novel perspective to a traditional subject, is the hallmark of scholarship in the 21st century. Why has it had so little impact overall on how we teach and learn? Our curricula, especially in the concentrations, often appear narrower and more constrained than ever, while departmental structures have rigidified rather than relaxed, especially at smaller colleges. How can our institutions encourage the crossing of boundaries in teaching and learning by our faculty and students? I will argue that the success of our renewed commitment to a liberal education in the future will rely on the willingness of faculty to take chances and move outside of their areas of comfort in teaching. One topic I will explore is the way in which the creative and performing arts can provide bridges connecting disparate areas of learning.
The Small Residential College
The Residential Academic Community in the 21st Century
Ronald A. Crutcher, president, Wheaton College
John M. McCardell Jr., vice-chancellor and president, Sewanee: The University of the South
Liberal arts colleges have for many years distinguished themselves from larger universities because of the high percentage of their students who reside on campus. To be sure, one can certainly make the argument that more cost-effective approaches to higher education can be found in today’s global world. However, given the vagaries of adolescent intellectual and social development in the 21st century, an education that combines the academic, social, and residential components of the college learning experience is as much needed today as in years past. Engagement in a residential academic community can better prepare students for purposeful consideration of how actions, values, and beliefs affect the people with whom they interact and the intercultural communities of which they are a part. This session will make the case for the essential role of the residential academic community in liberal arts colleges in affecting the academic, social, and spiritual development of college students in the 21st century.