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Liberal Education and America's Promise

Speeches and Articles

Featured Op-Ed: Learning as Freedom

Wesleyan University President and AAC&U Board Member Michael Roth wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled, “Learning as Freedom” (September 6, 2012), noting that, in today’s world, “the key is to develop habits of mind that allow students to keep learning, even as they acquire skills to get things done. This combination will serve students as individuals, family members and citizens—not just employees and managers.” Roth urges readers to remember the insights of John Dewey who believed “that learning in the process of living is the deepest form of freedom. In a nation that aspires to democracy, that’s what education is primarily for: the cultivation of freedom within society. We should not think of schools as garrisons protecting us from enemies, nor as industries generating human capital. Rather, higher education’s highest purpose is to give all citizens the opportunity to find ‘large and human significance’ in their lives and work. “

Featured Speech: One Decade In: Teaching and Learning in the
21st Century

UW System President Kevin Reilly discusses the LEAP-influenced UW System “Growth Agenda for Wisconsin” in his address to the “President’s Summit on Excellence in Teaching and Learning,” titled “One Decade In: Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century.” He notes that, “in education, quantity without quality is an entirely false promise and we won’t make that kind of promise to the people of Wisconsin. Instead, we are working through this initiative to ensure that our students will graduate with a quality of mind that will enable their leadership in a 21st century, globally-engaged American democracy….the Growth Agenda calls for higher education to act as a catalyst for educational, social, civic, and economic transformation."

Featured Articles in Liberal Education

News Articles and Programs on Liberal Education

Op-Eds and Editorials Making the Case for Liberal Education

Speeches Making the Case for Liberal Education

News Articles and Programs on Liberal Education

Stevenson University President Dr. Kevin Manning wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post titled, "Toward Curriculum Clarity and Career Connection in Higher Education" (June 6, 2012). Dr. Manning notes, "Higher education needs to work more diligently to bring together the best of what we have in the liberal arts with the knowledge we have gained from the professions during the past 100 years. By merging liberal arts with career development and using the powerful filter of theory, practice, and mentoring, we can better prepare students to make meaningful contributions to their careers and, when necessary, completely reinvent themselves through their knowledge of their own deep-seated core values and their subsequent ability to act on them."

Houston Attorney and Political Writer Mark Yzaguirre wrote a blog post that was published by the Huffington Post titled, "Don't Blame Liberal Arts Majors for High Unemployment" (January 31, 2012). The blogger notes, "I suggest that exposure to a liberal arts and humanities education is good for all who engage in such study, regardless of what they eventually choose to do with their lives. Such an education is in many ways the most traditional form of education. The purpose of a liberal arts and humanities education is to teach young people how to think critically and become thoughtful citizens, separate from any particular job preparation that may develop. There's nothing wrong with studying engineering or finance. Our society needs people who excel at both. But we also need historians, poets and writers in our society and an appreciation for such work among the general public. Let's not allow current economic travails to pull American higher education even further away from encouraging learning for its own sake in favor of simple job training. While there's plenty of room to improve higher education in the United States, attacking and defunding the liberal arts and humanities isn't the way to improve higher education and it certainly isn't the way to fight joblessness in any real capacity."

Robert Eisinger, dean of the school of liberal arts at SCAD, wrote a blog post that was published by the Huffington Post. Dean Eisinger's blog post is titled, "Advancing the Liberal Arts in and Beyond the Classroom" (December 19, 2011). Dean Eisinger notes, "The future of liberal education demands that we reinvent and re-imagine it, especially for those unfamiliar with it. There will always be Shakespeare and statistics. Capulet and chi-squares may or may not be forgotten, but if we teach our subjects passionately, our students will learn how to think. They will be wiser, employed and forever grateful."

Johann Neem, an associate professor of history at Western Washington University, wrote an op-ed for Inside Higher Ed titled, "Funding Students, Threatening Liberal Education" (December 20, 2011). The author notes, "Washington’s legislators, like their counterparts around the nation, are shifting the purposes of college away from the civic and personal toward the economic and vocational, undermining the broader goals that have historically been part of American college education. (Even in the 1862 Morrill Act providing federal support for colleges in 'agriculture and the mechanic arts,' legislators recognized that college education demands both 'liberal and practical education.')"

Gary Susswein of the University of Texas Office of Public Affairs wrote an article titled, "The Liberal Arts Advantage" (April 25, 2011). Susswein notes, "Naturally inquisitive, intelligent and persuasive, [University of Texas Aluma Catherine] Crago Blanton credits her success with technology companies to her liberal arts education, which also included a heavy load of Russian language courses. The humanities, she said, taught her how to approach problems and understand their implications. 'With a great liberal arts education, you can do anything,' she said. 'You learn how to learn.' Crago Blanton continues, 'The University of Texas College of Liberal Arts was so scholarly. You weren't just learning skills that could fade away or become obsolete,' said Crago Blanton. 'You were learning the questions you need to ask in order to build knowledge.'"

University Business reporter James M. Dennis wrote an article titled, "Global Education Challenges and Opportunities: Students Are Not Isolated from World Events" (February 2011). The author notes, "Employers tell us that today’s graduates lack the knowledge and skills needed to achieve success. The recent AAC&U report titled College Learning for the New Global Century revealed the following:

  • Fully 63 percent of employers believe that too many recent college graduates do not have the skills they need to succeed in the global economy.
  • Only 18 percent of employers rate college graduates as “very well prepared” in the area of global knowledge. More than 45 percent rate them as “not well prepared” at all in this area."

Sean Decatur, a member of the AAC&U board of directors and dean of the arts and sciences and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Oberlin College, wrote a commentary titled, "The Winner: A Liberal Education" (May 4, 2012) for the New York Times Room for Debate blog. Decatur notes, “Strikingly, liberal education is not only effective at enhancing student learning, but also in producing college graduates well-equipped for the challenges of the twenty-first-century economy. Studies in AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise initiative have shown that the essential learning outcomes of a liberal education are aligned with the skills most desired in prospective workers by private sector employers.”

In a segment on NPR’s All Things Considered titled "Philosophy Valued at One Community College" (January 4, 2011), LEAP Campus Action Network member La Guardia Community College and its commitment to the humanities and philosophy was featured. Interim La Guardia President Peter Katopes challenged the idea that community colleges only train students narrowly for jobs. He points out that La Guardia’s commitment to the humanities and to philosophy entails “giving students the opportunity to really understand the context of their lives.” He notes that La Guardia does that through the humanities. Click here to listen to the segment, which includes interviews with La Guardia students. Learn more about how to join the LEAP Campus Action Network.

River Valley Community College President Steven Budd wrote a column (pdf) for the Eagle Times (Claremont, NH) titled, "What should you get from a college education?" (March 8, 2010), President Budd notes, "AAC&U’s ‘The Quality Imperative’ said that only ‘one in four employers believe that colleges, community colleges, and universities are doing a good job preparing college graduates for the demands of the global economy.’ This rather stark assessment comes from a national survey of employers conducted by AAC&U. In the words of AAC&U president Carol Geary Schneider, ‘It is very clear from our survey of employers that higher education needs to increase not only the numbers of students who graduate, but the levels of learning they obtain in college.’”

New LEAP National Leadership Council member Michelle Asha Cooper makes the case for both diversity in higher education and providing all students with broad outcomes to prepare them for the future in her article “The Economic Imperative of Achieving Diversity,” (April 27, 2010) co-authored with Arthur Coleman.  They note that “diversity enhances the educational experience, fostering students’ academic and social growth.  It encourages students to think critically, enhances communication skills and fosters civic engagement.”  They also note that “diversity strengthens the workforce and enhances America’s economic competitiveness.”

From the Governor to the Commissioner of Higher Education to the State Superintendent of Schools to the President of the Salt Lake Chamber, Utah’s leadership gathered in Salt Lake City on April 14, 2010 for a LEAP Public Forum, Raising the Bar: Preparing Utah College Students for Life, Work, and Responsible Citizenship. These leaders came together with 100 other faculty, teachers, regents, deans, provosts, and presidents to discuss the future of education in Utah and the importance of providing all Utah students a broad set of learning outcomes essential for success in the 21st century. This event is the first public event in a series of events and activities planned as part of LEAP Utah. See press coverage of the event, and the program, with links to powerpoint presentations.

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Advance-Titan's Jessica Bedore wrote an article titled "Team Aims to Reform Liberal Education" (December 3, 2009) about the UW-Oshkosh Liberal Reform Education Team's (LERT) work to change the way that liberal arts classes are presented and organized on campus. She writes, "According to UW-Oshkosh's LERT Web site, 'The Liberal Education Reform Team is charged with presenting a framework for student learning outcomes to be adopted by the UW-Oshkosh. The following outcomes, based on those from the Association of American Colleges & Universities, are being proposed for campus-wide discussion and adoption.'”

President of Wesleyan University Michael Roth wrote a blog post for The Huffington Post titled, "Liberal Arts Education: From Clubbiness to Cosmopolitanism" (November 17, 2009). Roth states, "The great advantage of our cosmopolitan liberal arts education is that it allows students to explore international, virtual networks of knowledge while learning the virtues (the pleasures and effectiveness) of face-to-face conversation, team participation and cooperation. Whether learning music or biophysics, consistent personal contact with teachers and fellow-students deepens education. The key is that the students at these schools are developing skills, learning how to learn, in ways that will serve them for decades."

Tom Pleger, Dean and CEO, and Associate Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County was a guest on a Wisconsin Public Radio program about liberal education on December 21, 2009. Pleger stated, "The University of Wisconsin is a partner in AAC&U's LEAP initiative. AAC&U and its members believe that a liberal education is necessary for students in today's global economy. I believe that a liberal education gives students critical thinking skills that will help the students to pursue their major and have the skills necessary for their future careers."

In his recent book, Real Education, Charles Murray presents several controversial positions regarding the role of liberal education in both K-12 and post-secondary education. The release of this book has prompted several valuable responses, including an article by Tony Carnevale in the current issue of Liberal Education. The article is titled, "Real Analysis of Real Education" (Fall 2008). Carnevale is a research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. From 1996 to 2006, he was vice president for public leadership at the Educational Testing Service. Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John's College in Annapolis , Maryland, also delivered remarks concerning Charles Murray's Real Education on October 8, 2008 at the CATO Institute.

"Emergency Management Training Must Include Liberal Arts Education," by Bob Jaffin (Government Technology, March 27, 2008). In arguing for the importance of a liberal education, this emergency management instructor writes, "I've become increasingly discouraged as more and more students demonstrate they can't apply conceptual thinking to relatively simple scenarios. And this is compounded by their inability to write coherent sentences and paragraphs that can be assembled into cohesive, focused and comprehensible papers."

"Make Engineering a Liberal Art With Social Relevance, Report Suggests," by Jeffrey Brainard ( The Chronicle, December 14, 2007, subscription required). This article about the report, "Engineering for a Changing World: A Roadmap to the Future of Engineering Practice, Research, and Education," summarizes that "engineers should receive a liberal-arts education as undergraduates and then pursue graduate degrees as a standard route into the profession."

"A Core Curriculum for Tomorrow's Citizens" by Harvard professor Harry Lewis (The Chronicle, subscription required, September 7, 2007) discusses the purpose of a core curriculum in light of recent debates in higher education.

A feature article in Hispanic Outlook, "Broader Skill Sets Needed in Global Economy" (pdf, August 27, 2007) reports on finding and recommendations from AAC&U's report, College Learning for the New Global Century.

An article on, "Choosing a College: Liberal Arts vs. Professional Training" (August 16, 2006), examines the benefits of a liberal education combined with practical experience. 

An article in Inside Higher Ed, "Mastering Engineering" (July 28, 2006) explores the pitfalls of a narrowly focused engineering degree. 

A program on NPR's Diane Rehm show, "U.S. College Education" (April 14, 2006), discusses what students are and should be learning in college.

An essay ( "Liberal Education in an Asian Context," pdf, March/April 2006) in International Educator explores ten characteristics of a liberally educated person and discusses liberal education in Asia. 

An article on, "How to Find a Job in the Next Ten Years" (March 9, 2006) by FastCompany writer Alison Overholt encourages us to "Embrace the Liberal Arts (Again)." 

An article titled "Curriculum 21 Helps CoLA Students Make Most of Degrees" (November 14, 2005) in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's student paper the Daily Egyptian highlights the benefits of a new program that aims to diversify areas of liberal arts study.

The Atlantic Monthly article, "The Third Way" (October 2004) features an article by Northeastern University President Richard Freeland arguing for a new integration of liberal and professional education. (Subscription required.)

Op-Eds and Editorials Making the Case for Liberal Education

Michael Roth, President, Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University President and AAC&U Board Member Michael Roth wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled, “Learning as Freedom” (September 6, 2012), noting that, in today’s world, “the key is to develop habits of mind that allow students to keep learning, even as they acquire skills to get things done. This combination will serve students as individuals, family members and citizens—not just employees and managers.” Roth urges readers to remember the insights of John Dewey who believed “that learning in the process of living is the deepest form of freedom. In a nation that aspires to democracy, that’s what education is primarily for: the cultivation of freedom within society. We should not think of schools as garrisons protecting us from enemies, nor as industries generating human capital. Rather, higher education’s highest purpose is to give all citizens the opportunity to find ‘large and human significance’ in their lives and work. “

Andy Chan, vice president of the Wake Forest University Office of Personal and Career Development, and Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Reynolds Professor of Computational Biophysics and dean of Wake Forest College, wrote a blog post for Washington, titled, "Six Tips for Liberal Arts Colleges to Produce Employable Grads" (April 1, 2012). The bloggers note, "One recommendation for liberal arts colleges to more deeply realize and communicate the value of liberal education for the world of work today is to: Make internships and/or research projects an integral part of the student experience. Make sure the student demonstrates the drive to stick with a research problem for longer than a semester. A survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 84 percent of executives at private sector and non-profit organizations expressed a desire for students to complete a significant project before graduation to demonstrate their depth of knowledge and a passion for a particular areas, as well as their acquisition of broad analytical, problem solving and communication skills.”

Andrew Delbanco, professor of humanities and director of American studies at Columbia University, wrote an op-ed for the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled, "College at Risk" (February 26, 2012). Mr. Delbanco notes, " Every­one who is honest about academe knows that colleges and universities tend to be wasteful and plagued by expensive redundancies. The demand for greater efficiency is reasonable and, in some respects, be­lated. The cost of college must be reined in, and its "produc­tivity"—in the multiple senses of student proficiency, graduation rates, and job attainment—must be improved. The trouble is that many reforms, and most efficiencies, whether achieved through rational planning or imposed by the ineluctable process of technological change, are at odds with practices that are essential if liberal education is to survive and thrive."

Peter Meyer, the senior visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, wrote a piece that was published by Education Next titled, "Education is No Zero-Sum Game" (February 24, 2012). The author notes, "The point of a liberal arts education—and I include math and science in that education—is to teach some eternal verities so that, when the surface world changes, as it tends to do, we have citizens that possess the most important skill of all: the ability to adapt."

Former Procter & Gamble Chairman and CEO A.G. Lafley wrote an op-ed for The Huffington Post titled, “A Liberal Education: Preparation for Career Success” (December 6, 2011). Mr. Lafley encourages those students entering college to, “pursue a liberal education.” Lafley is a graduate of Hamilton College – and he currently serves on the institution’s Board of Trustees. At the conclusion of his op-ed, the author notes, “The formula for businesses trying to compete in today's economy is simple: hire employees with the mental agility, leadership, and passion to navigate constant change -- in other words, hire those who are liberally educated.” Learn more about AAC&U’s Resources for Students online.

Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University wrote an op-ed for titled, "America Needs Broadly Educated Citizens, Even Anthropologists" (October 21, 2011). Mr. Crow notes, " Curricula expressly tailored in response to the demands of the workforce must be balanced with opportunities for students to develop their capacity for critical thinking, analytical reasoning, creativity, and leadership—all of which we learn from the full spectrum of disciplines associated with a liberal arts education. Taken together with the rigorous training provided in the STEM fields, the opportunities for exploration and learning that Gov. Scott is intent on marginalizing are those that have defined our national approach to higher education."

Phyllis Safman, assistant commissioner for academic affairs, Utah System of Higher Education, and an adjunct professor in the College of Education, University of Utah, and Norm Jones, chair of the Regents’ Task Force on General Education, professor and Chair of History and director of General Education at Utah State University , wrote an op-ed for The Salt Lake Tribune titled, "'Subversive Professors'" (August 26, 2011). The authors note, "Professors in Utah have adopted the Essential Learning Outcomes, developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, to guide their teaching. The ELOs include high levels of critical thinking, solid mathematical literacy, proficient oral and written communication, teamwork, and the application of knowledge across fields — all skills that employers desire, as demonstrated in national and local employer surveys.”

Peter Scott, professor of higher education studies at the Institute of Education in the United Kingdom and a former editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement , wrote an op-ed for The Guardian titled, "Time to Tackle Double Standards in Education" (August 1, 2011). Mr. Scott notes, "Of course, I am being unfair myself. Most members of the establishment are accidental hypocrites; these are unspoken thoughts and silent beliefs. It is also perfectly possible to combine a high-level professional training with a critical university, even liberal, education; indeed, it is essential for both. And there is nothing wrong with taking into account the 'impact' of research; in a democracy, higher education has a profound social purpose (and we all need to live and prosper)."

Michael S. Roth, President, Wesleyan University
Why Liberal Arts Matter (May 21, 2011)

Jay Lemons, president of Susquehanna University, wrote an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled, "Relax, English Majors: Liberal Arts Graduates Are Perfectly Prepared for Today's Careers" (May 16, 2011). Lemons notes, "What do employers want in the spring of 2011? Eighty-nine percent count effective oral and written communication skills among the attributes they're looking for, according to a survey of 302 employers by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Eighty-one percent have high regard for critical thinking and analytical reasoning; 79 percent seek employees who can apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings; 75 percent value strong ethical standards; and more than two-thirds want workers who can understand the global context of situations and decisions. These attributes can be found in the nation's liberal-arts graduates."

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a commentary by AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider titled, “'Degrees for What Jobs?' Wrong Question, Wrong Answers” (May 1, 2011). In this opinion article, President Schneider notes that the recent NGA Center for Best Practices report, Degrees for What Jobs?, makes “short-sighted policy recommendations [that] would do nothing to meet the nation’s long-term needs for intellectual capital and could well deplete the learning this country needs, both for individual students and the global economy.” Schneider notes that, “the NGA report seems stuck in an obsolete mindset that sees learning in a job-related major as the only goal that matters.” She argues, instead, that employers consistently say that to achieve the outcomes most important in today’s workplace, “students need more liberal education, not less.” See President Schneider’s article, her other perspectives and presentations, and surveys of employers commissioned as part of AAC&U’s LEAP initiative. See also the article on Hong Kong universities’ adoption of “The American Model” of higher education in Inside Higher Ed.

Johann Neem, an associate professor of history at Western Washington University, wrote a column titled "Liberal Arts, Science Degrees are Valuable" (April 19, 2011) for the university's online newspaper, The Western Front. Neem notes, "In fact, in the recent book  Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa discovered that students in the liberal fields are better prepared for future employment than students in other fields. Students who major in the liberal arts, they wrote, demonstrated 'significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills over time, than students in other fields of study,' the very things employers want most."

Peter Katopes, interim president of La Guardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to the Times December 13, 2010 editorial, "College, Jobs, and Inequality." Katopes states, "As a community college president, I can plainly see the benefits that accrue when more citizens attend college. However, it is not merely 'more college' that is the answer, but rather what actually happens there that is important. If it is true that the 'jobs of the future' will be different from those of the present and that we need the 'best and the brightest minds' to confront future challenges, then what could we better offer our young people than to train their minds through the liberal arts?"

Thomas C. Pleger, campus executive officer and dean at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County, wrote an excellent editorial, "A Liberal Arts Education Will Prepare You For Future" (June 9, 2009), about the benefits of liberal education for the Wisconsin News. Dean Pleger notes, "The liberal arts curriculum is the foundation for virtually every major offered in the University of Wisconsin System, and is designed to develop critical thinking skills, problem solving, communication skills, empathy, an understanding an appreciation for the arts and the human condition, and the ability to find and understand information. In essence, the liberal arts education is about learning how to learn. It provides students with skills that transcend any job or career. This is the most versatile and useful type of higher education available today. It is also what employers, both locally and in this increasingly global economy, look for in employees."

Paul R. Shelly, director of communications and marketing for the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, wrote an excellent op-ed titled "A Liberal Education is Essential in Helping the U.S. Remain a Beacon of Democracy" (August 5, 2010) about the value of liberal education for the New Jersey Newsroom. Mr. Shelly notes, "Beyond preparing individuals for a livelihood, colleges offering liberal education can help individuals better understand and cope with the world as it is in the 21st century and find joy, meaning and fulfillment within the human community. Liberal education is essential in helping the United States remain a beacon of democracy. In an essay in defense of the humanities recently, English professor John Crisp posed this question 'Is it too much to hope that voters with a better grasp of history, philosophy and literature would elect better leaders?' I think we have long known the answer to his question. There are awesome challenges before us now, and on the horizon, that we must answer as individuals, as communities, and as citizens of a state, a nation and a global village. Liberal education is desperately needed to aid in this effort. Let's not undervalue it."

President of Research Corporation for Science Advancement James M. Gentile wrote an op-ed titled "Science Education: The Value of Undergraduate Research" (March 8, 2010) about advancing scientific undergraduate research in the twenty-first-century. The author states, "Growing concern about America's continued leadership in science and innovation is well- documented, and now new research offers hope. It provides, for the first time, research-based evidence of the personal and professional value of undergraduate research. It makes clear that engaging undergraduates in scientific research pays dividends that were only previously recognized anecdotally. It provides a clear direction for science education at the college level."

Martha Nussbaum, LEAP National Leadership Council Member, wrote an op-ed for The New York Times titled, "Go the Wrong Way" (September 5, 2009) Nussbaum states, "This may be the one time in your life when you have a chance to think about the whole of your life, not just your job. Courses in the humanities, in particular, often seem impractical, but they are vital, because they stretch your imagination and challenge your mind to become more responsive, more critical, bigger."

Janet Morgan Riggs, president of Gettysburg College, wrote a powerful op-ed titled "Liberal Arts Education: Why It Still Matters" (August 30, 2009) for The Patriot-News arguing for the value of a liberal arts education. In it, she notes that, " future leaders in education, science, law, business, medicine and public service will be those who will think clearly and creatively, challenge conventional thinking, understand the global context and feel a responsibility to use their education for their greater good. This is the essential value of the liberal arts."

An op-ed in Forbes magazine written by AAC&U president Carol Geary Schneider and titled "In Defense of a Liberal Education" (August 10, 2009) includes research and opinions about the importance of a liberal education. The author states, "As focus groups and national surveys commissioned by AAC&U make plain, employers overwhelmingly want colleges to spend more time teaching students to analyze, how to integrate and how to apply their learning to new challenges and new settings. The 21st-century approach to liberal education–endorsed by hundreds of institutions through AAC&U’s LEAP initiative—prepares students to take advantage of economic opportunities and contribute successfully to a fast-changing workforce.”

Bill Spellman, director of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, wrote an op-ed for Inside Higher Ed titled, "The Resilient Liberal Arts College" (July 30, 2009). Spellman states, "The resiliency of the liberal arts college has been demonstrated across many generations, and with the addition of a growing public liberal arts sector to reaffirm the value of broad-based learning in a small campus setting, the future offers great promise. We should applaud, not criticize, liberal arts colleges that respond to the growing demand for skilled professionals in a variety of applied fields. These graduates will bring to their work the habits of critical inquiry and the integration of knowledge -- both liberal arts outcomes -- that serve to temper the narrow instrumentalism often found at the center of our professional lives."

Celia Carlson, an instructor of English at Mt. Hood Community College, wrote an op-ed in The Oregonian entitled, "What's a Liberal Education?" (May 1, 2009). Carlson states, "A liberal education is rooted in the basic beliefs that all minds have potential, that education is essential to freedom, and that a free mind conveys knowledge to others. A liberal education helps people respond to change because it teaches tolerance for ambiguity. It models good citizenship because it recognizes the claims of others to share in the products of the earth we all have in common."

In an essay in Inside Higher Ed titled "Toward a 21st Century Renaissance -- in My Day" (May 5, 2009), Drew University President Robert Weisbuch discusses the changes in academe in his lifetime. Weisbuch states, “By a renaissance in our time — in Weisbuch’s day -- I do not mean the recovery of classical learning and its inclusion in a Christian worldview that marked the original. I want to invoke instead the extreme interdisciplinarity of that time when the arts and sciences came so spectacularly into, if not unity, vital relationship, and when learning and worldliness ceased their contradiction."

Maureen Downey of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote an op-ed titled " The Price and Worth of a Degree" (May 4, 2009) about the price and worth of a degree in the liberal arts. The author states, "This month, hundreds of commencement speakers will reassure graduates that their liberal arts degrees are worth the investment and will produce dividends that no financial ledger can measure, including the ability to think for themselves."

In a new issue of The Emory University Edge, Emory President James W. Wagner discusses the importance of liberal education for all students in the context of new funding opportunities presented in the federal stimulus package. The article is titled "Climate Change in the World of Higher Education" (March 2009). Wagner states, “Our challenge, and our opportunity, is to infuse these liberal and humane values throughout the curriculum, in all disciplines and at all levels. While economic stimulus can give us deeply welcome new investments in our laboratories and in our financial aid programs, it cannot perform for us the hard work of academic community. Engaging and re-engaging across the gulfs of human difference – between student and professor, faculty and administration, campus and town, nation and world – remains the unavoidable, and irreplaceable, work of the academy.”

An opinion piece in the Denver Post, "Higher Education's Return on Investment" (August 11, 2007) by Larry K. Meredith of Western State College cites College Learning for the New Global Century when asserting that "students need to hear from their future employers that narrow learning will limit, rather than expand, their opportunities."

An op-ed in the Washington Post, "The U.S. Edge in Education" (September 4, 2006) by Richard H. Brodhead, president of Duke University, argues for more investment in liberal education as the best way to meet 21st century challenges.

John Churchill, secretary of Phi Beta Kappa, wrote an op-ed for the Seattle Times "A Liberating Education" (August 20, 2006) linking the benefits and skills gained from a liberal education with the health of American democracy. 

An editorial in Inside Higher Ed, "Last Bastion of Liberal Education?" (July 24, 2006) by W. Robert Connor, president of the Teagle Foundation, looks at "the other, untold story" of liberal education and its important global future. 

An editorial by columnist Adele Horin in the Sydney Morning Herald, "Ignore the Mob, Just Follow Your Arts" (June 18, 2005) argues that "It is time for Australia to rediscover the value of a liberal-arts education."

An editorial by Jeffrey Nesteruk in Inside Higher Ed, "Happiness and Education" (May 18, 2005) links his contentment in life to his liberal education, stating that his ability to think critically allowed him to separate himself from societal standards of happiness and focus instead on what really matters.

In the editorial, "Higher Ed's Other Goals" (February 15, 2005), originally published in the Community College Times, Western Nevada Community College President Carol A. Lucey argues that emphasis on vocationalism should not come at the expense of attention to liberal education outcomes.

In a Seattle Times editorial titled "The Arts of Leadership" (April 25, 2004), Thomas Cronin explains why "liberal-arts learning is so critically important for developing the brainpower we need for solving 21st-century challenges in every field ranging from international diplomacy to nanotechnology inventions"

Speeches Making the Case for Liberal Education

Dr. Rebecca Chopp, President, Swarthmore College
Inaugural Address: Hope in an Age of Clamor (May 8, 2010)

William Durden, President, Dickinson College
Public Service and Higher Education (February 23, 2009)

Ben Schmidt, Student Commencement Speaker, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
The Examined Life (May 16, 2009)

Mark Bradley, President, University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents
Liberal Education: A Unifying Mission for the 21st Century: Welcoming Remarks(November 20, 2008)

Kevin P. Reilly, President, University of Wisconsin System
Liberal Education: A Unifying Mission for the 21st Century: Welcoming Remarks
(November 20, 2008)

Robert Caret, President, San José State University
Commentary on National Public Radio (December 4, 2000)
Workplace Demands Broad Set of Skills (September 27, 2002)

Rebecca Chopp, President, Colgate University
Keynote Address (pdf)
College Student Values Conference, Florida State University
(February 3, 2006)

Charles Dorn, Assistant Professor of Education, Bowdoin College
From "Liberal Professions" to "Lucrative Professions": The Civic Functions of Higher Education in America (May 7, 2008)

William Durden, President, Dickinson College
Liberal Arts for All, Not Just the Rich (October 18, 2001)
The Liberal Arts as a Bulwark of Business Education
(July 18, 2003)

Bobby Fong, President, Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana
Inauguration Speech (excerpted) (February 9, 2002)

Leo I. Higdon, Jr., President, College of Charleston
Liberal Arts Education Suits These Changing Times (December 23, 2001)

Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Convocation Address, August 2002 (August 2002)

Shirley Ann Jackson, President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Empires of the Mind (PDF) (Winter 2007)
(With kind permission from ACE's The Presidency magazine.)

Barbara Lawton, Lt. Governor of Wisconsin
Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton’s Remarks to the UW Board of Regents (August 27, 2006)

Theodore E. Long, President, Elizabethtown College
The Civic Renewal of Liberal Education (August 24, 2000)

Carol Lucey, President, Western Nevada Community College
Higher Ed's Other Goals (February 15, 2005)

David Maxwell, President, Drake University
The Drake Compact for the 21st Century (October 9, 1999)

Robert A. Miller, President, Nazareth College
Narrowing the Liberal Arts Destroys Degrees' Value
(July 24, 2002)

Michael Mooney, Former President, Lewis & Clark College
The Value of the Liberal Arts (Summer/Fall 2001)

Gary Olson, Chair, Department of Political Science, Moravian College
Moravian College Commencement Address 2006 (May 15, 2006)

Stuart Rabinowitz, President, Hofstra University
Inaugural Address (excerpted) (October 19, 2001)

Kevin P. Reilly, President, University of Wisconsin System
Keeping the Public in a Public University (April 13, 2005)

Richard J. Scaldini, President, Hiram College
Ohio's Problem Isn't Braindrain; It's Myopia (July 9, 2002)

Carol Geary Schneider, President, Association of American Colleges
and Universities
Liberal Education: A for Creativity; D- for Communication... (Summer 2001)
Liberal Education and America's Promise (Winter 2005)
Making Excellence Inclusive: Liberal Education and America's Promise (Spring 2005)

Robert A. Scott, President of Adelphi University
State of the University (pdf)
(September 7, 2005)

John Strassburger, President, Ursinus College
Who Owns Our Values? (pdf)

Daniel F. Sullivan, President, St. Lawrence University
What is Liberal Education? (August, 2005)
Opening Convocation Address (August, 2006)
Welcome and Remarks, Commencement (May, 2007)

Tim Sullivan, Vice President of Finance and Information Technology, Smiths Aerospace Components Fabrications - North America
Indiana State University LEAP Campus-Community Dialogue

Robert Weisbuch, President, Drew University
Inaugural Address -- April 28, 2006

Elisabeth Zinser, President, Southern Oregon University
Our Place in the Sunlight: Oregon’s Contemporary Public Liberal Arts University
(April 6, 2002)

If you are a leader within the academy or outside it who has written an article or delivered a speech promoting the benefits of a practical and engaged liberal education or you have seen such a piece, please submit it for inclusion on this page to Debra Humphreys (