Liberal Education

From the Editor

Among the characters whose voices drive the plot of In the Heights, the Tony Award-winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes, is Nina Rosario, a first-generation college student and daughter of immigrants who has returned to the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City after a difficult first year at Stanford. In moving solos, Nina describes the structural, economic, and cultural challenges that led her to withdraw from college, and her deep-seated fears of disappointing her family with the news.

Stories like Nina’s are all too common among students who find that the educational environments they have entered were not designed with their experiences in mind. Meanwhile, the legacy of exclusion in higher education is becoming ever more difficult to ignore given the country’s growing diversity and the heartbreaking scenes that have played out across higher education in the past year, two topics touched upon in this issue of Liberal Education.

Indeed, colleges and universities are struggling to find harmony within cacophony as they contend with how to signal their commitments to both inclusive learning environments and freedom of expression while many students, including those registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, fear for their futures.

Faculty make no direct appearance in Miranda and Hudes’s script. But they are essential players in students’ actual lives, key to creating the inclusive educational environments students need to thrive while grappling seriously with experiences and ideas that may be deeply unfamiliar to them.

Within classrooms and across other sites of learning, administrative support is key to providing faculty and other educators with the tools they need to foster educational environments that are at once inclusive and challenging for all students. With faculty development opportunities like the ones described in this issue, educators can create contexts for learning where every student can succeed.

Special thanks are due to Patricia Gurin and Kelly Maxwell, who worked with our contributing authors and with David Tritelli, former editor of Liberal Education, to plan this issue’s Featured Topic section on creating inclusive classrooms. Patricia and Kelly’s contributions as special editorial advisors, and David’s as past editor, were vital to convening this issue’s complex chorus of voices from faculty development.

As recent events have illustrated, it is critical that educators not only hear these voices but also listen with the goal of understanding and take the actions necessary to extend the promise of liberal education to all students. As a dissonant chorus criticizing equity and inclusion efforts swells across the national stage, it may be time to hear opinions expressed across gaping divides—but it is not the time to cloak our
commitment to equitable liberal learning in silence.

In Washington Heights, Nina is ultimately supported by a choir of resonant voices, an entire neighborhood willing to spend energy and money to ensure that she experiences all that higher education has to offer. We must ensure that the same is true for all students on our campuses

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