A Liberal Education Revolution in D.C.
Professors Paul Stern and Jonathan Marks presented at the 2024 AAC&U Annual Meeting, continuing a dialogue that began at the inaugural Colloquium in Liberal Education at Ursinus last June.
An important conversation surrounding the challenges facing liberal arts colleges and universities today—and their potential solutions—gained a broader audience in January at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C.
Paul Stern and Jonathan Marks, both professors of politics at Ursinus College, presented “Revolutions in Liberal Education” at the conference, which attracts higher education leaders from across the country. This year’s meeting asked attendees, “How can we break through to defend academic freedom, demonstrate the value of a liberal education, or recover the understanding of higher education as a public good?”
That question was a central topic of conversation during Ursinus’s first-ever Colloquium on Liberal Education, a Teagle Foundation-funded event that attracted some 40 higher education leaders to Collegeville last June. This time, Stern and Marks were joined by Jennifer Frey, Honors College dean at the University of Tulsa, and Jenna Storey, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, in presenting to about 50 people at the national conference.
“The idea was to continue the momentum that we generated at the colloquium and carry the conversation forward,” Stern said. “We need to try to focus our discussions and talk about the kinds of things that people are often reluctant to talk about—and provide a forum that’s beneficial to us.”
Marks added, “There is a lot of anxiety across the higher education universe about how to sell what we do,” Marks said. “Institutions that are serious and thoughtful about liberal education have a chance to distinguish themselves, share ideas, and work together.”
Ursinus, which has been touted nationally for the Common Intellectual Experience and the Quest core curriculum, has the unique opportunity to be a thought leader in how to best advocate for and reinvigorate the liberal arts. Later this year, Ursinus will host its second Colloquium on Liberal Education, titled “Curriculum Matters,” on June 6-7.
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