The Teagle Foundation has awarded The New American Colleges and Universities (NAC&U) a $150,000 grant for a project that will identify new approaches to build on the core values of a liberal education in a residential setting and prepare students for productive and successful careers. When the project, “Preparing 21st Century Students through New Visions for Faculty Evaluation, Campus Governance and Curriculum,” is completed, NAC&U hopes to have, among other outcomes, a curriculum development map that shows the integration of liberal and professional studies and emphasizes general education and disciplinary learning outcomes.
“Driven by our collective mission to promote the integration of liberal arts, professional studies and civic engagement, NAC&U members are well-positioned to proactively respond to changes in higher education,” said Richard Guarasci, NAC&U board chair and president of Wagner College. “We have always been focused on producing graduates who are prepared for the lives ahead of them, and this grant allows us to examine how we can achieve those outcomes and share them with other institutions.”
Rising concerns about the cost of higher education and the availability of jobs after graduation have led students and parents to focus on degrees geared toward particular professions. But a 2010 survey of employers conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) found that employers are looking for learning outcomes emphasized in a liberal education. More than 75 percent of those surveyed stated that colleges should place more emphasis in the following areas: written and oral communication, critical thinking and analytic reasoning, complex problem solving and ethical decision making.1
By successfully integrating liberal education and professional studies, students and families can be assured they are getting the full value of the time and money spent on obtaining a college degree. This integration is a hallmark of NAC&U institutions.
At Wagner College, faculty in professional programs and in the liberal arts partner to teach the first year learning communities. Faculty in business, nursing, and education, for example, have partnered very successfully with faculty in the liberal arts to develop innovative learning communities that synthesize liberal arts and professional studies. Another NAC&U member, Westminster College, has identified a set of college-wide learning goals that are grounded in the liberal arts and represent the skills and attributes critical to the success of its graduates. These learning goals are integrated throughout the liberal education core and are reinforced in the curriculum of both liberal arts and professional programs of the college. In addition, Westminster has developed several cross-disciplinary majors that also connect and integrate liberal and professional education, including Arts Administration (Art, Theater, Music, Business and Communication); Public Health (Humanities, Social Science, Life Sciences, Communication, Nursing, Statistics and Informatics, and Business); International Business (Business, Economics, Political Science, and Foreign Language); and the Master of Arts in Community Leadership (Communication, Speech, Business, Public Health, and Education).
“NAC&U members already have all of the pieces in place to promote the type of integration of liberal arts education and professional preparation that today’s employer’s demand and tomorrow’s graduates need,” said Mark A. Heckler, NAC&U board vice chair and president of Valparaiso University. “Our NAC&U institutions have an abundance of successful programs that accomplish these goals, our campus sizes are small enough to allow for effective interaction, and as a consortium our institutions have a long history of knowledge-sharing and dedication to best practices.”
Sixteen members of the national consortium will participate in this project. They are Arcadia University, Belmont University, Hamline University, Hampton University, John Carroll University, Nazareth College, Pacific Lutheran University, Samford University, The Sage Colleges, The University of Scranton, University of Evansville, University of Redlands, Valparaiso University, Wagner College, Westminster College and Widener University. This current project will implement goals outlined in NAC&U’s previous Teagle-funded project, “Preparing and Evaluating 21st Century Faculty: Aligning Expectations, Competencies, and Rewards.”
About The Teagle Foundation
The Teagle Foundation provides leadership for liberal education, mobilizing the intellectual and financial resources that are necessary if today’s students are to have access to a challenging and transformative liberal education. The Foundation’s commitment to such education includes its grantmaking to institutions of higher education across the country, its long-established scholarship program for the children of employees of ExxonMobil, and its work helping economically disadvantaged young people in New York City—where the Foundation is based—gain admission to college and succeed once there.
1 Raising the Bar: Employers’ Views on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn, a survey of employers conducted for AAC&U by Hart Research Associates (2010). Retrieved at http://www.aacu.org/leap/documents/MoreEmphasis_2010.pdf.