GAEDE INSTITUTE | PROGRAMS The Conversation on the Liberal Arts


Learning Beyond Measure? Assessing the Liberal Arts

February 16-17, 2007

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Liberal arts education is distinct from other approaches to higher education in many ways—its goals, its methods, even the context in which it is offered. Are there ways in which the assessment of liberal arts education must vary accordingly? The seventh annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts: "Learning Beyond Measure?" addressed the assessment of liberal arts education. The conference, sponsored by the Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts, took place at WestmontCollege , February 16-17, 2007. Representatives from liberal arts colleges and small private universities as well as from accrediting agencies gathered to dialogue about approaches to assessment best suited to liberal arts education and about how accrediting agencies work on assessment with the liberal arts colleges and small private universities in their regions. Our hope is that out of this will come greater familiarity on the part of liberal arts colleges of effective assessment methods and greater awareness on the part of accreditation agencies to the ways in which assessment might look different at liberal arts colleges than it does at larger institutions.

The program opened on Friday afternoon with a keynote address from Daryl Smith Professor of Education and Psychology at Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Smith is an expert on diversity in higher education and her work on assessment has focused on assessing diversity initiatives. The second keynote address was from Patricia King, Director for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan, who is currently taking part in the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education. 

In addition, we featured two panels addressing assessment from the point of view of accreditation agencies on the one hand and of liberal arts colleges and small universities on the other. Those representing accreditation agencies discussed the place of liberal arts colleges in their region and how their work with these colleges on assessment might differ from their work with other kinds of institutions. Our panelists were be Barbara Wright, Associate Director of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), Robert Froh, Associate Director of the Commission of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), and Jill Reich, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at Bates College. 

The second panel explored assessment from the point of view of the liberal arts college or small university. Jim Appleton, Chancellor of the University of Redlands spoke from the presidential perspective. Charlie Blaich, Director of Inquiries at the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College discussed assessing the distinctive outcomes of a liberal arts education. Mary Docter, Professor of Spanish at Westmont College, addressed faculty perspectives on assessment.

On Friday night the 2007 Conversation on the Liberal Arts featured a special performance of "The Syringa Tree," written by Pamela Gien and starring Gin Hammond.


The Syringa Tree is a deeply personal story of an abiding love between two families - one white, one black - and the two children that are born into their shared South African household in the early 1960s. Spanning four generations, the story is told first by six-year-old Elizabeth Grace as she tries to make sense of the chaos, magic, and darkness of Africa.

The Syringa Tree was written by Pamela Gien in the mid 1990s and has been performed around the world ever since, typically with one actress inhabiting all 24 characters.

Our actress, Gin Hammond, comes to us from Seattle, Washington. Ms. Hammond received her MFA from the American Reperatory Theatre Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University / Moscow Art Theatre School. She has received a Helen Hayes Award as Outstanding Lead Actress for her performance of "The Syringa Tree," along with rave reviews.

The San Francisco Chronicle called her performance "breathtakingly versatile, superb, graceful, emotionally generous, impressive" and The Washington Post added, "every moment with this gifted young actress feels special."


Christian W. Hoeckley

Meaning More Than Measure: From Compliance to Commitment
Daryl G. Smith, Claremont Graduate University

Inviting College Students to Reflect on their Collegiate Experiences
Patricia M. King, University of Michigan

Relevant by Design: Assessing the Liberal Arts
Barbara D. Wright, Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Supporting Liberal Arts Colleges in New England
Robert C. Froh, New England Association of Schools and Colleges

From Assessment to Inquiry
Jill N. Reich, Bates College

Assessment from the Perspective of Liberal Arts Colleges
James R. Appleton, University of Redlands

Assessing the Liberal Arts
Charles Blaich, Wabash College

A Faculty Perspective
Mary Docter, Westmont College


Daryl G. Smith is Professor of Education and Psychology at the Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. Prior to assuming her current faculty position at CGU in 1987, Smith served as a college administrator for 21 years in planning, institutional research, and student affairs. Dr. Smith’s current research, teaching, and publications have been in the areas of organizational implications of diversity, assessment and evaluation, planning, governance, student affairs, and the impact of women's colleges and other special purpose institutions. In addition to numerous articles and papers, she is an author or co-author of Interrupting the Usual: Successful Strategies for Diversifying the Faculty Assessing Campus Diversity Initiatives, The Impending Loss of Talent: Challenging the Assumption of Testing and Merit, The Challenge of Diversity: Alienation or Involvement in the Academy, Achieving Faculty Diversity: Debunking The Myths, Diversity Works; The Emerging Picture of How Students Benefit. For the last six years, she has been the Co-Pi on a major evaluation project for the James Irvine Foundation working with selected private colleges in California to evaluate their progress on diversity initiatives which has produced a report, three research briefs, and a monograph. She has worked on issues of evaluation issues both nationally and internationally, with numerous foundations across the country, and has served on many accreditation teams.


Patricia M. King is a Professor in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan . Her research focuses on learning and development among late adolescents and adults, including college students. She is especially interested in approaches to student development that explore the intersections among developmental domains, such as intellectual, identity and social development, and how these affect collegiate outcomes ranging from citizenship to intercultural maturity to character development. In addition to having published over 50 articles, she coauthored Developing Reflective Judgment and co-edited Learning Partnerships: Theories and Models of Practice to Educate for Self-Authorship. She is currently Principal Investigator of the University of Michigan team of the National Study of Liberal Arts Education sponsored by the Center ofInquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College . She served as the founding editor of About Campus: Enriching the Student Learning Experience. She has also served as Director of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan, Assistant Vice President for Student Services at Ohio State University, and Senior Research Psychologist at the University of Iowa.


James R. Appleton is Chancellor of the University of Redlands . Previously, he was President of the University of Redlands for 18 years. Prior to that, he served for 15 years at the University of Southern California as a member of the faculty, as vice president for student affairs, and then as vice president for development. Before 1972 he served in various faculty and administrative positions at Oakland University in Rochester , Michigan . Dr. Appleton has taught graduate courses that focus on issues and trends in higher education. He recently completed a three-year term as Chair of the Western Association of Schools & Colleges Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities. He served on a UNESCO working group from 2001-2003.  He served for many years on the executive committee of the board of the Washington-based National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the President’s Council of NCAA. He is on the Board of Directors of Redlands Centennial Bank. Dr. Appleton received his undergraduate degree from Wheaton College and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University.


Charles Blaich currently serves as the Director of Inquiries at the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Connecticut in 1986. After a research post-doc at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he served as an Assistant and then Associate Professor of Psychology at Eastern Illinois University from 1987-1991. Blaich joined Wabash College in the fall of 1991. While at Wabash College, Blaich received the Colleges McLain-McTurnan-Arnold Excellence in Teaching Award and two National Science Foundation grants. He previously received teaching awards from the University of Connecticut and Eastern Illinois University. In 2002, Blaich assumed his current position at the Center of Inquiry. Blaich is also currently directing the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education. Blaich's recent publications include "Do Liberal Arts Colleges Really Foster Good Practices in Undergraduate Education?" and "Liberal Arts Colleges and Liberal Arts Education: New Evidence on Impacts."


Jill N. Reich has served as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at Bates College since the summer of 2000. She received her B.A. from Regis College and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Dartmouth . She went on to build a distinguished career in developmental psychology at Loyola University of Chicago. Her research focused on the long term effects of prematurity, illness, and prolonged hospitalization and their impact on the development of perception, memory, and learning in infants and young children. At Bates, Dean Reich has successfully reorganized the faculty workload, completed a comprehensive curriculum review leading to new General Education requirements, and launched a multiyear, consortial project that is currently working on identifying best practices for assessment and student learning.


Robert C. Froh serves as Associate Director for the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education at the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). In this position, he supports the Commission and member institutions in framing expectations and support for assessment of student learning and institutional effectiveness; and supports institutions and the Commission in completing and reviewing institutional reports, self-studies, and peer evaluations. He has led several collaborative efforts among institutions designed to strengthen assessment of student learning and institutional effectiveness. These efforts have benefited from funding from the PEW Charitable Trusts, the Davis Educational Foundation, the MellonFoundation, and the Teagle Foundation. He was Director of Assessment at the Center for Teaching Learning and Writing at Duke University from 1995-2000 and Associate Director of Evaluation at the Center for Instructional Development at Syracuse University from 1980-1995. He earned his Ph.D. in Measurement and Statistics at the University of Chicago where his mentors were Benjamin Bloom , Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi , and Benjamin Wright.


Barbara Wright is Associate Director of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). She is a well-known and respected national expert on assessment and has extensive experience in accreditation, serving six years as a member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. She has experience in a variety of higher education administrative positions, and is a frequent consultant on assessment, general education, foreign language instruction, and faculty development. She is also co-author, with Andrea Leskes, of The Art and Science of Assessing General Education Outcomes.

Docter Mary Docter is Professor of Spanish at Westmont College. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in Spanish and a Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures, all from UCLA. She taught elementary school in Mexico for two years as well as teaching at Scripps College (Claremont) and UCLA. She has been at Westmont since 1992, where she is currently a member of the WASC assessment team.