Programs | Gaede Institute The Conversation on the Liberal Arts
“High Anxiety: Liberal Arts and the Race to Success"
March 21-23, 2019 | Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA
Today’s undergraduate students are under more stress than ever—we know that empirically, and we know that from our own experience with students. And anxiety in college is often the product of years of anxiety about college—getting the right grades, participating in the right extracurriculars, choosing the right school, all with the purpose of attaching a prestigious institution to one’s name and resume.
Liberal arts undergraduate education should be an antidote to these anxieties—a chance (perhaps the chance) to wrestle with the big questions, a time when young people can benefit from learning for its own sake. But having known academic life as what one critic calls “a high-stakes, twelve-year sprint,” students understandably have trouble slowing down to enjoy, and to be formed by, the kind of broad exploration that liberal education offers.
What is the place of liberal education when college has been reduced to the most important leg of a utilitarian race to “success”? What pedagogical techniques, curricular strategies, or co-curricular programs will enable students on the fast track to realize the formative potential of their undergraduate years? What practical measures will mitigate students’ short-term fears, and address the more existential fears they perhaps point toward? Might the liberal arts even redirect and redeem students’ anxieties, offering healing for young people who have experienced life as one long race to the next thing? The eighteenth annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts will gather scholars, administrators, students, and practitioners to consider these questions and more.
Who should attend?
- Faculty who are concerned about the cost of “success anxiety” for their students’ well-being, or who have sought to intervene in that experience;
- Administrators who wish to support student thriving, in academic, mental-health, or other capacities;
- Student-life professionals who daily encounter students’ identity and success narratives and the anxieties they engender;
- Undergraduate and graduate students whose work or life gives them perspective on the pressures of college and career;
- Anyone with an interest in the value and practice of liberal education.
Timothy K. Eatman is the inaugural dean of Rutgers University-Newark's Honors Living-Learning Community, a college access and success program that fosters the development and community engagement of talented students with diverse life experiences. An educational sociologist by training, Dr. Eatman co-directs Imagining America, a national consortium that hosts innovative interdisciplinary conversation about the civic purposes of higher education.
Jaco Hamman is Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture at Vanderbilt University, specializing in the promise and human costs of technology. His recent books include Growing Down: Theology and Human Nature in the Digital Age (2017) and the forthcoming The Millennial Narrative: Sharing a Good Life with the Next Generation.
Connie Horton is Vice President for Student Affairs at Pepperdine University; prior to taking that position in 2017, she served as director of Pepperdine's counseling center for more than a decade. In these and other roles, Dr. Horton has become a recognized expert in the fields of student mental health, resiliency, and college success.
"This conference has reminded me, after some time wandering in the proverbial desert, of why I got into academics in the first place." —Conversation on the Liberal Arts participant
Our annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts gathers faculty, administrators, and students from colleges and universities nationwide to address the challenges facing liberal arts education. How do we educate for membership in a global community? How is liberal education related to work and vocation? What challenges and opportunities are being created by changes in the business of higher education? We learn from some of the best in the field, but mostly we learn from each other as we share how things look through our sometimes very different lenses.
The Conversation on the Liberal Arts is not a typical academic conference. We have great speakers, and we have much to learn from them. But all of us are engaged in this work everyday, so we also have much to learn from each other. To stimulate this mutual teaching and learning, we keep the conference small; we anticipate fewer than 100 participants. Plenary sessions include as much time for participants' questions and contributions as they do for the speakers' talks. Concurrent sessions are opportunities for discussion between presenters and attendees about key elements of the presenter's work. And there is ample time for informal conversation over meals and coffee—often the most fruitful moments of the conference. The crucial element throughout is conversation, where we can all benefit from each other's insights.
We also profit from a wide range of perspectives. This is a conference where administrators, scholars, students, and practitioners can talk to each other about how the issues look from their different positions, and where those from large universities and small liberal arts colleges, from public institutions and private, from faith-based institutions and those with no religious affiliation can explore shared challenges from our differing contexts. Attendees consistently remark on the distinctively personal tone of these three days, praising the diverse, face-to-face dialogue that often is missing at academic gatherings.
In short, the Conversation on the Liberal Arts is a hospitable place for dialogue across what are too often boundaries in higher education—dialogue about the shared challenges, and especially the shared promise, of liberal arts education. We hope you'll join us!
Through February 9, 2019
|Regular Registration||$250||February 10 through March 12, 2019|
Student Registration (Graduate or Undergraduate)
|$100||Through March 12, 2019|
*Registration includes all meals Friday dinner through Saturday lunch, as well as shuttle service between select hotels and the Westmont campus.
The Santa Barbara Airport is just 20 minutes from campus, and 15 minutes from waterfront hotels. Rental car and taxi services are conveniently located on site. Los Angeles International Airport is a 75-minute drive from Santa Barbara; from there, the Santa Barbara Airbus ($50) takes you directly to the complex of waterfront hotels that will be served by our campus shuttle. Amtrak is not cheaper or more convenient (requiring a shuttle to and from LA Union Station), but provides spectacular views of the LA basin and Pacific coastline.
Driving and Parking
Driving directions to campus may be found here. A map of campus may be found here. Parking at Westmont is free and no permit is necessary. Please park in the Kerr Student Center Parking Lot (P1 on map). To get there, enter upper campus and make an immediate left into the lot. Registration will be outside Kerrwood Hall (#21 on campus map).
The Santa Barbara train station is at the lower end of downtown, a short taxi ride, or 20-minute walk, from East Beach hotels.
Shuttle service will be provided between campus and the hotels listed below. Shuttles will run at the beginning and end of the program each day (see "Shuttle Information" tab for more).
The campus shuttle will serve only the hotels adjacent to East Beach (see the "Shuttle Information" tab for shuttle stop locations). You may wish to stay elsewhere, but please be aware that you will be responsible for arranging your own transportation to and from conference events. Shuttle-line hotels include:
The shuttle will run between campus and select local hotels. City buses and local trolleys stop at these locations, too, so be sure to look for the Westmont shuttle. There are two shuttle stops: East Beach and Hilton, both on Cabrillo Boulevard (see below for precise locations).
- The East Beach stop is just to the east of the Hyatt, and serves all waterfront lodging except the Fess Parker Doubletree. From these hotels, most participants will walk to the beachfront boulevard (Cabrillo) and turn left. The stop is a bus turnout at the corner of Cabrillo and Ninos Dr. (see red pin on the map below). View in Google Maps
- The Hilton stop is just to the east of the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, and serves this hotel only. Exit the front of the Hilton, toward the beach. Turn left and walk along the waterfront until you see a large rainbow arch sculpture. The shuttle stop is directly in front of this sculpture on Cabrillo Boulevard (see red pin on the map below). View in Google Maps
Shuttles run once at the beginning and once at the end of each program day. Precise times will be posted approximately one month prior to the conference.
The Conversation on the Liberal Arts typically begins at 3pm on Thursday and concludes after lunch on Saturday. A detailed schedule will be posted approximately one month prior to the conference.