Globalizing the Liberal Arts

The Sixth Annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts

February 17-18, 2006




Conversation Overview


Our annual Conversations on the Liberal Arts bring together administrators and faculty leaders from colleges and universities representing the whole spectrum of higher education to explore the foundations of liberal arts education and to address the challenges facing the liberal arts tradition. This year's topic was “Globalizing the Liberal Arts.” At stake is the fact that most academic institutions are affirming the importance of global awareness in undergraduate education, and most either have developed programs, curricula, and pedagogies to accomplish this or are in the process of doing so. We reflected carefully on this change, what is inspiring it, and where it is going (hence the ambiguous term globalizing) and considered concrete tools for doing it successfully.



The conference had five plenary sessions: three led by two-member panels, a special report from the AAC&U, and a concluding open forum. Conference participants also attended a special lecture by Colin Powell on Friday evening.


The opening session Friday afternoon addressed more theoretical questions— What does it mean to globalize liberal education and why are we doing it? Issues addressed were considering the term "globalizing" (Is it homogenizing? Is it the dominance of Western economic, political, or social forms and values? How else might we talk?) and explicating and critiquing different rationales for globalizing liberal arts education—both religious and secular.


The Saturday morning session addressed changes at the institutional level— What curricular changes, academic programs, policies, and structures can contribute to the effort to globalize liberal arts education? Obviously changes in course offerings or requirements are an important part of this, but so are attracting international students and faculty, expanding study-abroad programs, or any number of other things.


Saturday afternoon we addressed faculty considerations—How do we have to teach differently and do scholarship differently? What alternatives are there to the "West and the rest" model? How must the methods with which we approach our disciplines change? What are the affective implications for our students of a more global education and how can we respond to them?


Thanks to those of you who were able to join us and contribute to the conversation.