Liberal Arts and the Social Good

The Fourteenth Annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts
February 26-28, 2015


Conversation Format

Call for Proposals

Watch Plenary Addresses

Complete Program

Anne Colby

Tom Ehrlich

Louis Bucciarelli

Georgia Nugent

Marilyn McEntyre

Participant Resources

Travel & Accommodations

Weather Forecast

Driving & Parking Directions



oak treeConversation Overview

What educational models best serve our society’s needs in the twenty-first century? Many have entered that debate and many alternatives are being offered. STEM, MOOCs and a half-dozen other acronyms seem to be the wave of the future. Many of those alternatives make little space for liberal arts education: it’s not job-oriented; it’s too expensive; it can’t reach a mass audience; it’s irrelevant to the needs of a high-tech economy—just to name a few of the standard critiques.

Is this right? Is liberal arts education an anachronism, with little promise of contributing to contemporary society? Or does it continue to play important, perhaps even irreplaceable roles? “Liberal Arts and the Social Good,” the Gaede Institute’s fourteenth annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts, will address these issues, exploring liberal arts education’s contributions to various sectors of American society. Some of these contributions are clear, but often overlooked. What other educational models explicitly seek to foster engaged, well-informed and critical civic participation? Others are less obvious. Might a vibrant business community or an advanced high-tech industry be strengthened by liberal arts education? This is just a sampling of the questions we’ll explore.

The catalysts for our conversation will be several outstanding contributors to discussions of liberal arts education: Georgia Nugent, former president of Kenyon College, now leading the Council of Independent Colleges’ campaign, Securing America’s Future: The Power of Liberal Arts Education; Anne Colby and Tom Ehrlich, co-authors of several books on the importance of liberal education for the professions, including Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession; Larry Bucciarelli, emeritus professor of engineering at MIT and long-time advocate for the value of liberal arts education to the engineering profession; and Marilyn McEntyre, writer, professor of medical humanities at the UC Berkeley - UC San Francisco Joint Medical Program, and Fellow of the Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts.

But you can contribute as well. We’re planning a range of concurrent sessions where you can discuss your research or experience. How do you see liberal arts education contributing to our society? What pedagogical strategies result in more engaged and reflective political participation? What curricular structures produce more creative professionals? What research experiences result in more effective involvement in the local community? Each of us is part of the larger contribution of liberal arts education in specific and concrete ways. Please share your part with us.