The University has established a Commission on the Liberal Arts, which will reexamine what constitutes a liberal arts education and the potential changes that can be made to enhance the University’s academic future during the next 25 years.
The Commission on the Liberal Arts, spearheaded by Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Earl Lewis, will meet this month and will convene for the following 18 months.
Lewis said in a March 6 University press release that he designed this Commission not only to evaluate what degrees should be offered but also to reevaluate why those degrees were the ones chosen in the first place. This process also includes discussing the most effective ways to organize learning, according to the press release.
“In undertaking such an effort we must be willing to examine all of our practices, policies, assumptions and preferences,” Lewis said in the press release. “Invariably, this will make some more uncomfortable than others. But here is a moment for Emory to lead.”
Lewis was unavailable for comment to the Wheel by press time.
The commission will consist of 28 representatives chosen from Emory’s faculty, staff, students, alumni and trustees, according to the press release.
Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Steve Everett will serve as the co-chair for the Commission.
In the fall of 2013, the Commission will create a concrete list of recommendations designed to re-conceptualize what a liberal arts education means. Lewis said in the press release that any aspect of the University is up for discussion.
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Claire Sterk said she would prefer that Emory, as opposed to society, determine its academic future concerning education.
“I think society is trying to figure out the role of higher education in general, particularly at research universities,” Sterk said in the press release. “We can let the world take over and have them determine what is our destiny, or take it in our own hands.”
College senior and Student Government Association President Adam McCall will serve as a student representative for the Commission. According to McCall, the liberal arts experience should include challenging preconceived notions in order to foster academic growth.
“I look forward to contributing ideas about how the University can experiment with innovative techniques that promote intellectual engagement among students,” McCall wrote in an email to the Wheel.
Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Institute of Liberal Arts (ILA) Peter Wakefield wrote in an email to the Wheel that the ILA supports Lewis’ commission.
“The importance of Provost Lewis’ liberal arts initiative is underlined by the fact that the ILA, under the leadership of director Kevin Corrigan, had previously been planning its own major conference and series of lectures and classes around the theme of the liberal arts,” he wrote.
Wakefield said that under the pressures that face educators today, the purpose of a liberal arts education is often overlooked.
“The economic crisis, changes to reading and communication wrought by digital technology, utilitarian focus on universities during an era of polarized political debate, and challenges facing students in a globalized world,” he wrote. “Amidst such pressures, where is the space for a consideration of tradition that has sought meaning and beauty as vital dimensions of the human condition? The greatest threat facing students today is the elimination of ambiguity in their thinking: Human experience sometimes requires that we appreciate forms of life that are utterly unique. The Liberal Arts seek to preserve such wonder.”
— Contact Arianna Skibell