The LEAP Challenge Blog

Liberal Arts Colleges: Still Setting the Standard for Quality AND Creativity in US Higher Education

I am saddened this week, as so many educators are, to hear the news of Sweet Briar College’s closing—all the more so because I am myself a proud graduate of a women’s college. But my sadness is tempered by a strong conviction that liberal arts colleges—including my own alma mater, Mount Holyoke College—are already leading a far-reaching redesign of liberal and liberal arts education that makes this design for learning more valuable than ever, for students and for a dynamic democracy. Colleges that advance the enduring goals of a high-quality liberal arts education through creative, adaptive, and globally-minded practices will not only survive, but thrive. And they will continue to set the standard for quality across both US higher education and the global community. 

Readers may be interested in remarks I made at the tenth anniversary of Mount Holyoke’s McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, which offers applied learning opportunities, both here and abroad, to help students acquire the skills needed for citizenship and careers in today’s global world. And they all should take a look at what Mount Holyoke is doing to better connect the college curriculum with careers

In the twenty-first century, creativity is the key to continuing vitality. The three broad goals of a liberal education—big picture knowledge about the wider world; well-developed powers of the mind; and examined commitments to ethical and social responsibility—are enduring, but the way we approach these goals is constantly evolving. Today, colleges like Mount Holyoke are setting the pace for creative reinvention by connecting the liberal arts and sciences to the world’s most important challenges. They are making the community—local and global—an important catalyst for learning. 

I am both heartened and inspired by the creative educational leadership now emerging from liberal arts institutions—including some of the nation’s most distinguished women’s institutions. So, even as we mourn the loss of Sweet Briar, we should all take heart that this sad tale is an exception, not a portent.