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Essential Learning, Student Success, and the Currency of U.S. Degrees

AAC&U Annual Meeting
January 26-29, 2011
San Francisco, California / Hyatt Regency Hotel

Pre-Meeting Symposium January 26
Integrating the Sciences, Arts, and Humanities: Global Challenges and
the Intentional Curriculum

E-Portfolio Forum January 29

About the Meeting
Pressed by competitive notions of “world class” education, by the imperatives of changing international economic and political power, and by student demands that their education include opportunities to creatively tackle real-world challenges, colleges and universities are striving to become more global. Their efforts are made both more difficult and more urgent because they are taking place in the context of unsettling economic instability, in the midst of profound demographic change, and in the face of wavering political commitment to broad learning. What characterizes a global college or university?

Student expectations are driven by similar concerns. Students seek an education that will help them thrive in the future and perhaps even change the world. They equate a high-quality college education with an education that helps them find their place in the world.

These two closely related demands for global positioning come together where essential learning meets the urgent issues of today and the future. How do we design educational strategies for the dynamism of essential global learning? What areas of knowledge and types of skills are critical for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century? How can students learn to change and adapt to new contexts and new demands? How do ideas about diversity, civic engagement, and social responsibility translate to a global framework?

In sum, what is the global position of liberal education?

Such questions broaden current conversations about student success—defined not by the minimal level of completion but by the highest level of expectation.  Educational success must be measured by our most ambitious striving for essential learning. College degrees will increasingly be judged by their global position (in a comparative and competitive sense, e.g., the Bologna Process) as well as their global positioning (how well they correlate to graduates who can compete in a global economy and act on their civic and ethical commitments in an interdependent and diverse world).

A global liberal education cannot afford to be neutral about democratic and global knowledge and engagement.

The 2011 Annual Meeting will showcase examples from institutions that are staking claim to new global positions and creating opportunities for students to find their own global identities by focusing with renewed intensity on aims, learning outcomes and assessments, curriculum designs, and progressively more challenging learning to develop students’ global capabilities.