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Educating for Personal and Social Responsibility:
A Twenty-First-Century Imperative

Network for Academic Renewal Conference
October 13-15, 2011
Westin Long Beach, California


In his now classic study of the undergraduate experience, educator Ernest Boyer argued that “…what today’s college is teaching most successfully is competence—competence in meeting schedules, in gathering information, in responding well on tests, in mastering the details of a specific field…but technical skill, of whatever kind, leaves open essential questions: Education for what purpose? Competence to what end? At a time in life when values should be shaped and personal priorities sharply probed, what a tragedy it would be if the most deeply felt issues, the most haunting questions…were pushed to the fringes of our institutional life” (1987; p. 283). Twenty five years later, with evidence of ethical lapses across numerous sectors, incivility in the public sphere and continuing violence around the globe exacerbated by serious economic instability, Boyer’s call for higher education to educate students for personal and social responsibility is even more urgent.

College education in the twenty-first century cannot be just about whether students develop knowledge and skills. It must also be about how—and to what ends—students are using their knowledge and skills in real-world contexts. Campus leaders, through curricular and cocurricular programs, can create increasingly sophisticated opportunities for students to grapple with the ethical, societal, environmental, and global consequences of translating their knowledge and skills into choices and actions.

Significant work in these areas has already begun. The 2011 conference Educating for Personal and Social Responsibility: A Twenty-First Century Imperative will highlight examples and bring together faculty, student affairs educators, academic administrators, and others who are working to foster students’ personal and social responsibility—including ethical reasoning and judgment, personal and academic integrity, civic and democratic engagement, global understanding, and perspective-taking and intercultural competency. The conference will also feature multiple national initiatives designed to expand the scope of civic learning and democratic engagement, locally and globally, as an integral component of every student’s college education.

The focus of the conference will be on innovative and practical approaches to educating for personal and social responsibility, particularly approaches reflecting academic and student affairs collaboration, campus-community partnerships, and global contexts. The conference also invites proposals describing ways in which campuses have effectively addressed challenges, including assessing personal and social responsibility, scaling up programs, and building supportive institutional policies and structures to sustain progress.

The conference will focus on four major themes:

  1. Refining and Assessing Essential Personal and Social Responsibility Outcomes
  2. Innovative Models and Pedagogies—Helping Students Build Principled and Purposeful Lives
  3. What the Research Reveals about Educating for Personal and Social Responsibility
  4. Weaving Personal and Social Responsibility Into the Fabric of Institutions

Visit the Call for Proposals to find out more about each theme.


Please contact the Development Office at (202) 884-7421 or e-mail for information about sponsorship opportunities for this conference.



About the Conference:
  Academic Partners

Conference Features
  Schedule at a Glance
  Full Program (pdf)
  Program Highlights