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Press Room

For Immediate Release

Debra Humphreys, Vice President for Policy and Public Engagement
202.387.3760, ext. 422

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences Releases Important National Report, “The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation”

AAC&U Praises Report; Pledges Active Leadership for the Critical Role of the Liberal Arts in a Vibrant Democracy and Responsible Global Community

Washington, DC—June 19, 2013—The American Academy of Arts and Sciences released today an important national report framed by a distinguished National Commission and concerned with the continuing indispensable role of the humanities and social sciences in meeting urgent national goals. The report, The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation, calls for renewed commitment to the humanities and social sciences and for leadership collaborations across a wide array of sectors to:

  • Educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in a twenty-first-century democracy;
  • Foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong; and
  • Equip the nation for leadership in an interconnected world.

“The Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences has produced a far-reaching and much needed analysis of the role of the humanities and social sciences in civil society, economic innovation, and global flourishing,” said AAC&U Board Chair Millie García, President of California State University, Fullerton. "We commend the Commission for its excellent work. We also urge all AAC&U member institutions and colleagues to read the report carefully and to pledge renewed determination, within higher education and across all parts of our society, to ensure that studies in the humanities and social sciences result in a strengthened civil society and in new understanding of our shared role in creating a vibrant and sustainable global commons.”

Among its several recommendations, The Heart of the Matter calls for both K-12 schools and colleges, community colleges, and universities to provide to every student “a fully balanced curriculum—including the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences—[that] provides opportunities for integrative thinking and imagination, for creativity and discovery, and for good citizenship.”

AAC&U has strongly affirmed its commitment to a closely related vision in its recently released Strategic Plan, Big Questions, Urgent Challenges: Liberal Education and America’s Global Future, which announced concerted work in the coming five years to “advance ‘big questions/global commons’ inquiry and innovation across the liberal arts and sciences and through cornerstone-to-capstone designs for general education that foster civic learning, ethical reasoning, and engagement with US and global diversity."

“We were especially pleased to see the Commission’s call for the humanities, social sciences, and sciences to work together on ‘Grand Challenges’ related to our global future,” AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider commented. "We believe this kind of cross-disciplinary, problem-centered inquiry should play a prominent role both in scholarship and in teaching and learning.”

As AAC&U’s Strategic Plan notes, “while working to strengthen the quality of liberal learning on campuses, AAC&U also welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with an expanding set of partners, both in strengthening the links between liberal learning and global acumen and in showing the connections between liberal education and economic opportunity....[because] no student can be well prepared, or even minimally prepared, for twenty-first-century realities unless he or she has achieved a strong grounding in the kinds of big-picture knowledge that the study of the liberal arts and sciences provides.”

In this spirit, AAC&U welcomes the Commission’s invitation to broad and proactive collaborations across many institutional contexts.

In concert with other organizations, and with leaders and practitioners throughout the higher education community, AAC&U staff will pursue every opportunity available to advance the goals of the Commission’s report.

In addition to the full report, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences also released a “Report Brief” and a short film, The Heart of the Matter.

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education.

Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises nearly 1,300 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education and inclusive excellence at both the national and local levels, and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

Information about AAC&U membership, programs, and publications can be found at