Raising Our Voices: Reclaiming the Narrative on the Value of Higher Education
2019 Annual Meeting
Wednesday, January 23
Pre-Meeting Symposium on the VALUE Rubrics
Saturday, January 26
Forum on Digital Learning and ePortfolios
ePortfolios and the Value of Higher Education:
Celebrating 10 Years of AAC&U’s ePortfolio Forum
About the Meeting
AAC&U’s 2019 Annual Meeting will explore ways of elevating the voices of administrators, faculty, practitioners, and students in the public narrative about the value of higher education. Across the nation, the media, employers, state and national legislators, and community members in rural, urban, and suburban areas have questioned higher education’s value for today’s students and, at times, for society at large. The need is clear for higher education to reclaim the narrative and articulate our role in ensuring that all students achieve success in life, work, and citizenship and that American democracy continues to thrive.
Recent public opinion polls have shone a spotlight on the devaluing of higher education (often along partisan lines), but college and university leaders have not yet spoken with a unified voice to challenge the notion that the true value of higher education is in decline. This meeting will provide an opportunity for institutional leaders—in teaching, research, student support, and student affairs—to share their stories about how higher education at the local, regional, and national levels is preparing students not only for workforce development, but also for democratic participation.
In these turbulent times, students and graduates must be able to actively participate in sustaining our democracy. They must have experience engaging with their neighbors and colleagues in the civic arena, interacting with people of different backgrounds and perspectives, grappling with the tensions between free speech and inclusion, and seeking out quality information to guide their understanding of issues that affect their local, regional, national, and global communities. Employers have reported that students need these same skills to be effective in the workplace, and have recognized the value of collaborative educational experiences where students practice solving problems and addressing global challenges with others who have different beliefs, educational levels, and cultural backgrounds.
Although their stories are often absent from the dominant public narrative, AAC&U member institutions, both two-year and four-year, are offering this type of education across majors and disciplines. These institutions have been working diligently to ensure that students gain transferable skills for lifelong learning that will enable them to contribute to their communities and to move from one job to another, as is the norm in today’s workforce. Even as societal divides among groups seem to be growing, AAC&U’s members are offering programs and courses that require students to engage in challenging conversations with peers who may not agree with them. Many institutions are also ensuring that students gain the transferable skills they will need in a constantly changing and increasingly automated and digitized workforce, including by implementing high-impact practices that challenge students to integrate their learning in real-world situations and require them to apply and practice skills that employers, legislators, and community members value.
It is time for all of us in higher education to raise our voices and foreground our best models for connecting the curriculum to careers and civic life. We must join together in sharing our successes with the public as we scale up the best examples of our work across higher education.
The 2019 Annual Meeting will highlight the innovations of member institutions that have implemented proven practices and programs that demonstrate why higher education is essential for students’ future employability and for democratic vitality. Supported by clear evidence of the power of liberal education and bolstered by strong curricular and cocurricular models that advance student success, we must tell our own stories about the value of higher education for the students of today and tomorrow. By raising our voices, we can reclaim the narrative and communicate higher education’s relevance in the workplace and society.
We invite you to join us and look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!