Liberal Education

From the Editor

In January 2015, when the AAC&U community comes together at the annual meeting in Washington, DC, we will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the association. Beginning with a special daylong symposium and continuing through the meeting and across a series of events to be held around the country, AAC&U will celebrate its Centennial throughout 2015. The focus of this sustained celebration will be forward-looking, as, together, we explore connections between the “equity imperative”—the urgent need to provide an empowering liberal education to “new majority” students—and individual, social, and global flourishing.

But anniversaries are times not only for celebration, but also for reflection. All of us involved in the work of the association today are participants in a long, rich, and still evolving history. And so, on the eve of the Centennial, we thought it appropriate to take stock of the achievements of our predecessors, to review and reflect on the past hundred years, to explore key aspects of the legacy we carry forward intoAAC&U’s second century—in short, to acknowledge exactly what it is we are about to celebrate.

This issue’s lead article is an interview with Carol Geary Schneider, AAC&U’s current president, and her two immediate predecessors, Paula Brownlee and John Chandler. Together, these three presidents, who have led the association for the past thirty years, reflect on key moments in AAC&U’s long history and on key issues and values that continue to drive our work. This is followed by four articles reprinted from the archives. The first of these—by Mark Curtis, who preceded John Chandler as president—presents a history of the association, from the founding through the late 1980s. The second picks up the history from there, focusing on the programmatic work of the association from 1985 to 1994, a particularly vibrant decade. At this point, with the third reprint, we step back from the history of the association to consider the ongoing emergence of a distinctively American model of liberal education, one that adapts the broader tradition in order to accommodate the needs and aspirations of a pluralistic democracy.

The Featured Topic section culminates in a reprint of Carol Geary Schneider’s address to the association on the occasion of its ninetieth anniversary. In this fresh context, the address has the effect of summarizing the history—of both the association itself and its animating ideal, liberal education—by describing the twenty-first-century vision of liberal education and inclusive excellence, the twin—and now mission-level—commitments we carry into the next phase of the association’s history.

As this issue of Liberal Education makes plain, we truly do have much to celebrate.

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