Liberal Education

From the Editor

At the annual meeting in January, which marked the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the association and the tenth anniversary of the launch of its ongoing Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative, AAC&U challenged higher education to make “Signature Work” a goal for all students and the expected standard of quality learning in college. Focused on a question, issue, or problem chosen by the student because of its importance to him or her as well as to the broader society, Signature Work involves the sustained integration and application of learning over the course of at least one semester.

The Featured Topic section reiterates that challenge, explaining in some depth what is meant by Signature Work, what it takes to prepare students to bring their liberal learning to this
highest level of achievement, why such preparation is essential for all of today’s students, and what all this actually looks like in practice. “The LEAP Challenge: Education for a World of Unscripted Problems,” a folio distributed at the annual meeting and reprinted here, introduces this new phase of the LEAP initiative and situates its key concepts within that stream of ongoing work. This is preceded by a more in-depth presentation of the LEAP Challenge by Carol Geary Schneider and followed by a survey of the various forms its centerpiece, Signature Work, is already taking on member campuses.

In addition to focusing on the LEAP Challenge, with which AAC&U has inaugurated its second century of work in behalf of liberal education and inclusive excellence, this issue also carries the first in a four-part “Centennial Series” of articles designed to explore various aspects of AAC&U’s first century of work. Here, Linda Eisenmann considers how the founding ideals of inclusiveness and interhelpfulness have guided the association throughout its long history. Future articles in the series will examine the involvement of faculty in the work of the association, key changes in curricular design over the past century, and the long and especially fruitful partnership between AAC&U and the Ford Foundation on issues related to diversity in undergraduate education.

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