One Hundred Years!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

In 2015, AAC&U proudly celebrates 100 years of leadership for liberal education. We embrace this Centennial as a milestone in an ongoing journey, as a moment to mark and acknowledge all that our members have accomplished for students and society, and as a catalyst to launch AAC&U’s next era of work.

AAC&U members know well the power of engaged liberal learning: it expands economic opportunity, develops talent, and fosters the social imagination, habits of mind, and practical capacities needed to tackle today’s urgent problems. But we also know that it will take far-reaching change to provide this kind of learning to all college students, not just the most fortunate students. As the next era begins, this is our goal. 

In 2012, AAC&U expanded its mission to address explicitly the question of who needs to benefit from an empowering liberal education. Our expanded mission is “to make liberal education and inclusive excellence the foundation for institutional purpose and educational practice in higher education.”

AAC&U’s approach to inclusive excellence encompasses not only what is taught—the knowledge, skills, and ethical responsibility needed to contribute to a diverse and globally engaged democracy—but also who is taught. Our long-term goal is to provide the most empowering forms of learning to all who enroll in college. We believe that America’s future flourishing depends on how well we prepare students to create solutions to our society’s myriad challenges—civic, economic, scientific, cross-cultural, and ethical. And, in a diverse and still stratified society, that will require a new focus on students from groups that historically have been underserved at all levels of our educational system. 

Through our long-term initiative, Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP), and in partnership with our 1,350 institutional members, AAC&U has developed a comprehensive framework for liberal education and inclusive excellence. We are proud of the work AAC&U has done to provide a twenty-first-century framework for high-quality learning, and delighted to see the LEAP framework being widely adopted, not only in the United States but also abroad. Nonetheless, it will take concerted and broad-based effort to ensure that all students, across the full range of college majors and institutions, successfully achieve the kind of learning that a liberal education should provide.

Therefore, across the Centennial year and beyond, we will intensify our campus action and public advocacy in order to make excellent liberal education truly inclusive. We will work with our members to broaden employer, trustee, policy, and public support for liberal education as America’s best investment in both quality and expanded opportunity. We will highlight the many institutions and educators that already are working inventively to ensure equitable access to quality liberal learning for the extraordinarily diverse students we now serve in higher education. We will support far-reaching efforts to advance transformative educational change.

You, our members, are the vibrant heart of this association. Your educational vitality is this community’s most important resource. AAC&U will both tap and celebrate your creativity as we all work together to forge a second century of leadership—a century in which excellence will become inclusive, and liberal education will be recognized and embraced as the essential foundation for a free society, a diverse democracy, and a vibrant global economy.

Carol Geary Schneider