Welcome to the new Liberal Education, a reimagining of the original Liberal Education that incorporates the themes of AAC&U’s now-retired journals, Diversity & Democracy and Peer Review. When we began developing this publication, we never imagined that we would launch the inaugural issue during a global pandemic, a moment of racial reckoning, and a time of heightened uncertainty—politically, socially, economically, and environmentally. But the difficulties of this moment underscore the importance of liberal education and the information and insights we work to bring you. The entire issue grapples with the current world reality, with our cover story featuring eight educators talking about serving students and fostering racial healing as the pandemic continues.
When it comes to “Democracy in Action”—this issue's theme—the stakes have always been high. The COVID-19 pandemic is simply laying bare just how much was already at stake. This issue considers policies to make college more accessible and affordable and looks at the role of colleges and universities in furthering and protecting democratic participation. It is essential educators make sure that students are informed about the issues and that they get out to vote—even if it means ensuring they cast their ballots by mail this November.
This issue explores how a liberal education can help prepare students for meaningful careers. Nearly every article touches on the importance of global awareness and intercultural knowledge to ready students for embarking on careers and solving complex world problems such as climate change, the refugee crises, and the automation of jobs and other such consequences of ever-enhancing technology. Indeed, part of higher education’s mission is, as AAC&U’s Terrel Rhodes writes, “to prepare our graduates for lifelong learning and global citizenship."
This issue highlights sessions from AAC&U’s 2019 annual meeting, “Raising Our Voices: Reclaiming the Narrative on the Value of Higher Education.” As discussed throughout the annual meeting, higher education institutions need to better demonstrate and communicate their value, in general, and the importance of a liberal education, in particular. This issue’s authors further that discussion. Cathy N. Davidson calls for fundamentally changing the way we view higher education’s purpose, Farah Pandith points to the role of colleges and universities in ensuring more women participate in policy making, and Mays Imad presses for making STEM classes more holistic and creative. Ann Kowal Smith describes a program that facilitates literature discussions in workplaces. Frederick M. Lawrence explains why institutions must engage in nonpartisan, mission-based advocacy, with William T. Bolling offering advice on communicating with lawmakers. Raynard S. Kington talks about fostering cooperative approaches to campus activism. And Lily D. McNair looks at creating real change around diversity and inclusion.