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.
Community engagement can be confounding. The insights, confrontations, and sobering realities students encounter as part of a community can create experiential highs and lows. Yet student engagement with communities produces real opportunities for applying and integrating learning, for developing a sense of flourishing and self-efficacy, and for fostering a range of civic outcomes. This issue of Liberal Education tackles the complexity of community: Who or what defines it? Who is included? And why does thinking equitably about student success need to be at the heart of it all?