Liberal Education

From the Editor

The 2013 annual meeting, titled “The Quality of US Degrees: Innovations, Efficiencies, and Disruptions—To What Ends?,” was held in Atlanta, Georgia, from January 23 to 26. At first glance, it may seem that the talks published here in the Featured Topic section address the quality of the degree only indirectly, at best. But especially when considered in light of the AAC&U board of directors’ recent statement on inclusive excellence, issued in August and also published here, it is clear that equity and diversity are, in fact, at the very heart of educational quality in our time.

This issue’s lead article was adapted from Johnnella Butler’s address to the Networking Luncheon for Faculty and Administrators of Color, which was, by all accounts, a highlight of this year’s annual meeting. Taking stock of the progress that’s been made with regard to the hydra-headed problem of diversity in higher education, Johnnella offers sage advice to a new generation of faculty and administrators as they engage with this “wicked problem.” In the second article, adapted from her address to the Women’s Networking Breakfast, Caryn McTighe Musil reflects on the publication of the final issue of On Campus with Women, on her past leadership of AAC&U’s Program on the Status and Education of Women, and on her new role as senior scholar and director of civic learning and democracy initiatives at AAC&U. Then, after surveying ongoing and horizon issues for women and girls, Caryn draws on her extensive experience to offer specific suggestions for continuing to promote gender equity in higher education.

In an important sense, the quality of the degree depends on the quality of the institution, which, in turn, depends on the quality of institutional governance. The recent crises at Penn State and the University of Virginia have shone a spotlight on the fiduciary responsibilities of governing boards, in particular. In this context, John Casteen, the former president of the University of Virginia who oversaw a major restructuring of the university’s administrative and governance structures, addressed the opening plenary session of the annual meeting. An adaptation of his remarks on responsible governance and the appropriate role of trustees in institutional transformation is featured here.

As wonderful as they are, these three articles barely scratch the surface of the rich and varied program of this year’s meeting. But taken together, they do indicate the range—and, yes, the quality—of the conversation had by the AAC&U community that came together in Atlanta.

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