Many of you have asked what I have been doing since stepping down from the presidency of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in June 2016. This letter provides an update.
I said in 2016 that “I am not so much retiring as opening a next chapter – a chapter to be created with colleagues and friends.” Now well into my redeployment, I realize that I was actually opening a new “compilation,” with lots of different chapters, and with my own new learning about quality and equity in a very fast-changing educational landscape becoming the integrative theme.
More on that below. But first the good news that my younger son, Adam, now has two adorable children, who remind me every week that new learning is joyous! You can find pictures of Tate (born 2016) and Teagan (born 2019) here. I’m blessed that Adam, Matthew and their wives, as well as Tate and Teagan, live near me in Washington, DC. Beth is much farther away in Texas, but thanks to the magic of technology—and shared feminism—we stay very close. You can find pictures of my Texas grandchildren here.
And now a few notes on my current work.
Since 2016, I have been an advisor to Lumina Foundation, assisting with their efforts to make higher learning a catalyst for underserved student talent development. The current focus is developing an integrated framework that brings quality and equity together. The big idea is that higher learning should become more intentional, more equitable, and more effective in connecting higher learning with work, civic participation and student’ own lives.
My Lumina colleague, Debra Humphreys, has also asked me to assist with one of Lumina’s big quality/equity investments, a project on “scaling student success” that is helping institutions in four state systems make student participation in high impact educational practices—a quality learning marker—both expected, high quality, and equitable.
In this context, I’ve been interviewing faculty and campus leaders in Wisconsin, Georgia, Tennessee, and Montana for a long report on faculty leadership for quality and equity reforms.
What I see from this work is that equitable participation in quality learning is emerging as a much-needed new frontier in the “student success” movement. Faculty recognize that “completion” is not enough; we need to ensure that students graduate well prepared for a world of complexity, diversity, innovation, and ever-accelerating economic, societal, and climate change. I’ve included a graphic that shows my own take on how campuses can respond to “The Quality Equity (QE) Imperative.”
In working on these Lumina projects, I’ve been encouraged to see how many institution have embraced different aspects of AAC&U’s LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) initiative—especially the Essential Learning Outcomes, the High Impact Practices, the VALUE rubrics for assessing students’ completed work, and, above all, the determination to make educational excellence inclusive rather than exclusive.
I’m also finding that—as the national report A Crucible Moment recommended in 2012—higher education is starting to make civic learning and engagement expected rather than optional for students pursuing degrees. With democracy under serious attack both at home and abroad, engaging students with their own role in sustaining a just and inclusive society is, beyond doubt, the most important educational task we have.
The work I have been doing with Lumina and campus leaders around the country has only deepened my lifelong commitment to the value and power of liberal education—for all students, and not just some students. And, in that context, I’ve been writing (as well as speaking) about the far-reaching changes in the goal and practices of American liberal education.
I’m writing a book under contract about the new directions for liberal education in our time, especially the efforts to make liberal education both inclusive, public-spirited, and practical. You can see one part of my analysis in an article I published for Change Magazine: “From Cloistered to Connected: The Practical Turn in American Liberal Education.” I also have written a history of the LEAP initiative that AAC&U will publish. You can get the flavor from the Table of Contents.
This website contains a number of my writings since 2000. I’ve updated the Writings & Commentary page to make my most recent articles available. I’ve also added PowerPoints and handouts from a few of my recent speeches on liberal education and quality learning.
In sum, these latest chapters in my life are both challenging and rewarding. I do make time for fun and travel at home and abroad with my partner of many years. But I’m always aware of how much we all need to do, going forward, to fulfill the promise of college for all learners, and for our troubled and divided democracy.
With warm thanks to all—