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. I write now with a brief 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, all stimulating and rewarding, but not always tightly connected.
I continue to work—energetically!—to promote the redesign and reinvigoration of liberal education. Everything that has happened in our society this past year only deepens my conviction that a public-spirited and diversity-engaged liberal learning is the world’s best hope for a better future. But I also have been working on needed changes in quality assurance practice across multiple levels: federal, state, accreditor, state system, and, of course, institutions and programs. I’ve dug more deeply into competency-based learning, and, at the request of a foundation, I have written a (very long) summary of all the research AAC&U commissioned or produced, from 2005 to 2017, related to students’ achievement of liberal learning outcomes. (No, this is not yet published…But I am starting to write articles on related issues…More on that below.)
In and around these reform-minded endeavors, I also am thoroughly enjoying my new grandson, the fourth grandchild, but the only one to live where I do, in Washington, DC. I’ve posted a few pictures under “Biography” on this site. And I’ve been doing much more “fun” travel, both in the U.S. and abroad. A dear friend and I went to Romania in 2017 and dramatically revised our visceral understanding of European history through that visit. Strongly recommended!
Officially, I now am affiliated with Lumina Foundation as a Fellow. I’m working there on issues related to quality and equity, and especially on ways to make equitable participation in high quality learning a shared priority for policy and practice. Through this work, I’ve interviewed many of Lumina’s partner grantees, eliciting their wisdom and insights on how we can significantly accelerate systemic change in U.S. higher education so that “practices that work” – both for increased completion and higher quality learning—can become mainstream rather than optional in U.S. higher education. Our legacy practices work poorly for most, and Lumina’s partners are working hard to change them.
I also continue to make campus visits, usually to speak and consult, sometimes as part of a longer internal planning and review process. These visits fuel my continuing confidence that there is enormous creativity across higher education. So many of those who invite me have dramatically reorganized their approach to liberal education so that it becomes more purposeful, more engaging, and better designed to help students integrate their specialized interests with their broad or general studies.
It’s also been a busy year for writing. I’ve updated the Writings & Commentary page to make these available. Here are the direct links to a few of the articles:
- “HIPS at Ten” (with George Kuh and Ken O’Donnell)
- “The Equity-Minded Civic Learning All Americans Need“
- “Making Inquiry-Learning Our Top Priority: Why We Must and How We Can“
- “Meeting the Needs of America’s New Majority Learners” (forthcoming in 2018)
I’m currently writing a history of AAC&U’s work on making liberal education inclusive, rather than exclusive. Trained as an historian of ideas, I find it fascinating to revisit key moments in AAC&U’s evolving approach to the goals and best practices of an empowering and equity-minded education. And yes, this report will be shared!
In sum, these new chapters in my life are both compelling and deeply engaging. I am so privileged to work with people like you – the brave and valiant leaders who are tackling all the hard questions we face, both in higher education and in our deeply divided society.
With warm thanks to all—