In an effort to bolster and reinforce the University of Wisconsin System’s dedication to the liberal arts, the collection of campuses entered a partnership with the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
The AAC&U, an organization created in 1915, is dedicated to examining the quality, vitality and public standing of undergraduate liberal education and represents more than 1,000 accredited colleges, according to the AAC&U website.
AAC&U President Dr. Carol Geary Schneider told the UW Board of Regents in November they could be leaders in liberal arts by setting goals and benchmarks.
“Make yourself the locus for this [public] discussion between the academy and the state,” Schneider said.
The AAC&U’s presence in Wisconsin will be unique, since the AAC&U chose Wisconsin to pilot its newest liberal arts program: Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP).
UW System President Kevin P. Reilly said in a release the system was honored to collaborate with the AAC&U to further promote shared goals to make college accessible and purposeful for all students.
“The LEAP campaign is a logical extension of our efforts to increase access to Wisconsin citizens,” Reilly said. “LEAP will further the university’s mission to be a developer of human potential and to contribute to the economic, cultural and social well-being of the state.”
LEAP will aim to create public debate about students’ needs and challenge the idea of solely pursuing practical education versus a liberal education. The program will include fact-finding focus groups to gain knowledge of high school and college students’ goals for the future, monitor changes in teaching and learning and create a leadership council. The council will be composed of members from different disciplines and walks of life.
Wisconsin already began a course of pursuing a liberal-arts initiative through an earlier UW System initiative entitled “The Currency of the Liberal Arts and Sciences: Rethinking Liberal Education in Wisconsin.”
“The state of Wisconsin is ahead of the curve in bringing the crucial issue of what students need to learn in college to the attention of its residents,” Schneider said in a release.
However, according to UW System Spokesperson Doug Bradley, oftentimes the state has pushed for more practical initiatives rather than liberal arts.
“We … want to make sure all of our students have access to things that will stretch their minds and make them aware [of] things they might not always be aware of,” Bradley said.