Founded in 1915 AAC&U, has just celebrated its centennial – 100 years of bringing college leaders together to work on common concerns for higher education, faculty rights, diversity and inclusion, quality, and student learning outcomes. You can read about AAC&U’s history here.
But I would like to spend some time on what AAC&U does today. Their tagline is, “A voice and a force for liberal education in the 21st Century.” Today in 2016 with more than 1300 institutional members, national meetings drawing 2000 attendees, topic-based conferences with 400-800, and millions of dollars in grant funded initiatives, AAC&U truly is an influential force!
Its most famous initiative, LEAP: Liberal Education & America’s Promise, was launched in 2005 as a call to action for colleges and universities to give critical thought to how they were preparing graduates for the complex civic, economic, environmental, and social challenges of the 21st Century.
Since then hundreds of individual institutions have re-examined their curricula and supporting student services, revamped their general education requirements, and reinvigorated their commitments to foundational principles of a liberal education. I’m especially gratified to see a heightened interest in experiential learning, where students have more opportunities to apply their classroom learning to real-world problems, gain industry knowledge, establish professional networks, and develop career readiness competencies. In fact much research has shown that the skills employers want in college graduates align perfectly with the essential learning outcomes of a 21st Century college education.
Emerging from the LEAP initiative was Kuh’s work on high impact practices, which I used as the basis for my doctoral dissertation. So you could say that as a scholar I’m very familiar with this work, but with a practitioner’s lens, I have sought to incorporate elements of high-impact practices in the career and experiential programs we coordinate at Stony Brook University.
AAC&U research, reports, and meetings have great value, not just for institutional leadership and faculty involved in general education, but for all of us who have made college student success our life mission.
Marianna Savoca, PhD., Director of the Career Center at Stony Brook University–State University of New York, is a Faculty Fellow this semester at the Business-Higher Education Forum.