Fairfield University President joins new "Presidents' Trust" to advance liberal education as source of American civic vitality and economic innovation and growth


82 College and University leaders to work together to build public understanding of the value of liberal education outcomes for students and American society

Image: Fr von ArxRev. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., president of Fairfield University, announced today that he has joined a new Presidents' Trust formed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). President von Arx and an esteemed national group of 81 other college and university leaders from around the country are forming this Trust to strongly and collectively make the case for liberal education and its value in today's world. The Presidents' Trust is a leadership group within AAC&U's national initiative, Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP): Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes To College.

In joining the Trust, Father von Arx said, "At Fairfield, we want to ensure that our graduates are ready to face the challenges of the 21st century with a rigorous mind, informed by compassion and rooted in self-awareness. In order to accomplish this, and in keeping with the long tradition of a Jesuit liberal arts education, we are finding innovative ways to integrate our core curriculum of studies, encouraging our students to think across disciplinary boundaries, to see the points of intersection between the sciences and the humanities and between spiritual reflection and rational inquiry - all hallmarks of a Jesuit liberal education. With this inspired education, we believe Fairfield students will be creative thinkers with the ability to approach the world with a rigorous and open mind, and thus equipped to better serve the common good."

Members of the LEAP Presidents' Trust are leaders from all sectors of higher education and are committed to advocating for the vision, values, and practices that connect liberal education with the individual and societal needs of the twenty-first-century. Through regional and national meetings and their own advocacy efforts, Trust members will engage with campus members and those outside of higher education about the core purposes and practices of liberal education. They are all also providing leadership for advancing reforms in the practice of liberal education both on campus and with other groups and organizations with which they are affiliated.

In 2009-10, the core priority areas for the Presidents' Trust include:

  • Making the economic case for liberal education
  • Making - and fulfilling - the civic case for liberal education
  • Engaging first-generation families and new Americans with the meaning and value of liberal education
  • Integrating liberal arts and professional preparation on campus
  • Charting a new direction for assessment and accountability

The Presidents' Trust advocates for a twenty-first-century vision of liberal education that combines the best of that philosophy of education's traditional focus on broad knowledge, analytic reasoning, and rigorous contextual study with newer approaches to helping students integrate and apply their learning in new settings. The Trust believes that a twenty-first-century liberal education empowers individuals with core knowledge and transferable skills and cultivates social responsibility and a strong sense of ethics and values. Characterized by challenging encounters with important issues, a liberal education prepares graduates both for socially valued work and for civic leadership in their society.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 20, 2009

Vol. 42, No. 132