Transforming higher education and the liberal arts in an era of change

What would the experience of higher education look like–be like– if it were designed today, to meet the 21st-century needs of students, faculty, and staff? What would an innovative liberal arts education include, and how could we provide that to every student? To address this question, the College of Arts & Sciences launched the Rethinking the Academy initiative—an opportunity for CAS faculty to work collaboratively on the near and longer-term futures of teaching, learning, and research. Rethinking the Academy is a muti-part initiative that includes values-centered community-building opportunities, the design of solutions to near-term problems, and a futurists think-tank for imagining and building towards higher education after 2050. We created this initiative from a clear understanding that higher education across sectors is at an inflection point. The moment is ours to grasp, or ours to lose out on. The College of Arts & Sciences  is the perfect place to experiment at scale, the ideal environment in which to formulate a deeply imaginative and inspiring liberal arts education for the 21st-century.

Rethinking the Academy Events

Cherry Blossoms

Building the Community

Rethinking the Academy requires us to collectively consider how higher education can better meet the needs and aspirations of today’s faculty, staff, and students. To deepen relationships across the College, to build community, and to generate a shared set of goals and a common understanding of the initiative, we stage a “Big Read” event for the entire college. Our annual Big Read gives faculty, staff, and students the opportunity to get to know each other better, share ideas, and think about how we can improve the academy together.

Students collaborate during a classroom discussion.

Designing New Solutions

As we imagine the future of higher education, we also continue to improve how the College currently operates. Through workshops with the HuMetricsHSS team, we have begun taking inventory of what works well and what could be adapted in the short term to create a better experience for CAS faculty, staff, and students. Over the course of the coming academic year, we will launch a series of one-day “charrettes” in which teams of faculty will design solutions to identified, immediate and near-term problems.

Bronze W sculpture

Dean’s Academy Futurists

Transformation in the academy takes time, thought, and collaboration. To give scholars the opportunity to reexamine deeply held assumptions about higher education and to imagine its future after 2050, the College is creating a community of futurists to focus on the challenges facing universities and envision innovative solutions together. This will be an experimental space–a think-tank–where visionary scholars imagine new, yet unknown, models of higher education. The first group of Futurists began their work in Autumn, 2023.