Faculty speak at higher ed conference

The Association of American Colleges and Universities’ annual meeting, a conference titled “Innovations, Efficiencies, and Disruptions – To What Ends?” took place from Jan. 23-26. Held in Atlanta, Ga., Geneseo representatives at the meeting included Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics Gary Towsley, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Carol Long, Associate Provost David Gordon and President Christopher Dahl.

The four-day meeting composed of various seminars, workshops and symposiums was “designed to engage leaders from across higher education with pressing questions” such as globalization, shifting demographics and technological advancements.

“This is a big group of colleges and universities that are trying to deal with all of the complex issues of today,” Towsley said.

Towsley spoke in a panel discussion that focused on the general education framework provided by Liberal Education and America’s Promise, dedicated the advocacy of 21st century liberal education. Towsley presented degree learning outcomes that he, alongside Dean of Curriculum and Academic Services Savi Iyer, worked toward in summer 2012 in San Jose, Calif. after LEAP selected Geneseo to be one of three liberal arts case studies.

The panel, which included representatives from public and private universities, discussed a more flexible general education program across higher education. 

“Our major goal is to move from a menu of general education to one based on an overall set of goals and learning outcomes,” Towsley said.

Goals include moving some general education courses from the introductory to the intermediate level and having more relevancy as general education relates to students’ majors. Currently, Towsley said, the separation between general education and major courses should be set up differently, noting that students should take more courses that will enhance their majors.

“I think it’s a really sound path for us to look at degree learning outcomes,” Long said.

Dahl moderated an AAC&U session presented by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges called “Quality Enhancement in an Age of Declining Resources: Case Studies from the Public Liberal Arts Sector.” 

The session focused on the efficiency of higher education in liberal arts colleges confronting budgetary limitations while trying to sustain quality. Long cited the session as “upbeat, interesting and well attended” with “good discussion.”

Long’s role in the conference was showing Geneseo’s progress in the tracking of community engagement and its place in higher education; she attended workshops on public scholarships, community outreach and alumni organization. Geneseo’s community outreach “has so much going on,” Long said, citing GOLD and Livingston CARES. “There is no good way of keeping track of all that.”

“Part of my effort is strategic,” Long said, adding that keeping track of Geneseo’s community engagement is her priority, while also encouraging continued community outreach.

Long said that the significance of the ACC&U is its ability to transcend some “reinforced boundaries” that arise with associations of members in what she said was a “very open and porous” higher education system.

The AAC&U, Long said, “gives the closest thing to a national organizing body for higher education so they’re very important … for keeping the conversation open and not divided too finely across higher education.”