The unique intellectual benefits of liberal arts learning are deeply rooted in the Christian tradition. Yet this form of education faces increasing pressure from forces that push higher education to provide narrow training for a specific profession. The challenge for Wheaton is to clearly and persuasively articulate—both inside the classroom and beyond the College—the value of the liberal arts as vocational preparation, with the understanding that “vocation” refers not only to one’s career, but more broadly to the multiple callings of a Christian life that takes the lead in serving God and others.
Key steps toward renewing our liberal arts identity include:
- The Trustees will seek to raise the resources needed to execute the new General Education requirements in the liberal arts curriculum, once it is approved. This may require investing in additional faculty, possibly in the form of a reconfigured Mentoring Initiative.
- The President will foster the development of a framework to help students articulate how liberal arts education addresses Christian vocation and a comprehensive plan to improve the College’s internal and external communication about liberal arts education. Components of this plan may include faculty development events and resources; promotional materials (including for parents) that convey this specific commitment; and greater collaboration among faculty, staff, and alumni (e.g., inviting Chapel and classroom testimonials about liberal arts education). There should also be renewed attention to the inclusion of experiential components and appropriate professional development within academic departments, in conjunction with and drawing upon co-curricular resources such as Career Services and Alumni Relations.
Key steps toward improving educational excellence include:
- The College will promote faculty development by allocating additional funds for conference-related travel in support of disciplinary and professional paper presentation, governance responsibilities, and for strategic professional enrichment and growth; for discretionary support of professional association memberships, journal subscriptions, and conference expenses; and for pursuing liberal arts and/or interdisciplinary development, including collaborative projects that have experiential and/or interdisciplinary components as an expression of the institution’s liberal arts identity.
- The Trustees will gather perspectives from representative faculty and the academic administration on key benchmarks of academic excellence at top-tier national liberal arts colleges. Where appropriate, the Trustees will seek to ascertain the educational aspirations which God has uniquely positioned Wheaton to pursue, and set measurable, strategic goals for improving educational excellence.