Michigan public universities win liberal education designation

Contact: Cheryl Roland
Map of Michigan.

The designation was announced Nov. 12.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Michigan's public universities have been invited into a national coalition aimed at championing and advocating for the importance of a 21st-century liberal education.

Michigan will become the 12th state in the nation designated as a formal member of the Liberal Education and America's Promise—LEAP—Initiative. The effort, launched in 2005, is being guided nationally through the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

WMU's Dr. David Reinhold, associate provost for assessment and undergraduate studies, served as coordinator of Michigan's LEAP committee. He and Dan Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, were informed in late October that Michigan's application to become a LEAP state had been accepted by AAC&U, and the designation was formally announced by AAC&U Nov. 12.

"AAC&U is very pleased to welcome Michigan to LEAP," said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider in announcing the news. "AAC&U and the Michigan Association of State Universities share a passion for advocating for liberal education for all students—through studies in science, humanities, the arts, and the social sciences. We are delighted to work with Michigan to ensure that college students throughout the state receive the best possible preparation for purposeful work and citizenship, and flourishing lives."

About the initiative

The LEAP initiative is aimed at promoting an approach to higher education that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.

LEAP leaders also work to engage the public with core questions about what really matters in college and to connect employers and educators as they build new partnerships and make the case for the importance of liberal education in a global economy and in a diverse democracy.

Reinhold notes that WMU's long commitment to liberal education and its current work aimed at revising its general education programs make the timing of the Michigan LEAP designation ideal.

"We want our faculty across the University to become active participants in this initiative and take advantage of the opportunities for conversations about what liberal education is," Reinhold says. "Those conversations will take place both within WMU and between institutions. The work will involve getting faculty from different institutions together to explore how this initiative impacts their discipline."

Michigan joins California, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin as part of the LEAP initiative. LEAP States are formal collaboratives, organized at the state or system level and designated as LEAP states through an application process.

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