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Hoppe approves liberal arts proposal

May 6, 2003

President Sherry Hoppe has approved a plan to implement a "distinctive liberal arts education" at Austin Peay.

The plan outlines the goals of a liberal arts education, addresses the challenges the University faces in implementing a liberal arts education and discusses how the liberal arts could be infused in the general education core. It also offers suggestions for assessing the University's success in implementing a liberal arts education.
May 6, 2003

President Sherry Hoppe has approved a plan to implement a "distinctive liberal arts education" at Austin Peay.

The plan outlines the goals of a liberal arts education, addresses the challenges the University faces in implementing a liberal arts education and discusses how the liberal arts could be infused in the general education core. It also offers suggestions for assessing the University's success in implementing a liberal arts education.

Dr. Hoppe formed the Liberal Arts Implementation Committee in fall of 2002. She charged membersDr. Anne Black, Dr. Jim Diehr, Dr. Jill Eichhorn, Dr. Buddy Grah, Dr. Alvin Hughes, Dr. Matt Kenney, Dr. Don Luck, Dr. Bruce Myers, Dr. Carmen Reagan, Dr. Robbie Robison and Dr. Bruce Speckwith determining the feasibility of implementing two required liberal arts courses at the upper-division level.

But the committee saw its mission more broadly. After months of discussion, members decided their first and most important task was to "articulate a coherent and concise statement that explicates the goals of a liberal arts education and the means to achieve that goal."

The committee found the objectives of a liberal arts education entirely consistent with the University's mission to "nurture learning and personal growth through small classes, close student/faculty interaction and personal attention by support staff."

The University's vision statement, too, supported the goals of the plan, stating that Austin Peay aspires to become "nationally recognized as an excellent comprehensive liberal arts university that contributed significantly to the intellectual, economic, social and cultural life of the region."

The University does face challenges in incorporating a liberal arts focus into the curriculum, however. Challenges noted in the plan include students who tend to be career-oriented or major in "professional" areas that have curricula set by external accrediting agencies; library resources that, as a result of years of insufficient funding, may not be sufficient to fulfill a liberal arts mission; and an inadequate number of faculty to assume instruction of the Liberal Arts Symposium that would be offered in fall and spring semesters. Questions about faculty endorsement, teaching load credit and incentives "must be addressed early in the program's development," the plan notes.

Reinforcement of APSU's designation as the state's liberal arts institution calls for a stronger focus on liberal arts in the core requirements, the plan says, as well as student participation in courses designed to teach critical thinking, analytical, research and presentation skills, three-hour "capstone" courses in each major and a liberal arts course for students who are about to graduate. The course, which would be based in large part on bi-weekly presentations by a series of outside speakers, would "illustrate the interconnectedness and interdependence that characterize today's world."

The plan also calls for a clearly defined administrative structure that would support the implementation of the plan. This would include a full-time staff member to oversee and coordinate the freshman experience courses, the redesigned sections of the general education core and the upper-division symposium. A faculty advisory committee would play a leading role in determining the themes of the symposium each semester.

Assessment activities would include surveying students to see how the course contributed to their personal development and how they changed as a result of the course, collecting samples of student work to determine if it is of the desired nature and quality and soliciting observations from course instructors. All assessment results would be forwarded to the symposium director and faculty advisory committee.

To view the full plan, go to http://www.apsu.edu/inneraction/03/proposal_liberal_arts.pdf