AAC&U Sets Out New Strategic Plan for US Higher Education

The Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities is touting a ambitious new set of strategic goals meant to transform higher education in the United States. Their new strategic plan will see the organization and its members working to reexamine the value of U.S. college degrees for the 21st century market, make social responsibility an important factor in Liberal Learning, advance the necessity of comprehensive liberal education for global advancement, and expand access to higher education for students in America and all over the world.

"The new strategic goals continue AAC&U's historic advocacy of liberal learning while directly addressing the pressing need for such an education to be global in scope, high in quality, and inclusive in access," said Bobby Fong, chair of AAC&U's Board of Directors and President of Ursinus College. "The end of such an education is not only personal empowerment but preparation for civic leadership. The Board of Directors is proud to endorse the continuing relevance of liberal education and the evolving organization of AAC&U in meeting the challenges of the 21st century."

AAC&U's full strategic plan is scheduled to be formally released in the early months of 2013.

AAC&U has made a prior commitment to its Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) initiative, and the new strategic goals will build on the successes of LEAP by further promoting the importance of liberal education. The organization will also be publishing a set of Essential Learning Outcomes for all students, which will both document and guide student achievement. As part of the initiative, AAC&U will also recommit to its efforts to broaden access to college education to all students.

"AAC&U will expand its work to ensure that the LEAP framework and Principles of Excellence guide educational focus and innovation for all students across all fields of study and in all sectors of postsecondary education," said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. "But this plan also devotes new energy and leadership to the catalytic role of the arts and sciences as an indispensable component of a high-quality 21st-century education. Our members and I are, candidly, alarmed at the continuing assaults on disciplines that, historically and globally, have been recognized as absolutely essential to the future of democracy, to our success in an innovation-driven economy, and to America's role in the global community. We intend to work actively to reposition the liberal arts and sciences as core components in a high-quality liberal education and as windows into the ‘big questions' we need to answer together, both as citizens of a diverse democracy, and as responsible partners in an interconnected world."

To assure success in achieving goals set out by the strategic plan, the organization will be making alterations to its structure. Most of the group's work will now be run out of its four educational affairs offices – Office of Quality, Curriculum and Assessment, newly renamed Office of Diversity, Equity and Student Success, the reconfigured Office of Communications, Policy and Public Engagement, and the Office of Integrative Liberal Learning and The Global Commons.

Project Kaleidoscope, now led by newly appointed Executive Director Kelly Mack, will work with all four of these offices in advancing the adoption of high-quality, inquiry-oriented STEM pedagogies, increasing STEM participation and success for underserved students, and in preparing a STEM-literate citizenry.

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