Members of the College of William and Mary community gathered Monday afternoon for the third and final Campus Conversation meeting to discuss the role of professional programs on campus and their role in a liberal arts community.
Sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Campus Conversation sessions discussed and developed the College’s role as a leading liberal arts university.
The faculty panel that led Monday’s discussion included law professor Alan Meese, business professor and Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Business Programs Bill Geary, and education professor Pamela Eddy.
Meese began by saying that, while no professional program can provide a comprehensive liberal education, all such programs can fit comfortably into a liberal arts university, improving the university’s research and teaching.
He also noted that research at professional schools can deal with issues not addressed by an arts and science perspective.
Meese emphasized the usefulness of collaboration between schools and programs, as well as the importance of hiring qualified candidates, potentially with interdisciplinary backgrounds.
He said that although the term “liberal arts university” does not always take into account professional schools, it can be used in an inclusive way.
Geary concluded that the College is actually an umbrella of semi-autonomous learning communities that each contribute to the whole in different ways.
Using this analogy, Geary said the main goal for the College should be that of achieving synergy between these learning communities.
Geary said that, although arts and sciences and professional schools may use different vocabularies, shared core values are more important. He also noted that different communities have different things to offer.
Eddy began by saying that the College is struggling with an identity crisis.
According to Eddy, the College is a public institution that acts like a private, elite institution, and that the current mindset will be unsustainable as the College expands.
“We act like the small-town, home-grown college that we were in colonial times,” Eddy said.
She emphasized that the College must figure out its place for the future, cautioning against describing the
College as a liberal arts university, since applications to liberal arts institutions have declined in recent years.
Eddy also said that the language the College employs is critical.
“Using inclusive language is a key first step,” Eddy said. “We really are in this together.”