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Do we need to Remake College?

  • Haverford College President Dan Weiss. Photos by Dan Z. Johnson
    Haverford College President Dan Weiss. Photos by Dan Z. Johnson

Location: Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts

November 07, 2014
That’s the question that should provoke a lively discussion when WC’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter hosts Haverford College president Daniel Weiss, co-editor of Remaking College: Innovation and the Liberal Arts.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Washington College welcomes Daniel Weiss, the President of Haverford College and co-editor of Remaking College: Innovation and the Liberal Arts (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), to Chestertown on Friday, November 7, for a lively discussion of the role of the small liberal-arts college, today and in the future. 

Sponsored by the Washington College chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the event will take place in Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts, at 4:15 p.m., with a reception to follow. It is free and open to the public. 

Weiss became president of Haverford College in 2013 after serving eight years as president of Lafayette College. Both schools are small and student-centered, giving Weiss special insight into the function, structure, identity, and governance of the liberal-arts college, a venerable hallmark of American education. Weiss holds a bachelor’s degree in art history and psychology from George Washington University, a master’s degree in business administration from the Yale School of Management, and a doctorate in art history from Johns Hopkins University.  

Remaking College: Innovation and the Liberal Arts (JHU Press, 2014), which Weiss co-edited with former Swarthmore president Rebecca Chopp, now Chancellor of the University of Denver, is a collection of essays drawn from papers first presented at a 2012 conference. The majority of the writers were then presidents of other small liberal arts colleges, and their essays address the benefits and the challenges of the kind of education their campuses offer. They also consider the demands that technological and social change, including the advent of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), are placing on the traditional liberal arts model and the close professor-student interaction at its core. 

Reviewing the book for The Phi Beta Kappa publication The Key Reporter, Washington College English professor Sean Meehan wrote that for most of the books’ contributors, to remake the small liberal-arts college “means to renew its longstanding and distinctive mission, and … its remarkable success, in cultivating intellectual flexibility among its students.” He cites in particular an essay by Williams College president Adam Falk, who argues for holding fast to the “intimate, collaborative environment” that defines a liberal-arts education rather than becoming more like the “multi-tasking and multi-mediated” students they are trying to reach and teach. 

The Phi Beta Kappa Society was founded in 1776 as the country’s first academic honor society. With the mission to “honor and advocate the ideals of a liberal-arts education,” Phi Beta Kappa remains one of the most prestigious academic honors and distinctions for liberal-arts undergraduates.  The Theta of Maryland, Washington College’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, was chartered in 2007. Over the last few years the chapter has hosted prominent scholars to speak on different aspects of liberal education: in 2013, Andrew Delbacnco (Columbia University); and in 2014, Daniel DeNicola (Gettysburg College).

– Kaitlyn Fowler ’17


Last modified on Nov. 17th, 2014 at 10:14am by .