Charge to Members of the Commission on the Liberal Arts

Provost Earl Lewis

February 7, 2012

In the next 12 to 18 months I would like for you to take a broad and deep look at liberal arts education at Emory over the next quarter century. Indeed, imagine this as a white board exercise, in which all topics are to be explored, evaluated, and either accepted or rejected. The questions that have been previously rehearsed can be broken into five general areas, including content, structure, form, schedule, and innovation.


  1. What should be the core elements of a liberal arts education as we look ahead? Are we confident that a disciplinary approach is the answer? Interdisciplinary? Please take a close look at our current content and think hard about what should be changed, if anything: Engineering, at least in the first two years? Should we create a developmental approach to critical reasoning, for example?
  2. More major-minor possibilities? What new degree offerings can or should we imagine?
  3. Are we best to emphasize either a core educational approach in the first two years, or a general educational orientation?


  1. Are departments and programs as currently configured the best options going forward? Can we and should we take advantage of faculty talents across the university to deliver content? Are there new partnerships that warrant consideration, especially with the professional schools at Emory and Georgia Tech?


  1. Residential education has been the hallmark of the liberal arts experience for ages. We can imagine that this will remain the primary way students learn from faculty and one another. Yet can we also see a time when a certain percentage of course instruction will come through other modalities, especially digital and distance? Are there effective ways of delivering more content by using other modalities?


  1. Should we consider a yearlong schedule that dispenses with the current September – May academic calendar? Are there other changes or tweaks worth considering?


  1. What completely new changes make sense?
  2. Should a capstone research experience become a core element of the curriculum for all undergraduate students?
  3. Are there innovative programs or changes that we should review and possibly emulate?