Morning Plenary Session

The Future of Liberal Education: Coffee and a Conversation

The NITLE Summit Logo

In a progressive, interactive conversation with each other and Summit participants, our featured thought leaders each offered a 5-minute exploration/provocation about an issue with which they were currently wrestling.

Each opening statement was immediately followed by about 5 minutes of conversation between the presenters and Summit attendees, who were asked to raise questions, offer alternate viewpoints, and expand on ideas presented at the front of the room. Conversation then returned to the front of the room for another brief exploration/provocation on another issue, building on the last.

Our conversationalists were:

  • danah boyd, social scientist at Microsoft Research, research associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and NITLE fellow. Dr. Boyd will address high-school students’ use of technology for informal learning and their frame of reference re: technology as they enter college.
  • Michael Wesch, associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University and NITLE fellow. Dr. Wesch will address the work of transitioning college students into structured approaches to project-based, interdisciplinary learning, including media literacy and the use of technology to tackle real-world problems.
  • Bryan Alexander, senior fellow at NITLE. Dr. Alexander will address the current state of the on-going scholarly publications/communications crisis and what it means for institutions centrally concerned with student engagement and student-centered learning at the undergraduate level.
  • Katie Conboy, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Stonehill College. Dr. Conboy will address the twin challenges of enabling educators to take risks in pursuing creative approaches to pedagogy and curriculum development and of enabling students to have an integrated learning experience at college.
  • Rick Holmgren, chief information officer, associate dean, and director of the learning commons at Allegheny College. Dr. Holmgren will address the need for new business models for liberal education—and assumptions underlying current models—at a time when liberal arts colleges sometimes appear to be a threatened species.

The goal of the plenary was to engage Summit attendees in setting a forward-facing framework for the working sessions and informal conversations to follow. Conversations begun during the session extended throughout the day during informal exchanges as well as the Summit’s working sessions.