Spring 2003 -- ACTC and the University of Dallas partnered this year to open the new ACTC Liberal Arts Institute at the University of Dallas. Funded through generous underwriting by the University of Dallas, the ACTC Liberal Arts Institute is dedicated to fostering core text, liberal arts curricula and institutional support for such programs in the areas of administration, co-curricular activities (including learning communities and student conferences), assessment, periodic faculty review, and faculty support. The Institute is designed to develop international and national projects to advance liberal education in these areas and to spread information about these projects’ achievements. The Liberal Arts Institute is meant to encourage the building of networks of core text institutions across North America and around the world to pool resources and talents in order to advance meaningful, sound, primary text liberal education into the 21st Century.
Plans to bring the Institute to Dallas were laid after last year’s conference in late spring. The data from ACTC’s national general education project, “Trends in the Liberal Arts Core,” showed clear movements for curricular reform in the direction of core text programs. “Trends” also showed the huge range of innovation and creativity of faculty, administrators, and institutions in forming effective general, liberal education programs in over 75 institutions across the United States in the last 25 years. "Trends" included site visits to over 30 institutions by the project director, Scott Lee. During the site visits, he learned that faculty and administrators
were extremely interested in experimenting with specific innovations found in other institutions. This interest and the pooled resources of Trends suggested the need and use for a Liberal Arts Institute. Lee conceived that an Institute, operating as an arm of a liberal arts core curriculum professional association, could fulfill that need.
The ACTC Liberal Arts Institute would provide to higher education both the research and curricular demonstration projects that would enable ACTC community colleges, colleges and universities to build liberal education into the 21st Century, in North America and around the world. Lee sought support from the University of Dallas, one of the longest-standing institutional members of ACTC with a large core text curriculum as the foundation of its baccalaureate education. In presenting the idea to the University of Dallas, Lee argued, “The universities and colleges that have come to know and support ACTC are a tremendous resource for all of higher, liberal education. What is needed is not only a way to make available to many others this network of great and diverse ideas and texts, curricular structures and supports, and fascinating pedagogies, but an instrument that can be used by the Association's members and
interested institutions to innovate and rebuild general, liberal core education into the 21st Century. The Institute will answer that need."
Central to bringing the Institute to the University of Dallas was Provost Thomas Lindsay’s vision of the University contributing to the advancement of core liberal education around the world. At the announcement on campus of the creation of the Institute, Lindsay remarked: “an ACTC Institute will act, at a national and international level, as ACTC has acted in its annual conference - as a
forum for the creativity of faculty and institutions in the building of sound, core text liberal education. The new Institute will allow faculty from a variety of institutions to work together on grant-supported projects to build long-term solutions to liberal education problems – intellectual, pedagogical, and institutional.” Other UD faculty members who supported the development of the Institute and worked to bring it to the University include Louise Cowan, the founder of Dallas’ core curriculum and a plenary speaker and former Board Member for ACTC and Scott Dupree a long-time attendee of many ACTC conferences. Msgr. President Milam Joseph signed on the project, and a Dallas Board Member provided generous encouragement for the pilot.
In a first effort, Lee, the Institute Director, advised the University of Dallas over the course of the summer on establishing learning communities within Dallas’ Core Curriculum. In the summer and fall, support from the University first provided the Director with the opportunity to work with a number of ACTC members to develop a proposal for the National Endowment for the Humanities: “Bridging the Gap Between the Humanities and the Sciences: An Exemplary Education Model of Core-Text, Humanistic Education.” This effort bore fruit in the spring with NEH awarding its largest Exemplary Education grant this year to ACTC.
After locating superb office space, administrative help, and office support, the University was the site of the Institute's first International Planning Meeting to advise the Director on a number of initiatives contemplated by the Institute. Invited participants included: Phillip Sloan, University of Notre Dame and President of ACTC, Louise Cowan and Tom Lindsay ACTC Board Member, Peg Downes, UNCA and Board member, Timothy Fuller Colorado College and Board member, Anne Leavitt, Malaspina University-College, George Lucas, US Naval Academy, Austin Quigley and Kathryn Yatrakis Columbia University, Charlotte Thomas, Mercer University, Donald Whitfield, Great Books Foundation, and Stephen Zelnick, Temple University and ACTC Past President and Board member.
Other projects are in different stages of development. This website is, partly, a product of Institute funding and effort. Anne Leavitt of Malaspina University-College’s Liberal Studies Program and Scott Lee are developing a “Trends in the Liberal Arts Core in Canada” Project which hopes to include 20 institutions on Canadian soil. Earl Shorris, creator of the Clemente courses, and the Institute have partnered to build a core text project on North and South American Native American texts. Other efforts in sponsoring a coalition of liberal arts associations interested in international liberal education and a possible science core text conference are in planning stages.
Finally, a generous, anonymous private contribution has inaugurated the Institute’s second year. ACTC looks forward to working with member and non-member colleges and universities, as well as institutions which support sound liberal education in North America and around the world.