History and Mission of the ACTC Liberal Arts Institute:


With the approval by the ACTC Board, the ACTC Liberal Arts Institute was formed in 2003 through the efforts of Scott Lee, Thomas Lindsay, and Louise Cowan at the University of Dallas. The goal was to allow ACTC to develop special projects in core texts and liberal arts education. Thus, the Institute is one of two divisions of ACTC, the other being the Conference Division. A secondary goal was to provide a permanent administrative infrastructure for ACTC. 


Sometimes, conversations among ACTC conferees suggest topics and themes of general interest that call for a deeper, more sustained engagement. When this happens, the Executive Director, in conversation with the ACTC Board of Directors and members of the Liberal Arts Consortium, works to develop a program to support that engagement over a longer period of time and with a smaller group of conferees. Sometimes, this takes the shape of a summer seminar. On other occasions, it generates a small conference on a focused theme. While most ACTC conferences are funded through memberships and sponsorships, these Liberal Arts Institute seminars and conferences are often grant funded. 


After the University of Dallas piloted the Liberal Arts Institute at its inception, Saint Mary’s College of California hosted the Institute for three years. At the end of that time, the Institute was broadened into an institutional membership division within ACTC.  This broadened the contribution of ideas and support for the Institute. Institutions supporting the Institute have a representative on the Institute Advisory Board.  Later, the Institute came to be hosted by Concordia University–Irvine, and, now, it has returned to the University of Dallas.


ACTC seeks to reach out through Institute projects to colleges and universities, associations, and grant agencies which support or wish to develop liberal arts education, particularly the use of core texts.


Members of the Liberal Arts Institute contribute to ACTC financially, and we leverage their contributions to secure grants to support our projects. Sometimes, institutional members will provide additional financial support to underwrite ACTC Liberal Arts Institute activities and projects. 


Current Liberal Arts Consortium Members:  

  • Assumption University

  • Columbia University

  • Concordia University—Irvine

  • New York University

  • Pepperdine University

  • St. John’s College

  • Saint Mary’s College of California

  • Universidad de Navarra

  • University of Chicago—The College

  • University of Dallas.


If you have ideas for future Liberal Arts Institute programming or would like your institution to become a member of our Liberal Arts Consortium, please contact ACTC’s Executive Director, Charlie Thomas (charlottethomas@coretexts.org). 


The following projects have been funded and organized by the Liberal Arts Institute. 


  • A three-year National Endowment for the Humanities curriculum development project held at St. John’s College, Notre Dame University, and Saint Mary’s College: “Bridging the Gap Between the Humanities and Sciences.” 10 participating institutions (2003-2006).

  • A continuation of a FIPSE research study: “Trends in the Liberal Arts Core,” 15 participating institutions (2003-2005).

  • Two one-year National Endowment for the Humanities grants for high school teachers: “Wiping Away the Tears: Renewing Cherokee Culture through a Liberal Arts Seminary,” “Lessons in Courage: Lessons Plans on the History of the Cherokee and the Trail of Tears” at the Cherokee Heritage Center and Northeastern State University (OK) (2006).

  • Two conferences co-sponsored with Universidad de Tecnológica, Cartagena. Columbia, on “Humanities and Liberal Education” in South America (2005 and 2007)

  • Co-sponsorship of the University Committee on Asia and the Middle East, Columbia University, “Classics for an Emerging World” (2007); subsequently the Institute participated in conferences in Taiwan and Hong Kong on similar themes. (2007)

  • Association for General Liberal Education and ACTC Narrative Assessment co-operative project (2011).  ACTC’s Narrative Assessment project continues.

  • In Co-sponsorship with Notre Dame University and the Program of Liberal Studies an international conference on “The Research University and the Liberal Arts College” (2013).

  • In Co-sponsorship with the National Instructional Council, a two-day workshop on “Uniting Higher Education though Reading: Bringing Community Colleges into the Core, Project Syllabus” (2013).

  • In Co-sponsorship with Rhodes College’s Project for the Study of Liberal Democracy, Pepperdine University’s Seaver College, and the Apgar Foundation, “Intersections of Secular and Religious Cores Conference” at Rhodes (2014).

  • A two-week curriculum summer workshop at Columbia University and Yale University, “Tradition and Innovation,” 10 participating institutions, funded by grants from the Teagle and Bradley Foundations. (2014).

  • As invited Co-sponsor with sponsoring Amsterdam University College, “Liberal Arts and Sciences Education and Core Texts in the European Context” (2015).

  • A second two-week curriculum summer seminar workshop at Columbia University and the University of Chicago, “Tradition and innovation,” 10 participating institutions, funded by grants from the Teagle and Bradley Foundation (2016).

  • A international conference on “Global General Education and Asian Texts: What should students read?” at Concordia University—Irvine. Co-sponsors included:  The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Concordia University—Irvine, The Lilly Fellows Program, New York University Liberal Studies, and Pepperdine University (2018).

  • “Rejuvenating and Reinventing the Liberal Arts” a two-week curriculum development seminar held at Carthage College, six participating institutions, co-sponsored by the Bradley Foundation.

  • “Rejuvenating and Reinventing the Liberal Arts Core,” a forthcoming two-week continuation of the curriculum development seminar of 2018.  University of Chicago, (2022).