SLU president joins initiative to provide liberal arts education to all students
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 5:37 pm

CANTON — St. Lawrence University's president has joined an initiative aimed at providing access to liberal arts education for all college students.

A report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), summarizes the findings of a survey of business and nonprofit employers. It finds that 74 percent of business and nonprofit leaders say they would recommend a 21st century liberal education to a young person they know to help the student prepare for long-term professional success in today’s global economy.

In conjunction with the report, AAC&U also launched a new national initiative called the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact. The LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) compact, which was developed by AAC&U and employers, calls for ensuring that all college students have access to a high quality liberal education that prepares them successfully for work, life and citizenship.

St. Lawrence University President William L. Fox, and President Emeritus Daniel F. Sullivan, along with more than 250 college presidents and business and nonprofit leaders, have signed the compact.

“I am proud to be a part of this national effort to bring educators and employers together to ensure that all our students understand what it takes to succeed in today’s workplace and to partner on ways we can provide students more opportunities to apply their learning in real-world settings,” Fox said. “This kind of education – one that prepares students for economic, civic and global challenges – has been at the core of St. Lawrence’s mission since it’s founding.”

Fox and Sullivan also are members of a leadership group within AAC&U, of which St. Lawrence is a long-standing member, called the LEAP Presidents’ Trust. Sullivan chairs the group and has been very closely involved with leading LEAP’s efforts.

“Employers make it clear in their responses to AAC&U’s biennial surveys that they need graduates who have both knowledge and competence in specific fields and the intellectual and practical skills acquired in liberal education – inquiry and analysis, critical and creative thinking, integrative and reflective thinking, written and oral communication, quantitative literacy, information literacy, intercultural understanding, teamwork and problem solving,” Sullivan said.

The report on AAC&U’s national survey notes that:

Nearly all employers surveyed (93 percent) say “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than (a job candidate’s) undergraduate major.”

Even more (95 percent) say they prioritize hiring college graduates with skills that will help them contribute to innovation in the workplace.

About 95 percent of those surveyed also say it is important that the employees they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity for continued new learning.

More than 75 percent of those surveyed say they want more emphasis on five key areas, including critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communication and applied knowledge in real-world settings.

80 percent of employers agree that, regardless of their major, every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.