The final day of a summit hosted by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley featured a presentation on the value of the liberal arts from Arend D. Lubbers, president emeritus of Grand Valley, along with Chris Nelson, president of St. John’s University in Annapolis, Maryland.
Lubbers said he was interested in a liberal education since he was a child, and serving as Grand Valley’s president provided him with a platform to influence the education of thousands of young people. But Lubbers also said that deciding to add professional programs to Grand Valley’s course offerings created a rift between himself and some faculty members.
“It’s a journey that never ends,” Lubbers told the attendees. “You are engaged in discussions at a university that was founded as a liberal arts college. It was our responsibility to serve as a protector of the liberal arts core.”
Lubbers said he had to increase professional coursework, while insisting that the liberal arts field be maintained.
“We had to ask ourselves if our students would succeed in the world, in a global economy with only professional coursework, and the answer was that we needed to prepare them both professionally and with a liberal education so they would be able to apply their education to any part of their lives,” Lubbers said.
Lubbers’ sentiments were largely echoed by Nelson, who also suggested that friendship and learning should be promoted to all students studying the liberal arts.
“We all grow through friendship and learning,” Nelson said. “Through those two things, students should be able to discuss anything in the curriculum.
“Liberal arts unifies school and life. A liberal education is not so much preparation for life as it is practicing living. A strong education incorporates studies that become the center of a student’s life, because that study applies to all aspects of their lives. They can’t be too specialized, their education must encompass as many aspects of life as possible.”