Join a faculty reading group on providing a strong liberal arts foundation

Providing a strong liberal arts foundation is Goal #1 of UND’s strategic plan.  “Why? It has nothing to do with my department.” “Of course, it is the very foundation of all learning.”

If you have either of these reactions or something in between, we want you to join us this semester for a campus wide discussion related to Goal #1 of the strategic plan, to “provide a strong undergraduate liberal arts foundation.” This will be an opportunity, centered on reading groups, for faculty to share their experience, knowledge, and learn from one another regarding the place of the liberal arts in higher education. Towards that end, the Goal 1 implementation team will offer a series of faculty book discussions to engage current arguments on the role of liberal learning.  A limited number of books are being provided by the Provost’s Office and the Teaching Transformation and Development Academy will provide coordination.

The four books are:

  • Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm by Christian Madsbjerg 
    • Christian Madsbjerg contends that contemporary society’s tendency to rely heavily on algorithms, systems and big data has the potential to devalue human judgement.  Maintaining that the big problems of the coming century are cultural, he argues that we require the knowledge and tools of the humanities in order to confront them successfully. The answer to overreliance on big data is “thick data”—information that engages deeply with culture, language, history, and the social structures underlying human behavior – as the basis of better and more nuanced thinking.
  • The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World by Scott Hartley
    • Fuzzy?  Techie?  Scott Hartley uses these as shorthand for students studying in disciplines typically seen as humanities or social sciences (Fuzzies) and those studying in computer science or one of the “hard” sciences (Techies).  His purpose is to challenge what may be a common assumption: that it’s only the Techies who drive innovation and help move the world forward in the 21-st Century.  On the contrary, Hartley provides an argument for how the Fuzzies are really those who often play the key innovative roles – through their understanding of life issues, their inclination to question biases in big data, who bring context and ethical considerations into the discussion, and who can help humanize technology.  It’s their “soft skills” that are vital for spurring growth, and thus we should strive to be educating all of our students to understand perspectives from across the liberal arts.
  • Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession by Anne Colby, et al
    • Is the intersection between business education and the liberal arts a null set? The main accrediting body for business schools (AACSB) does not think so, arguing that “in their curricula, research, and outreach, business schools must be advocates for the human dimension of business, with attention to ethics, diversity, and personal well-being. They will need models and language that cultivate a humanistic perspective within graduates’ conceptual frameworks about business.” So if you have wondered if taking liberal arts courses might be helpful for students studying business or if students majoring in the humanities might benefit from some study of business, this book is for you. The authors explore numerous ways in which a collaboration between the study of business and liberal arts should occur. In addition to providing some general guidelines, the authors discuss several innovative programs where such collaboration has been successfully happening, such as the LAMP (Liberal Arts and Management Program) initiative at Indiana University.
  • Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters by Michael S. Roth
    • Contentious debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education are as old as America itself. From Benjamin Franklin to the Internet pundits, critics of higher education have attacked its irrelevance and elitism—often calling for more vocational instruction. Thomas Jefferson, by contrast, believed that nurturing a student’s capacity for lifelong learning was useful for science and commerce while also being essential for democracy. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, university president Michael S. Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.

Anyone interested in participating may choose to join a reading group of their choice. We also suggest a few college book mappings below:

  • A&S (especially the humanities), EHD, CON, SMHS and Law: Sense Making: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm
  • CEM and JDO: The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World
  • CoBPA and A&S:Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession
  • All faculty and administrators:Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters 

A limited number of seats are available in each book group. To express your interest in participating, please fill out the linked Qualtrics survey. For more information, please contact Anne Kelsch ( Book groups will be formed on a first-come basis.