Over the last several years, ACLS has held a number of conversations focused on select groups from the broader ACLS constituency, and those conversations have led to a number of new initiatives. Building on the success of a 2002 meeting of senior faculty members from liberal arts colleges, ACLS hosted the November 2003 conference "Liberal Arts Colleges in American Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities." The conference was organized under the guidance of then ACLS interim president Francis Oakley and held in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with the support of the Oakley Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Williams College and the collaboration of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. It was developed in the belief that liberal arts colleges are a critical component of the national infrastructure for higher education and that commitment to the arts and sciences should be anchored at a time when the current of professional and technical training is running ever stronger. Eighteen speakers on five panels discussed historical perspectives, fiscal pressures, professional life, student achievement, and the future of liberal arts colleges. The conference proceedings have been published as ACLS Occasional Paper No. 59 (2005).
With funding from the Teagle Foundation, a small group of faculty members, college deans and presidents, education researchers, and learned society past presidents met three times over eighteen months to investigate the relation between the teacher-scholar model of undergraduate education and student learning outcomes. These concerns were addressed at the Williamstown conference. The ACLS Teagle Foundation Working Group on the Teacher-Scholar issued a white paper entitled "Student Learning and Faculty Research: Connecting Teaching and Scholarship" in May 2007. The working group was funded under the foundation's program to promote Fresh Thinking for Liberal Education.
From the Executive Summary
"This paper asserts a claim about how to promote effective undergraduate learning. On the basis of existing evidence and our own observation, we contend that the teacher-scholar model of faculty professional activity brings important benefits to individual student learners, institutions where that model flourishes, and to society more broadly. We believe that there is evidence for the synergy between teaching and scholarship, and that an even better understanding of effective learning would follow from further analysis of existing national data. We think that dissemination of this evidence and further discussion of these issues will allow the partnership between teaching and scholarship to do its good work on behalf of many more students in a wide range of institutions."
Members of the Working Group on the Teacher-Scholar were
- Alison Byerly, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Middlebury College
- Mitchell J. Chang, Associate Professor of Higher Education and Organizational Change and Faculty Advisor for the Asian American Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles
- Rebecca Chopp, President, Colgate University
- Stephen Fix, Robert G. Scott '68 Professor of English, Williams College
- Jane S. Jaquette, Bertha Harton Orr Professor in the Liberal Arts Emerita, Occidental College
- George D. Kuh, Chancellor's Professor of Higher Education and Director, Center for Postsecondary Research, Indiana University, Bloomington
- Kenneth Ruscio, President, Washington Lee University
- Ruth A. Solie, Sophia Smith Professor of Music, Smith College
- David Spadafora, President, Newberry Library, and Professor of History, Lake Forest College
- Pauline Yu, President, ACLS
- Steven Wheatley, Vice President, ACLS