Richard Light is the Carl H. Pforzheimer Jr. Professor of Teaching and Learning at HGSE. His Ph.D. is in statistics from Harvard, and after years of teaching statistics at GSE he currently focuses on higher education policies and controversies. Light has been asked by four Harvard presidents, Derek Bok, Neil Rudenstine, Larry Summers, and Drew Faust, to explore how to strengthen the undergraduate experience both at Harvard and at a diverse set of other campuses. This invitation led Light to create and Chair the Harvard Assessment Seminars that bring together campus leaders from 24 colleges and universities to develop projects to strengthen students experiences. Light currently is leading several projects. One is an exploration with leaders from Brown, Duke, Georgetown and Harvard of how to help First Generation college students to succeed at highly selective campuses. A second is a collaboration with HGSE colleague Howard Gardner to explore and reinvent a new liberal arts for the 21st century. A third is to tackle controversies in higher education. At the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, where Light is an elected Fellow, he chaired their project on diversity and changing demographics at colleges. He also has been elected president of the American Evaluation Association, elected to the Board of the Teagle Foundation, and elected to the Board of the American Association for Higher Education. His book Making the Most of College won the Stone Award for best book about education and society. Light is a recipient of the Paul Lazarsfeld award for contributions to science, and has been named by Vanderbilt Universitys Chancellors Lecture Series as one of Americas great teachers.
Liberal Arts and Sciences for the 21st Century, Lumina Foundation, (2013-2014) For generations the concept of a liberal arts and sciences education at a college or university has been a core value both for many students and many campuses in the United States. Even on large, public university campuses where large numbers of students choose non-liberal arts majors, most students study at least a bit of liberal arts and sciences. Now this situation is changing and we believe these changes pose both a challenge to conventional thinking and an exciting opportunity.
Each decade for the last four decades, fewer students are studying these topics. Many campuses are cutting back on liberal arts offerings. We believe that in a rapidly changing world, a thoughtful exploration of the liberal arts is perhaps even more important than ever. In fact, we believe this idea may be important not just for the traditional student who studies traditional liberal arts, but also for those who choose to major in business or education or other fields in college.
In this project we ask: how can liberal arts be re-invented, what can be changed, to achieve worthy goals for a large number of students? What specific and concrete changes would be most constructive and practical? What adjustments and new ideas would be most constructive to dramatically increase the number of students at American colleges and universities who regardless of major choose to explore some liberal arts, who come to value the experience, and who consider such studies a core part of their education?
To explore these questions, we will conduct extensive, in-depth interviews at a sampling of campuses. We plan to ask similar sets of questions of entering freshmen, graduating seniors, their parents, faculty members at the campuses, campus leaders including the president and deans, a sample of trustees, and finally we plan to interview recruiters on our sample campuses. We will explore alignment among these different stakeholders to see what ideas generate broad agreement, and what topics elicit dramatic disagreements. We believe that this knowledge is essential if viable forms of the liberal arts are to be devised and successfully implemented looking forward.
Liberal Arts for the 21st Century, Spencer Foundation, (2013-2014) The liberal arts and sciences (hereafter liberal arts) at many colleges and universities are struggling and this has been a trend for nearly two generations. The purpose of this project is to explore how liberal arts can be adjusted or re-invented or changed in constructive ways so that this form of education can be available in optimal forms for the future generations of students.
Students entering colleges and universities of all kinds now routinely deal with challenges that are generally new for different kinds of campuses. A first challenge is globalization, a widely used word with different meanings to different people. A second challenge is rapidly changing technologies. A third is the changing demographic that is entirely predictable among students who will begin college in the coming generation. One way to pose this question is simply to ask: What should be different about the liberal arts at a college or university campus in the year 2020, compared to what students learned in 1950 or 1970 or even 1990?
To explore this question, we plan to begin by gathering empirical data to explore alignmentor lack of alignmentamong different sets of stakeholders from a sample of campuses. We plan to ask similar sets of questions of entering freshmen, graduating seniors, their parents, faculty members at the campuses, campus leaders including the president and deans, a sample of trustees, and finally we plan to interview recruiters on our sample campuses. We will explore alignment among these different stakeholders to see what ideas generate broad agreement, and what topics elicit dramatic disagreements. We believe that this knowledge is essential if viable forms of the liberal arts are to be devised and successfully implemented looking forward.