September 2009, Volume 13, Number 7


Forum tackles responsibility in the face of crisis

Wearing a dapper bow tie and blue suit, Dr. Thomas Ehrlich, an education scholar, spoke at MDC recently to an audience of leaders in academia, civics and business of the profound challenges facing colleges and universities in the U.S., particularly in times of economic crisis.

“In retrospect, some of the strengths of a good liberal education would have been helpful in responding to the signs that this meltdown was coming, particularly skepticism and insistence on viewing issues from multiple perspectives,” said Ehrlich, senior scholar at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “Both of those qualities might have encouraged us to question the notion that the U.S. economy would keep on growing and with it the global economy.”

Ehrlich was the keynote speaker at “Responsibility in a Time of Crisis,” a forum organized by Miami Dade College and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Held at MDC’s Wolfson Campus, the event was part of the association’s LEAP Forum series.

LEAP, or Liberal Education and America’s Promise, is the AAC&U’s primary vehicle for advancing and communicating about the importance of undergraduate liberal education for all students. Ehrlich, a former Indiana University president, applauded institutions that build moral and civic learning into undergraduate education.

"They make a conscious effort to reach all of their students and use approaches to address the full range of dimensions that constitute moral and civic development,” Ehrlich said. “Miami Dade College is a prime example, for it has a clear set of learning outcomes. I also salute the AAC&U for its vision in creating LEAP.”

Other participants in the forum were Dr. Willis N. Holcombe, chancellor of Florida’s Division of Community Colleges; Barry Johnson, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce; Dr. J. Bernard Machen, president of the University of Florida; Dr. Lewis M. Duncan, president of Rollins College; and Bill Diggs, president of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, among others.

MDC’s 10 Learning Outcomes are exemplary, said Dr. Carol Geary Schneider, AAC&U president. “The college leadership also understands the need to increase the dialogue between education and the business community,” she said.

Organizers encouraged those who attended the forum to return to their spheres of influence and lead discussions on civic engagement, diversity and ethics. MDC president and AAC&U chair, Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, said: “We can’t lose the sense of optimism of ‘Yes We Can.’ The conversation is needed with the whole community, not just academia. I am encouraged by today’s robust conversations, but they can’t stay in this room.”

“It is incumbent on all of us, particularly in a time of economic crisis, to speak up and speak out on the need for strong liberal learning that truly addresses these key themes of engagement, acceptance and ethics,”
Ehrlich said.

— Gariot P. Louima

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