Editor's Note: Higher Education's Identity

By Caitlin Salins, Project Manager, Bringing Theory to Practice

As noted in our Fall 2017 newsletter, Jennifer O’Brien, project manager and editor of the newsletter, has accepted a new position as the director of development at the Middle East Children’s Institute. As I have assumed the position of BTtoP’s project manager, I also have the privilege of serving as the editor. Thank you in advance for your support, and we welcome your suggestions!

Most of us who work in higher education are aware that controversy and tension currently abound on college campuses—unrest stemming from the limits of free speech, reexamined campus histories, student protests, external challenges to higher education from powerful political and economic pressures, the public’s questioning of the value and purpose of liberal education, and many other challenges. More broadly, many educators observe our country and world to be in a period of extreme divisiveness—torn in how we respond to issues such as the refugee crisis, global warming, violence, or healthcare. Not easily solved or addressed, the lingering results of this discord cause many students, faculty, and campus administrators to question where colleges and universities should stand—and even whether they should take stands. In this issue of our newsletter, we hope to join our community in an exploration of these core issues of institutional identity, responsibility, and potential as we work together in a period of intense challenges.

In our feature article, William Carpenter of High Point University revisits a topic he presented at our recent Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP) National Conference, “The Whole Student: Intersectionality and Well-Being,” examining higher education’s role within a neoliberal society and how campuses must assert themselves not just as cogs within the economic system, but as spaces to foster student compassion and community engagement.

In our campus highlight, Diya Abdo describes Guilford College’s Every Campus a Refuge program, an adaptable and adoptable initiative that exemplifies Carpenter’s exhortation to make learning relational to the world by encouraging students (and faculty) to embed compassion, civic action, and global consciousness into the classroom.

And in his director’s column, Don Harward provides his own historical perspective from years of service as a university professor, administrator, and president, and now as the director of the Bringing Theory to Practice project. His column asserts that despite real threats, fear must have no place on campus, that colleges and universities must recognize their unique position as institutions apart from and a part of the external world, and that by staying silent in response to demagoguery and alternative facts, “we fail to meet our full responsibility of rising to the greater purpose of higher education as a space for truth.”