AAC&U Announces New Mission Statement Affirming Commitments to Liberal Education and Inclusive Excellence

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Washington, DC—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today that its board of directors has approved a change to its formal mission statement.

AAC&U’s mission is now “to make liberal education and inclusive excellence the foundation for institutional purpose and educational practice in higher education.”

With this shift, AAC&U reaffirms its nearly one-hundred year commitment to the aims and outcomes of an engaged and public-spirited liberal education as the best preparation for work, life, and citizenship. Since 2005 when it launched its centennial initiative, Liberal Education and America’s Promise, AAC&U has worked with hundreds of colleges and universities as they work to become more intentional and effective at ensuring that all students achieve a set of Essential Learning Outcomes that define liberal education in the 21st century. By approving this new mission statement and a new set of strategic goals, AAC&U seeks to focus with new urgency and intentionality on helping higher education provide a liberal and liberating education for all college students, including and especially those students from groups historically underserved by the American educational system at all levels. Guided by this mission statement, AAC&U will mark its upcoming centennial by showcasing America’s stake in making educational excellence inclusive.

“The term ‘inclusive excellence’ underscores AAC&U’s dual commitment to access and to quality,” said AAC&U Board Chair and Ursinus College President Bobby Fong. “Educational opportunity should be available to students regardless of background or circumstance. Educational attainment should be characterized by rigor and achievement, not simply by accumulation of credits.”

The AAC&U board of directors approved this new mission statement as part of a new set of strategic goals that will guide the association’s work on behalf of its members from 2013 to 2017. These goals include:

1. LEAP: Liberal Education as a Global Necessity AAC&U will build shared commitment to provide ALL college students with the high-quality learning they need to succeed and thrive in an era of global interconnection and rapid societal and economic change.

2. Quality: 21st-Century Markers for the Value of U.S. Degrees AAC&U will promote a clear, contemporary, and capacious framework for high-quality learning and students’ demonstrated achievement, providing an educationally meaningful compass to guide students’ pathways to degrees.

3. Equity: Innovation, Inclusive Excellence, and Student Success AAC&U will accelerate broad-scale systemic innovation to advance educational practices that engage diversity and challenge inequities in order to make excellence inclusive.

4. Social Responsibility: Integrative Liberal Learning for the Global Commons AAC&U will advance “big questions/global commons” inquiry and innovation across the liberal arts and sciences and through cornerstone-to-capstone designs for general education that foster civic learning, ethical reasoning, and engagement with U.S. and global diversity.

“I am extremely pleased to announce AAC&U’s new mission statement and set of strategic goals,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. “Given the current challenging national environment, it is essential that AAC&U provide strong leadership and recommit to providing a big-picture liberal education to the nation’s new majority students—those who come from less-advantaged backgrounds and who, therefore, most need the access to the meaningful opportunity that a broad and rigorous education can provide. AAC&U will continue to vigorously challenge damaging dividing lines within higher education that too often steer students either to educational programs that prepare them for specific careers or to liberal arts programs incorrectly viewed as non-vocational. We must, instead, ensure that all students develop both a rich understanding of the world they inherit—through studies in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and sciences—and the practical knowledge and capacities graduates need to help solve the difficult problems they will confront in the workplace, in their own lives, and as active and responsible citizens of the nation and the world.”

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,250 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, and universities of every type and size. AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education at both the national and local levels and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges. Information about AAC&U membership, programs, and publications can be found at www.aacu.org.