Transylvania University, an early leader in liberal arts education, recently hosted a faculty seminar titled Twenty-first Century Liberal Education: A
Contested Concept. The 15 seminar participants were selected from a pool of over 50 applicants from liberal arts colleges throughout the country. They
reflect the diversity within the professorate at liberal arts colleges and include faculty members from Smith College, Hollins University and Middlebury
College among others. Acceptance to the program included the cost of the sessions, all seminar materials, lodging, meals and a travel stipend.
Seminar sessions included “Alternative Traditions in Liberal Education,” “The Current State of Liberal Education in America” and “The
Purposes of Liberal Education: Varieties of Social Engagement.” Participants were asked to consider the application of liberal education principles
to enhance their own effectiveness as college and university teachers – in the classroom, in the preparation of course offerings and in the construction
of curricula at their academic institutions.
Martha Andresen, professor of English at Pomona College gave the opening address, “I will speak as liberal as the north”: Tales of Teaching
at a Liberal Arts College. The plenary speaker was John Churchill, executive secretary of The Phi Beta Kappa Society. He spoke about the current state
of liberal education in America.
Through this seminar, Transylvania University, with assistance from The Phi Beta Kappa Society, sought to contribute to a national conversation on the
idea of liberal education and the mission of the liberal arts college in twenty-first century America. The seminar provided a historical overview of
the best thinking about the purpose of liberal education through the ages.
Transylvania University is among a handful of colleges that pioneered higher education in America. Founded in 1780 by an act of the Virginia legislature
under Governor Thomas Jefferson, Transylvania was the first college west of the Allegheny Mountains and only the sixteenth in the nation. The name—from
the Latin meaning across the woods—derives from the name given to the rolling bluegrass area of western Virginia that became a part of Kentucky.
Transylvania established the first schools of medicine and law in what was still a wilderness region, educating the doctors, lawyers, ministers, political
leaders and others who helped shape the young nation. Distinguished alumni include two U.S. vice presidents, a U.S. Supreme Court justice, 50 U.S. senators,
101 U.S. representatives, 36 governors and 34 ambassadors. Transylvania also founded the first college literary magazine in the west, The Transylvanian,
still published by students today.
Transylvania continues to be a pioneer in liberal education. Faculty members are dedicated to undergraduate teaching and engage students in small classes.
Transylvania professors have dominated the Kentucky Professor of the Year award bestowed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and
the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, winning the honor four times in the past five years.
Located adjacent to Gratz Park, Transylvania’s campus is an oasis of green in a historic district on the edge of downtown Lexington, a bustling
city of 260,000 people and just miles from some of the most beautiful and famous horse farms in the world.