National Liberal Arts Institute on Campus Raises Visibility of Core Tradition

A new institute at Saint Mary's is raising the stature of the college's distinguished liberal arts tradition. The Liberal Arts Institute of the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC), a prestigious international organization dedicated to enhancing liberal arts programs at its 58 member institutions and beyond, will be hosted at SMC for at least another year.

As a result, says Frances Sweeney, vice provost of academic affairs, Saint Mary's becomes "a player on the national stage," linked by this affiliation with the most distinguished liberal arts programs in the nation, such as those of Saint John's College and the University of Notre Dame.

Directed on campus by Scott Lee, the ACTC Liberal Arts Institute also brings funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), further enhancing the reputation and programming at Saint Mary's. In June 2005, the institute hosted a seminar on campus as part of its three-year, NEH-funded series "Bridging the Gap Between the Humanities and Sciences: An Exemplary Education Model of Core Text, Humanistic Education."

Lee says the June seminar drew 31 representatives from 10 institutions from across the country to Moraga, "scientists, humanists, and administrators" working through a syllabus including Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Dante, Machiavelli, Bacon, Swift, Hawthorne, Latour and Woolgar, Kass, Jonas, and others exploring themes of "science, art, technology, and value."

In fall 2004, students hosted their own liberal arts seminar in conjunction with the institute.

Founded in 1996 at Temple University, the ACTC helps faculty and administrators develop core programs and baccalaureate degree programs, like the Collegiate Seminar and Integral Program at Saint Mary's.

"Collegiate Seminar is at the heart of our liberal arts tradition: All students take it, all faculty teach it," says Sweeney, further distinguishing Saint Mary's commitment to the liberal arts from that of many other institutions. "As the Cummins Institute represents our Catholic core tradition and CILSA represents our Lasallian social justice mission, the Liberal Arts Institute completes the picture."

The institute is currently funded for a two-year stay, though an endowment campaign is underway to house it permanently at Saint Mary's (for more information, call the development office at 925-631-4223).