June 22, 2011—Like-minded liberal arts institutions are poised to pool resources and lead discussion about the future of higher education, leaders of The New American Colleges and Universities said today at the opening of the 2011 NAC&U Summer Institute at North Central College in Naperville, Ill.
Leaders of NAC&U institutions said the consortium’s 20 member schools should work together to find ways to more efficiently and effectively educate students.
“We are institutions that believe higher education is not just transactional, it’s transformative,” said Richard Guarasci, president of Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y.
Since its founding in 1995, NAC&U has grown to 20 institutions from coast to coast. Adding new members who share the consortium’s mission would help the group exert greater national influence and help strengthen members’ reputations as innovators in higher education, leaders said.
“We want to be in the vanguard of the national dialogue about the future of higher education,” said Mark Heckler, president of Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind.
NAC&U welcomed two new members—Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., and Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.—to their first Summer Institute, the consortium’s annual gathering which is held at a different institution each year. This year the three-day event is hosted by founding member North Central College.
“When we started this organization we were the ugly ducklings of higher education,” North Central College President Harold Wilde said of the small to mid-sized liberal arts institutions that make up NAC&U. “The conviviality among NAC&U institutions is unique. We have an unusual culture of sharing.”
One of the group’s near-term tasks is to choose a new leader. Executive Director Lynette Robinson is set to retire this summer, and the consortium wants its new chief executive to be an experienced higher education professional.
The keynote speakers at this year’s Summer Institute are Alexander and Helen Astin, renowned higher education researchers and UCLA professors who are the inaugural recipients of NAC&U’s Ernest L. Boyer Award.
During the Summer Institute participants will exchange ideas about how the various member schools can collaborate to adapt to rapidly changing external conditions that present major challenges for the future of higher education.
“We’re looking with great excitement at the opportunities ahead of us,” Heckler said.