In January, I had the privilege of moderating a panel for The Council of Independent College’s Presidents Institute. The topic was a fascinating new book by Richard A. Detweiler, president emeritus of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, entitled The Evidence Liberal Arts Needs: Lives of Consequence, Inquiry, and Accomplishment (MIT Press 2021). The book offers compelling evidence that a liberal arts education has a distinctly large and lasting impact on lifetime success, leadership, altruism, learning and fulfillment.
Among the findings, Detweiler found that adults who had experienced an authentic educational community through close relationships with faculty and mentors were 21–26 percent more likely to act as leaders as adults. Similarly, alumni who had experienced an authentic learning community were 26 percent more likely to report altruistic behavior as adults, and had a 33–66 percent higher probability of living a more fulfilled life. (I should note that Kalamazoo College was among the colleges and universities from which the survey participants were randomly selected.)
Detweiler found that faculty engagement on a personal level—including conversations with faculty members on academic and non-academic topics outside the classroom—was one of the factors that seemed to have the greatest impact on life success.
Such empirical evidence comes as no surprise to those who have experienced a liberal arts education; the opportunity to build meaningful connections with faculty members, coaches and staff is one of the primary reasons students come to Kalamazoo College, as shown in our first-year surveys, as well as one of the most cherished experiences our alumni take away from their time at K.
We see this reflected in the stories shared in this issue of LuxEsto: We have Lynn Offerdahl ’85 and Jeff Gorton ’00, who were championed and then became champions thanks to the support of diving coach Ron Bramble, who never stopped believing in their abilities. There is the remarkable trajectory of Dongkeun Jeon ’16, who found a mentor in Professor Amy MacMillan and turned his aspirations into entrepreneurial success in South Korea. And then there’s the story of Vincent Liff ’73, a theatre alumnus who was generous with his time and his connections, who inspired friends and classmates to create a fund to help current theatre students make the most of their K-Plans. All these stories illustrate K’s fellowship in learning, and how it can lead to meaningful careers, relationships and contributions to a brighter world.
Saludos and lux esto,
Jorge G. Gonzalez