Celebrating the Value of Liberal Arts Education

More than 100 college presidents, administrators, foundation leaders, and representatives from business, law, medicine, and politics gathered at the Indiana State Museum on September 17, 2014 to celebrate and comment on the value of liberal arts education.

Hosted by the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts and Wabash College, this day-long conversation included moderated panel discussions and keynote addresses on leadership and the liberal arts, ethics and working a diverse world, innovation and lifelong learning, the philanthropy of the liberal arts, making good on the promise of the liberal arts, findings from the Wabash National Study, and opportunities for the future.


Events of the Day


Liberal Arts Education: Essential for the Future

9:00 – 9:15 a.m.

Introductory remarks from Gregory D. Hess, President of Wabash College, and Clay Robbins, President and CEO of Lilly Endowment Inc.


Alecia DeCoudreaux, Mills College



9:15 – 10:45 a.m.

Chair: Alecia A. DeCoudreaux, President of Mills College

How did each panelist benefit from the liberal arts for developing leadership skills, and how would each change liberal arts education to make it more effective?

Panelists: Stephen L. Ferguson, Chairman of Cook Group Incorporated; Lee Hamilton, Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University and former United States Congressman; Gregory D. Hess, President of Wabash College; David C. Woessner, Founder and Managing Partner of W Advisors & Co and Senior Advisor, Jobs and the Economy for the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office

Listen to a podcast on leadership.


Leon Botstein, Bard College, and Bobby Schnabel, Indiana University


Ethics and Working in a Diverse World

11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Chair, Bob Grand, Managing Partner of Barnes & Thornburg LLP

How did each panelist benefit from the liberal arts for developing a deeper sense of ethics and the capacity to work effectively in a diverse world, and how would each change liberal arts education to make it more effective?

Leon Botstein, President of Bard College; Bobby Schnabel, Dean of the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University; David N. Shane, retired CEO of LDI, Ltd., LLC.

Listen to a podcast on ethics.


Angie Hicks of Angie’s List


Keynote and Luncheon: The Value of Liberal Arts Education

12:30 – 2:00 p.m.

Angie Hicks, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Angie’s List

Introduced by Brian Casey, President of DePauw University


Donna Heiland, Emerson College, and Richard Gunderman, Indiana University


Innovation and Lifelong Learning

2:15 – 3:30 p.m.

Chair, Arthur Levine, President of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation

How did each panelist benefit from the liberal arts for developing a capacity to innovate and engage in lifelong learning, and how would each change liberal arts education to make it more effective?

Elizabeth A. Dinndorf, President of Columbia College; Richard B. Gunderman, Chancellor’s Professor of Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, Philanthropy, and Medical Humanities and Health Studies at Indiana University; Donna Heiland, Vice President of Emerson College

Listen to a podcast on innovation and lifelong learning.


Making Good on the Promise of the Liberal Arts

3:45 – 4:15 p.m.

The presenters review the findings from the Center of Inquiry’s research on liberal arts education—connecting those findings with previous discussions from the day and highlighting strengths—and suggest changes to improve the efficacy of liberal arts education.

Charles Blaich, Director, and Kathleen Wise, Associate Director, both of the Center of Inquiry

Listen to a podcast.


Opportunities for the Future

4:30 – 5:45 p.m.

Chair, Robert Wedgeworth, Jr., former Dean of Columbia University School of Library Science and retired CEO of ProLiteracy Worldwide

Taking into account the conversations of the day and panelists’ experiences, what must change and what must be preserved about the liberal arts, liberal arts colleges, and liberal arts education to ensure its relevance and effectiveness for the next generation of students?

Bob Connor, Senior Advisor and former President of the Teagle Foundation; Cecilia A. Conrad, Vice President of the MacArthur Fellows Program; Kelly Pfledderer, CEO and Founder of Apparatus

Listen to a podcast on opportunities for the future. 


Dr. Earl Lewis of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


Keynote and Dinner: The Philanthropy of the Liberal Arts

6:45 – 8:30 p.m.

Earl Lewis, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Introduced by Lora Hess, former Director of Corporate and Foundation Giving at Claremont McKenna College

The Center of Inquiry would like to thank the Lilly Endowment for its extraordinary support. Without it, the Center’s work would not have been possible.