Transformative Education, Strong Leadership

For our incoming freshmen and international students, this week marks a huge transition, but did you know that on the first of August LAPC observed its own milestone?  Professor Yaffa Grossman has assumed the role of Associate Dean and Director of the Liberal Arts in Practice Center as Professor Charles Westerberg, Brannon-Ballard Professor of Sociology and founding director of the Center, returns to full time teaching and research.  

In honor of this significant transition, we thought it was worth asking them to reflect on LAPC’s goals . . . past, present and future. 

Charles, it has been seven years since your championing of the Liberal Arts in Practice catalyzed its adoption as a pedagogical framework, a curriculum requirement and an academic Center.  What were your early goals?
The foremost early goal for both LAP and LAPC were to articulate and demonstrate a path forward for liberal education at a time when folks in the higher ed. community seemed confused about how to explain and justify this type of learning.  What is the value of college? What is the utility of liberal learning?  Beloit has always been an innovator, and the liberal arts in practice provides a vehicle by which we pursue our mission.  When we started, we wanted to lift up what was already happening all across campus and provide a language to describe what we all knew to be what Beloit was about.  This wasn’t something new, it was an affirmation of what has made Beloit excellent across the generations.
In what ways has Beloit’s adoption of the liberal arts in practice surprised you or surpassed your expectations?

I feel really good about how embedded the liberal arts in practice is in how we go about learning at Beloit.  There is pretty much no place you can go on campus where you don’t see or feel the impact of how classroom and beyond-the-classroom learning intersect and combine.  Students bring them together in ways that demonstrate the students’ own efficacy and potential.  I couldn’t be happier about this.

It is also the case that many other residential liberal arts colleges have paid close attention to what we have been doing and have adopted several of our ideas.  Just look around at our competitors materials.  You don’t have to search too hard to see the liberal arts in practice seeping in.

Yaffa, what are your goals for the Center during your tenure as Assistant Dean and Director of the Liberal Arts in Practice Center?

My goals for advancing the liberal arts in practice as Associate Dean and Director of the Liberal Arts in Practice Center are to support the Center’s Career Development, Community-Based Learning, Field Experience, and Campus and Community Outreach activities, all of which help students create connections among their academic and other experiences. I’ll also be working with the Center’s staff, the Alumni Office, and other to enhance connections between students and alumni, faculty, and staff. I’m excited to be working in the LAPC and look forward to meeting with students to help them reflect on, connect, and transfer their course experiences to other activities.

What challenges and/or opportunities lie ahead for advancing the liberal arts in practice within the Beloit College community?

Charles: I hope we don’t get complacent and take our foot off of the gas or try to reinvent the wheel with respect to our distinctiveness in relation to the liberal arts in practice.  We have a solid infrastructure now, and I think the next challenge is to extend and amplify what we have so that it really is seen and understood by ourselves and external constituencies as something distinctively Beloit.

Yaffa: Enhancing student-alumni connections will be one focus of my work this year.  The college hosted more than seventy alums at the Advising Practicum last spring, and I’m planning on helping students meet even more alums this year.  As always, the LAPC will also be providing information to students about the many ways that they can put the liberal arts into practice