On June 23, the University of Alberta’s Dr. Allen Berger, Dean of Augustana Faculty, was elected president of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). The organization of 26 institutions – of which Augustana Campus is the sole Canadian member – promotes the value of a high-quality, arts and sciences undergraduate education in residential campus settings.
“It’s an honour to be elected to serve as COPLAC’s president,” says Dean Berger. “I have been involved with the organization since 2000 and have had ample opportunity to observe COPLAC’s important work. These institutions represent an important sector in post-secondary education, and I believe they provide extraordinary value.”
A liberal arts education typically is defined by a commitment to a broad-based, general education in addition to study in a major. There is an emphasis on preparing students for meaningful careers, but also on educating the whole person, e.g., as a future citizen and leader. More recently, it has included community placements – which challenge students to apply theories from the classroom to real-life challenges – and support for formalized undergraduate research. COPLAC institution students benefit from close relationships with faculty and staff and have extensive opportunities to practice their learning in co-curricular settings, both on and off campus. In many larger university settings, close faculty mentorship and research opportunities are available only to graduate students.
“I plan to help COPLAC advance two important priorities,” says Dean Berger. “The first is cross-institutional collaboration on faculty-guided research and community-service learning opportunities for students. The second is effectively communicating the message that a liberal arts and sciences education is a perfect match for the twenty-first century skills that businesses and industries are seeking.” COPLAC seeks to shape the perceptions of both legislators and the general public.
Recently COPLAC has sponsored faculty and student exchanges, staff professional development opportunities, summer institutes and shared study-abroad programs to increase the value of the education for each student. COPLAC also supports regional undergraduate research conferences and publishes outstanding undergraduate scholarship.
“COPLAC provides Augustana with an important network of colleagues across North America who are working at similar institutions that face similar challenges,” says Berger. “They are a valuable reference group for us, providing many good ideas and helping to ensure that an Augustana education is on a par with the best small-university experience anywhere.”