In his book, Education Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education, former Harvard dean and computer science professor, Harry Lewis, laments the disappearance of true liberal education from elite American universities. Professor Lewis states the old ideals of a liberal education live on "in name only." Seeing college merely as a means to a career or to graduate or professional education, students have lost the sense of learning for its own sake or of the way in which college can enlarge their vision of the world and their place within it. Lewis traces the current loss of purpose in higher education to increased faculty specialization and the isolation of faculty from students.
Among the many fine scholars, including Dr. Leon Kass (former chair of the President's Council on Bioethics), we hosted in the past year, we were fortunate to have Professor Lewis here for an afternoon to engage our students and faculty on the prospects for liberal education. Dr. Lewis was certainly impressed by the seriousness with which our students and faculty take these questions and by how much we are accomplishing in the way of delivering a liberal education to our students. Why is this?
As is true universally at Baylor, Honors College students and faculty are not isolated from one another. Of our many honors and successes, from faculty publications and presentations at prestigious conferences to students being awarded Truman and Fulbright fellowships, our commitment to breaking down artificial barriers between academic and student life is the one that reveals the most about the community we are building in the Honors College. In fall 2007, we began our fourth year of operation of the Honors College Living-Learning Center (soon to be the Honors Residential College) in Memorial and Alexander Halls, where a number of our faculty have offices and where Honors College faculty member Sarah-Jane Murray now lives in an apartment. With the opening of the new Brooks Hall, where Honors College faculty member Doug Henry now resides and where the entire Great Texts faculty now has its offices, more than half of all Honors College faculty now are located in residence halls. That is a tremendous testimony, not just to the commitment of our faculty to Baylor students, but also to the kind of shared intellectual and spiritual community that is increasingly rare these days.
We are also passionately committed in the Honors College to interdisciplinary education, to helping students make connections between the various parts of their education at Baylor, so that they pursue knowledge in a more integrated and more rewarding way. This past summer, the Honors College co-sponsored with the School of Engineering & Computer-Science an enormously successful program for high school juniors entitled, Renaissance Scholars. Well over 90 percent of the students who attended plan to make Baylor their top college choice in the next year.
The articles in this newsletter will give you a greater sense of what is going on in our intellectually vibrant community. Please let us know if you plan to return to Baylor for a visit. We would welcome the opportunity to host you and help you become reacquainted with Baylor, the Honors College and our community of aspiring scholars and teachers.
Dean Thomas Hibbs
Distinguished Professor of Ethics & Culture
Click here to read Dean Hibbs' op-ed piece on higher education in The Dallas Morning News.