Campus News


Globalizing the Liberal Arts

Soka University of America hosted a conference on Globalizing the Liberal Arts (GLA) from June 3-5, 2018. The meeting was co-organized by leaders from Yale University, Pomona College, Carleton College, Middlebury College and Soka University of America. The meeting brought together a group of 80 academic leaders from 44 liberal arts colleges and programs in 12 countries to engage in an intense working discussion about globalization of the liberal arts. The conference was attended by 14 Soka University faculty and staff, representing all of the SUA concentrations and international programs, as well as the SUA administration. International representatives from liberal arts programs in Japan, Singapore, China, Malaysia, Denmark, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Kenya, and Switzerland made the conference truly global in nature. Sharing case study examples through panel presentations, and engaging in-depth working group discussions, the participants explored the ways in which liberal arts can provide undergraduates with the capability to collaborate on complex problems that span diverse cultural perspectives. From the meeting emerged a stronger awareness of the importance of liberal education to help students respond to urgent social, political and scientific challenges that are global in their scope. Details about the conference as well as presentation slides can be found at

The opening banquet at Founders Hall was followed by a discussion led by Claremont McKenna College President Hiram Chodosh on the future of learning and globalized liberal arts. The first morning was opened by Ed Feasel, VPAA, who welcomed the attendees to SUA, and by Bryan Penprase, Dean of Faculty, who gave an overview of the conference.  Patti McGill Peterson from ACE opened the morning with a plenary talk that discussed “Globally Engaged Institutions” and presented data to document the progression of international programs in US higher education over the past decade.  Each morning, the GLA conference included a plenary talk, followed by three panel discussions which addressed a key theme facing globalizing liberal arts with afternoon working groups studying each topic in more depth. The first set of panel discussions included panel presentations globalized Core and GE curriculum from a variety of institutions, the role of Centers for Global Learning on liberal arts campuses, and discussions on how to maximize the benefits of study abroad experiences. The first day included a presentation by Bryan Penprase about the SUA Core and GE curriculum, along with comparisons from Yale-NUS College, DKU (China) and Quest University (Canada).   The final day of the conference began with a plenary keynote talk by Denison University President Adam Weinberg, who laid out a series of principles to develop globally oriented liberal arts programs that help students to master complex problems that span diverse cultural perspectives. Dr. Weinberg pointed out that liberal arts colleges can be “big” by avoiding an insular and narrow focus and through their work advancing the fundamental mission of liberal learning. Panel presentations on the final day discussed the meaning of a “global college,” how to “capture” international experience through reflection and e-portfolios, and presentations on globalized STEM education.

At the end of the meeting, a plenary discussion examined some next steps and some key findings. The attendees all looked forward to further meetings to build upon the very strong presentations and conversations at the SUA conference.  The GLA discussions produced many findings and take-aways, including an interest in bringing efforts to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion together with globalization. The conference demonstrated how new technologies such as videoconferencing can vastly strengthen globalization on our campuses.  The conference also showed how small liberal arts colleges like SUA can help the growth of small elite liberal arts schools internationally, and how together these institutions can have a strong impact on broader discussions about higher education. The working groups recommended globalization strategies that involve a systematic effort to infuse all aspects of campus with global perspectives – both in the curriculum and co-curriculum. Thankfully SUA with its strong emphasis on global citizenship is already far along in this process and further dialogue with these leading liberal arts colleges and universities should enable SUA to become even more effective in its mission of fostering global citizenship.

GLA Pac Lecture


Photos by Mitsu Kimura and Charlie Wang, Soka University of America