President Lawrence to deliver talk on liberal arts education in Qingdao, China

In a talk to families of pre-college students and others interested in American higher education, Sarah Lawrence College President Karen Lawrence will deliver a talk titled “A Liberal Arts Education: Preparing the Millennial Generation for the 21st Century” on Sunday, March 23, at 3 p.m. at the Shangri La Hotel in Qingdao, China.

In her talk, President Lawrence poses the question: How do we prepare our children for the rapidly changing and unpredictable world of the 21st-century?" While she references the various approaches to higher education in the US, Lawrence focuses on the distinctions of a liberal arts undergraduate education for 18-22 year olds. “American education—probably more than education in many countries, including China—is especially diverse and we have many kinds of institutions trying to address this question,” she said. “Unlike many European and Chinese universities, at liberal arts colleges students take a greater variety of subjects across these disciplines [humanities, languages, sciences, social sciences, and the arts] and, although they may concentrate on an area, they are encouraged not to specialize too early.

“This kind of college takes its mission seriously: to educate students to adapt to a changing world, both professionally and personally. Of course, we do teach history and biology, mathematics and languages, for example, but, given the almost incomprehensible pace of change and the interconnectedness of things, we teach students not only facts and subjects, but the habit of learning that helps them to keep learning long after they have graduated. We help them develop what I would call the critical abilities they will need to succeed in their work and their lives: the ability to analyze, to communicate in writing, to communicate orally to other people, to innovate, to think independently, and to take criticism. Equipped with these abilities, they become energetic and successful global citizens.”

Lawrence is traveling to China to visit with families of current students and alumni and to explore further connections with Chinese educators and families seeking to know more about American higher education, specifically the liberal arts approach. She will be in Qingdao and Hong Kong over the College’s spring break.

Karen R. Lawrence is the tenth president of Sarah Lawrence College, where she has served since 2007. Prior to this appointment she was Dean of the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine, where she co-chaired the Humanities Commission charged with formulating the University of California’s twenty-first century role as an international model for the humanities in higher education. Prior to her Deanship at the University of California, Irvine, President Lawrence was a member and chair of the Department of English at the University of Utah. President Lawrence is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on its Higher Education Working Group on Global Issues. She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Annapolis Group, a representative organization of over 130 leading national liberal arts colleges across the United States. She has served as a member of the Women’s Leadership Network, the American Council of Education Commission on Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity, the Presidents’ Leadership Coalition, and the board of the Commission of Independent Colleges and Universities.

EducationUSA, the US State Department-supported network of advising centers around the world, has been instrumental in promoting the event in Qingdao.