A Liberal Arts Education—Preparing the Millennial Generation for the 21st Century: President of Sarah Lawrence College Delivers Talk in Qingdao, China

In a lecture to over 300 educators, officials,  pre-college students and their families, in Qingdao, China, Sarah Lawrence College President Karen Lawrence on Sunday spoke of the role a liberal arts education plays in preparing young people to take their place in the world. “A Liberal Arts Education: Preparing the Millennial Generation for the 21st Century” filled the ballroom at the Shangri La Hotel in Qingdao.

In her talk, which was interpreted simultaneously into Chinese, President Lawrence posed the question: “How do we prepare our children for the rapidly changing and unpredictable world of the 21st-century? While she referenced the various approaches to higher education in the US, Lawrence focused 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 the disciplines 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,” she said.  “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 traveled to China and Hong Kong 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. Her visit to Qingdao over the College’s spring break, was hosted by the family of a current first-year student, the daughter of Wilson Chen, CEO of KingKing, a Qingdao based company. From Beijing, EducationUSA, a US State Department network of advisers, promoted the event on their Website and social media channels.