Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts Working Group


  • Michael Jeffries
    Co-chair; Associate Professor of American Studies
  • Kristina Jones
    Co-chair; Director of the Botanic Gardens
  • Amy Banzaert
    Lecturer in Engineering; Director of Engineering Studies
  • Tracey Cameron
    Harambee Director; Assistant Dean of Intercultural Education
  • Don Elmore
    Professor of Chemistry
  • Corinne Gartner
    Associate Professor of Philosophy
  • Melanie Graves
    Class of 2021
  • Karen Lange
    Associate Professor of Mathematics
  • Phung Ninh
    Class of 2020
  • Jim Noggle
    Marion Butler McLean Professor in the History of Ideas; Professor of English 
  • Jen Pollard
    Director of Operations and Analytics, Career Education 
  • Lisa Rodensky ’84
    Professor of English 
  • Jess Ricker
    Director of Admission
  • Sarah Staley
    Associate Director of Talent Management and Development
  • Ann Velenchik
    Associate Professor of Economics; Dean of Academic Affairs

Strategic Rationale

Wellesley faculty, staff, and administration aspire to the liberal arts ideal. However, there are disagreements about the ideal itself, structural barriers to collaboration, and a perceived need to defend one’s discipline or position in the face of competition for limited resources.

Our charge is to identify interventions likely to heal current divisions so that we can work together towards shared goals, within available resources. This requires considering the curriculum with keen attention to student pathways through the College. The liberal arts at Wellesley must engage complex interdisciplinary problems, and our program must strengthen the analytic, collaborative, and communicative skills students need during and after college.

Current Traits and Trends

  • Hiring limitations
  • Roughly 85 percent of 230-plus tenure-stream faculty are tenured.
  • Wellesley’s curriculum requirements are more numerous than those of peer institutions.
  • Sense that faculty believe curriculum is too expansive
  • Small course sizes across the curriculum relative to peer institutions
  • Changing student demographics
  • Affirmation of inclusive excellence as a value, expectation that this cultural commitment will be financially and structurally supported

Working Hypothesis

We have an opportunity to make major changes rather than tinker with details of existing structures. We believe the opportunity aligns with the goals of the administration, and reflects college-wide recognition of current conditions and possibilities for the future. Time and money must be invested to yield effective structural change. In particular, current faculty and staff must be incentivized and granted new freedom to reallocate their time.

Key Questions

  • In what ways does our model of liberal arts education have to adapt to be effective and empowering for all Wellesley students?
  • Once curricular goals are agreed upon, how do we align faculty and staff resources with those goals?
  • How do we describe and communicate the curriculum and the meaning of liberal arts education at Wellesley to multiple audiences on and off campus?

What We Are Working On Now

Subgroups of two to three working-group members have been formed to research and report on the following topics:

  • The current description of the liberal arts at Wellesley (if we have one), and the ways that liberal arts education is described and constructed at other institutions.
  • The Wellesley curriculum and current standards for innovation and change.
  • Analysis of current faculty time allocation and incentive structure. Attention to describing these conditions with language more reflective of faculty experience than the “research, teaching, service” triad.
  • Description of ACAS formation, intended function, actual function, and anticipated role in future staffing and curricular matters.

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