Celebrating the Value of Liberal Arts Education


More than 100 college presidents, administrators, foundation leaders, and representatives from business, law, medicine, and politics gathered at the Indiana State Museum on September 17, 2014 to celebrate and comment on the value of liberal arts education.

Hosted by the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts and Wabash College, this day-long conversation included moderated panel discussions and keynote addresses on leadership and the liberal arts, ethics and working a diverse world, innovation and lifelong learning, the philanthropy of the liberal arts, making good on the promise of the liberal arts—findings from the Wabash National Study, and opportunities for the future.

Events of the Day

9:00 9:15 a.m.
Liberal Arts Education: Essential for the FutureAlecia DeCoudreaux, Mills College

Introductory remarks from Gregory D. Hess, President of Wabash College, and Clay Robbins, President and CEO of Lilly Endowment Inc.

Watch video of introductory remarks 

9:15 – 10:45 a.m.

Chair: Alecia A. DeCoudreaux, President of Mills College

How did each panelist benefit from the liberal arts for developing leadership skills, and how would each change liberal arts education to make it more effective?

Panelists: Stephen L. Ferguson, Chairman of Cook Group Incorporated; Lee Hamilton, Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University and former United States Congressman; Gregory D. Hess, President of Wabash College; David C. Woessner, Founder and Managing Partner of W Advisors & Co and Senior Advisor, Jobs and the Economy for the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office

Watch panel on leadership video or listen to a podcast

Leon Botstein, Bard College, and Bobby Schnabel, Indiana University11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Ethics and Working in a Diverse World 

Chair, Bob Grand, Managing Partner of Barnes & Thornburg LLP

How did each panelist benefit from the liberal arts for developing a deeper sense of ethics and the capacity to work effectively in a diverse world, and how would each change liberal arts education to make it more effective?

Leon Botstein, President of Bard College; Bobby Schnabel, Dean of the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University; David N. Shane, retired CEO of LDI, Ltd., LLC

Watch panel on ethics video or listen to a podcast

Angie Hicks of Angie's List

12:30 – 2:00 p.m.

Keynote and Luncheon: The Value of Liberal Arts Education

Angie Hicks, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Angie’s List
Introduced by Brian Casey, President of DePauw University

View Angie Hicks Keynote

Donna Heiland, Emerson College, and Richard Gunderman, Indiana University2:15 – 3:30 p.m.
Innovation and Lifelong Learning

Chair, Arthur Levine, President of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation

How did each panelist benefit from the liberal arts for developing a capacity to innovate and engage in lifelong learning, and how would each change liberal arts education to make it more effective?

Elizabeth A. Dinndorf, President of Columbia College; Richard B. Gunderman, Chancellor’s Professor of Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, Philanthropy, and Medical Humanities and Health Studies at Indiana University; Donna Heiland, Vice President of Emerson College

Watch panel on innovation and lifelong learning video or listen to a podcast



3:45 – 4:15 p.m.
Making Good on the Promise of the Liberal Arts

The presenters review the findings from the Center of Inquiry’s research on liberal arts education, connecting those findings with previous discussions from the day and highlighting strengths, and suggest changes to improve the efficacy of liberal arts education.

Charles Blaich, Director, and Kathleen Wise, Associate Director, both of the Center of Inquiry

Watch presentation video or listen to a podcast

4:30 – 5:45 p.m.
Opportunities for the Future

Chair, Robert Wedgeworth, Jr., former Dean of Columbia University School of Library Science and retired CEO of ProLiteracy Worldwide

Taking into account the conversations of the day and panelists’ experiences, what must change and what must be preserved about the liberal arts, liberal arts colleges, and liberal arts education to ensure its relevance and effectiveness for the next generation of students?

Bob Connor, Senior Advisor and former President of the Teagle Foundation; Cecilia A. Conrad, Vice President of the MacArthur Fellows Program; Kelly Pfledderer, CEO and Founder of Apparatus

View panel on opportunites for the future video or listen to podcast

Dr. Earl Lewis of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


6:45 – 8:30 p.m.
Keynote and Dinner: The Philanthropy of the Liberal Arts

Earl Lewis, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Introduced by Lora Hess, former Director of Corporate and Foundation Giving at Claremont McKenna College

View Earl Lewis Keynote



The Center of Inquiry would like to thank the Lilly Endowment for its extraordinary support. Without it, the Center’s work would not have been possible.