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Thursday, June 19 • 10:30am - 11:20am
CON4.08 – The Function and Value of the University: Why Are We Here? (Room A334)

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In his 1969 book, The Ideal of the University, Robert Wolff reflects on the function and value of the university in his contemporary moment. He considers four principle functions for the university: a setting for the contemplation of great intellectual debates; a “training camp” where students are accorded professional certificates in disciplines sought after by the market and/or government; a way station in the maturation of a nation’s youth; and, finally, an institution to be rebelled against for its traditions. This workshop will not focus on Wolff’s categories; rather, Wolff’s categories present a launching point for a focused conversation about the idea and the ideal of the university in 2014.

 This workshop is, perhaps, unconventional in that it does not present a specific research question or report, does not present a classroom strategy or practice and does not seek to explicitly “transform” or “innovate.” What this workshop will do, however, is step back and discuss some of the central questions we ought to be asking as members of the higher education community: What is the goal of higher education? What is our vision for the ideal university? If transformation requires a moving from one state to another, this workshop proposes first stepping back to ask ‘where are we now’ before answering ‘where might we go’?

 The outcome is as simple as it is ambitious: in this workshop participants will discuss the idea(l) of the university in 2014. In fifty minutes we will generate and debate the possible functions of the university; we will interrogate our existing assumptions about the purpose of higher education; and, we will articulate individual visions of what the goal of the university might be. We will collectively leave the conversation more confident of the kinds of questions we might ask about the purpose of and the direction for higher education. These are questions we might fruitfully take back to our home institutions to foster and facilitate change; or, these questions might simply serve as reminders to reflect on the role we individually and collectively play in the university. The discussion will be informed by an introduction to the history of the university, but will principally draw on the expertise and experiences of those participating in the discussion in order to determine functions, assumptions and visions.


Thursday June 19, 2014 10:30am - 11:20am EDT
A334 McArthur Hall

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