The Best Kind of College

An Insiders' Guide to America's Small Liberal Arts Colleges

Edited by Susan McWilliams & John E. Seery

Subjects: Higher Education, Political Theory, Philosophy Of The Social Sciences
Paperback : 9781438457727, 314 pages, July 2016
Hardcover : 9781438457710, 314 pages, September 2015

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Table of contents

Susan McWilliams and John E. Seery, Pomona College
Part One: The Classroom
What’s Love Got to Do with It? Shakespeare: A Liberal Art
Martha Andresen, Pomona College
In Defense of Small: Some Personal Reflections on Teaching Chemistry at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution
Dasan M. Thamattoor, Colby College

An Invitation to Get Lost: The Right Kind of Place for Liberal Learning
Nicholas Buccola, Linfield College
From Observation to Engagement to Collaboration: The Liberal Arts Journey
Jerusha B. Detweiler-Bedell, Lewis & Clark College
Magic in the Classroom
Arthur T. Benjamin, Harvey Mudd College
Part Two: The Career

Learning to Live a Life of Learnable Moments
Justin Crowe, Williams College
(What Is Meant to Be) Straight Talk on Intellectual, Cultural, and Moral Formation
Jason Peters, Augustana College
Robert Frost, Symbolical Teacher
Robert H. Bell, Williams College
The “Job Definition” of a Faculty Member at a Liberal Arts Institution
Elizabeth J. Jensen, Hamilton College

How Liberal Arts Colleges Have Shaped My Life
Akila Weerapana, Wellesley College
Part Three: The Curriculum
Liberal Education as Respecting Who We Are
Peter Augustine Lawler, Berry College
Humanizing the Subject: Toward a Curriculum for Liberal Education in the Twenty-First Century
Jeffrey Freyman, Transylvania University
Singing a New History: Pathways to Learning in a Liberal Arts Setting
Steven S. Volk, Oberlin College
Living Art
Ruthann Godollei, Macalester College
Social Entrepreneurship and the Liberal Arts
Jonathan Isham, Middlebury College
Beyond Cs Getting Degrees: Teaching the Liberal Arts and Sciences at a Comprehensive University
Jeffrey A. Becker, University of the Pacific
Part Four: The Community
Unlearning Helplessness: The Liberal Arts and the Future of Education
Adam Kotskom, Shimer College
Liberal Arts Colleges: The Mother of (Re)Invention
Jay Barth, Hendrix College
The Best Kind of College: Spelman College
Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper, Spelman College
Athletics in the Liberal Arts
Jennifer Shea Lane, Wesleyan University
Going Elsewhere, Coming Home
Yolanda P. Cruz, Oberlin College
On Not Lamenting Our Virginity
Jane F. Crosthwaite, Mount Holyoke College
Part Five: The College
K. E. Brashier, Reed College
What Matters Most? Liberal Arts Colleges in Perilous Times
John K. Roth, Claremont McKenna College
Importing the American Liberal Arts College?
Kristine Mitchell and Cotten Seiler, Dickinson College

Nationalism and the Liberal Arts
Will Barndt, Pitzer College
The Liberal Arts and the Pursuit of Wisdom
Timothy Baker Shutt, Kenyon College
About the Editors

Small college professors from across the United States explain why liberal arts institutions remain the gold standard for higher education.


The fevered controversy over America's educational future isn't simply academic; those who have proposed sweeping reforms include government officials, politicians, foundation officers, think-tank researchers, journalists, media pundits, and university administrators. Drowned out in that noisy debate are the voices of those who actually teach the liberal arts exclusively to undergraduates in our nation's small liberal arts colleges, or SLACs. The Best Kind of College attempts to rectify that glaring oversight. As an insiders' "guide" to the liberal arts in its truest form the volume brings together thirty award-winning professors from across the country to convey in various ways some of the virtues, the electricity, and, overall, the importance of the small-seminar, face-to-face approach to education, as typically featured in SLACs. Before we in the United States abandon or compromise our commitment to the liberal arts—oddly enough, precisely at a time when our global competitors are discovering, emulating, and founding American-style SLACs and new liberal arts programs—we need a wake-up call, namely to the fact that the nation's SLACs provide a time-tested model of educational integrity and success.

Susan McWilliams is Associate Professor of Politics at Pomona College and the author of Traveling Back: Toward a Global Political Theory. John E. Seery is George Irving Thompson Memorial Professor of Government and Professor of Politics at Pomona College and the author of America Goes to College: Political Theory for the Liberal Arts.


"At last, some good news about education! This collection brings together essays by professors at small liberal arts colleges, voices largely unheard in the debates raging about higher education. It ranges widely through disciplines and across colleges, taking us into classrooms where we see the creative, inventive kinds of teaching that go on when classes are kept small and professors can interact with students. This book is a welcome corrective to claims that higher education is 'broken' and in need of a high-tech fix, a quiet reminder that 'innovation' goes on as a matter of course at colleges where teaching is top priority and is kept to human scale." — Gayle Greene, Scripps College

"McWilliams and Seery have achieved something remarkable: they have found a new and interesting way to present the case for the liberal arts model in American education. More than that, they have managed to show the value of, as well as present the argument for, the model. At its best, the book recreates something of the experience of a liberal arts education in microcosm. This is a wonderful, provocative, engaging, and moving book. It is unlikely to be surpassed." — Simon Stow, author of Republic of Readers? The Literary Turn in Political Thought and Analysis