Dedicated to the advancement of high-quality, public liberal arts education in a student-centered, residential environment.
Join the Official COPLAC Fan Page on Facebook or follow us on Twitter
David J. Prior Award for 2013 Announced
COPLAC is pleased to recognize Mr. Cory Young (SUNY Geneseo) as the winner of the inaugural David J. Prior Award. The Prior Award, established in June 2012 in memory of UVa-Wise Chancellor and COPLAC President David J. Prior, celebrates a student whose academic career has been shaped by the transformative power of the liberal arts and sciences experience at a COPLAC institution.
Cory Young is a senior History major and theater minor at SUNY Geneseo. A native of Pittsford, NY, Cory’s work focuses on 18th and 19th century American history with an emphasis on the intersection between ideas and policy. He wrote an honors thesis on Thomas Jefferson's identity as a Virginia planter and slaveowner. After graduating, Cory would like to attend graduate school and begin work on a PhD in early American intellectual and social history.
Geneseo, Class of '67
It was more pleasant than many August nights, though I imagine this had more to do with my company than any seasonal temperament. Jake and I were sitting on a concrete ledge behind Sturges Hall, looking out over the Genesee Valley—two nearly-Juniors sharing some lingering thoughts as the sun set on what had been a truly illuminating, full day of exchange.
I was particularly engrossed in our conversation that evening. It had taken many semesters to get Jake to freely discuss certain aspects of his worldview with me—all those unverifiable, unempirical thoughts that cannot be studied in a physics lab. I suppose that our differing opinions regarding the usefulness of speculation could be traced back to our respective cognitive predispositions: Jake preferred to discuss certainties and I preferred to discuss possibilities (as it turns out, history and physics do not share much in the way of methodology). For whatever reason, my roommate was willing to speculate with me that night and so I listened.
As the conversation shifted from deliberations on the importance of scale in analysis to observations on the beauty of our campus, an older couple standing some ten feet beneath the ledge took notice of us. They appeared to be in their upper-sixties, slower to move but quick to chat. The man made a passing remark about the sunset before asking us if we were students at the university; we said yes and he smiled. As it turned out, the man was an alumnus of the class of 1967, a history major and a brother of Phi Sigma Xi.
His name was Gary.
He told us that he and his wife, Mary, made a point of traveling to Geneseo from time to time to see how things had evolved. In the spirit of explanation, he shared with us a few stories about his time at Geneseo, about what was different and what remained the same. We learned about his pledging process (the sixties were a very different time), his love of the college, and his life after graduation as a high school social studies teacher. The last anecdote included a piece of advice about refusing to compromise on your values in the face of adversity—in this case, a stubborn parent. After about twenty minutes, Gary and Mary thanked us for our time, wished us luck on all of our future endeavors, and carefully made their way up toward Main Street, hand-in-hand.
I cannot recall exactly what was said, but Jake and I must have made a decision to go after them because I promptly found myself striding uphill, striving to keep up with Jake's long-legged pace. Soon enough, we managed to reach the couple, intending only to thank them once more for their wisdom and kindness. However, those few additional minutes of conversation turned into a tour around campus. And with that, the four of us, generations apart and with little in common save for a shared space, set off together into the Integrated Science Center, swapping stories as we walked.
Jake and I made every effort to highlight what was new about the Geneseo experience, from G.R.E.A.T Day posters to the particle accelerator. Gary and Mary contributed by detailing how they felt about the more conspicuous changes that had occurred over the last forty-five years. The conversation eventually settled on residence halls—namely, the presence of gender-neutral housing. It soon became evident that what was normal and nurturing to Jake and me was novel to Gary and noxious to his wife. Whereas Gary's reaction was to ask if we were comfortable with such a living arrangement, Mary's was to ask if either one of us was homosexual. Although Gary was visibly upset by the familiarity and frankness of her question, Jake and I put on a pair of indulgent smiles and coolly responded that we were both heterosexual. Mary then inquired if we were Christians; we told her we were not. Finally, she wondered if we considered ourselves moral; we told her we did. Mary paused for a moment before declaring that she did not believe that one could be good without God.
It was around this time that the conversation began to split off: Jake and Gary chatted about aerospace engineering while Mary and I discussed the merits of reason-based ethics. Though she was less open-minded than her husband, Mary did not dismiss my arguments outright; she considered what I had to say about the viability of alternative sources of morality before ultimately (and civilly) disagreeing with me. The four of us carried on like this for quite some time—long after the sun had set—before a cursory glance at my cell phone alerted me to the late hour.
Our goodbyes were protracted, neither pair wanting to terminate their conversation. Jake and I eventually managed to shake both of their hands before showing them to a convenient exit. They promised to take us out to dinner if we should ever happen to cross paths again. We grinned, nodded, and bid them a wonderful evening.
I occasionally find myself thinking about that night. I think about Gary's didactic stories, about Mary's conservative incredulity, about the sheer odds of such an encounter even happening in the first place and I cannot help but smile. The whole story is truly incredible, or at least it would be if I did not have a witness. I am fortunate to have shared that experience with Jake, to have someone who understands the beauty of the connection that was forged that summer night in the halls of an academic building, to have someone who could also hear the pride in Gary's voice when he spoke of his alma mater:
"Being a social studies teacher was certainly challenging. Sometimes it's hard to deal with students, but often it's harder to deal with their parents. I once had a father come to school to discuss a poor grade his daughter had received on a unit test. He came into my office and approached my desk with his palm extended and introduced himself, ‘Mr. ________, Columbia, class of '78.' I stood up and looked him square in the eye as I grasped his hand and replied, ‘Mr. ________, Geneseo, class of '67.'"
I will carry this story with me for the rest of my life. Four people, forty-six years apart, joined in conversation. Two pairs of strangers, with little in common save for a shared space, engaged in dialogue. Students of Geneseo, past and present, immersed in meaningful discussion one summer night in the halls of a public academic building, without a conspicuously academic agenda. This is the transformative, awesome power of the liberal arts.
Over fifty students and faculty from four COPLAC campuses gathered at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise on 19-20 April for the fourth annual Southeast Regional Undergraduate research conference. The conference featured music performances, a poster session, and interdisciplinary panel presentations. Photos from the conference are available on COPLAC’s and UVa Wise's Facebook pages: COPLAC photosUVa Wise photos
The 25th Anniversary Meeting of COPLAC will take place on the campus of Shepherd University in West Virginia on 20-22 June. Registration information is now available at http://www.shepherd.edu/coplac/
The theme of this year’s meeting is "Creative and Performing Arts at Public Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities". Together with a plenary session on innovations and best practices in the arts, nine campuses will present sessions on a wide variety of initiatives at member campuses. The meeting will also feature working sessions for CEOs, CAO, Institutional Research/Institutional Effectiveness Officers, and Steering Committee members for the Teagle-funded distance mentoring project.
Eight students have been selected to carry out undergraduate research projects under the
supervision of distance mentors during spring semester 2013. Supported by the Teagle
Foundation of New York, these “COPLAC Research Scholars” have identified faculty mentors
at other campuses who specialize in the student’s area of interest. Using a variety of distance
technologies, the Teagle projects will afford students access to a wide range of faculty expertise.
Each project will be evaluated in terms of the student learning outcomes and level of faculty
satisfaction. For additional information on the student scholars, click here.
At its recent meeting in Atlanta, the COPLAC governing board created a new standing
committee for communications. The five-person committee has been charged with developing
data-driven messages that will be deployed over the next two years to raise the profile of the
public liberal arts sector. In particular, the committee will define a set of COPLAC “Quality
Indicators” highlighting the unique characteristics and learning outcomes at COPLAC
institutions. Board discussion and approval of the new communications strategy will take place
at the COPLAC Annual Meeting in June 2013.
Twenty-six of COPLAC’s twenty-seven campuses were represented at the recent annual meeting
of AAC&U. On Wednesday, January 23, 2013, CEOs met for a luncheon and afternoon meeting
to discuss a new Communications and Branding initiative. The business meeting followed, and
the day concluded with a reception hosted by Georgia College President Steve Dorman at the
Atlanta Commerce Club. COPLAC Provost/CAOs met for breakfast on Thursday to discuss
study abroad/away opportunities, how best to promote faculty exchanges within COPLAC, and
a possible sharing of online courses. They plan to continue the discussion at the June meeting
hosted by Shepherd University.
COPLAC hosted two sessions: “Online Learning at Public Liberal Arts Colleges: Access,
Quality and Assessment” and “Quality Enhancement in an Age of Declining Resources:
Case Studies form the Public Liberal Arts Sector”. Both panel sessions attracted over eighty
thoughtful and engaged attendees. Finally, the Teagle Grant Steering Committee held a working
session to discuss the current distance mentoring projects and to develop strategies for next
Faculty authors from fourteen COPLAC member campuses have been selected to contribute
to a new volume of essays on teaching, scholarship and service at small, predominantly
undergraduate public liberal arts colleges and universities.
Roads Taken: The Professorial Life, Scholarship in Place, and the Public Good will be
published by Truman State University Press in early 2014. The volume will draw together
essays by outstanding faculty members who, in different ways and from a range of academic
disciplines, have made multiple adaptations required to lead integrated lives in the context of
teaching-intensive public liberal arts colleges. The book will address such issues as faculty
orientation and career development, scholarship connected to community, and the role of service
locally and regionally.
The Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges will celebrate its 25th anniversary during the 2013
calendar year. In May 1987 presidents and other senior administrators met at the University
of North Carolina Asheville to plan for the establishment of a dynamic new sector in higher
In 1988 nine campuses formally joined the effort, including The Evergreen State College
of Washington, The University of Mary Washington in Virginia, Ramapo College of New
Jersey, Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State) University, Keene State College of New
Hampshire, New College of Florida, The University of Minnesota Morris, and UNC Asheville.
Over the past quarter century COPLAC has grown to include twenty-seven campuses in twenty-
five states and one Canadian province. The anniversary year will begin with a new board-level
initiative to enhance communications and highlight COPLAC “Quality Indicators”, areas of
common distinction across the consortium. The 2013 Annual Meeting, scheduled for 20-22
June and hosted by Shepherd University in West Virginia, will highlight the arts disciplines and
include a new agenda-driven working meeting for Provosts/VPAAs. The anniversary year will
also feature the first David J. Prior Award for outstanding student essays on the public liberal
arts experience. Two senior undergraduates will receive the award for their personal essays on
one or more features of COPLAC’s student-centered approach to student learning.
Prospective students and their families have always been concerned to find the best education at the most affordable price. This is especially true in today's difficult economy, where student debt load has become a major concern. Data indicate that COPLAC institutions continue to combine high quality with affordability. With literally thousands of schools nationwide, many turn to college ranking lists prepared by Forbes, Kiplinger, Fiske and The Princeton Review to narrow the search. Almost half of COPLAC's twenty-seven member institutions are ranked in these national publications for both quality and affordability. Six COPLAC campuses are also ranked in the top 500 of Forbes' "America's Top Colleges for 2012" while twelve of our schools placed in the Princeton Review rankings. In addition to these quality indicators, the average cost for tuition and fees at COPLAC campuses during the fiscal year 2010-2011 was $7,331, well below the average for liberal arts colleges in the private sector.
Third Annual Northeast Regional Undergraduate Research Conference to be hosted by Eastern Connecticut State University
Six campuses from the Northeast will send students to Eastern Connecticut State University on 26-27 October to present the results of their scholarly and creative work. The Northeast Regional will feature student work from the natural sciences, humanities, and performing and creative arts. Student presenters are invited to submit their work for publication in Metamorphosis, COPLAC's electronic peer-reviewed journal of undergraduate research.
At its regular business meeting on 23 June 2012, the COPLAC Board selected Allen Berger, Dean and CEO of the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta, has been elected President of COPLAC for 2012-2014. Dr. Berger has served the organization as past chair of the program committee, treasurer, and at large member of the Executive Committee. Prior to becoming Dean and CEO at Augustana, Dr. Berger served as Provosts at the University of Maine-Farmington.
Dr. Suzanne Shipley, President of Shepherd University, has accepted the position of President-Elect of COPLAC. Dr. Shipley and her colleagues will host the 2013 Annual Meeting of COPLAC. New members were elected to serve on various standing committees, and Dr. Anne Ponder, Chancellor of The University of North Carolina Asheville, has been selected to chair the COPLAC Nominating Committee.
COPLAC Board Establishes Student Award in Memory of David J. Prior
The COPLAC board of directors has established an annual student essay prize in memory of the organization's late President and Chancellor of the University of Virginia's College at Wise, David J. Prior.
The David J. Prior COPLAC Award recognizes two senior-level undergraduates whose academic careers and future goals have been shaped by the transformative power of the liberal arts and sciences experience at a COPLAC institution. Each student's reflective personal essay will highlight one or more of following features of COPLAC's student-centered approach to teaching: emphasis on active learning, ethical reasoning, interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge, community engagement, critical and reflective skills, and connections between liberal learning and informed, active citizenship.
The competition is open to seniors in good standing who will graduate in fall or spring of the academic year in which the essay is submitted. Each campus, using its own review and selection process, will select one essay per year and forward it to the COPLAC Office no later than 30 March. A four-person review panel consisting of emeritus Presidents/Chancellors and Provosts will select the two winners from the essays submitted. Winners will be announced each May 1st. The two winners each will receive an award of $500 and their essay will be featured in the Spotlight section of the COPLAC website and archived in a searchable data base for future reference.
NSF/CUR sponsored workshop on "Institutionalizing Undergraduate Research" scheduled for June 2012
Team leaders from 23 COPLAC campuses will gather on the campus of UVa-Wise on 20-21 June for the concluding workshop of a one-year project to strengthen undergraduate research at member institutions. CUR facilitators will work with campus leaders to review progress made during 2011-2012 and the provide guidance on maintaining momentum in this high-impact area of student learning.
COPLAC Annual Meeting to be hosted by the University of Virginia’s College at Wise
The 2012 COPLAC Annual Meeting will be held on the campus of the University of Virginia's College at Wise on Thursday 21- Saturday 23 June. Keynote speakers include Bethany Sutton, AAC&U Chief of Staff, and Jim Purcell, Commissioner of Higher Education for the State of Louisiana. The theme of the meeting is “Undergraduate Research as a COPLAC Distinctive” and six member campuses will be presenting on innovative UR projects on their home campuses. To register for the meeting, go to www.uvawise.edu and click on the COPLAC logo.
Annual Faculty Summer Institute to focus on Mathematics 7th-9th of June, 2012 Asheville, NC
COPLAC's Summer Institute on Liberal Learning in the Disciplines is scheduled for June 7th-9th on the campus of UNC Asheville. Inaugurated in 2005, the Summer Institute is a professional development opportunity for faculty at member institutions who wish to share best practices, collaborate on strategies for improvement in the discipline, and define best practices in the major at public liberal arts institutions.
Southeast Regional Undergraduate Research Conference Hosted by Georgia College
COPLAC's third annual Southeast Regional Undergraduate Research Conference took place in April at Georgia College. Students from Georgia College, New College of Florida, The University of Montevallo, The University of Virginia's College at Wise, and the University of North Carolina Asheville presented their research and creative activities in poster and panel sessions moderated by faculty members from all five institutions. For photos from the conference, go to our Facebook page.
Dr. Mary Cullinan, President of Southern Oregon University, and Dr. Mary Grant, President of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, have each been selected to receive 2011 Chief Executive Leadership Awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
Headquartered in Washington, DC, CASE is the professional organization for advancement professionals at all levels who work in alumni relations, communications, fundraising, marketing and other areas. The Chief Executive Leadership Award honors institutional leaders for outstanding contributions to their campus communities, efforts promoting public understanding of education, and support of advancement at their campuses.
Dr. Grant, the 11th president of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and immediate past president of COPLAC, received the Chief Executive Leadership Award from the regional chapter of District 1, representing the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island; New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island.
"Anyone who has taken the time to observe the far-reaching impact Dr. Grant has had on the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will immediately understand why she was selected to receive this most prestigious award," stated Massachusetts Board of Higher Education Chairman Charles F. Desmond. "Under her leadership, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has broken through and emerged as a shining star, helping to lead our public system of higher education on to new heights of achievement, recognition, and stature."
Dr. Cullinan has been president of Southern Oregon since 2006. The regional chapter of District VIII is the largest of CASE's eight North American districts geographically, encompassing the western Canadian provinces and territories in addition to Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana in the Pacific Northwest.
"Southern Oregon University has been transformed under Dr. Cullinan's leadership," said Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski. "When she arrived, the institution was struggling with declining enrollment and budget challenges. Dr. Cullinan was willing to make hard choices to re-structure the university, maintaining the respect and participation of the faculty and staff. More recently, she has created a forward-thinking strategic plan to guide the University's future. Today, SOU is positioned as the public liberal arts university of the West, providing exceptional undergraduate and graduate education that is affordable and accessible."