This paper describes research undertaken by Calvin College to explore the intersection of the liberal arts and the particulars of place. This research posed several key questions for exploration: How can the liberal arts tradition serve the common good in a particular place? How will liberal arts be seen as an important resource for members of a particular community? How can we use our city as text to strengthen liberal arts education for our students and to strengthen engaged scholarship/research for our faculty? In other words, how could a particular place inform and shape the teaching that occurs in liberal arts classrooms as well as in research undertaken by faculty?
Fourteen faculty members formed interdisciplinary working groups to examine theoretical perspectives on the convergence of liberal arts and place, and their collaborative writing appears under Theorizing Liberal Arts and Place. Over five hundred pages of data from interviews with faculty, students, alumni, and city/community leaders were analyzed by a team of social scientists to assess the difference a critical pedagogy of place makes within the liberal arts tradition. Research findings are shared under the section Assessing Liberal Arts and Place from Multiple Perspectives. Case studies of projects developed in a wide variety of disciplines which connect liberal arts and place are also included with pedagogical suggestions to foster student learning and engagement. Creative ideas for celebrating liberal arts and place are described under the section Celebrating Liberal Arts and Place: Embrace Our Place Festival. Lessons learned and recommendations for the future conclude the white paper.
Our findings suggest that a focus on place provides opportunities for liberal arts colleges to enlarge the scholarly imagination and to broaden college impact on the lives of students, on faculty, and on the larger community.