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The Transylvania Seminar

Seminar goal: To clarify the meaning of liberal education for its practitioners and to foster a deeper commitment to its preservation at institutions of higher learning in America.



This seminar seeks to contribute to a national conversation on the idea of liberal education and the mission of the liberal arts college in twenty-first century America. The project proceeds from the recognition that liberal education is an “essentially contested” concept deriving from a variety of differing, yet interrelated, intellectual traditions.

The seminar will provide an historical overview of the best thinking about the purpose of liberal education through the ages—from the cultivation of human excellence in classical Greece and Rome, to the seven liberal arts of the trivium and quadrivium in the Middle Ages, the training of the “Christian gentleman” in early America, and the formation of the democratic and global citizen in the contemporary period. It invites participants to examine their own understanding of the concept in light of the historically evolving alternative perspectives as to its meaning. Participants also will be asked to consider the application of liberal education principles to enhance their own effectiveness as college and university teachers—in the classroom, in the preparation of course offerings, and in the construction of curricula at their academic institutions.

The seminar participants will be 15 faculty members selected from liberal arts colleges. Presenters will be other individuals who are prominent in the field of liberal education, including senior faculty members from national liberal arts colleges. Ten individual one-hour sessions will be dedicated to the discussion of specific readings on various topics related to the concept of liberal education. Questions to be addressed include:

What is liberal education?
What is its purpose?
What is it good for?
What is good teaching in the context of liberal education?

The seminar will be held on the campus of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Acceptance includes:

The cost of the sessions
All seminar materials
Three nights of accommodations at the historic Gratz Park Inn
Meals during the seminar
Travel expenses up to $500