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Winter 2017 Alumni Newsletter: Featured Story

The Liberating Arts: LAS engages in strategic visioning and aims at
a brand of leadership empowered by the liberal arts

By DePaul University Insights / Winter 2017
Insights, Winter 2017

Almost 400 years ago, Vincent de Paul raised the question, "What must be done?" setting the foundation for the activism that characterizes the Vincentian mission. The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences is poised to move into the future by looking far into the past, to St. Vincent and his leadership for the common good.

"We believe that the Vincentian question is, in practical terms, a call to leadership," says Dean Guillermo Vásquez de Velasco. "Leadership is a vocational trade that transcends disciplines and professions, but it requires a targeted education. At the core of that education we expect our students to embrace a collaborative mindset, supported not only by depth, but also by breadth of knowledge."

To this end, LAS has embarked on a college redesign process that puts leadership for the common good at the center of its programs and curriculum. "We are the core, the hub, where people come to establish their connection to the mission," Dean Vásquez de Velasco asserts.

The direction for the redesign came during a two-day retreat composed of more than 60 leaders from LAS's departments, centers, faculty senate and advisory council, as well as the Student Government Association and other university units. One of those in attendance was Mitch Goldberg (History '96, JD '99), partner at Lawrence Kamin Saunders & Uhlenhop LLC and vice chair of the dean's advisory council.

"Many people view the college experience thinking about the return on investment, and measuring that monetarily," Goldberg says. "In LAS's case, much of the value is in creating leaders and thinkers and people who have a fundamental moral compass."

The T-shaped person

A guiding principle of the redesign is the T-shaped person, whom Dean Vásquez de Velasco describes as "someone who knows something about everything and everything about something." Traditionally known as a well-rounded person, the T-shaped person came to prominence through several T-Summit Conferences promoted since 2014 by technology and engineering professionals seeking to solve the problem of how to educate a workforce with both depth and breadth of knowledge—the T shape—to solve 21st-century challenges.

Dean Vásquez de Velasco says that participants in the T-Summit Conferences are striving for a way to bring creativity and broad-based thinking into engineering and business curricula. But they are trying to do so from within engineering and business colleges, largely ignoring that there is this thing called the liberal arts that sits at the heart of all our campuses and is frequently under-explored, under-tapped and under-integrated.

"We hear a lot about entrepreneurship, building enterprise," he continues. "But we are still stuck in the 20th century when we fail to recognize that in the 21st century, we will need more than that. We will need inspired leadership grounded in a long tradition of humanistic inquiry and insight to guide us in addressing extraordinary social, environmental and political issues.

"We all know we need leadership in the world—the key insight is that it should not be improvised, but rooted in and nourished by the liberal arts and social sciences. Today, nothing is more important than the holistic education of the leaders of tomorrow.

"That's where we come in. That's our brand."

Read full article and other stories, by downloading Insights, Winter 2017.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​