July 03, 2006

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LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell has been selected by the Teagle Foundation of New York City as part of a collaboration of four colleges and universities that will share a grant of $99,377 to examine secularity in liberal arts education and ways to engage students in questions of meaning and value.

The project, titled "On Secularity and Liberal Education," will study the question of what it means to be a secular institution and examine it in ways that are clearly informed by current scholarship on the subject of secularity, but that also maintain a focus on faculty development, teaching, and learning.

In addition to Bucknell, the working group includes Vassar College of New York, Macalester College of Minnesota, and Williams College of Massachusetts.

"Our goal at the Teagle Foundation is to ensure that students obtaining a liberal arts education experience the most intellectually stimulating curricula possible," said W. Robert Connor, president of the Teagle Foundation. "We look forward to reading their conclusion and think this project will ultimately show how the liberal arts can help students examine and deal with ‘Big Questions’ of meaning and value."

"Bucknell is pleased to be working with our partners on this project to explore fundamental questions in liberal arts education," said Bucknell Provost Mary DeCredico. "The partnership with Vassar, Williams, and Macalester will produce new approaches to discussing meaning and values at secular liberal arts institutions like ours."

Bucknell Chaplain Ian Oliver said that the University strives for authentic dialogue about religious, political, ethnic, and cultural differences on its campus. "At a time when identity issues like religious belief are sometimes a source of tension on campuses, we hope to explore how to open up conversations, in the classroom and outside, where these big questions of meaning, values, and purpose can be positively explored."

As a first step in the two-year grant process, the working group will produce a joint series of initiatives, an inventory on each campus of what questions about life and meaning students are asking and where they are asking them, campus-wide discussions, and, at the conclusion of the first year, a multi-campus public conference.

In the second year of their activities, the partners will prepare a "white paper" that will describe best practices for incorporating questions of meaning and value into the classroom and beyond.

In addition, Bucknell, which, as part of the grant, will expand an existing lecture series in ethics and social justice, also will host in fall 2006 the first of three meetings of the four partners to discuss, among other related subjects, the development and evaluation of curricula for exploring questions of meaning and values.

Joe Murray, associate professor of education, and Paul MacDonald, associate professor of religion, will be key participants in the inter-institutional meetings and the formation of a Bucknell on-campus faculty and administration study group.

The Teagle Foundation was founded in 1944 by Walter C. Teagle, president and later chairman of the board of Standard Oil Co., now Exxon Mobil Corp.

Posted July 3, 2006


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