Name: Jennifer Burt
As the state of Utah’s designated public liberal arts and sciences university, Southern Utah University stands apart in service, with a more personalized and comprehensive education than may be possible at many other institutions. In recognition of SUU’s distinct value, the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) recently cast a unanimous vote to accept the Cedar City university for COPLAC membership, making SUU its 27th member institution.
A consortium of elite membership, COPLAC has, to date, only accepted members from 24 states—Utah’s SUU makes 25— and one Canadian province, representing a distinguished sector in higher education. Above all, COPLAC is committed to driving an “awareness of the value of high quality, public liberal arts education in a student-centered, residential environment”
For its members, COPLAC works diligently to advocate for the comprehensive liberal arts and sciences academic experience among state and federal policy makers as well as major national higher education organizations.
Additionally, COPLAC facilitates collaborative learning and exchanges between member institutions—a great benefit to each school’s students and faculty as they share information and advance respective fields of study.
Of such opportunities and the many other doors COPLAC membership opens for students, SUU Provost Bradley Cook said, “Through COPLAC’s coordinated student exchanges, shared study-abroad programs and enhanced information sharing between member institutions and through its regional undergraduate research conferences and web-based platform for scholarship, our students will now be engaged directly in the wider mission of public liberal arts and sciences education alongside many of the nation’s best schools. I can think of no preparation than this educational model for a meaningful life and professional career.”
Looking into the future, Cook anticipates COPLAC membership will “raise the quality profile of SUU in profound ways, especially when recruiting faculty and high quality students who are inclined for the distinctive SUU experience.”
According to cook, CPLOAC institutions include “some of the very best public colleges and universities in the nation.” He says the heightened quality of SUU’s new peer group will allow SUU’s administrators, faculty and students to draw upon these institution’s valuable experiences as well as challenge SUU to continue to “raise the bar
Of the value of a liberal arts and sciences academic experience, Cook explains, “Narrow learning is no longer good enough for the complexities our students will face when they leave campus. Knowing that, on average, a student will experience numerous career changes during his or her lifetime, the best career preparation is one that positions the graduate with a set of portable, transferable intellectual and practical skill sets that can be applied in a variety of contexts. The education that best prepares students for change is a liberal education, and SUU’s philosophical approach to education is all about career preparation.”
Cook continues, “In an environment of rapid change, narrow specialization condemns students to inflexibility—precisely what is not needed in today's marketplace. Students need the flexible intellectual tools to be problem solvers, to be able to continue learning over time.”
COPLAC is no less excited to be gaining partnership with SUU, according to Sarah Olivo, COPLAC program associate. “We are very excited to have SUU as part of our liberal arts consortium. SUU is a great fit and we are excited to get things underway.”
The COPLAC central office and staff are located on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Asheville. The staff works actively with member institutions to improve the quality of liberal arts and sciences education on each campus. For additional information or inquiries concerning membership, please contact Director Bill Spellman at 828-350-4590 or Program Associate Sarah Olivo at 828-258-7879.
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