In Ghana, Cornwell shares thoughts on "education for the 21st century"
Wooster president speaks at Ashesi University College in Accra
WOOSTER, Ohio – During a recent visit to Ghana, President Grant Cornwell shared with the students and faculty of Ashesi University College his thoughts on liberal education as "the form of education best suited to preparing graduates for citizenship and leadership in the highly globalized 21st century."
"The challenges of the 21st century — the possibilities of prosperity, of peace, of justice, of environmental sustainability — all unfold on a global stage," Cornwell said in a public lecture at the college. "What a few people do in Boston or Bangkok, in Accra or Rome or Rio de Janeiro can affect others at a considerable distance. The earth has become a place of global cultures, in all of their valued particularity, and increasingly a global commons, in all of its necessary interdependence. An appropriate university education for everyone, not just a privileged elite, must prepare women and men for participation in these cultures and this commons."
He went on to describe the key elements of such an education, including the acquisition of scientific, cultural and global literacies; the development of skills in communication, critical thinking, discernment, and problem solving; and the cultivation of what he called "habits of the heart" necessary to global citizens, such as respect, compassion, agility, and fairness.
Ashesi University College was founded in 1999, with a mission "to educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa; to cultivate within our students the critical thinking skills, the concern for others and the courage it will take to transform a continent."
Cornwell was impressed with what he saw at Ashesi. "Like Wooster, they are completely focused on the integrity of their mission. Everyone is there for the same purpose and that purpose is the mission exactly as stated." He said that faculty and staff at Wooster and Ashesi will be exploring a range of opportunities to deepen the relationship between the two colleges.
Cornwell's trip was the result of connections made through Wooster's participation in the Global Liberal Arts Alliance, an international partnership of more than two-dozen colleges that also includes Oberlin, Wabash, The American University in Cairo, Lingnan University in Hong Kong, and Effat University in Saudi Arabia. The group seeks to strengthen education in the liberal arts and sciences by sharing expertise and experience, and forging links among the participating colleges.
Cornwell acknowledged the irony that the American liberal arts college model is being embraced abroad at the same moment that its value is increasingly being questioned at home. "Much of the world is trying to figure out how to make democracy viable and how to educate a society of citizens for the current global economy," he observed, "and it is widely recognized outside the U.S. that our particular style of liberal education serves both of those goals better than approaches to higher education that are focused on specialized training or narrow disciplines."
The College of Wooster is America's premier college for mentored undergraduate research. Wooster offers an excellent, comprehensive liberal arts education, culminating in a rigorous senior project, in which each student works one-on-one with a faculty mentor to conceive, organize and complete a significant research project on a topic of the student's own choosing. Through this distinctive program, every Wooster student develops abilities valued by employers and graduate schools alike: independent judgment, analytical ability, creativity, project-management and time-management skills, and strong written and oral communication skills. Founded in 1866, the college enrolls approximately 2,000 students.