Vol. 2 (new series), No. 1, fall 2015

The Liberal Arts Mission
Introducing Beth Peifer
ACS 2020 Vision: a draft Strategic Plan
Web Forums Replace Listservs
Faculty Grants Progress
Recap of the ACS Deans Meeting
Gender Studies Conference at Southwestern


The Liberal Arts Mission


As ACS goes through the strategic planning process, one question keeps popping up: what is the role and mission of ACS? Addressing that question almost inevitably brought us to the related question: what is the mission of a “liberal arts” college? We decided to investigate the websites of all our member colleges and universities, to find out how all of you have defined the liberal arts through the courses offered on your campuses. Here is what we found.
All but one of the ACS colleges describe themselves using language that includes the phrase “liberal arts,” sometimes with varying degrees of emphasis or reference to other, closely related fields, such as “the liberal arts and sciences.” The one college that does not is Centenary, which calls itself an “arts and sciences college,” clearly very close to “liberal arts.”
Without question, all the colleges and universities in our system support the traditional American liberal arts curriculum, yet with varying modifications.

  • Fifteen ACS colleges offer a major or minor in computer science – the sole exception being Birmingham Southern, which offers courses in the subject. Fourteen ACS colleges offer a business major (which might be called accounting, management, commerce, etc.) Davidson does not offer a major, but the major and minor in economics includes numerous courses on related subjects, including accounting, industrial organization, and other business-oriented topics. Spelman alone offers no business major or minor, and its economics program is rather theoretically oriented.
  • Fourteen ACS colleges offer a degree, minor, or certification in teaching.
  • Fourteen ACS colleges offer some type of program or degree in environmental science or environmental studies.
  • Nine ACS colleges offer engineering or “pre-engineering.”
  • Eight ACS colleges grant degrees in communication, and four offer journalism majors.

Additionally, there are programs throughout ACS in areas that are not often associated with the liberal arts, or are ostensibly pre-professional, from ROTC to forestry.

  • Museum studies – 2 institutions
  • Physical education – 3 institutions
  • Pre-med – 3 institutions
  • Pre-ministry – 2 institutions
  • Pre-Vet – 2 institutions
  • ROTC – 2 institutions

Finally, eight ACS colleges offer graduate degrees, mainly in business or education, in addition to other fields such as divinity, law, and healthcare administration.
Where is all this leading us? What is the appropriate balance between traditional liberal arts subject and pre-professional majors? We welcome your comments.

Introducing Beth Peifer.

David Morton

The ACS is proud to announce the addition of Elizabeth Peifer, PhD, to our staff as our new Director of Faculty Programs. Beth had considerable experience with ACS institutions even before coming to work here in 2015. After graduating with honors from ACS-member Davidson College, she went on to earn her Master’s and PhD in History at the University of North Carolina. As with so many scholars of her generation, she spent the next few years in various positions, but fortunately this included stints at other ASC members including Birmingham Southern College and Southwestern University (the latter as an Assistant Professor). She landed her first tenure-track position at Troy State University in Alabama. Then, in 2008, she moved to another position at Alabama State University, an HBCU in Montgomery, Alabama, where she was granted tenure and remained until coming to ACS. Scattered throughout her C.V. are also a number of shorter-term positions at UNC, Auburn University, and others, which have contributed to Dr. Peifer’s wide academic experience in a range of institutions. Her first-hand perspective on large public institutions is no less valuable than her experience in ACS institutions and HBCUs. Remarkably, despite the teaching emphasis of most of her previous university employers, she has maintained an active scholarly agenda. She has been the recipient of numerous research grants, and has an impressive history of articles and presentations. This, combined with years of experience working with faculty through committee work, conference organizing, online and in-class course development, and grant-writing, makes her an invaluable addition to the ACS.

Some questions for Beth:

ACS: You’ve worked at ACS colleges, at an HBCU, and several large public universities. What are some lessons from those experiences that you hope to apply?

BP: Having worked at such a variety of institutions, I have a better sense of the strengths and weaknesses of each. I understand the challenges that private southern colleges and HBCUs are facing today within the marketplace of higher education, but I also appreciate the distinctive educational experience they provide. I would not be the person I am today without my undergraduate experience at Davidson.

ACS: Why is that?

BP:  I grew up fairly sheltered in a small southern town.  Davidson broadened my world in so many ways—challenging and sometimes provocative curriculum, a year-long study abroad experience in Germany, and some life-changing opportunities for civic engagement (including but limited to work with Habitat for Humanity and a very creative and constructive community response to KKK activity in the area.  I have ventured further than I could have ever dreamed before I went to Davidson.  I developed confidence in my own abilities and critical thinking skills that have been a major part of the success I have had.  Davidson taught me to approach problems in new ways and to strive to leave the world better than you found it.

ACS: What is your main goal in this new position with ACS?

BP: To promote and facilitate even greater collaboration between faculty at our various campuses, enabling them to combine their talents in innovative and productive ways.

ACS: In a nutshell, what were the reasons for all your moves from college to college before coming to ACS?

BP: In a nutshell–seeking the ever-elusive work-life balance in a dual academic career marriage with kids and aging parents.

ACS: What can you say about the transition from Montgomery to Atlanta?

BP: It is an exciting move. I haven’t completely made the transition yet [Beth teleworks in Alabama two days a week –ed.], but I am learning to navigate Atlanta traffic and hope to experience more of the wonderful dining and entertainment options soon. In the meantime I am focusing on getting up to speed with ongoing ACS programs and supporting faculty at our sixteen campuses.

Dr. Peifer, as ACS Director of Faculty Programs, will lead ongoing initiatives including our faculty development grants and blended/online learning initiatives, and will work to develop new initiatives to benefit ACS faculty.
Beth replaces Jeannine Diddle Uzzi, PhD.

The “ACS 2020 Vision”: a new strategic plan is drafted

The ACS Strategic Planning Committee (SPC), consisting of one senior administrator from each of our sixteen member colleges, has devised the first draft of a plan that consists of a newly refined ACS Mission Statement and three significant goals that the consortium will pursue over the next five years. The SPC is eager to get your feedback and suggestions.

The committee hopes to compile all feedback and turn it around by early November, so that the plan can be submitted to the presidents for their approval in January 2016.

ACS Listservs become “Forums”

David Morton

The hoary ACS tradition of hosting email listservs had ended, and they have been replaced by web-based, online forums. Now our deans, presidents, registrars, librarians, Latin-American studies faculty, and many other groups can continue to intereact with their colleagues across the ACS institutions.  The new system is web-based rather than email-based, but users will still receive email notifications when new topics or replies are posted. Documents, images, and links can easily be shared among subscribers, and in the near future a complete archive of each forum will be available.
If you were a member of any of the active ACS listservs before, you’re already a member of the forums now. You will need to reset your password the first time you visit – click on a forum link and you’ll be prompted to log in or request a password. Click the “lost your password?” link to get started.

(Yes, we are  aware that in Latin it would be “fora.” Classicists, send your mail to

Faculty Grants: Progress Report

Elizabeth LB Peifer

Promoting innovative teaching and research through faculty development remains a centerpiece of ACS’s mission of enhancing education at its member colleges and universities. Through the generous support of the Mellon Foundation and the Woodruff Foundation, ACS is pleased to continue offering faculty advancement grants for the coming year. For the 2015 grant cycle, the team at ACS encouraged faculty and staff to develop projects that incorporated broad inter-institutional collaboration, online or technology-enhanced pedagogy, and themes of diversity and inclusion. Many of this year’s applicants accepted that challenge and submitted a broad range of innovative project proposals that have the potential to enrich and advance learning not just at ACS institutions but within the wider realm of higher education as well. A survey of the pre-proposals reveals the talent and creativity of ACS faculty. The projects span across academic disciplines as well as ACS campuses and reflect a continuing commitment to student engagement in a 21st century global environment.

A committee of three academic deans and five previous grant recipients is currently reviewing pre-proposal submissions. Proposals will be evaluated for project design, feasibility and overall impact. Priority in funding will be given to projects that advance this year’s areas of emphasis and demonstrate the ability to generate additional funding. Upon the recommendation of the committee, authors of successful pre-proposals will be invited to submit full proposals. The deadline for submission of full proposals is November 13th. Grant recipients will be notified in December.

Recap of the ACS Deans Meeting

Michelle Behr, Vice President for Academic Affairs at BSC, and her many gracious colleagues hosted the September meeting of the Council of Deans.  While on the beautiful BSC campus, the deans met with newly installed President Ed Leonard, who welcomed the Council and thanked them for their leadership.   Dean John Beckford of Furman chaired the two-day meeting and led the group through several important topics including an informative session on the use of “faculty of practice” across our campuses.

Deans from twelve of our colleges attended this particular gathering.  Discussion was lively and productive.  The deans focused on various elements of the ACS strategic plan—available on the ACS website—paying close attention to ways in which member colleges can better collaborate in pursuit of continued academic excellence.  All the deans seemed eager to address these opportunities with their respective faculty colleagues in the coming months.  The next Council meeting will be by telephone in January 2016.

Gender Studies Conference at Southwestern

ACS and Southwestern University are pleased to announce the eighth annual Gender Studies Conference at Southwestern University, February 19-21, 2016. The theme will be: “Gender Across…”. This interdisciplinary conference welcomes work that explores how gender and sex are represented across the disciplines of the humanities, the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the fine arts, as well as across race, ethnicity, sexuality, class, disability, space, place, time, bodies, culture, and genres.

The conference invites faculty, students, and staff of ACS schools, along with other scholars, to submit proposals for scholarly and creative presentations, including individual papers, panels, creative performances, artworks, poster exhibits and electronic presentations. Scholarly presentations and artistic performances should last approximately 15 minutes.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Banu Subramaniam. She is Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Trained as a plant evolutionary biologist, she seeks to engage the feminist studies of science in the practices of experimental biology. She is co-editor of Feminist Science Studies: A New Generation and, Making Threats: Biofears and Environmental Anxieties. Spanning the humanities, social, and natural sciences, she works at the intersections of biology, women’s studies, ethnic studies and postcolonial studies. Her current work focuses on the xenophobia and nativism that haunt invasive plant species, and the relationship of science and religious nationalism in India.

The conference will also feature a performance, titled “Conversation with an Apple,” by Natalie Goodnow. Goodnow is a nationally recognized theatre artist from Austin, Texas who creates and directs activist performance for stages, streets, and classrooms. Her solo play Mud Offerings was the 2011 winner of the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award and has been presented nationally at festivals and conferences in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., and throughout Texas. Natalie collaborates with Texans United for Families, the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, and other local organizations to create performances and workshops in support of their campaigns. Natalie also serves as the Associate Director of In the Classroom Programs at Creative Action, where she directs interactive performance residencies that tour to local schools.

Abstracts should include a title and 250 word summary of the project. Submissions are due no later than Friday, October 30th and should be sent electronically to Please send any questions to the same email address.

Please see the conference website for more information including registration details:



The header image for this issue is called Philosophy and the Seven Liberal Arts, from the 12th century Hortus Deliciarum (from the Creative Commons)