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Big Questions in Higher ED

In each issue of The Reporter we explore a topic of relevance in higher education by asking Albright faculty, staff, alumni and students to share their thoughts and opinions on the subject. Do you have a topic you’d like to see discussed? Email

Humanities scholar Andrew Delbanco, Ph.D., presented a lecture last semester that got people talking. Delbanco, professor of American Studies at Columbia University, is the author of College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be, which argues that a true college education should be an exploratory time for students to discover their passions and test ideas and values.


We asked Albrightians to answer the question: What is college for?


“To have an opportunity to move away from home, learn to become responsible for oneself and a more independent person while still in a protected environment; to forge a personality by selecting an identity and ideas that are core to that personality; to be exposed to new and different people, traditions and cultures; to be exposed to new and different ideas and ideologies; to be exposed to new knowledge, facts and information; to learn to study, research, and express oneself verbally and in writing; to learn how to think not what to think (believe); to be skeptical of new information, to question and test information before accepting it, and to learn to think critically; to prepare for a career; to become more curious, more inspired and to change the world.”

– Kenneth W. Andruszka ’71

“College is for exploring the professional side of the world before actually entering it. It’s a place where we, as students, can test out different sections of careers until we find where our passion lies. Once we find that area, we’re given endless opportunities through school to explore further and provide us with experience that will hopefully land us a job after we graduate.”

– Abbe Lipshutz ’17

“Many folks would say that college trains students for jobs. I think that’s nonsense. Students don’t need training. Horses do. Etymologically ‘education’ means ‘to lead from.’ Students are led from themselves and towards a limitless horizon. That’s what college is for. What enables such an unfolding? I’m old-fashioned: the liberal arts, in particular the trivialities of the Trivium, should be the center of a college education. The Trivium—grammar, rhetoric and logic—is the correct expression of reasoned and persuasive arguments. Of the three, logic, analytic thought, is key. If a student cannot identify a false argument and present the logic to  counter it, then she may as well not have spent money to go to school. Different disciplines require different rhetorics and grammars to enable the articulation of logic. The grammar and rhetoric of an equation in mathematics is not the same as the grammar and rhetoric of a survey in sociology. In all disciplines, however, the ability to think critically trumps knowing a specific technique.”

– Alberto Cacicedo, Ph.D., Professor of English

“College is a journey, a pathway, a process, an opportunity and a community. It is a process of self-discovery,  intellectual adventure, knowledge and skill acquisition, and personal growth, which lay the foundations for significant opportunities, careers and personal well-being. It is an opportunity to explore new avenues of  knowledge, to follow your curiosity, to question, to be inspired by others, to try new things, and to be challenged to look at the world in new and diverse ways. It is a community that will test you, support you, and prepare you to become informed global citizens, responsible leaders and life long learners. While college  provides structured pathways for learning and experimentation, it also encourages invention, innovation and imagination. In college, we experience new freedoms and develop awareness and the habits of mind that  shape the responsibilities that come with those freedoms. College is a journey of intellectual exploration and  self-exploration that tests as well as develops our self-confidence, contributing to our abilities to adapt, shape and thrive in a world that needs more versatile and compassionate thinkers. College is for the good of our community and our world.”

– Mary McGee, Provost and Vice President for
Academic Affairs; Professor of Religious Studies

“While many believe that the reason to attend college is to acquire expertise in a field for a career, I would argue that a reason to attend college is to have an opportunity to take courses for general studies. College may be the last time that a student has the possibility to be exposed to ideas presented by an instructor who is passionate about a subject. The reason to attend college is to expand one’s mind, to challenge one’s own beliefs, to interact with those with differing views. Many students will find that career plans do not develop  in the expected manner, and general studies courses may well provide unanticipated alternatives. Even when careers do follow expectations, the variety of ideas experienced in college will help a person lead a  richer, fuller life, and provide a basis for more informed communication in our crowded world.”

– Kristen Zacharias, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Philosophy

One Response to “Big Questions”

  1. Tom Huntzinger '66 says:

    College is a place, a period of time and an idea where one is allowed and encouraged to grow (up,) given allowances for one’s own immaturity. A student (often,) finally, has almost total freedom, if he or she can handle it. College is a place where students can temporarily hide from the Real World, which awaits them, patiently, with all of its challenges and opportunities.

    College is a window to the world, with all of its imperfections and wonder. As in anything else in life, experiences there will help shape who you are. College is an opportunity for students to think, or not; to communicate, or not; to grow, or not. College should be a challenge, not an intellectual safe haven.

    The Real World awaits the student. So, what will it be? Will you be ready for the Real World? Or, perhaps, will the Real World be ready for you? That’s what college is; the time and place for each person to properly frame that question.

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