Office of the President

Beyond the University

Beyond the University

In January 2016, President Michael S. Roth's sixth book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, (Yale University Press, 2014) won the Association of American Colleges & Universities' Frederick W. Ness award for a book that best illuminates the goals and practices of a contemporary liberal education.

From the publisher:

“Contentious debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education are as old as America itself. From Benjamin Franklin to the Internet pundits, critics of higher education have attacked its irrelevance and elitism—often calling for more vocational instruction. Thomas Jefferson, by contrast, believed that nurturing a student’s capacity for lifelong learning was useful for science and commerce while also being essential for democracy. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.

Conflicting streams of thought flow through American intellectual history: W. E. B. DuBois’s humanistic principles of pedagogy for newly emancipated slaves developed in opposition to Booker T. Washington’s educational utilitarianism, for example. Jane Addams’s emphasis on the cultivation of empathy and John Dewey’s calls for education as civic engagement were rejected as impractical by those who aimed to train students for particular economic tasks. Roth explores these arguments (and more), considers the state of higher education today, and concludes with a stirring plea for the kind of education that has, since the founding of the nation, cultivated individual freedom, promulgated civic virtue, and instilled hope for the future.”

The book has generated substantial media attention. Explore the coverage below.

May 10, 2014 - The New York Times
Young Minds in Critical Condition

In an age when everybody--especially college students--is a critic, President Roth in this op-ed urges readers to allow themselves to be absorbed in compelling work, and consider how they might find inspiration, meaning or direction in it. [ Read More ]

Sept. 5, 2012 - The New York Times
Learning as Freedom

Calling on the wisdom of philosopher John Dewey, President Roth in this op-ed denounces calls for more narrowly tailored education that treats students as "human capital." He writes, "Education should aim to enhance our capacities, Dewey argued, so that we are not reduced to mere tools." [ Read More ]

Feb. 11, 2015 - The New York Times
College's Priceless Value

Columnist Frank Bruni cites President Roth's book in his exploration of the transformative power of a college education beyond just preparing students for the workforce. [ Read More ]

May 19, 2014 - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The False Promise of 'Practical' Education

Liberal education is under seige as critics contend it does little to prepare students for the high-tech jobs of the 21st century, writes President Roth. The challenges may seem new, but they belong at heart to a debate as old as America itself. (Article only available to Chronicle subscribers). [ Read More ]

Aug. 4, 2014 - NPR's "All Things Considered"Radio
Amid Rising College Costs, a Defense of the Liberal Arts

In this interview, President Roth says that the debate over the value of a college education is hardly a new one, and that a liberal arts education is more important now than ever. [ Read More ]

Aug. 18, 2014 - Inside Higher Ed
Humanities vs. STEM, Redux

While conversations about humanities enrollments often pit the humanities against STEM fields, there's no reason why the two can't get along, says Roth. Both are important parts of a broad liberal education. [ Read More ]

May 23, 2014 - The Washington Post
'Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters' by Michael S. Roth

Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John's College in Annapolis, reviews President Roth's book, calling it "a substantial and lively discussion," as well as an "economical and nearly jargon-free historical account of liberal education in America." [ Read More ]

May 9, 2014 - The Boston Globe
The Case for a Liberal Education

In this op-ed, President Roth explores a question on the minds of many: Is college worth it? [ Read More ]

Nov. 26, 2014 - The New Republic
College Shouldn't Prepare You for Your First Job. It Should Prepare You for Your Life.

As college admissions season heats up, President Roth makes the case for a broad, pragmatic liberal education. He advises prospective students to view college "as a remarkable opportunity to explore their individual and social lives in connection with the world in which they will live and work." [ Read More ]

May 9, 2014 - The Atlantic
'There's Nothing Liberal About Specializing in Philosophy'

In a Q&A, President Roth muses on what Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin would think about the state of higher education today; economic inequality and access to a college education; liberal versus vocational learning; and the power of a liberal education to expand horizons and transform worldviews. [ Read More ]

Sept. 8, 2014 - The Atlantic
Why 'Nano-Degrees' Can Never Replace Liberal Arts Colleges

President Roth rejects a model that downsizes higher education to specific training for just one task. [ Read More ]

June 19, 2014 - The Leonard Lopate ShowRadio
Wesleyan University President Champions Liberal Education

President Roth discussed his book with WNYC's Leonard Lopate. [ Read More ]

Aug. 30, 2014 - PBS's "Open Mind"TV
Why Liberal Education Matters

President Roth speaks with host Alexander Heffner about his new book, and the case for a broad contextual education today. [ Read More ]

March 2, 2016 - Essential PittsburghRadio
Author Defends Liberal Arts Education in a World that Celebrates STEM

President Roth discusses how a liberal education empowers students to pursue important work after graduating, and why a push toward focusing solely on STEM fields is misguided. [ Read More ]

Aug. 20, 2014 - KCRW's "To the Point"Radio
Is College Still Worth It?

President Roth participates in a panel on higher education, in which he discusses Wesleyan's efforts to keep costs down through innovation, and makes the case for a pragmatic liberal education. [ Read More ]

May 12, 2014 - Wisconsin Public RadioRadio
Why Liberal Education Still Matters

President Roth makes the case that liberal arts education is still relevant and essential in today's economy. [ Read More ]

Aug. 26, 2014 - New Hampshire Public RadioRadio
Michael Roth's "Beyond The University: Why Liberal Education Matters"

President Roth discusses his book on New Hampshire Public Radio. [ Read More ]

Oct. 16, 2014 - WKNORadio
Michael Roth on Why Liberal Education Matters

In this interview with host Jonathan Judaken, President Roth makes the case for a "pragmatic liberal education" and explains why a liberal university education matters in America. [ Read More ]

June 19, 2014 - The Daily Beast
How to Destroy College Education

President Roth writes about Americans' tradition, dating back to the country's founding, of arguing over narrow, vocational versus broad, liberal approaches to college education. [ Read More ]

Aug. 30, 2014 - The Daily Beast
College Must Be More Than Just a Classy Trade School

Looking to the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, President Roth writes that the long-running "tensions between the lofty and practical ideals for higher education are instructive for us today." [ Read More ]

Sept. 29, 2014 - NPR's The Faith Middleton ShowRadio
Is a Liberal Arts Degree Still Smart?

President Roth talks with Faith Middletown about students' fear about finding jobs in a competitive economy, as well as the hope provided by education that learning to think critically increases our ability to find meaning and contribute effectively to the world. [ Read More ]

June 11, 2014 - KQED Public RadioRadio
The True Value of a Liberal Arts Education

President Roth tells KQED that it doesn't matter what you study in college, but rather how you study it. [ Read More ]

June 3, 2014 - Inside Higher Ed
A World Without Liberal Learning

In this essay, President Roth entertains a thought experiment: "What would the United States look like if we really gave up on liberal education and opted only for specialized or vocational schools?" [ Read More ]

May 15, 2014 - Inside Higher Ed
A Defense of Liberal Learning

This review calls President Roth's book "an elegant and informative survey of the work of important thinkers" on the role and importance of liberal education. [ Read More ]

Aug. 22, 2014 - University Business
Jump-starting the Liberal Arts Conversation

President Roth answers questions about criticisms of liberal arts education, comparisons to large research universities, and the challenge of communicating the value of liberal education. [ Read More ]

June 15, 2014 - Inside Bay Area
Nation's Great Tradition of Liberal Education is Under Attack

"Arguing about education is an American tradition" dating back to the Founding Fathers, writes President Roth in this op-ed, which touches on teacher tenure, education's role in ensuring a healthy republic, and liberal versus vocational education. [ Read More ]

June 2, 2014 - WNPR's The Colin McEnroe ShowRadio
Liberal Arts, Carbon Emissions and Of Course, Jeopardy!

President Roth makes the case to Colin McEnroe that, despite the costs of higher education, a liberal education is essential and worth it. [ Read More ]

May 28, 2014 - KERA Public RadioRadio
Study Up for 'Think': Why Liberal Education Matters

President Roth discusses his book with Krys Boyd, and answers the question: Which will yield the most advantageous results: higher education focused on science, engineering and math (STEM) or postsecondary schools based in liberal arts? [ Read More ]

May 19, 2014 - 2paragraphs
Outside the University: Can We Keep Learning?

In this brief interview, President Roth discusses how "absorption" in compelling work can be a practical part of life outside the university setting in our increasingly competitive world. [ Read More ]

July 3, 2014 - The Huffington Post
Declaring Our Independence Through Education

On Independence Day, President Roth writes about the promise of liberal education to provide students with "greater independence and capacity for productive work well beyond graduation day." [ Read More ]

Apr. 24, 2014 - The Huffington Post
Supreme Court Decision Undermines Education and Opportunity

President Roth responds to the Supreme Court ruling that upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment banning consideration of race in college admissions. He asserts, "Under the guise of democracy and supporting the political process, the Court has allowed States to close off opportunities for those who would benefit from them the most." [ Read More ]

Aug. 13, 2015 - InsideSources
Liberal Arts--Learning to Learn

In a counterpoint to President Michael Benson of Eastern Kentucky University, President Roth makes the case for a broad contextual education, one which inspires "habits of attention and critique that will be resources for students years after graduation." [ Read More ]