Recently, there has been much debate about the value of the liberal arts and its so–called “return on investment.” Although often spoken about in terms that downplay the inherent value of the liberal arts, the return on investment was on vivid display at SLA’s annual faculty showcase reception. One of the less discussed but clearly central roles of a university is the creation and dissemination of knowledge. As written in the Tulane’s mission statement, the goal of our university is to “create, communicate and conserve knowledge in order to enrich the capacity of individuals, organizations and communities to think, to learn and to act and lead with integrity and wisdom. “ In the liberal arts, this knowledge reaches into the very heart of what it means to be human. We investigate the past as we strive to understand the future. We question, we inspire, and, yes, at times, we provoke.
But the books, performances, and artistic creations that were honored at the reception are central to the mission of the university in another way as well. As the works demonstrate the importance of research and creative activities, they also influence the quality of instruction that our students receive. Our faculty members take the excitement of their scholarly work into the classroom. They teach the importance of original inquiry; they lead their students to challenge old beliefs and explore new ideas. While the great majority of Tulane’s students who major in the liberal arts will not themselves become professors, they gain from those honored faculty a deep understanding of both themselves and the complexities of the world. In whatever career path they then choose, they are instilled with lifelong lessons that have great “payoff.” As such, the “profit” from their education is nothing short of invaluable.
And so, I hope you will all join me in recognizing and celebrating all those who through their scholarly and creative endeavors live the mission of Tulane. In many cases, the books and artistic works were years in the making. They represent long hours turning the right phrase, finalizing the best image, chasing down the correct citation. Although they encompass the tools and methods of diverse disciplines, they share in their dedication to inform and enlighten.
I would also like to acknowledge those who made an investment in this work, knowing that its “return” could not be measured in dollars and cents. Alumni and friends of SLA donated funds that were essential in the creative process. They supported publishers’ subventions, endowed start-up accounts and provided travel and research stipends. To these generous individuals, we extend our greatest appreciation and hope that the works honored at the faculty reception are a true return on your priceless investment.
Tulane University, School of Liberal Arts, 102 Newcomb Hall, New Orleans, LA 70118, (504) 865-5225, firstname.lastname@example.org