Michigan partners with LEAP initiative

By Meghan McBrady | 11/18/15 10:46pm

GVL/Luke Holmes

As of Nov. 12, Michigan has become a state partner in the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP).

The national initiative, which is part of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), focuses on the importance of a liberal education within the 21st century for individual students and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality.

Nancy Giardina, the vice provost for student success at Grand Valley State University, indicated that being a state partner with LEAP and by default the AACU will help integrate the values of a liberal education throughout all of Michigan’s 15 public universities.

“Here at Grand Valley we are committed to a liberal education, including those students going into science or nursing related fields, so that they may receive a liberal foundation when they enter the work force,” Giardina said. “The LEAP initiative has come from the AACU with the whole purpose to help students who have baccalaureate degrees to have a better chance of getting into graduate school and jobs once they graduate.”

LEAP-based universities work to engage with the public and help students build connections with businesses and employers. The program also helps student question what really matters in college and helps them understand the benefit of receiving a liberal education.

A strong liberal education, which is based on the ideals of an education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, serves as the foundation of GVSU. It is thanks to the foundation that GVSU has established a commitment to higher learning and also to LEAP’s goals, Giardina said.

Part of the goals behind the LEAP initiative is to establish critical and active thinkers, teamwork and problem solving skills and build upon intercultural knowledge and competence.

“One of the great things that is going on at Grand Valley is that our general education program has integrated some of the LEAP elements and goals within the program, almost making the students a step ahead on this foundation,” Giardina said.

As the initiative continues to develop within faculty, staff and students at Michigan’s 15 public universities, dialogues will be established and action will be made to see if joining LEAP will prepare students for engaging and facing the challenges in today’s society.

“The value of our students -- those who are receiving baccalaureate degrees at any of Michigan’s public institutions -- is that we see that there is an advantage of being well-rounded and critical thinkers,” Giardina said. “It’s not just the general education program, but other professional programs and schools within the university that will help students in the context of LEAP’s and our university’s goals.”

Alexa Craft, a physician’s assistant studies student at GVSU, said she is impressed that GVSU and other Michigan universities have joined the national imitative of receiving a liberal education in today’s society. She also indicated that being part of LEAP will help students delve into different issues and disciplines, going beyond just passing an exam.

“Looking at or relating the real world experiences will impact each and every student in a positive way and will better the student body as a whole,” Craft said. “Also, as a transfer student from Lansing Community College, I see that GVSU emphasizes that liberal education is key to a better understanding and knowledge of the real and working world around us.”

For further information about the LEAP goals and other AACU programs, visit www.aacu.org/leap.

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