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Workshop on the Liberal Arts in Higher Education

August 19-20, 2017 @ The Ismaili Centre, Dubai, UAE

Day 1: Saturday, 19 August 2017


9:00–9:15 AM—Welcome and introductions

Participants from various institutions will introduce themselves and briefly describe the steps they have already taken to support liberal arts education initiatives.

9:15–10:45 AM—Session 1: What is the state of liberal arts in South Asia and neighboring regions?

Each university presents their own education model and how they manage the scope, relevance, student types, and challenges of liberal arts in their context. This session will also begin a discussion and exploration of the current state of liberal arts in society. Professor Jorge Dominguez, facilitator

10:45 AM–12:00 PM—Session 2: The “Utility” of a Liberal Arts Education

The session title embodies what is often considered a contradiction. Namely, there is a belief that a liberal arts education is not useful, which is why professionalizing early in the life of young university students has long been the prevailing curriculum of universities worldwide. This session will include elements of “utility,” which relate to the program and panel topics. Professor Jay Harris, presenter

12:00–1:15 PM—Session 3: Global Citizenship: Pedagogical and Curriculum Design Issues in the Liberal Arts

How does a liberal arts education in Asian and GCC universities prepare students to be global citizens? Professor Reimers presents a framework to align a liberal arts education with the development of cosmopolitan students, and the inherent challenges faced by universities participating in global citizenship education. Professor Fernando Reimers, presenter

1:15–2:30 PM—Lunch

2:30–3:45 PM—Session 4: Religious and Cultural Literacy: Engaging with Diversity

Although we live in an era of globalization characterized by greater contact between people of different cultures than at any other point in history, exposure to diversity has not yet resulted in a better understanding of our differences. Instead, we witness greater misunderstandings and the prevalence of polarized world views. This polarization, often expressed in dichotomies such as “us vs. them” or “good vs. evil,” is one of the consequences of cultural and religious illiteracy. This illiteracy hampers people’s ability to understand and engage with differences, ultimately leading to the rejection of diversity. In this way, illiteracy threatens not only democratic processes within countries, but also relations between nations. This session will explore the causes and symptoms of cultural and religious illiteracy in various societies and ways we can address them in educational systems. Professor Ali Asani, presenter

3:45–4:30 PM—Coffee Break

4:45–6:00 PM—Session 5: The Future of a Liberal Arts Education in the 21st Century

What is the potential of a liberal arts education going forward? Is the future bright or bleak? How can this consortium be a leader in shaping the future of liberal arts and its discourse going forward? Universities across Asia are investing in liberal arts education and reinventing traditional technical university programs. There is an understanding that a liberal arts education helps build diverse intellectual capabilities and is fundamental in understanding and addressing the complexities of 21st-century society. The aim of this session is to discuss the possibilities of creating programs that uphold the principles of free exchange, pluralism, and respect for diversity. Professor Jorge Dominguez, presenter

7:00–9:00 PM—Dinner



The Ismaili Centre Social Hall
Dubai, United Arab Emirates