Saying that “we are obliged to reconsider a liberal arts education in a digital, connected world,” Keuka College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera today (May 4) set the College on a path to become “the cradle for the next generation of scientists and humanists.”
In remarks after being invested as the College’s 19th president, Dr. Díaz-Herrera encouraged the faculty of this “great institution to create the liberal arts curriculum for the 21st century.
“What if we were to integrate computational methods seamlessly across the curriculum?” said the president, a native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela. “What if we were to produce criminal justice experts who solved cybercrime, nurses proficient in medical informatics, and English majors fluent in digital storytelling?”
Reaffirming the College’s historical commitment to the liberal arts, the president disagreed with those who question the value of a liberal arts education because graduates can’t find jobs.
“A liberal arts education provides its own rewards and combined with our Field Period innovation is a superb preparation for the world of work and service,” he said. “A liberal arts foundation is good for the economy and for democracy.”
Even highly technical jobs require a high degree of intellectual skills and contextual understanding, said the president, who pointed to Google, which is hiring 6,000 new employees this year, 5,000 from the liberal arts or humanities.
“As the late Steve Jobs said, ‘Technical skills are not enough,’” said Díaz-Herrera, contrasting what Daniel Pink, chief speechwriter for former Vice President Al Gore, calls conceptual workers vs. knowledge workers. “Conceptual workers are anchored in the liberal arts—strong in science, math, and humanities, plus technology.”
An education with a liberal arts base “allows us to be able to address difficult, global, complex issues by allowing us to place this knowledge in context without compartmentalization,” said Díaz-Herrera. “This is an education that unique places like Keuka can provide, and it’s one of the reasons that drew me to the job.”
Although the president has spent a good deal of time “ascertaining the hopes, dreams, and concerns” of the College community, he also spearheaded a campus-wide, long-range strategic planning effort. One of the first outcomes of that work is a new mission statement:
Keuka College exists to create citizens and leaders to serve the world in the 21st century.
Among the many topics being discussed during the on-going strategic planning process is the arts.
“We must bring the arts back to Keuka College,” said the president. “Conversations are under way with the Eastman School of Music to see what we can do together. Another exciting project is the potential reviving of the Sampson Theatre in downtown Penn Yan. We should be part of this effort and also participate wholeheartedly in the Penn Yan 20/20 planning effort. The Finger Lakes Museum is another project that plays in this arena.”
Díaz-Herrera pledged to “enthusiastically give my full dedication to the College in the only way I know: with passion and firmness. You can be sure that I will put my heart and soul toward moving this institution to the next level.”
But the president said a team effort is required to reach that level.
“Resilient academic institutions succeed because their faculty, staff, students, and friends are strongly committed to them,” he said. “I will need your total commitment, and I will work hard on building confidence and trust to achieve the solidarity needed to address difficult and changing times.”
In the discussions he has had with members of the College community during his 10 months on the job, Díaz-Herrera said one thing resonates loud and clear.
“Our community is passionate about this place,” he said, “and I must confess that the enthusiasm is contagious. I am fired up!”
To view a brief album of photos from the Inauguration, click HERE.