Revised January 20, 2016

Sheila Tobias

Revisiting the New Liberal Arts Initiative, 1980-1990

Any effort to define and integrate courses for liberal arts students about engineering and technology must take account of a major precursor: the Sloan Foundation's New Liberal Arts Initiative, a $20 million effort between 1980-1990 to define, launch, and call into being, a wide-ranging suite of courses and programs that would incorporate technology and quantitative literacy within the classical liberal arts fields of study.

The NLA, as it came to be called, was initiated by a Vice President at Sloan, mindful that the launching of the kinds of courses envisioned would require start-up grants to colleges as well as the (then only print) publication of altogether new textbooks and other resource materials. Hence NLA funding had three components: a) start-up grants to individual colleges for course initiation and follow-up financial support; b) support to individual faculty for the research and writing of (~10) monographs; c) contributions to the MIT press to cover the publication of those books. The Initiative, launched with a call for proposals in 1980, closed its doors in 1990 with a Final Report, edited by Samuel Goldberg for Sloan, and published in 1990.

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