When Alison Byerly is inaugurated as the 17th president of Lafayette College Friday, Oct. 4, there will be more on display than the rich history and tradition of academia.
Higher education is at a crossroad—rising costs and emerging technologies threaten “business as usual.” As a nationally-known commentator on the role of technology in higher education, Byerly plans to use the occasion not only to celebrate the College and its community but also to talk about Lafayette’s place in the world and the future of higher education.
To facilitate discussion, she is hosting what may be the first of its kind— a virtual conference on the Lafayette Inauguration website. Byerly invited presidential colleagues at national liberal arts colleges to share their insights and thoughts on the myriad of challenges facing higher education today.
“An inauguration is a moment when you really think about yourself in the company of peer presidents and want to hear their wisdom and advice,” Byerly says. “Recognizing that many presidents are too busy to attend each other’s inaugurations, I wanted to use technology to create an opportunity for substantive dialogue. I thought it would be great to reach out to fellow presidents and was delighted that so many responded. It shows that we all are eager to engage these issues.”
Thoughtful and pithy essays from more than 30 presidents provide a snapshot of what college leaders see as the critical issues facing them today. Byerly also sees the forum as a follow-up to a 2012 conference at Lafayette, “The Future of the Liberal Arts College in America and Its Leadership Role in Education Around the World,” which drew more than 200 college administrators, including about 50 college presidents, to the Easton campus.
In addition, inauguration events include a panel discussion featuring prominent leaders in higher education on “New Models for Higher Education” at 1:45 p.m. in the Williams Center for the Arts.
“It’s not just about me, it’s about the College,” Byerly says. “And it’s not just about the College, it’s about the future of the college and higher education. I’m hoping a lot of this programming will reinforce that context and get us all thinking as broadly as possible about where Lafayette is headed.”
Another interactive element is a student video contest, in which Byerly invited students to help her learn about the College by making videos on the theme, “What Makes Lafayette…Lafayette?” Students will vote via Facebook and the winning entry will be screened at inauguration events.
The main convocation ceremony, at which Byerly will be officially installed as president, begins at 4 p.m. on the Quad. The rain location is Kirby Sports Center. The ceremony will also be streamed live on Lafayette’s website starting at 3:45 p.m.
Other festivities commemorating this Lafayette milestone include a luncheon, dinner, and an Inaugural Ball. In addition, students will receive a gift that may come in handy if they plan to sit on the grassy Quad to watch the Inauguration: Commemorative beach towels that Byerly hopes will be displayed on shorelines around the globe for years to come.