Elizabeth Coleman | 2009 Make Think Design Conference

Elizabeth Coleman

Over the past century the combination of the idealization of the expert and an increasingly technocratic, fragmented specialization has wreaked havoc with the intellectual and ethical dimensions of a college education. We are desperately in need of a new liberal arts—one that will reconnect thought and action; utilize the power of ideas and imagination to transform our capacity to engage the world in ways that matter, about things that matter; and inspire collaboration rather than isolation. Design—understood as a systematic, collaborative way of addressing problems and transforming possibilities—is a prime candidate for the new set of studies needed to revitalize higher education. 

Elizabeth Coleman is Bennington College’s ninth president, a position she has held since 1987. Coleman’s vision of a new kind of liberal arts education has been recognized nationally by her place on the Select Committee of the Association of American Colleges and the board of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Coleman has also served on the Council for a Community of Democracies and as chair of the Vermont Rhodes Scholarship Trust. A former consultant to the Annenberg Corporation on a public broadcasting project, she currently serves on the boards of the Neurosciences Institute; the Annapolis Group, an organization of leading independent liberal arts colleges; the Committee for Economic Development; and the Council of Advisors for the European College of Liberal Arts. Coleman earned her MA in American literature from Cornell University and a PhD from Columbia University. She has been awarded honorary degrees from the University of Vermont and Hofstra University.