2023-24 Academic Theme: Education as a Public Good

The Annual Academic Theme: An Introduction

Since its inception in 1994, the University of Maine at Augusta theme has brought our communities together for numerous activities and programs. Beginning in 2006, an annual colloquium of faculty members has chosen the theme and a corresponding reading to share with other faculty, students, staff, and the larger community. We feature discussions in and outside of our classes and organize events in order to promote larger conversations about the theme. These events have provided a platform for multiple voices to be heard on such significant topics as health and social justice, immigration, and bioethics.

The UMA Colloquium is pleased to announce that the 2023-24 Academic Theme is Education as a Public Good.

The Academic Theme is addressed at Convocation in the fall and then through the spring INT/HON seminar, culminating at the UMA Student Research Conference in April.

Another component of this year’s academic theme is the adoption of a single theme-related book by a number of classes across the curriculum: After the Ivory Tower Falls:
How College Broke the American Dream and Blew Up Our Politics—and How to Fix It
by Will Bunch.

cover of the book "after the ivory tower falls" by will bunch, featuring a blue background with a clock tower and white text.

From the Publisher:

Today there are two Americas, separate and unequal, one educated and one not. And these two tribes—the resentful “non-college” crowd and their diploma-bearing yet increasingly disillusioned adversaries—seem on the brink of a civil war. The strongest determinant of whether a voter was likely to support Donald Trump in 2016 was whether or not they attended college, and the degree of loathing they reported feeling toward the so-called “knowledge economy” of clustered, educated elites. Somewhere in the winding last half-century of the United States, the quest for a college diploma devolved from being proof of America’s commitment to learning, science, and social mobility into a kind of Hunger Games contest to the death. That quest has infuriated both the millions who got shut out and millions who got into deep debt to stay afloat.

In After the Ivory Tower Falls, award-winning journalist Will Bunch embarks on a deeply reported journey to the heart of the American Dream. That journey begins in Gambier, Ohio, home to affluent, liberal Kenyon College, a tiny speck of Democratic blue amidst the vast red swath of white, post-industrial, rural midwestern America. To understand “the college question,” there is no better entry point than Gambier, where a world-class institution caters to elite students amidst a sea of economic despair.

From there, Bunch traces the history of college in the U.S., from the landmark GI Bill through the culture wars of the 60’s and 70’s, which found their start on college campuses. We see how resentment of college-educated elites morphed into a rejection of knowledge itself—and how the explosion in student loan debt fueled major social movements like Occupy Wall Street. Bunch then takes a question we need to ask all over again—what, and who, is college even for?—and pushes it into the 21st century by proposing a new model that works for all Americans.

The sum total is a stunning work of journalism, one that lays bare the root of our political, cultural, and economic division—and charts a path forward for America.

Thanks to all the faculty colloquium participants this year:
Matt Dube (co-chair), Lorien Lake-Corral (co-chair)
Leigh Alley, Phillip Buckley, Cindy Dean, Greg Fahy, Les French, Vickie Ireland, Anne Jordan, Michelle Lisi, Ruth Lyons, Donna Maher, Sharon Sawyer, Tim Surrette, & Rebecca White

Join the discussion on Facebook!

Attend an event!

Find a copy of the book, After the Ivory Tower Falls.

Check out the Resource Guide from UMA Libraries:

Join the Book Club!

Explore past themes!