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Securing America’s Future:

The Power of Liberal Arts Education

Larry D. Roper

Professor, School of Language, Culture, and Society, Oregon State University
Heidelberg University (OH), Class of 1975
Larry D. Roper is a professor in the School of Language, Culture, and Society and the College of Education at Oregon State University. He teaches courses on social justice, leadership, and college administration. For 19 years he served as vice provost for student affairs at Oregon State. He has also worked in administrations at the University of Delaware, St. John Fisher College, and the University of California, Davis.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Heidelberg University, a master’s degree in student personnel from Bowling Green State University, and a doctorate in counseling and personnel services from the University of Maryland.
Attending Heidelberg University was the greatest gift of my lifetime. The cost of attending Heidelberg was more than my mother’s annual income. Thus, college to me felt like an exclusive experience, which inspired in me feelings with which I struggled mightily. Arriving at Heidelberg from an inner city environment and a single-parent household, and as the first member of my family to attend college, I was initially overwhelmed by the college experience.  In fact, I dropped out after my first three days on campus and hitchhiked back to my hometown, Akron, with the intention of not returning. The forcefulness of my mother convinced me to return within a day.
 
I struggled significantly during my first semester of attendance. However, because of an early alert system, the dean of students called me to his office at the mid-term of the first semester to offer assistance in response to the unfavorable academic report he had received from my professors. While I did not fully appreciate this gesture at the time, the outreach by the dean of students provided an invaluable lifeline and initiated a relationship with a person who has been the role model after whom I shaped my professional career. In spite of my limitations, I survived my first semester and ultimately grew to have incredible affection for Heidelberg University.
 

The small classes, the expectation of intellectual engagement, and the scholarly mentoring kindled within me an appreciation for the liberal arts and an intellectual curiosity that I had no idea I possessed.

 
During my time at Heidelberg, the faculty members with whom I interacted nurtured in me a true love for the world of ideas. The small classes, the expectation of intellectual engagement, and the scholarly mentoring kindled within me an appreciation for the liberal arts and an intellectual curiosity that I had no idea I possessed. Several years ago the provost at the university where I currently work approached me and asked that I serve as the interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts. I hesitantly accepted the invitation. In my first meeting with the faculty members of the college, I was asked, “What is your experience with liberal arts?” My response was, “The liberal arts saved my life.”
 
My Heidelberg experience was life altering at the time and has been life sustaining since my graduation. Not only did I receive a remarkable academic experience, but I built a durable relationship network that remains central in my life today, as I approach the date of my forty-year reunion. At Heidelberg I found my voice and I discovered my vocation. My experience as a student leader, resident assistant, and student-athlete exposed me to caring professionals outside the classroom who helped me to understand the crucial role all campus agents play in the growth, development, and success of students. I left Heidelberg with an image in my head of the type of educator I wanted to be. Even more, I left Heidelberg with a thirst for learning and personal growth that was inspired by the rich and dynamic environment that was cultivated at Heidelberg University and the liberal arts experience.
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