National Study Praises Curricula of Three N.C. Schools

Three North Carolina universities received praise recently from a higher education research organization headed by the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney. Portfolio of Excellence, just released by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which is chaired by Lynne V. Cheney, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, reports on “exemplary higher education projects across the country.”

ACTA Vice President and General Counsel Anne D. Neal writes in the foreword of the report that ACTA compiled it “to help alumni and other donors identify outstanding programs and organizations that they may want to support.”

The first N.C. university highlighted in the Portfolio of Excellence is Gardner-Webb University, which is featured under the category of “Great Books and Liberal Arts.” Gardner-Webb’s core curriculum, which “is a program endorsed by the National Association of Scholars,” garnered ACTA’s interest. It comprises elements of traditional liberal arts; American, Western, and global heritage; a component to develop inner resources; and “a broad selection of life-enhancing certificate experiences designed to challenge students to pursue a more meaningful life during and after their university years.”

The University of North Carolina at Asheville is featured among those institutions ACTA highlights for having outstanding core curricula. UNCA’s general education program, which requires students to take courses in the arts, library research, writing, foreign language, heath and fitness, humanities, mathematics and natural science, drew ACTA’s attention.

Noting that UNCA “bills itself as North Carolina’s Public Liberal Arts Program,” the ACTA report says that UNCA’s general education program “is designed to integrate history, literature, art, music, philosophy, and religion with social and scientific thought for different periods in history.”

Duke University’s new course on Liberty, Democracy, and Free Markets is highlighted in the reports’ section on American Ideals and Liberty. ACTA includes such programs in its report because, it states, “In most instances, the programs are seeking additional support to expand and enhance curricular offerings.”

The report states that an ACTA donor is responsible for the new Duke course. Liberty, Democracy, and Free Markets “aims at developing an understanding of the central importance of freedom for democratic government, moral responsibility, and economic life,” with a particular focus on Western liberty and American history.

With additional money, the report states, the Duke program could grow to involve undergraduate and graduate teaching, involve faculty from different departments, feature a prestigious university lecture series, host an annual conference, and spark intellectual work through fellowships and prizes.

ACTA, the organization that published the report, was created in 1995 originally as the National Alumni Forum to get alumni involved in issues of academic freedom and excellence in institutions of higher education.

Information about the report may be found by calling 1-888-ALUMNI-8, by e-mailing ACTA (, or by visiting ACTA’s website,