Austin College will present its annual A.J. Carlson Lecture on the Liberal Arts on Wednesday with Leslie Harris, professor of history at Northwestern University. Her lecture, “Transforming Higher Education in the Liberal Arts: Merit, Access, Inclusion,” will be held at 5 p.m. in Wright Campus Center Room 231 and will be preceded by a 4 p.m. reception in the nearby Johnson Gallery. Both events are free and open to the public.

Harris will speak about liberal arts institutions and their adaptations to serve a changing student population.

The historian earned her bachelor’s degree at Columbia University before completing a master’s degree and doctorate in American history at Stanford University. A secondary field of study for her doctoral degree was African studies.

Her teaching has focused on pre-Civil War African American history from the time of the slave trade through the Civil War. She also has taught courses on the history of New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina; and on popular interpretations of southern slavery in 20th and 21st century America.

This Austin College lecture honors the late A.J. “Jack” Carlson, who taught at Austin College from 1962 until his retirement in 1994. He remained an active member of the college community until his death in December 2014. He arrived at Austin College as a scholar of early modern European history and grew professionally under the influence of President John D. Moseley to become not only the dean of humanities but also one of the college’s leading voices in support of liberal arts education. Carlson’s courageous defense of liberal arts education never weakened despite the many financial pressures confronting the college; on the contrary, the consistency of his voice remained a major influence at the college throughout his long and productive career.

The lecture is presented by Austin College’s Robert and Joyce Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching, directed by Randi Tanglen, associate professor of English. Within the mission of the center is the encouragement of “bold exploration of intellectual frontiers” and “fostering lively intellectual dialogue within and across academic disciplines.”

The Johnson Center schedules a number of events throughout the year, with presentations by Austin College faculty and guest lecturers.

Austin College is a private national liberal arts college founded in 1849 and the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.