Pedagogue Blog

Diverse Conversations: Leading a Small Liberal Arts University

For those who aspire to become a college/university president, one of the biggest decisions that you will make is whether a large or small college/university presidency is the right choice. For this installment of “Diverse Conversations,” I decided to interview Dr. Debra Townsley, president of Williams Peace University, to find out what it’s like to lead a small liberal arts university. Inaugurated as the 10th president of William Peace University in August 2010, Dr. Townsley oversees a student body of nearly 800 full and part-time students enrolled in WPU’s undergraduate day, evening, online and Saturday programs, and an alumni body of more than 9,000.

Q: What attracted you to a small liberal arts university?

A: Small, private institutions are connected learning communities. Faculty directly teach all students. Co-curricular programming is intentional and an integral part of the learning. Students make life-long friends and are part of a connected alumni network. I appreciate these connections and believe they lead to strong learning opportunities for everyone in the community.

Q: What do you like most about leading a liberal arts university?

A: We do make a difference in the lives of our students. I have the good fortune of hearing this when I meet alumni, who have had a chance to experience what their education has afforded them and meant to them.

Q: Has your impression of William Peace University changed since the first time you were on campus?

A: I have learned more about Peace since my first visit, but my view of WPU has not changed since my first visit. On my first visit, Peace seemed like a community with dedicated faculty and staff who cared about students’ success and a community with students and alumni who had a love for the school. These first impressions have been and continue to be true.

Q: You’ve been president of William Peace University for three years. During that time, you have been able to witness, study, and assess the trends in higher education. What trends do you see emerging in higher education?

A: Higher education is changing because of multiple external forces, such as the economy, demographics, student learning needs, technology and regulations, just to name a few. Current trends indicate that students (and families) want to know there are job opportunities upon graduation, have limited resources for higher education, and learn through new methods like hands-on learning, experiential learning, use of technology, cases, discussion and/or multiple evaluative tools, to name a few.

One trend getting much attention is the massive open online course (MOOC). There is a debate over MOOCs – their usefulness in student learning, their replacement of the classroom, their long-term costs, etc. However, this was a similar conversation several decades ago when distance or online learning options were developing. I remember a faculty member telling me 15 years ago that it was a waste to invest in online education because it would not last. Now, we know that online is here to stay and that online learning can be very successful. MOOCs are likely to further develop and take learning in new directions that we may or may not be able to imagine today.

There will likely always be a place for classroom learning, but other ways of teaching and learning have emerged and will continue to emerge. This is what makes the industry challenging, but rewarding, as we seek the best way for students to reach their potentials.

Q: What are some of the challenges facing you and William Peace University in this upcoming year?

A: Small privates are similar in our challenges. We provide a quality education with limited resources, and we are always seeking new ways to do this. We complete the matriculation of a class, while starting the process all over again. We are finalizing our admission for Fall 2013 with the largest-ever incoming class and total enrollment, but have also started receiving students for tours, inquiries and applications for the Fall of 2014. It is a continuous cycle. I do believe higher education and the expectation for higher education is continual improvement, thus continual change; and change is hard for some people. This is an increasing challenge to resolve in higher education – the conflict between status quo and change.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at William Peace University in this upcoming year?

A: I am most looking forward to the students being back on campus. The students at WPU are engaged and fun to be with. At the same time, I always look forward to graduation. It is my favorite day of the year – not because the students are leaving, but because it is gratifying to see students arrive on campus and graduate four years later with confidence and hope for their futures. Graduation is a proud day for students and families, but it is also a proud day for us as educators to believe that we made a difference in each student’s life in some small way.

Q: Do you have any parting messages for our readers, many of whom are our current and future college/university presidents?

A: I believe the presidency of a college or university is the best job. We are in a challenging, changing industry. We work with students of all ages, which keeps us young in thought. We can feel a sense of accomplishment in our daily and strategic initiatives but, more importantly, in knowing that we have truly made a difference in some way – small or large – in an individual’s life. How many jobs give you this chance?

Well, that concludes my interview with Dr. Townsley. I would like to thank her for consenting to this interview.



4 Reasons Why Classrooms Need Diversity Education

School climate and school culture directly impact student success. As a result, it is particularly important for the school culture (and the classroom culture) to reflect, acknowledge, and celebrate diversity. Taking these feel-good ideals and making them a reality can be tough for educators, especially with so many other initiatives on their ever-tighter schedules.

But I think that this is so important that as an educator, you must take the time to do it. How to celebrate diversity in the classroom is another article, but for now, I want you to begin your journey with knowing exactly why it’s important.

1. Because the idea of “diversity” is not even that straightforward. Not only must schools recognize diversity evident among broad racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Asian or Hispanic), but the diversity within these groups must be recognized as well. For example Chinese and Japanese students may share common cultural characteristics as a result of being Asian, but will also have distinctly Chinese and Japanese cultural characteristics that differ from each other. The same is true of Caucasian students who come from vastly different family backgrounds, even from the same neighborhoods. In the interest of treating students equally, giving them equal chances for success, and equal access to the curriculum, teachers and administrators must recognize the uniqueness and individuality of their students.

2. Teachers have a particular responsibility to recognize and structure their lessons to reflect student differences. This encourages students to recognize themselves and others as individuals. It also encourages the appreciation of a diverse school population, and brings a sense of connection between disparate cultural heritages within a single school’s culture. It is certainly in the best interest of students and teachers to focus on the richness of our diversity. Recognizing and acknowledging our differences is part of treating students fairly and equally.

3. So that you can facilitate the process of learning overall. One reason for seeking out and acknowledging cultural differences among students is the idea that learning involves transfer of information from prior knowledge and experiences. To assist in this transfer process, it is important to acknowledge the students’ background, and to validate and incorporate their previous knowledge into the process of acquiring new information. All students begin school with a framework of skills and information based on their home cultures. This may include a rudimentary understanding of the alphabet, numbers, computer functions, some basic knowledge of a second language, or the ability to spell and write their names. It also includes a set of habits, etiquette and social expectations derived from the home.

4. So that you can help students assimilate what they learn with what they already know. If a student cannot relate new information to his own experiences, or connect the new material to a familiar concept, he may perceive the new information as frustrating, difficult or dismiss it completely, believing it to be in conflict with his already tenuous understanding of the world. Teachers have the responsibility to seek out cultural building blocks students already possess, in order to help build a framework for understanding. Some educational pedagogy refers to this process as “scaffolding.” Recognition of a student’s cultural differences provides a positive basis for effective learning, and a “safe” classroom environment. Every group of students will respond differently to curriculum and teachers must constantly adjust to be sure their methods are diverse, both in theory and in practice.

What are some easy ways you’ve found to promote diversity in your classroom? Leave a comment below.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about how you can celebrate diversity in class, here are some tips I have for you.

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Adopts Let’s Talk! 

The cloud-based communications solution will strengthen responsiveness and track response time to stakeholders throughout the state

(HERNDON, VA) January 14, 2016 – K12 Insight today announced a statewide implementation of Let’s Talk!, its cloud-based communications solution, by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI). The department is using Let’s Talk! to create a culture of two-way communications between state education officials and community members, be it parents, teachers, students, taxpayers, or staff. Feedback submitted through Let’s Talk!, accessible through a button on the department’s website, is automatically routed to the right state department official for a timely response. On the backend, the department is leveraging the information and data collected through individual conversations to inform decision-making and better serve local communities.

The NCDPI is also using Let’s Talk! to track Freedom of Information Act and public records requests, and to manage its social media interactions so that parents, teachers, and students have a more controlled, reliable way to communicate feedback. The goal is to strengthen the department’s responsiveness and ensure the community gets the information it needs—and gets it in way that they can use it.

“Customer service is important to the Department of Public Instruction, and Let’s Talk! is a helpful tool to make sure we are serving the public in a timely way,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson. “Public schools have many customers and stakeholders, including parents, students, employers, higher education, and educators, so it is helpful to track our interactions with all of our customers to be sure we provide the service they need.”

Let’s Talk! works with more than 30,000 school administrators across the country, but this is the first time a statewide system has adopted the solution.

“We’re extremely excited for the opportunity to partner with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction,” said K12 Insight Founder and CEO Suhail Farooqui. “State Superintendent Atkinson is committed to providing parents and community members across the state with top-notch customer service. Let’s Talk! gives every stakeholder an opportunity to directly reach DPI staff with comments and ask questions.”

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state’s public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education. 

About K12 Insight
K12 Insight, based in Herndon, VAworks with more than 30,000 school administrators to strengthen the relationships that power education. Our custom solutions combine technology, research, and expert training to help school leaders build trust and drive positive change in their local communities. Learn more at

About Let’s Talk!
Let’s Talk! is a cloud-based communications solution that helps K12 school- and district-level administrators identify opportunities for engagement, manage potential crises, and build stronger relationships with parents, teachers, students, community members, and staff. Manage all of your inbound and outbound school communications from one location and stay connected with your community from wherever you are with our always-on mobile app. Learn more at

US losing its dominance in global higher education market

Jason Lane, University at Albany, State University of New York

The Conversation’s international teams are collaborating on a series of articles about the Globalisation of Higher Education, examining how universities are changing in an increasingly globalised world. This is the third article in the series. Read more here.

Students have come back to college. But not all to the United States.

The idea that a student would study in another country is not a new concept. The media frequently reports on the number of international students studying in the United States. And that is exactly how we tend to think about it – students from other countries coming to the United States.

Yet, a growing number of US students are now looking overseas for their college degree. Germany alone, with its essentially free higher education system, is drawing a fair number of prospective US college students. Some 4,660 US students were enrolled in German universities last year – a number that has increased by 20% in three years.

While the number of US students attending college in Germany remains very small relative to the some 21 million individuals pursuing a post-secondary education, it represents two important shifts in the international student market: a rapidly increasing global market for international students and a growing number of US students looking to earn degrees overseas.

As a researcher of international education, a key concern for me is understanding the ways in which the changing global economy is reshaping educational opportunities and potentially how the US dominance in the international education market is being threatened.

US students studying abroad

There is no central source that tracks the total number of US students enrolled in foreign institutions.

There is also no international repository of enrollment trends worldwide. In the US, the federal government tracks enrollments in domestic higher education institutions. In addition, the Institute of International Education (IIE)’s annual Open Doors report gathers data about American students at US colleges studying abroad for academic credit.

In fact, there were about 290,000 students studying abroad for academic credit, but not a full degree, in the 2012 academic year, more than double the number who studied abroad 15 years earlier. However, these numbers do not include students pursuing a full degree from an overseas institution, as they are not tracked by the US government.

But based on national data sets, IIE’s Project Atlas has put together a patchwork picture about students pursuing college degrees elsewhere.

The UK has been the leading destination for US students.
Shane Global, CC BY

According to a Project Atlas report (the most recent aggregated data on this issue), there were more than 43,000 US students enrolled in degree programs in foreign countries in 2010 (this is in addition to the number of students studying abroad not for a degree). However, it should be noted that Project Atlas, has data only from the IIE’s 13 partnering nations. So these data may actually undercount the number of students enrolled in such programs.

Even so, based on these data, we can confidently say that the United Kingdom was the leading destination for US students. Most US students (72%) in this data set head to anglophone countries. Master’s degree programs are the most popular option (followed by undergraduate programs and then doctoral).

Recent reports, such as those about Germany, suggest that the number of students pursuing a degree outside of their home country, including students moving outside of the US, is growing rapidly. But, in order to gather information about US citizens who pursue degrees elsewhere, that information must be gathered from those nations.

Growing competition for international students

The fact is that today, there is a large market for students in higher education.

In 2000, according to UNESCO’s Education at a Glance, there were only 2.1 million students studying abroad in both short-term and full-degree programs. Today, there are roughly 4.5 million.

And, the competition for those students has become quite fierce. Today, countries like China, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, who once primarily sent students abroad, have enacted policies and strategies to actively recruit international students.

In fact, according to our research, places like Singapore, Malaysia and United Arab Emirates want to become regional educational hubs – serving students from their neighboring countries.

With this increase, the market for international students has also become quite volatile in the last decade. Many of the earlier entrants to this market are losing share.

For instance, even though the total number of international students studying in the US continues to grow, the US market share has dropped from 23% in 2000 to 16% in 2012. Countries such as Germany, France, South Africa and Belgium have also lost about 5% market share collectively, with Germany and France having the largest remaining share of the group at about 6% each.

At the same time, places like China, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, Korea and New Zealand each picked up larger proportion of the market, with the United Kingdom and Russia both gaining two points of the market and the others a little less. In fact, at 13% of the market share and growing, the United Kingdom may be on track to overtake the US’ market lead.

Opening up borders

In such a market, some countries are taking advantage of their language of instruction which can offer a competitive advantage, while others are offering low-cost or even free tuition.

So, nations whose language of instruction is widely spoken elsewhere, such as English, French and Spanish, are becoming leading receivers of international students.

Some countries are providing nearly free education for international students.
Wellington College, CC BY-NC

Some countries, such as Austria, France, Germany and Norway, are providing de facto free education for all students, including those from foreign countries.

This low cost of education can help countries attract students already looking to go abroad as well as elicit attention from students looking for alternatives to the high costs of higher education in their own countries.

Countries are getting much savvier about their efforts to recruit foreign students – adopting more student-friendly immigration policies, offering financial incentives and even setting national strategic recruitment goals.

The German government, for instance, has a goal of attracting 350,000 international students by 2020. To do so, Germany is actively recruiting students and lowering barriers to entry.

Today, an increasing number of degree programs offered in Germany are in English and searchable through a national database. They have even amended their laws to make it easier for international students to work while going to school. The German academic exchange service, DAAD, also provides scholarships to offset the cost of other academic and living expense.

Competing for brain power

Attracting international students, then, is not just about bringing in tuition dollars. Countries offering free or reduced tuition are often seeking to rebuild national workforce as their domestic population ages and younger talent pools shrink.

So, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden are now developing study-to-work pathways and “train and retain policies” to encourage international students to transition into the workplace.

Some of these efforts are paying off. Students are not only choosing to study abroad; many are also staying abroad after they graduate.

For example, a survey of more than 11,000 international students in Germany found that three in 10 plan to stay in Germany permanently after their studies and four in 10 plan to stay for at least 10 years.

A globally competitive market

The increasing number of students pursuing their college years in a foreign country is symptomatic of two important trends.

First, it reflects a rapidly changing world economy, where it is not only the workforce opportunities that are global, but also the educational experiences that prepare students for those opportunities.

As a result, more and more students from both developed and developing countries are looking beyond their national borders for their collegiate experience.

Second, as economies become more knowledge-based, the competition for brains is heating up.

The US has long dominated this market. But as more nations have seen international students as part of their strategic interests, the US market has begun to shrink significantly.

Without a similar strategic national interest, will the US’ dominance fall all together?

The Conversation

Jason Lane, Associate Professor of Education Policy & Co-Director of the Cross-Border Education Research Team, University at Albany, State University of New York

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Read all of our posts about EdTech and Innovation by clicking here. 

Early-career researchers the missing link for STEM diversity

Maggie Hardy, The University of Queensland

When high school physics teacher Moses Rifkin wrote a recent blog post on “Teaching Social Justice in the Physics Classroom,” he ignited a new round of conversation about white privilege and the kinds of skills scientists need. Rifkin outlined how he incorporates into his teaching a unit on “Who does physics, and why?” to highlight the lack of diversity in science, particularly physics.

The problem isn’t new and it isn’t going away by itself. But it is getting more and more attention. The United States National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released a report, “Pathways to Broadening Participation in response to the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering 2011–2012 Recommendation,” intended to “build on best practices and offer new approaches” that would “increase participation in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] from underrepresented groups.” This isn’t the first initiative of its kind for the agency; since 1980, NSF has had a mandate to increase the participation of women and minorities in science and engineering.

A diverse science and engineering workforce is critical for innovation, entrepreneurism and a competitive national economy.

Researchers should reflect the country’s population.
MissTessmacher, CC BY-NC

Scope of the problem

Although women earn about half the bachelor’s degrees awarded in biology and chemistry, they are underrepresented in all other STEM disciplines – mathematics, computer science, earth sciences, engineering and physics. Women are half the population, but hold only 28% of science and engineering jobs.

Native American and Alaska Native students earn bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields at about the same rate as white students (21% for women and 27% for men), but are not employed in STEM fields proportionally. The number of black and Hispanic students earning degrees in STEM fields is lower than the national average, and their employment in STEM – once again – isn’t proportional. We train students in STEM fields, but ultimately they leave the carousel that is employment in research.

The current demographics of scientists do not reflect our population.
National Science Foundation Broadening Participation Report

The issues with relying largely on one demographic group to do science are many, particularly when that group does not reflect the population. Research has shown that “promoting diversity not only promotes representation and fairness but may lead to higher quality science.” Policies that increase equity are often good for everyone – here is a recent example showing this using standardized math test scores.

Increasing the diversity in science opens up the possibility of stable, high-paying jobs in STEM fields to more Americans. Pulling from the entire population, including traditionally underrepresented communities, provides a more robust base for economic innovation and the knowledge-intensive jobs of the future.

Equity is good for business, too. Although women in technology are some of the highest performing entrepreneurs, men receive 2.8 times more startup capital.

Where do we need to be?

The National Science Foundation is a key player for academics, as its budget ($7.3 billion for 2015) funds approximately 24% of all federally supported basic research. NSF uses a peer-based merit review system to invest in basic research that lays the foundation for important discoveries, as well as applied research that provides innovative fodder for our economy. Its prominence as a funding source for colleges and universities is part of the reason its initiatives are important for many researchers.

According to the new diversity report, “the ultimate goal is to have participation in STEM fields mirror the population of the Nation.” Specifically, that means we need to focus on recruiting and retaining the best talent from currently under-represented groups: blacks, Latinos and indigenous communities, including Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. Based on recent estimates, by 2044 the United States will be a majority-minority country, so to have the research workforce mirror the population we need a clear path to retain people in research positions.

By 2044, the United States will be a majority-minority country.
Ruy Teixeria, William H. Frey, Rob Griffin/Center for American Progress

There is a need for a clear, well supported career pathway for early- and mid-career researchers, with an emphasis on retaining traditionally underrepresented groups. And NSF isn’t the only institution focusing on this issue. The National Institutes of Health, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the scientific journals Nature and Science) have all discussed the problematic lack of diversity in science. In 2013 the White House released a 5-year strategic plan for STEM Education, which emphasized creating a diverse STEM workforce.

How do we get there?

NSF has pulled together the most current evidence-based strategies to increase diversity in STEM. The report groups proposed interventions into the following six categories.

  • Financial support, primarily geared toward supporting college students
  • Professional and social support, with renewed emphasis on the importance of learning in both formal and informal settings
  • Mentoring, to provide one-on-one career advice and role models to show the path, as well as the destination
  • Research experience, critical to develop and sustain interest in STEM education and careers
  • Combating stereotype threat, the fear of “confirming a negative stereotype about one’s group (e.g., women aren’t good at math)”
  • Community building, combining all the above ideas, adding institutional commitment and support for building scientific capacity. Setting and measuring the achievement of specific goals, and accountability when they are or are not met, is key

Most importantly, what is the career pathway that will take students on to careers in science and engineering research? The total number of postdoctoral researchers (those who have recently earned their PhD) at federally funded research centers dropped between 2012 and 2013; the loss was more pronounced for women (-13%) than for men (-4%).

These data were compiled from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Survey of Postdocs at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, Fall 2013.
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES)

NSF could expand postdoctoral fellowship programs, implementing some designed to foster collaboration with industry. They could increase funding for the Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology, which earmarks resources for minority-serving institutions and historically black colleges and universities.

Traditionally underrepresented scientists should be more common, and not just in stock photos.
Scientists image via

The bottom line

The research community has made it clear that the reasons for attrition need to be better understood. But more importantly, we need to stem the tide of highly specialized, highly trained people leaving research.

Non-scientists – including journalists and media personalities – who comment on what skills scientists need to be successful are often terrifically far off the mark, but could be influencing the next generation of potential STEM workers. Scientists believe we need to broaden participation so we have the most creative problem-solvers trained and ready to work. Recognizing and rectifying inequity is part of our core work, because it helps us do better research. Researchers working at the cold face of problems that didn’t even exist ten years ago realize we need a diverse range of scientists to pull from to be competitive, and this is exactly what the report from NSF illustrates.

If we really want the best scientists doing research, as we say we do, then we must have a hiring pool that reflects the diversity of the nation. Our best scientists aren’t getting any younger, and we need support for early-career researchers in academic, industry and government positions now.

Editor’s note: Maggie will be available online to answer questions about the STEM/diversity job connection from 5-6pm EST on Thursday March 5, which is 8-9am AEST on Friday March 6 . You can ask your questions about the article in the comments below.

The Conversation

Maggie Hardy, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

At UC San Diego, retired professors are mentoring first-generation college students

Melvin H Green, University of California, San Diego

My mother cried when I told her I was changing my major from engineering to chemistry. Her fear was that I would never earn a living as a chemist.

When she heard a few years later that I planned to go for a PhD in chemistry, her only comment was,

So why don’t you at least become a real doctor?

Doctor, lawyer, engineer – these were careers that Eastern European immigrants such as my mother and father knew had definite earning power. Having survived the Great Depression, they believed earning a living was all that mattered.

As a student in the 1950s, I had never heard of the word “mentor.” In retrospect, as a first-generation college student, I would have really been helped by having a “mentor,” especially with regard to choosing a career.

So, for the past 10 years, following my retirement as professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego, my greatest joy and sense of satisfaction has come from mentoring undergraduates.

First-generation students

It wasn’t always that way.

As a young professor, struggling to climb the academic ladder toward tenure and a full professorship, my research took precedence over all else, including teaching and even family life.

But, following my retirement, I thought of helping the many first-generation students who faced life challenges similar to mine. Some students shared similar pressure from parents to major in premed, while others told me how their parents wanted them to receive straight A’s. These students didn’t even know that there was far more to being a successful student than getting good grades.

This led to my creation in 2006 of the Emeriti Mentor Program (EMP). Our mentees are first-generation college students from low-income families. Nationally, of the 7.3 million undergraduates attending four-year public and private colleges and universities, about 20% are first-generation students. About 50% of all first-generation college students in the US are low-income. These students are also more likely to be a member of a racial or ethnic minority group.

Mentoring programs for youth have become popular all over the US because of their positive emotional and behavioral impact. A review of 55 evaluations of mentoring programs has further confirmed their effectiveness for academic achievement, as well as employment or career development.

However, our program is unique, as our mentors are emeriti professors who bring a wealth of experience in and out of the university. Currently at UC San Diego, 50 emeriti professors in the EMP mentor nearly 100 first-generation freshmen and sophomores from low-income families. The main goal of these mentors is to provide career guidance and an understanding ear.

Other campuses throughout the country, including some other UC campuses, have expressed interest in starting similar mentoring programs.

Challenges of mentoring

Serving as an effective mentor is not an easy matter. Teaching a class of 30 or 300 students is nothing like the one-on-one experience of mentoring. Lecturing in front of a class with students taking notes as fast as possible puts the professor in full command.

Listening to a crying student who has just failed his or her first exam can often leave the prof feeling helpless. Additionally, many first-generation students are told by their parents that anything less than an A grade is tantamount to failure with a capital F.

There can be many challenges to a mentoring program.
Merrimack College, CC BY-NC-ND

Communication between mentor and mentee can be difficult, especially in their first few meetings. While young professors at times appear intimidating, elderly emeriti almost always are.

Mentors need to get past other barriers as well. Cultural differences can pose problems.

For example, one of my mentees, a Chinese immigrant, seemed rude because she never looked me in the eye during her entire freshman year. Another Chinese-American student taught me that it was rude for a young person to look an elderly person in the eye.

Here’s what we did

Here’s one approach we take to break the ice and help our students and mentors communicate with one another.

We start by introducing our students to some real-life stories from my book, Will It Be on the Exam? 21 Stories about Unforgettable Students. One particular story, Follow Your Passion, helps students understand the role and value of mentoring.

The story is about a freshman who chooses chemistry as his major to please his parents. However, his mentor urges him to switch to a music major and follow his passion.

Danny drops out of chemistry after the first quarter and graduates with honors in jazz performance and composition. Students learn how Danny has gone on to a very successful career as a jazz pianist and composer. They also learn that at times it is the mentor, not the parents, who must provide the encouragement to follow your passion.

Slow Starters is another story that many students find relevant to their own lives.

It tells the story of a young man, Ari, who spent five years in and out of community college while working numerous part-time jobs. Not until Ari met the “girl of his dreams” did he begin taking a serious interest in finding a career path.

Subsequently, he transferred to a four-year university and, with sports being his primary interest in life, chose physical education as a major. To his parents’ amazement, after graduation Ari was accepted into an osteopathic medical school. He became a highly successful doctor. And yes, he did marry that dream girl.

Creativity and Courage is yet another inspiring story about a Japanese graduate student who started his doctoral thesis research in my laboratory shortly after I came to UCSD.

Students can get inspiration through a mentoring program.
Alessia D’Urso, CC BY-NC-ND

Alone in a foreign culture, Susumu demonstrated a great deal of grit and courage. He completed his PhD and postdoctoral research in San Diego, then went on to another foreign country, Switzerland, where he took on a project in a totally unrelated field to that of his earlier research.

Working alone for two years, he solved a very complex problem before anybody else could. For this creative accomplishment, Dr Tonegawa received the Nobel Prize in 1987.

Through this story, students learn about the value of motivation, persistence and courage.

A win-win process

The Emeriti Mentor Program serves both professors and students.

After retirement, professors typically experience a sense of sudden loss from their once productive lives because they are no longer involved in teaching or research. Those that want to maintain some involvement with the university find mentoring a very worthy and satisfying activity.

A successful mentor involves being part teacher, part advisor and part friend. The proportion of each varies from one mentor to the next.

It is difficult to evaluate the success of a mentor program, or even that of a specific mentor. The following comments by mentees about the Emeriti Mentor Program are probably the best indicators of its success:

Being able to have such a close relationship with someone who has been through college…has been an invaluable resource for someone who has very few people to turn to.

Just knowing that I had a retired professor giving me tips raised my confidence level.”

The Emeriti Mentor Program has to be one of the most crucial…factors that aided me throughout my first year in college.”

Universities need to realize the great resource they have in their retired professors and find ways to keep them actively involved.

The Conversation

Melvin H Green, Professor Emeritus Biology, University of California, San Diego

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Change is Here: Why Higher Education Needs the Hispanic Community to Succeed

The face of higher education is rapidly evolving as more middle- to low-class young people find ways to obtain a college degree or technical training. The Hispanic population in the U.S. is no exception as the number of college applicants and enrollees increase every year. While these strides benefit this specific group of students, everyone stands to benefit from Hispanic higher education success.

The Numbers

The U.S. Census reports that the estimated Hispanic population in the nation is 52 million – making residents of Hispanic origin the largest minority in the country. In fact, one of every six Americans is a Hispanic. That number is expected to rise to over 132 million by 2050 and Hispanics will then represent 30 percent of the U.S. population. Children with Hispanic roots make up 23 percent of the age 17 and under demographic — making future higher education legislation critical for this growing and thriving minority group.
The Issues
Young people of Hispanic origin face specific challenges when it comes to higher education. Many prospective students are first-generation Americans, or even undocumented residents, and do not have the first-hand experience or guidance from parents regarding the college experience in the U.S. Like all other ethnic groups, Hispanic youth face financial difficulty when trying to determine if college is a possibility. Many young Hispanics may feel overwhelmed by the social and financial pressure associated with college attendance and are in need of the right guidance. While higher education initiatives are changing to address these issues, only 13 percent of the Hispanic population over the age of 25 had a bachelor’s degree or higher in the 2010 Census.

Federal Initiative

The Obama administration recognizes the rapid growth of the Hispanic community, specifically as it impacts higher education, and has put several pieces of legislation into motion including the DREAM Act. First introduced in the U.S. Senate in August 2001, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act was designed to reward children in good standing that came to the country illegally. Temporary residency is granted for a six-year time frame for young people that seek out higher educational pursuits with an option for permanent residency after completion of a bachelor’s degree or beyond.

The bill went through several iterations before President Obama announced in June 2012 that his administration would stop deporting undocumented immigrants meeting DREAM Act criteria. While this legislation applies to more than Hispanic immigrants, they are the group that stands to benefit the most from its enactment. With no fear of deportation, Hispanic youth with higher education aspirations are free to pursue them and work toward a better individual and collective future.

What’s Ahead?

Increasing higher education opportunities for Hispanics has obvious positive benefits for the demographic itself, but the influence will be felt even further. Think of it as a ripple effect, where the Hispanic community represents the initial splash and all other ethnic groups feel the impact too. The Obama Administration has made known its goals to make the U.S. the leader in college degrees earned in proportion to population. In order for this goal to be met, Hispanics (specifically those of Latino descent) will need to earn 3.3 million degrees between now and 2020. The economic success of geographic areas, specifically urban areas, is directly affected by the number of college graduates that study and stay there. In states like Texas, this is an especially poignant point where a one-point college graduate rate increase can result in $1.5 billion more in annual economic activity for cities like San Antonio. Without the help of Hispanic youth, these numbers are difficult, if impossible, to achieve.

Legislation like the DREAM Act is just the start of changing the culture of higher education to be more welcoming to Hispanic youth. Individual colleges and universities must also step up and offer academic and financial aid programs with specific Hispanic needs in mind. The future achievements of higher education in the U.S. are dependent upon the inclusion and success of Hispanic students and the same is true of a stable economic climate. The sooner that federal and state initiatives, along with colleges and universities, embrace these inevitabilities, the better.

Diverse Conversations: Navigating the Academy

For young scholars at the undergraduate, and graduate levels, sometimes it’s hard for them to learn how “navigate the academy” – learning to take advantage of resources and making the right decisions. You know, figuring it out.

I recently reviewed this issue with Executive Director of Student Success Meghan Harte Weyant of Rollins College and talked about some of the strategies that young scholars can use, some of the resources they can use, to start navigating effectively as early as possible in their academic careers.

Q: Students really do have a hard time navigating the academy, as we call it. Why do you think that is?

A: Because it’s confusing Colleges and universities are unlike primary and secondary school in a number of ways. There are a lot of options in college from navigating systems like financial aid and housing to choosing course offerings and majors. On top of this, students are typically experiencing it all the first time in their life. Because of this, we’ve found that for some students, support systems may be unclear…the path to graduation may be unclear…and for others their ultimate goal may even be unclear.

Also, a certain amount of amnesia sets in for those of us who have been through the academy or in our roles for a number of years. We forget how confusing it can be for our students. For example, students often have a hard time deciphering what their immediate priorities should be once they enter the academy, and they have an even harder time determining when and where to get help in executing those priorities.

Q: Learning to navigate the system is actually challenging, even for those students that are generally aware of the benefits. Would you say there are specific barriers that impede student success in this area?

A: Yes, I think the roadmap to graduation is often unclear. I also think we often don’t do the best job of making students aware of how social, financial, health and wellness and other factors outside of the academic can strongly influence academic success.

Q: In your experience, what are some of the best ways to, first, raise awareness about this process of actually navigating the academy – just helping students to be aware that this is actually something they can do.

A: I think we need to find ways to actively coach students through the process. Navigating the academy is a difficult process, and it’s certainly not intuitive. We need to find ways to move into a coaching mentality as it relates to succeeding in college.

We often use the word advising, and I think it’s the wrong word because in order to successfully navigate, the academy students need more than just a person to offer academic advice or counsel. In some ways the concept of advising is a bit too transactional depending on student relationships with her/his advisor. The concept of coaching gets us headed a bit more in the right direction. This is strategically different than mentorship within a field of study (which is how we view academic advising in the liberal arts ethos). It is a focus on training, educating, and scaffolding students through the educational process. This is imperative because it is often the process and not the academic content that trips our students up and prevents them from finishing.

Q: Assuming awareness is not the issue, but rather, accessibility, what strategies have you found particularly useful to help students actually go about navigating the academy, getting comfortable with the institutional culture and making themselves a part of it– after they are aware that this is an option for them?

A: I think for a number of years we have been clinging to this idea that students should be responsible adults who are acting outside of the influence and control of their families, and while that is a nice idea in theory, it’s just not reality. Students are bringing their families to college, and when we fail to embrace families we lose a great deal of ability to enculturate students. I say this because I think we are beginning to realize that when students need help often times their families are the first to know. Creating support structures and then working with families to make sure they have knowledge of and access to support structures will be a critical step.

Q: Why, would you say, this issue of helping students to navigate the academy is so important for institutions? What do institutions benefit from having students that are aware of how their higher education institution operates on this level?

A: If students can’t navigate an institution, retention and graduation becomes an issue and institutions fail. There are really two answers to this question. The first one is centered on a moral/ethical imperative. Institutions should be asking and answering this question because they are deeply committed to students succeeding given their missions. Institutions are making promises and collecting tuition, and as a result, they should be providing a clear and consistent path for students to achieve their academic goals.

The second answer is more about the business side of higher education. It hurts institutions financially and lowers retention and graduation rates (national measures of institutional success) when we lose students for institutional reasons. Beyond the moral/ethical imperative, institutions should be doing everything they can to keep the student they recruit and enroll at an institution. That just makes the most financial sense.

Q: Finally, what strategies have you used at Rollins College specifically to make this process easier for students and to help faculty and administrators support students in this area.

A: We are currently in the process of reviewing our own institutional gaps in order to better serve students. Campus wide, we are looking at Career and Life Planning, Academic Advising, and Enrollment Management initiatives. As part of this work, we are creating deeper partnerships with faculty and campus colleagues to create seamless experiences for our students. Specifically, in Student Affairs we have re-envisioned stronger functional alignments and partnerships focused on enhancing the care, community, and career aspects of student life.

This concludes my interview with Meghan Harte Weyant. Thank you again for participating.


He Named Me Malala: the ordinary life behind an extraordinary girl

Alison Macdonald, UCL

Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for speaking out in support of girls’ education in Pakistan. Since then, based in the UK, she has continued her advocacy. She is the youngest-ever Nobel laureate: when it was awarded last year, she was just 17.

No doubt, then, that Malala, who grew up in Pakistan’s Swat valley and went on to inspire the world, is a truly remarkable young woman. But He Named Me Malala tells her personal story, whilst also shining a light on the wider global issue of the systematic exclusion of children, and especially girls, from education.

David Guggenheim’s documentary captures Malala’s everyday life as both a young teenager and a global activist through poignant and often humorous interview scenes. Malala is followed around her home, through school, to television interviews and global summits to spread her message of educational equality.

There are also hard-hitting clinical reconstructions of Malala’s emergency surgery in the UK after she was shot, brashly juxtaposed with the animated depiction of her upbringing in the Swat Valley. The dreamy style of these animations works well to capture the nostalgia of a life to which Malala and her family can no longer return.

Malala’s distinctiveness and bravery is reinforced by the way the film plays off the many juxtapositions of her life – voice and silence, empowerment and oppression, the triumph over tragedy. In so doing, it blends together a palpable sense of injustice with an unwavering commitment to hope. Malala speaks eloquently about everything from her favourite books and film stars to world politics. Her personal experience of suffering, however, remains wrapped in stoic silence.

Seemingly inconsequential, but touching moments of quotidian family life do well to pull you in emotionally to the heart-warming experiences of the Yousafzai family, who now live in the UK. Her relationship with her father, the “he” of the film’s title, is particularly focused on. Ordinary portraits of Malala’s giggling girlish coyness and childish banter with her brothers are a welcome reprise from the film’s prodigal tendencies. Indeed, these moments are crucial: they undercut the propensity of the film to romanticise Malala’s heroism. It is the very ordinariness of Malala’s everyday life, contrasted with the unnerving tenacity of her speeches to the UN, that pulls the rug from under our awe-inspired feet.

These touching moments are also important in the way they disrupt stereotypical imaginations of the “Islamic Other”, so often portrayed negatively in mainstream cinema and the media. The value of this simple depiction of a Muslim family being like any other family living in the UK cannot be overstated.

Malala and director David Guggenheim.
20th Century Fox

At the same time, many other wider political concerns are only hinted at. Nuggets of insight, such as Malala’s father’s claim that “the Taliban is not a person. It is an ideology”, certainly give the film a political flavour but could have been delved into in more detail.

Similarly, a 30-second clip of some Pakistani men agreeing with the Taliban’s threat to shoot Malala should she return is interesting, but also warranted more attention, particularly because it could have helped the audience better understand the everyday Pakistani perspective.

While this certainly makes for a good story, I couldn’t help but wonder about the voices of the people – in particular, the young girls – living back in Pakistan. Although the film uses Malala’s experience as a prism for thinking about the injustice of a lack of education globally, it may have been a more powerful argument for social change if the film had spent more time examining the reality of those left behind.

But despite this small niggle, He Named me Malala is a very important film. It does the crucial job of sharing the exceptional story of an exceptional young woman with a wider audience. And as an accomplished narrative of a heroic girl standing for what she believes in, it can do no wrong. But it is the moments of ordinariness that give the film real traction.

It is these moments that inspire and show us that any person, anywhere, can muster a voice. And a powerful, revolutionary one at that.

The Conversation

Alison Macdonald, Teaching Fellow in Social Anthropology, UCL

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Focus on college affordability obscures real problem: we’re overeducated

Nader Habibi, Brandeis University

Since the cost of going to college is an important concern for a large segment of voters, the 2016 presidential candidates are all advocating policies aimed at making a college education more affordable.

The Democrats want to use government resources to offer more financial aid and lower the interest rates on federally guaranteed student loans. The Republicans, on the other hand, have offered plans that rely on private sector initiatives and use financial incentives to demand more accountability from universities on performance and cost efficiency.

With all the promises about reducing the cost of attending college, the candidates have paid little attention to the job market conditions for university graduates. A sizable majority of Americans and all the candidates share the belief that a university degree is a valuable investment, and government ought to do what it can to help as many people as possible attend college. There is also an intrinsic value to a university education that goes beyond a set of specialized skills for finding a good employment.

But politicians who wish to make college more accessible and more affordable ignore an inconvenient truth: a large number of graduates in recent years have not been able to find well-paying jobs that actually require a degree. Instead, they have found part-time jobs and/or have had to accept low- or unskilled ones that pay less than professional positions and underutilize the aptitudes they developed in college.

In other words, many graduates have had to accept jobs for which they are overeducated.

Candidate Clinton addresses the issue of college affordability at an event in Durham, New Hampshire.

The problem of underemployment

This inability to find a good job, commonly referred to as underemployment, is considered by some experts as a temporary and transitional phase for graduates in the first few years after leaving college.

They argue that these new graduates will eventually be able to find more skilled jobs that match their qualifications. Recent studies of what jobs US college graduates get, however, suggest that this underemployment phase might be more permanent than many believe.

In a 2014 study, two economists affiliated with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that since 1990 at least 30% of all workers (aged 22 to 65) with college degrees have been consistently employed in jobs that do not require a college degree for the required tasks, even 10 years after graduation.

Not surprisingly, the percentage of recent college graduates (aged 22 to 27) with such jobs has been much higher than the figure above and has ranged from 38% to 49% since 1990.

A growing trend

Worse, this appears to be an increasing trend, with evermore graduates in occupations that don’t require a degree.

Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, analyzed 2008 employment data for 20 occupations that – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – do not require a college degree, such as waitresses, motor vehicle drivers and mechanics.

He found that workers with at least a bachelor’s degree made up 10% or more of the workforce in nine of these low-skilled occupations.

I calculated the same statistics based on 2011 BLS data. The comparison of 2011 and 2008 ratios shows that in eight of the nine categories that Vedder noted, the percentage of college graduates has increased despite the recovery of the American economy after 2009. So while the unemployment rate has decreased, many college graduates have only been able to find employment in “non-college” occupations.

Why demand for college stays high

More than 67% of students in the US who graduated from high school in 2014 eventually went to college, compared with 62% in 1994 and 55% in 1984.

This rising trend in college attendance despite the growing risk of underemployment after graduation is not because of irrational calculations on the side of parents and young adults. What they correctly realize is that college graduates at the very least enjoy a leg up over their less-educated peers in getting hired for better-paying yet low-skilled jobs.

In other words, a college degree will give you a chance to find a high-paying professional job and, if you fail to achieve this goal, your college degree will still give you an advantage in competition for non-college jobs. This perception is reinforced by the behavior of employers who give a preference to applicants with college degrees when filling non-college jobs.

So clearly going to college seems wise and beneficial for many individual, but is it optimal for society?

Republican candidates have been offering private sector solutions to making college more affordable.

Costs of overeducation

A large portion of the money spent on college education of a student that ends up in a non-college job is wasted. The student has also wasted four years of his/her life on acquiring skills that he/she does not utilize to earn a living.

If the share who suffered this fate was small or the periods of underemployment were temporary, this situation could be acceptable. But as noted earlier, evidence suggests that there is a persistent surplus of graduates in many college majors such as business, social sciences and agriculture relative to the occupational demand, with at least 30% underemployed even 10 years after graduation, leading to much lower lifetime incomes than new graduates might anticipate.

The Obama administration recently created a valuable online database called College Scorecard to offer a more realistic picture of income prospects with a college degree.

One of the indicators in this database shows that more than half of graduates at hundreds of colleges are earning less than the average income of someone holding a high school degree (US$25,000 a year) ten years after enrollment. Ideally, this ratio should be zero.

A large number of unemployed and underemployed graduates are also burdened with high student loan debts – more than $100 billion in 2013 alone – they have trouble paying back. We should not forget the billions that federal, state and local governments spend on higher education through subsidies and financial aid – $157.5 billion in 2014.

The portion of this spending that supports the education of underemployed graduates could be used more effectively for job creation or training of students in vocational skills which are more in demand.

President Obama, like most politicians, has focused on the affordability of college but not how too many college graduates can’t find good jobs.

Online education will make college less expensive

And even though the headlines these days declare that the cost of education is soaring, there’s reason to believe that’s starting to change and that the cost of a degree will go down, thanks to online education and MOOCS.

The lower cost of online college education will further increase the demand for a degree, but it won’t make it any more likely that there’ll be a good job at the end of it. Just perhaps a little less debt.

As these technologies make a university education more affordable and more convenient, it is even more urgent for policymakers to pay more attention to the crisis of graduate surplus in the market for college jobs.

A global problem

The US is not the only country that has fallen into an overeducation trap.

Excess supply of university graduates is a global crisis, and in some countries it is even more severe than the United States. I have listed a large number of studies on the rise of overeducation as a serious issue in many countries on my website,

Other developed countries with high levels of overeducation include Canada, Spain and Ireland. Among European countries, Germany has been more successful in keeping the underemployment of college graduates low. Germans have achieved this success by directing a large number of high school students to vocational schools and hence limiting the university enrollment.

The problem, however, is not limited to advanced economies.

Many developing and emerging market economies are also struggling with it. A documentary video titled “Education Education” describes the disappointment of millions of young Chinese who graduate from average and low-quality colleges each year.

In many Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Iran and Turkey, high unemployment and underemployment among university graduates is a major cause of social discontent.

Some solutions

Most government policies toward higher education are designed to make college affordable for the largest number of people. But this policy has led to an oversupply of college graduates in many fields that will not easily be corrected by the forces of supply and demand.

It is time for policymakers to acknowledge that the US has an overeducation problem that needs to be addressed at the national level. If politicians focus only on making college more affordable, the underemployment of university graduates will only get worse over time.

Along with making college education more affordable, the government should also preserve the value of a college degree. This can be done by limiting the aggregate enrollment in each degree to projected demand for graduates in that degree in the long run.

The percentage of current graduates in each field who are unemployed or underemployed can be a good indicator for managing the overall enrollment caps. The government can also provide incentives to direct more high school graduates to vocational training as an alternative to going to university.

Enrollment caps and calling for restrictions on access to higher education are unpopular, and politicians are reluctant to consider it, but inaction will only perpetuate the current situation and will have many negative consequences for college graduates and the rest of society alike.

Correction: this article has been corrected to clarify that the College Scorecard database shows how much students are earning ten years after enrollment, not after leaving college.

The Conversation

Nader Habibi, Professor of the Economics of the Middle East at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Case for Utilizing the Invitational Leadership Model

The current climate in the education system indicates a rising need for leadership that will surpass all previous models and theories. Many of the concerns raised include increased standards for accountability issues, the need for effective leadership that will live up to the demands of these progressively difficult times. Other concerns include the need for growth in organizational health, perception of the leader as someone who can create real change, and the creation and development of a positive school culture.

Many researchers are now calling for a more participatory approach to leadership in these difficult times in education. Several challenges (e.g., cost restraint, public accountability, globalization, integration of technology, and measurement of student outcomes) require more participatory forms of leadership than those exhibited in the past. The evidence available suggests that the existing theories of leadership don’t fully reflect or explain the current practices of effective leaders. The hope is that more participation on the part of school leaders will help to improve student outcomes.

Current theories of leadership are not good enough to meet the needs of current day leaders. We therefore find that, as public scrutiny and accountability standards increase, a change in leadership theory is likely warranted. In addition to the above challenges, there is growing demand for today’s schools to become institutions of academic excellence, and also for schools that are effective at serving the needs of all interested stakeholders. There is an increased need for caring school systems that serve the best interests of the institution and its various stakeholders. This implies a more profound and challenging responsibility for leaders to understand the growing concerns of those they serve.

The above challenges and concerns are uniquely answered by the invitational leadership model. Invitational leadership can step in to satisfy the need for a leadership model that consistently and completely addresses both the internal and external elements of an organization. Invitational leaders focus on creating organizations that are people-centered and success-oriented, while at the same time dealing with all the other necessary aspects of the organization.

Invitational leaders model school culture through the thousands of daily interactions by which common standards, relationships, visions, expectations, and definitions of what works were created, framed, supported, and tested. Invitational leadership also provides required guidelines and direction to support the organizational growth and success of the school. Invitational leadership contributes positively to the school, because it cares for and supports the efforts of others. The invitational leadership model will serve as a positive source to assist in the preparation of tomorrow’s school leaders.


Nutritional school lunches on the rise, study finds

A new study has found an increase in nutritional school lunches and other meals since the implementation Michelle Obama’s Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

In 2012 when the healthier food standards were implemented, naysayers voiced concern that fewer students would eat the school lunch. A new study has dismantled those ideas and found that meals have become more nutritionally wholesome and students are still eating them.

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) was signed into law in 2010 and it called for larger portions of  whole grains, vegetables and fruits. The nutritional school lunches also saw a reduction in calories found in lunches and breakfasts served at school.

Nutritional school lunches being eaten, too

In a report published earlier this month in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, a study from the University of Washington Nutritional Sciences Program found that the new, healthier meal standards have really impacted the quality of meals served at schools.

The scientists compared data collected in the 16 months before the standards went into effect with data collected in the 15 months after the implementation of the new standards. They examined the nutritional value of 1.7 million school meals that were picked out by 7,200 kids from an urban area in Washington. The findings showed that the presence of six nutrients went up: iron, protein, fiber, calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.

The researchers write that these changes can be attributed primarily to the increased servings of fruits and vegetables in the nutritional school lunch standards.

Donna B. Johnson, lead author and a professor at the University of Washington, admits limits in their research and includes the fact that the study analyzed food that students chose, not what they consumed. She points out that plate waste has not risen since the changes of HHFKA took place — a huge finding that contradicts those who say school lunches are simply not being eaten as a result of HHFKA.

Other data is expected to come forward in the next year to confirm or negate this study’s findings on nutrition progress.

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