Behind the News

Behind the News

ALTHOUGH IHES ARE CATEGORIZED AS TWO YEAR AND FOUR YEAR, the reality is it often takes students longer than that to graduate. Efforts are continuously being made to help students obtain their degrees within six years of matriculation, the national standard. The Texas state legislature weighed in on the matter in May by passing a law limiting to six the number of courses a student could drop after the census date during their entire higher ed career. Courses dropped before the census date or withdrawing from the institution entirely do not count toward the limit. Exceptions are also available for major life events such as a death in the family or military service. Rationales reported for the law include encouraging students to graduate on time and limiting the number of vacant seats in a class.

As with most one-size-fits-all laws, the ramifications will depend on the institution. An immediate pain point felt by all the public colleges and universities in Texas is the best way to track the information.

Michael Moore, senior vice provost for the University of Texas at Arlington, points out that dropped classes are easy to track internally. But as an urban institution many UT-Arlington students are simultaneously taking classes at area community colleges. Since the university doesn't require students to get permission before taking classes elsewhere, transcripts often aren't submitted until the students are ready to graduate. Moore says the first step has been to standardize transcript language across the state so they can all read and understand the documents.

The new law starts with this year's first time freshmen, so Moore predicts there won't e any fallout until those students reach their sophomore or junior year and suddenly realize they've reached their drop limit. "They are 18 years old." Moore says. "Despite our efforts to advertise it, they probably aren't aware of it and they aren't going to understand the consequences."

Whether or not graduation rates are affected won't be known for four to six years. Referring to the drop limit as a punitive measure, Moore says primary efforts to improve graduation have included improving advising and working with students to help them understand how many courses they can handle.

While there are no other statewide regulations in place, in 2004 the University System of Georgia created a system-wide taskforce to develop strategies for improving retention and graduation. Linda Bleicken, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Georgia Southern University, says withdrawal limits are being considered, but are still under discussion. Initiatives undertaken include an enhanced First Year Experience Program, enhanced advisement practices, mid-term progress reports, and targeted efforts in courses with high DFW rates. As Bleicken explained in an e-mail, "The six-year graduation rate at Georgia Southern University has climbed by five percentage points since 2004 from 38 percent to 43 percent." -Ann McClure

 

AFTER HEARING SEVERAL COMMENTS about students' poor taste in clothing at formal functions and around campus, officials at the University of Western Alabama are offering some fashion sense. This fall, they introduced a set of guidelines so students know what they can't wear and when and where they should dress properly.

The guidelines aren't a dress code, per say-"We're not going for the khaki pants and the pullover polo shirt," explains Danny Buckalew, vice president for Student Affairs. But they do aim to show students that appearance matters. At a recent career fair, Buckalew offers as an example, some students didn't realize the event was a chance to make a good first impression with interviewers.

The policy lists several examples of dress do's and don'ts for specific situations and locations. In classrooms, offices, and the cafeteria, students should wear "neat and modest casual or dressy attire." No caps, do-rags, bandanas, or hoods are permitted, except for items worn for religious reasons. "A lot of it is common sense, but I guess a lot of it is a reminder," Buckalew says. So far, most students have complied, says Buckalew, but if they don't, they may be pulled aside and talked to.

Other colleges have instituted similar policies. Illinois State University's College of Business mandated a "business casual" dress code for two majors, but later eased its enforcement. Paul Quinn College (Texas) has done the same, with theirs carried out Monday through Thursday. - Michele Herrmann

 

The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas By G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa. Portfolio Hardcover, 2007, 320 pp., $24.95.

IT WOULD BE EASY TO DISMISS THE ART OF WOO as sort of a How to Win Friends and Influence People for the 21st century. That, after all, is one of the underlying aims of the book-how to "woo" or win people over to your side in any particular management or business issue.

But as Shell and Moussa (both from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania) explain, the power of woo is far more than a confidence building exercise. It's about helping others to see things your way-a handy tool for dealing with trustee boards and other college or university constituents.

The authors draw on historic examples, from Charles Lindberg to Bono, to explore how woo works and what mistakes should be avoided in practicing it. Achieving the art of woo is about finding that middle realm between your needs and the needs of your audience, where negotiation-and, ultimately, influence-can take place.

The book includes two self-assessments to help readers determine their current woo-ability, and then takes them through an individualized four-step process to build on their strengths in becoming more effective idea sellers.-T.G.

ACCORDING TO MORE THAN ONE RECENT SURVEY, COLLEGE-AGE use of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace is on the rise. It was only a matter of time before someone found a way to use that resource to help students decide what colleges to attend.

The result is SkoolPool, a Facebook application designed specifically to facilitate dialogue about school choices. High school students add SkoolPool to their Facebook profile and keep tabs on what colleges they've applied to and why. The application enables them to see which of their friends are considering the same schools, and it notifies them when a friend applies to or is accepted by a school on the list.

"For some time now, our college and university clients have been debating whether they should join in the discussion," says Ken Steele, vice president of Academica Group, which developed the program. "Some have concluded that it's called 'My Space' for a reason, and have decided not to intrude. We believe that it's always better to listen to what the marketplace has to say, so we've come up with an approach that students actually welcome."

A visual dashboard on the Academica Group website displays overall trends and real-time data on applicants' favorite activities, interests, television shows, and more.

"The exciting thing for admissions departments will be the potential to gather research data," says Steele. "Every time a user starts considering a school, or drops it from their consideration set, and the reasons they give, we capture the data and timestamp it. We'll be able to determine the most frequent cross-applications and timing of decisions. And we're also capturing a willing pool of research subjects for further study in focus groups or online panels." -T.G.

Fairfield University (Conn.) cut the ribbon on a new, eco-friendly combined heat and power plant last month. This green project, a partnership between the university and United Technologies Carrier, was designed to have the capability to generate almost the entire electrical load of the Fairfield campus, which encompasses some 36 buildings (including eight residence halls) situated on 200 acres. When fully operational, the plant will greatly reduce strain on the region's power grid. It is designed for efficiency by capturing waste heat and recycling it, while also lowering emissions of sulfur dioxide (a leading contributor to acid rain), carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. The plant is expected to reduce the university's overall carbon footprint by more than 10,000 metric tons per year.-T.G.

THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE UNIVERSITIES and land-grant colleges is gearing up to complete development of its Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA)- being designed to help the public understand how public colleges and universities operate-thanks to a $314,800 grant from the Lumina Foundation for Education. The grant will also fund the first two years of VSA operation.

Its full name being College Portrait: The Voluntary System of Accountability, the project uses a five-page web-based template to help provide "consistent, comparable, and transparent information" on the undergraduate student experience to key higher education stakeholders, including prospective students and their families, public policymakers, legislators, and college faculty and staff. The VSA program and template were developed through a partnership between the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and NASULGC, with more than 80 higher education leaders from 70 public colleges and universities contributing.

Template data sections cover student characteristics, undergraduate success and progress rates, costs of attendance and financial aid, undergraduate admissions, degrees and areas of study, institutional characteristics, student housing, future plans of degree recipients, and student learning outcomes. In addition, an even more detailed section on student experiences and perceptions would highlight results of surveys measuring student involvement on campus. Some examples: "xx% of seniors report challenging a professor's ideas in class" and "xx% of seniors would choose to enroll at this college again."

More information on VSA can be found at www.nasulgc.org. -Melissa Ezarik

EVERYTHING'S PRETTY COOL inside Bryant University's (R.I.) energy-efficient data center--with the temperature, that is. Freestanding cooling units are keeping servers, data storage hardware, and network components from overheating by responding to fluctuations, not just blowing air around. They're also helping the university lower its energy consumption by 35 percent and handle a growing enrollment.

 

OBJECTIVE: The data center solved a number of demands. In 2002, Bryant was operating at least 75 servers at four separate sites that consumed 1,100 square feet of space. They were being strained and were costly and could not be scaled to meet additional demands, says Rich Siedzik, director of computer and telecommunications services. That same year, every Bryant student was given an IBM laptop for educational and social networking use, adding even more network use.

Bryant turned to IBM and fellow Rhode Islander APC-MGE for help in designing a scalable modular data center. Consolidated from four sites into one, the "green data center" is now 500 square feet and housed in the John H. Chafee Center for International Business. It provides access to e-mail data, registration systems and student and records using 40 IBM BladeCenter servers, which use virtualization software than enables a single server to run multiple operating systems. This technology allows the servers to use less energy when usage decreases; the servers sit in a seven-foot-tall metal storage rack designed by

APC-MGE. The racks contain individual fans and cooling units outfitted with heat and humidity monitors to balance temperatures.

CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS: With computer systems already operating and occupying the space in which components of the data center were to be placed, construction was conducted in two phases. The vacant portion of the space was worked on first, with the installation of the APC-MGE infrastructure. Once that was in place, the systems from the other side were merged with the new equipment. "So we really just cut the room in half and did both halves," says Siedzik. The move enabled systems to remain online during both phases.

TIMELINE: A total of 18 months, with five of them for construction (January-May 2007)

COST: $1 million. The new center will help Bryant save as much as $20,000 a year, says Arthur S. Gloster II, vice president for Information Services.

PROJECT TEAM: A group effort, the team consisted of employees of Bryant's Campus Management and Information Services department, along with representatives from IBM and APC-MGE. Some of the work was subcontracted. The data center has also become a showroom. Since its completion, Bryant has hosted private tours for IBM employees and APC-MGE corporate customers. The center is one of the first built under IBM's Project Big Green, which aims to reduce data center energy consumption.-M.H.

 

IN A MOVE THAT A CERTAIN FEMALE SENATOR hopes to emulate-going from first lady to president- Pamela Trotman Reid, the wife of Wayne State University (Mich.) President Irvin Reid, has been appointed as the new president of Saint Joseph College (Conn.), effective January 2008.

Presently, Mrs. Reid is the provost and executive vice president at Roosevelt University in Chicago. A developmental psychologist, she has been at the university since July 2004.

Prior to this position, Reid was head of the Women's Studies Program, a professor of education and psychology, and a research scientist at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan. Before that, she was a professor of psychology, associate provost and dean for academic affairs, and interim provost at the City University of New York's Graduate Center. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University (D.C.) a master's degree from Temple University (Pa.), and a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

In selecting Reid to lead Connecticut's only four-year women's college, Board of Trustees Chair Philip J. Schulz cited her depth of experience in higher education and a demonstrated commitment to the education of women.

Excited about her upcoming presidency at Saint Joseph, Reid said in a statement, "I have great confidence that together, we can make history as we forge an even stronger institution."

Her husband apparently feels the same way. "It's rare enough for a husband and wife to occupy university presidencies simultaneously, but I believe this is the first time in history it has occurred with an African American couple," he said. "This is indeed a delight for our entire family."

Having served Wayne State for 10 years, Irvin Reid will step down from his post next year, at a date to be determined.-M.H.


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