Behind the News

Behind the News

Since the January 12 earthquake that decimated Haiti, U.S. colleges and universities have continued to carry out aid initiatives to support relief efforts. As would be expected, some of those efforts are more traditional (think fundraisers and collection drives), while others involve technology (including social media, websites, and wikis). Other institutions have taken more creative measures.

Two weeks after the tragedy occurred, the new course "Haitian Creole for the Haitian Recovery" made its debut at Duke. While it's a full semester course, its aim is to provide a quick lesson in language and culture for those to be involved in relief efforts. Haitian specialist Deborah Jenson, a professor of romance studies, developed the curriculum. Students range from Duke undergraduates and administrators to area pharmacists and students from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (which has an enrollment agreement with Duke). "[We] just quickly put together a syllabus to accommodate people from a whole spectrum of relief work," explains Jenson. Assignments involve grammar and phrases and Haitian culture and history.

The Fletcher School at Tufts University (Mass.), a graduate school of international affairs, along with undergraduates and alumni, launched an open source, crisis-mapping platform by Ushahidi.com to provide real-time information about the situation in Haiti, according to co-director and second-year grad student Carol Waters. A classroom has been designated a control room for the project. By May 1, the group will be handing the platform to the Haitian Disapora for use in reconstruction efforts.

Other examples of relief efforts:

  • On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 300-plus constituents of Drake University (Iowa) succeeded in packaging 51,410 meals in three hours to be sent to Haiti through their participation with Meals from the Heartland (www.mealsfromtheheartland.org). The goal had been 50,000 meals.
  • Young Harris College (Ga.) freshman Michelle Brun, who has family members in Haiti, has placed collection boxes in dorms for clothes to be delivered through the Haitian Organization Program for Education and Health Incorporated (www.hopeh.org).
  • Wesley College (Del.) and ARAMARK Dining Services are allowing students, staff, and faculty on meal plans to donate the cost of one or more meals by fasting to support United Methodist Committee on Relief (http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor), which is providing aid to Haiti.
  • As of mid-February, Merrimack College (Mass.) constituents had raised more than $5,000 for Project Medishare (www.projectmedishare.org), a nonprofit established by Arthur Fournier, a 1969 graduate who is a physician and medical school professor at the University of Miami. The organization has been helping Haiti since 1994.
  • The College of New Jersey established the "Here for Haiti" campaign (http://tcnjhereforhaiti.pbworks.com) to help coordinate and support efforts in areas such as education and student support.
  • On February 2, the Institution Recycling Network (www.ir-network.com), which collaborates with higher ed institutions, shipped its first container of relief supplies to Haiti. The 15,000-pound load included 120 mattresses from Brown University.
  • Otterbein College (Ohio) senior Mark Fraizer created a nonprofit, Shake the Quake (www.shakethequake.com). The goal: sell 10,000 T-shirts before March 20. Proceeds will go to fellow nonprofits involved in Haiti relief efforts. —Michele Herrmann

Teresa Sullivan

At the University of Virginia, Teresa Sullivan will succeed John T. Casteen III, who ends his 20-year term in August, as president. Sullivan is well versed in the inner workings of institutional operations. As the University of Michigan's provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, she oversees $1.5 billion of Michigan's $5.4 billion annual budget and serves on the board of the health system. Sullivan spent more than two decades at The University of Texas at Austin and was named executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for its nine academic campuses in 2002. She is a scholar in labor force demography. ... Kenneth Starr, the lead investigator into the Whitewater land deal and Monica Lewinsky scandal during President Bill Clinton's administration, has been named president of Baylor University (Texas). Starr has been dean of the law school at Pepperdine University (Calif.) since 2004. ... This summer, University of Hartford (Conn.) Provost Lynn Pasquerella will begin leading Mount Holyoke College (Mass.), while Jeff Abernathy, vice president of academic affairs and dean of Augustana College (Ill.), will become head of Alma College (Mich.). ... George M. Dennison, who has led The University of Montana since 1990, will retire in August and plans to write a book on the university's history. At Emerson College (Mass.), Jacqueline Liebergott will retire from the presidency in June. During her 17-year term, she oversaw the creation of a new campus and a 55 percent increase in enrollment. ... In June 2011, two other leaders will conclude their terms. Tufts University (Mass.) President Lawrence S. Bacow is credited with turning his research institution into a top draw for students and faculty, while Meredith College (N.C.) President Maureen A. Hartford has expanded campus facilities and increased endowment. ... Switching institutions is Edward Snyder, dean and George Shultz Professor of Economics at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, who oversaw the largest gift ever given to a business school ($300 million). He has accepted a position as dean of Yale School of Management. —M.H.

 

By Roderick B. Park, 2010, Rockpile Press, 224 pp.; $29.95 (www.cypresshouse.com)

Roderick Park spent 36 years at UC, Berkeley, beginning as a faculty member and "advancing" through various administrative posts from department chair, provost, and dean of the College of Letters and Science. (He later became acting chancellor of UC, Merced.) These often were not advances he sought, but rather for which he was identified, which makes him an ideal lab specimen of what it takes to succeed (or fail) as an administrator. This often-wry book, whose title comes from a case of mistaken identity, is part autobiography and part career guide, written from the perspective of one who has lived on both sides of the fence and maintains a healthy wariness of each. —Tim Goral

The Tennessee legislature tackled improving college outcomes and transfer rates head on at the beginning of the year with the passage of the "Complete College Tennessee Act."

A provision of the bill that should draw wide-range attention changes funding from an enrollment-based formula to an outcomes-based formula, taking into account factors such as end-of-semester enrollment for each semester, student retention, timely progress toward degree completion, student transfer activity, research and student success. "Higher education needs to produce more graduates," says Richard Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, which is responsible for developing the new formula. It should be in place by this fall to fund the 2011-12 school year.

Another provision will help along the task of developing common course numbering for the community college system, which would smooth transfers to state public universities. The goal is to have 41 hours of general education classes and 19 hours of pre-major instruction. "A good bit of work has already occurred," Rhoda says. "It's a matter of working faculty-to-faculty to agree on what should be included in those 19 hours." Majors are being addressed in order of popularity, starting with business and psychology, for completion by fall 2010.

The goals are also in line with Tennessee being a grant recipient through the Lumina Foundation's Making Opportunity Affordable initiative, which is working with seven states to find ways to make higher education more efficient and cost effective. —Ann McClure

With academic focus areas like agriculture, summer study makes sense.

Beginning this summer, Sterling College (Vt.) will give students the option to attend classes year-round. The summer will be broken into two five-week classes with a two-week break in between, and students can choose to attend one or both sessions. Those who participate will benefit from a tuition freeze until graduation as long as they remain continuously enrolled, allowing students to save money by graduating early as well as giving transfer students the ability to catch up.

With only 110 students enrolled at Sterling, which focuses on environmental education, administrators faced the challenge of accommodating more students without expanding the campus. "We don't want to grow very much because we're a place-based institution," explains President William Wootton. "How do you grow when you're not supposed to grow? Extend teaching."

But faculty members were not thrilled about being forced to give up their summers. So officials made summer teaching optional and are hiring adjuncts to fill in the gaps. With incentives such as full-semester sabbaticals for professors who work a certain amount of continuous semesters, the idea soon "became rather popular and faculty started signing up," Wootton says.

Students were not as resistant to the idea. Sterling requires students to participate in a 10-week internship, so they don't count on their summers for gaining work experience. But the administration was surprised that some students are opting to take a traditional semester off and take summer classes instead. "We didn't count on that and it's a direct hit to the bottom line," Wootton says. Administrators don't yet know how students will choose to spend their time and what that logistically means for the college. "It'll take a couple years to learn the balance," he adds.

Another financial challenge: Sterling has received about $80,000 each summer from groups renting dorm space and campus facilities. Despite that loss of revenue, Wootton says being open all summer will be worth it, as that is the ideal season for agriculture, environmental, and sustainability classes. The campus' organic farm, which provides more than a quarter of the food served in the campus cafeteria, is used for fieldwork. "If you're going to be serious about teaching agriculture, you'd better be open during the summer," he says.

Three years ago, when a summer course was first offered, just four students took advantage of it, with tents for shelter. With this program, 60 students will be on campus and housed in the residence halls. —KeriLee Horan

 

"Start early" seems to be the best advice in helping college students develop lifelong giving practices. But student philanthropy programs don't yet exist at more than 40 percent of institutions surveyed by Academic Impressions, which offers professional development for higher ed leaders. Among those with these programs, many are new, with 43 percent instituting them within the last three years. Advancement and development professionals use student philanthropy programs to nurture future alumni and donors by engaging them while they're still on campus.

The December 2009 survey yielded responses from nearly 200 development, alumni relations, and student giving professionals at public and private higher ed institutions of various sizes. Among the challenges respondents were asked to rate in starting or developing a student philanthropy program, the most salient was getting young alumni to continue giving after graduation, with 57 percent rating it "very challenging." Other significant challenges relate to educating students, senior gift participation, program awareness, and getting student volunteers. Lesser but still notable challenges include managing faculty/staff pushback, getting buy-in from leadership, and getting program resources.

In a webcast on these programs, a panel of experts—including Elise M. Betz with the University of Pennsylvania and Angelo Armenti Jr., with California University of Pennsylvania—offered best practices for instilling a culture of student philanthropy beginning when students are freshmen:

1. Be intentional and deliberate in communicating student philanthropy messages, laying out expectations for students regarding their relationship with and responsibility to their school.

2. Offer choices regarding how students can give back, including not just monetary donations, but time and participation, as well.

3. Instill a culture of gratitude, reminding students why they should appreciate contributions and understand the role donations play in the future success of their school.

4. Make giving meaningful, not gimmicky, by encouraging committed, lifelong giving as opposed to sporadic contributions tied to various promotions.

A recording of the webcast presentation can be downloaded at www.academicimpressions.com. —Melissa Ezarik

Tuition costs have gone up dramatically in recent years, but that's nothing compared to textbook prices, which have risen as much as 60 percent in some cases. According to the National Association of College Stores, students can spend as much as $667 per year on required course materials.

Now a seemingly no-brainer solution is catching on at campus bookstores across the country: textbook rental.

Responding to public outcry, Congress last year provided $10 million to fund textbook rental programs. Although the idea itself is not a new one, having the backing and support of major retail operations such as Follett and Barnes & Noble greatly reduces the risk to campus bookstores of operating these programs.

"We've looked at textbook rental for several decades," says Elio Distaola, director of public relations for Follett, which was one of the first national retailers out of the gate with a rental program in 22 of its more than 850 campus stores last year. "Cost-saving programs rise to the top for students. Textbook rentals are the lowest up-front cost to students," Distaola says.

Rental hinges on multiple-term adoption, and is not conducive to all topics. Medical and technology books, with continually updated information, are less rentable than, say, literature books.

Barnes & Noble launched its own rental program late last year, which now includes more than 20 stores. Online sites, such as Chegg.com and Cengage Learning, also operate textbook rental programs.

The savings for students speak for themselves. In Follett's seven-store pilot program, for example, students saved nearly $2 million in a single term. —T.G.

Thomas College graduates are given a good deal if they can't land a job, return to school for free or have their loans paid for them.

Would making a pledge that your graduates will land jobs, especially these days, be a risky move? It hasn't turned out that way for Thomas College (Maine). Since 1999, administrators have maintained such a vow through a contractual partnership between the institution and its undergrads - and the down economy has not been an extra burden.

So how does the Guaranteed Job Placement Program, or G-Job, work? If baccalaureate graduates don't secure employment within six months, G-Job offers two options: re-enroll at Thomas for free or have the college pay their monthly federal subsidized student loans for up to a year or until a job is landed. Those who choose to head back to class may either take an unlimited number of tuition-free undergraduate courses for up to two years or take up to half of the graduate courses required to complete any master's degree program at Thomas.

Incoming students sign written agreements at their summer orientation. Students must maintain at least a 2.75 GPA, be in good financial standing, complete an internship within their major, and have contact with career services.

Another part of the guarantee: Grads who land a position outside of their field of study and find that job is not for them are also welcome to come back to take the tuition-free courses.

With any of these options, grads must be in contact with career services to begin receiving either benefit by the start of the second semester after they graduate.

Provost Thomas Edwards admits there was concern about G-Job's guarantee when the economy began to unravel, but he says the job placement rate for graduates has remained high (on average, 95 percent). So far, only six graduates have ever taken advantage of the guarantee (two of them in the past two years). Most of them opted to take graduate courses.

Used in marketing efforts, G-Job may be bringing solace to state officials over concerns about a Maine brain drain, says Edwards. "We find that a higher percentage of our graduates are staying in Maine."

Another institution will venture into an employment guarantee this spring, but targeting academic areas related to four growth sectors. Participants who complete Lansing Community College's (Mich.) "Get a Skill, Get a Job" training program but are unable to land a job within a year will get a refund. —M.H.

 

On our way to spring training, we wondered about the difference between batting practice and college customizers. The answer: In baseball, when you swing and miss, the batting coach jumps all over your case to motivate you to make midcourse adjustments before the next pitch. Unhappily, in traditional higher learning, students often enroll in September and wait until January to discover their learning deficiencies. Fortunately, all that is beginning to change with the introduction of contemporary learning management systems (LMS). Indeed, outcomes and corrective action—giving instructors and students an early opportunity for intervention, remediation and, importantly, increased course completion rates—are only a touch away.

 

Countless institutions promise prospective students customized curriculum, personalized academic support, and individualized remedial and tutorial services. Many of us in academe have heard it all before from the usual distance learning providers—who profess to accommodate a wide variety of individual learning styles.

What's new on the scene? In a recent interview with an executive at the Norwegian-based distance learning company called "it's learning," we learned about a new breed of LMS that partners with faculty, students, and staff by providing a total, blended online solution. For instructors who want to challenge advanced students and also reach those who may need remediation, it's learning may be the next big thing. In so doing, the company has accelerated the outcomes assessment process—providing both students and faculty with timely and effective teaching and learning feedback.

"The reason that individualized instruction-using learning styles fails is that it has been too difficult to deliver individualized curriculum and instruction to truly meet student needs," says Jon Bower, president of the company's U.S. branch. "It's learning demonstrates that when individualization is easy, teachers do it and students engage and succeed."

—James Martin and James E. Samels, Future Shock columnists, are authors of Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). Martin is a professor of English at Mount Ida College (Mass.). Samels is president/CEO of The Education Alliance.


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