Behind the News

Behind the News

Amid all the gloomy head-lines about furloughs, layoffs, hiring freezes, and early retirement, one employment trend report offers a glimmer of hope. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by HigherEdJobs.com shows that employment in the higher ed sector has remained relatively stable despite the recession. The "Higher Education Employment Report, Second Quarter, 2010," released in August, reports that, from the first half of 2008 through the first half of 2010, higher education employment grew 4.2 percent, or increased by about 68,000 jobs. In contrast, the total number of U.S. jobs declined by 5.6 percent, or about 7.7 million jobs, during the time period.

Of course that is cold comfort for those who were laid off when budget cuts hit. Yet there is good news for job seekers, as well. Based on HigherEdJobs subscriber activity, the number of job postings in 2009 was down significantly from 2008, "but in the second quarter in 2010, postings increased and appear to be returning to pre-recessionary levels," says John Ikenberry, HigherEdJobs president.

He also saw a shift away from administrative positions and toward faculty openings for those schools that were posting jobs, although that trend is starting to level out. "That tells us that a year ago when an institution was going to hire someone, they wanted to preserve their academic quality," he says.

Hiring more faculty would be a shift in a long-term trend favoring administrative positions, says John W. Curtis, American Association of University Professors director of research and public policy, referring to Department of Education data from fall 2009. While an increase in faculty positions is a good thing, it is tempered by whether they are part-time or tenure track openings. "In general the data we've compiled is that there is growth in senior-level positions and what the Department of Education calls non-professional staff positions," such as counselors and student services positions, Curtis says.

An increase in faculty hires would show that colleges and universities are returning to their "core" missions of education and research, asserts Curtis. "Unfortunately, we've seen a number of reports in which programs are cut because they are 'unproductive,' but it's based on a bottom line basis about generating revenue." He's watching these developments closely because judging faculty on their ability to bring in funding "gets to the heart of turning a university into a corporation and away from nonprofit teaching focus."

Curtis is working on a report to be released later this year that will update the 2006 Contingent Faculty Index with 2007 and 2009 data from the Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. While discussions about the shift toward more adjunct and nontenure track faculty have been at the national level, the new report will look at the trend at the institutional level, he explains.

Both experts agree that employment trends in the higher ed sector tend to lag behind the general economy because of how education is funded. While surging enrollment from the unemployed looking to increase their skills has led to a demand for more teaching faculty, only time will tell if campus rosters remain stable. —Ann McClure

By Larry D. Lauer, CASE, 2010, 144 pp; $36.95 (members), $51.95 (non-members), www.case.org

 

The phrase "Playing politics" often has negative connotations. But Larry Lauer, vice chancellor for governmental affairs and former vice chancellor of marketing and communication at Texas Christian University, says political savvy is another skill in a professional's tool kit for promoting advancement on campus. "You better learn to love the politics," he writes, "because it will always be a major part of your job."

Politics in this sense is about conveying a message, working toward a solution, and compromising when necessary, all for the good of the institution.

While not a how-to book, it does offer strategies for advancement professionals to get the most out of professional relationships. Lauer describes working with internal challenges, such as the "academic president," the "problem-solving president," the "visionary president," and the "number-crunching president." In a chapter called "What 'They' Should Know About What 'We' Do," he addresses working with people and organizations outside the academy. Through no fault of their own, these outsiders often misunderstand the nature of the university and how it operates. He offers help in breaking down a message so it relates to each group.

"Getting literally everyone on the same page will never happen," he writes. "But it is possible to engage and reach a critical mass. ... Finally, you'll discover that enough key people are on board to make the difference." —Tim Goral

Students have increasingly needed to turn to campus food banks, like this one run by Michigan State University, in recent years.

While the stereotypical student might be living in on-campus housing complete with meal plan, plenty of students are attending school without the safety net of a pre-paid meal card. Food banks, food closets, and bagged lunches are cropping up on campuses in response.

"If students are stressed about food, they might not succeed academically," says Kristin Moretto, former director of the Michigan State University Student Food Bank and an MSU PhD candidate. "It ties into retention and academic success." Considering that institution's food bank opened in 1993, students needing extra support is not a new problem, but Moretto says they saw a 25 percent increase in clients two years ago that has remained steady.

Although some newer food closets are run on the honor system to allow users to remain anonymous, MSU requires proof of enrollment and an interview to determine the student's needs and desired items. "We don't make them prove financial hardship. That is where we operate on trust," she explains. Interviewers stress that the food bank is run by volunteers and supported by the community so clients understand resources are limited. Although they have regular users, some people come once and don't return, possibly because they don't really need the help, Moretto says. With years of operation behind it, the MSU food bank is supported by parents and alumni, as well as the campus community.

For those looking to start a student food bank, realize that it's not about rashly putting some cans on a table to start providing supplemental food. "Start small with the resources you have," Moretto advises. Her checklist: administrative buy-in, a space to operate, some funding, a committed group of student volunteers, and a fundraiser. She also suggests:

  • Connecting with Feeding America (www.feedingamerica.org), formerly America's Second Harvest, which allows food to be purchased at a deep discount from the American Red Cross.
  • Targeting advertising to departments that might already serve students in need. This will help prevent the entire campus from showing up at the food bank door. —A.M.

Thomas W. Ross

Thomas W. Ross' understanding of what higher ed means for North Carolina could be credited for his selection as the next president of the 17-campus University of North Carolina, effective January 1. As president of Davidson College (N.C.), his alma mater, Ross implemented a plan that replaced loans with grants in financial aid packages. Ross is formerly a state Superior Court judge. ... Irma McClaurin, the University of Minnesota's former associate vice president for system academic administration, will make fundraising a first priority for the financially shaken Shaw University (N.C.). Kathleen Waldron will apply her 14 years in senior management positions at Citigroup to William Paterson University (N.J.). She was most recently president of Baruch College (N.Y.). ... The New School (N.Y.) will welcome David Van Zandt, currently Northwestern's law school dean, as its president early next year, succeeding Bob Kerrey. ... Willamette University (Ore.) President M. Lee Pelton will become Emerson College's (Mass.) first African-American president next July. ... Carole Berotte Joseph marked her five-year anniversary as the first woman to lead Massachusetts Bay Community College and the first Haitian-American to lead a higher ed institution in the U.S. ... Marlene Gerber Fried will become Hampshire College's (Mass.) acting president. She directs the Civil Liberties and Public Policy program. ... University of Iowa Provost Wallace Loh will lead the University of Maryland. ... Julie Hatcher will oversee a new program in philanthropic studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. ... San Diego State University (Calif.) President Stephen L. Weber will retire next July. ... Retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal was named a Senior Fellow with Yale's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs for the fall semester. —Michele Herrmann

Two higher ed HR to-do's: Communicate better about benefits options and help employees choose. Those are two recommendations in the "Higher Education Benefits Trends Industry Spotlight" report, an addendum to MetLife's eighth annual employee benefits study, which covers nine industries and is based on 2009 data. Higher ed employers are more focused on attracting employees and addressing their diverse needs compared to employers in other industries—but campus leaders may well not recognize the connection between job satisfaction and employee benefits. For example, when asked about factors that influence employee loyalty, only two-thirds of employers felt health benefits influence loyalty, compared to 83 percent of employees.

"A good benefits program can be a powerful driver of the hearts and minds of the men and women who work for colleges and universities," says Ron Leopold, a MetLife vice president.

 

Loyalty is just one measure of employee attitudes about business. Also shaping their attitudes is how well the institution communicates about programs. Only one-third of campuses reported that their benefits communications effectively educate employees about their programs. That's down from 41 percent with that belief in the prior year. In fact, all aspects of employee attitudes about benefits reflect more negative feelings in 2009 compared to 2008. Leopold says it's not really that employers are doing less but that "employees are more engaged than ever, so their appetite is much greater."

Higher ed employers are more engaged in leveraging voluntary benefits to achieve cost efficiencies. These benefits, which include supplemental life and long-term care insurance, can enhance the overall attractiveness of their benefit offerings.

The report recommends personalizing benefits package information. "There's no question different people want and need different things," says Leopold, citing age, life stage, and circumstances. In all industries, employers are "starting to dabble with offering employees tiered communication" - which can be done through direct communication or by offering personalized areas online. Just keep in mind, he advises, "There's a lot of noise out there when you're an individual looking for benefits. Some of that noise can really block the ability to find information that could be very relevant to you." And that's where offering education beyond the initial information to assist in decision-making comes in.

A PDF of the report is at http://bit.ly/aMXXh8. MetLife's Benefits Benchmarking Tool can be accessed at www.whymetlife.com/benefitsbenchmark. —Melissa Ezarik

USC celebrated its safe community designation during a ceremony in mid-September.

The University of Southern California is a safe community and they have the paperwork to prove it. USC has been designated an International Safe Community by the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre on Community Safety Promotion (www.phs.ki.se/csp). It is the first academic institution to receive the designation.

"We feel we're as much of a community as any small city," says Charles E. Lane, associate senior vice president for Career and Protective Services. "The framework WHO presents is a model by which you can apply certain safety standards and we wanted to see if we could apply that to what we do." The accreditation comes after a multiyear process of reviewing campus policies to ensure they meet the program's six indicators, as well as a site visit. As it tends to be with any accreditation program, just completing the application was worth the effort. "It caused us to look at our processes in a different way and that was a great value," Lane says. Most campus safety committees focus on accidents on campus, but the application committee had to address a variety of risks, he notes.

Once the designation was announced, universities around the world began contacting USC for information. "It can be a rigorous process, and it should be if you are serious about it," advises Lane. An open mind and persistence are important to success. A thorough review of campus policies isn't the only benefit Lane can see. "I know it will carry a lot of weight with parents." —A.M.

 

So, what do the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Berkshire Community College (Mass.), and Binghamton University, State University of New York, have in common? If you are searching for an answer, just consider the critically important role higher learning has played in the transformation of their river mill cities into contemporary collegetowns.

Each are intersected by rivers which flowed by the banks of their respective mills. For many generations, these mills provided the products Americans needed, from shoes to linens, wood, and metal products, and even cigars. Over time, as traditional manufacturing jobs went south and overseas in search of cheap labor and lower taxes, these rivers and streams turned toxic with effluent runoff from the operation of old mills. Gradually, downtown areas in these cities became virtual ghost towns as one business after another went belly-up.

In recent years, municipal and institutional leaders conceived of new win-win, mutual growth co-development strategies. In each of these cities, institutions of higher learning played a crucial role in attracting new downtown retail development projects, reinventing their old manufacturing mills, site locating entrepreneurial start-up companies, establishing business incubators, and creating a critical mass of fine arts venues and tourist attractions.

During the past 10 years, Berkshire Community College has established itself as a leader in lean manufacturing and green technology and sustainable energy. President Paul Raverta aptly describes the college's role in this way: "Berkshire's partnerships have created sustainable jobs and an educated workforce with critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills.  These capabilities are fundamental to work in the emergent fields of biotechnology, plastics, thin film, and green technology.  BCC's new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Institute stands out as a shining example of Berkshire's ingenuity and resourcefulness."

The City of Lowell's dramatic reversal of fortune was driven, in part, by attracting world class faculty scholars and practitioners in fields of nanotechnology, workplace environment, advanced manufacturing, and assistive technology. UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan puts it simply: "It was apparent to the UMass Lowell community that we could best further the university's downtown development interests by designing the new University of Massachusetts, Lowell in partnership with the city, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and our federal political leaders, colleagues, and benefactors."

Today, Americans are increasingly attracted to these river mill collegetowns and to the upscale retail, hospitality, cultural, educational, and ecotourism venues that these new age collegetowns offer.

For more on river mill collegetowns, read the full version of this column here.

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.), and Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance.

Stephens College employees sign up for the four-month health and wellness challenge initiated by President Dianne Lynch and a very fit alumna. The college hopes to earn $1 million from successful completion.

Administrative reasoning behind campus health and wellness initiatives can range from personal outcomes (weight loss or increased fitness for participants) to fiscal incentives (reducing health insurance costs). What if the end result was to earn an alumna's donation of $1 million early next year?

For Stephens College (Mo.), this unique challenge resulted from a deal struck between President Dianne Lynch and an anonymous yet quite active 86-year-old graduate during a recent private conversation. Lynch's side of the agreement is for her faculty and staff to commit to embracing an overall lifestyle change—and help motivate each other in the process—with a combined weight loss goal of 250 pounds between September 1 and January 1.

Lynch says she hasn't heard of other institutions creating similar plans but adds that the challenge not only benefits workers but is also a new approach to working with donors. "I think we need to be more flexible and creative about building new kinds of relationships with prospective donors, about finding ways they can have a real and visible impact on our communities."

More than 100 employees, including Lynch, agreed to participate in the four-month long voluntary program. Their activities will include various exercise classes (yoga to Zumba), a daily walking group, a free one-month membership at a local gym, and starting a Weight Watchers group on campus. Special events and weekly weigh-ins will be held, as well.

"We're developing an incentive program to reward people for the miles they've walked and the classes they've attended," explains Lynch. "People will select the activities that work best for them." For example, instead of weight loss, some might choose to focus their energies on firming up their muscles.

Already Lynch has agreed to have the challenge continue on following the January deadline. "This really is about [a] lifestyle change, and that means we will continue to be healthier and more active even after we've met our challenge goals." —M.H.

 

When the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) wanted to find a cost-effective, user-friendly system for lecture capture that would also encourage technology use, they turned to the cloud. It proved a smart business decision with added benefits.

The 34 institutions in the system previously used a variety of on-campus lecture capture systems. But Cable Green, director of eLearning and Open Education for SBCTC, says, "Our strategic technology plan calls for sharing common commodity technologies, and using open educational resources."

SBCTC ultimately chose the Tegrity Campus solution, which supports content storage either on campus or in the cloud.

From a business perspective, moving to the cloud made sense. The cloud model could easily scale as needed, and with more than 560,000 students in the system and growing, scalability is critical. In addition there are no servers, software, or classroom-based appliances involved, and storage was no longer an issue.

"We weren't interested in hosting servers. We were interested in a turnkey solution that someone else could manage for us," says Green. "And with budgets being cut everywhere, cost effectiveness was critical."

Although each college has its own president and trustees, the state board has statutory authority over policy and funding in the system. "The unique thing about our system is how well all these different power structures work together," says Green. "We like to say that we speak with one voice in our state. When we were looking to make a move like this, we were doing so together, with everyone well informed."

Green says one of the advantages of a cloud-based lecture capture system is its ease of use. "It allows us to engage a segment of our faculty that was resistant to new technologies," he explains. "For most faculty, you just need to say, 'Push start, push stop, and walk away.' That's training you can do in about 15 seconds. You'll get more people using the technology, and students will get what they really want." —T.G.

 

Campus recruitment events are nothing new, but Trident Technical College (S.C.) has organized a job fair of a different kind: one seeking adjunct faculty members. This summer, nearly 280 attendees came out for the fair, visiting stations for jobs ranging from nursing and biology to math and the humanities. It's the third time the college has held such an event. Initially for the social sciences only, it now incorporates all academic departments. It's also held in partnership with Trident's HR department, and due to the economy this year's turnout was the largest yet. "We've gotten a better quality [of] adjuncts because they are flooding the market," explains Timothy Brown, director of humanities and social sciences.

He senses no concern from full-time faculty about the fair. There are more adjuncts than full-time faculty, but the latter teaches more credit hours and course sections, explains spokesperson David Hansen. He adds that there are more adjunct faculty because of an enrollment surge, with more needed to cover classes. Also budget cuts have affected full-time hiring.

Holding this type of job fair is not uncommon, finds Joe Berry, who serves on the American Association of University Professors' national committee for Contingent Faculty. He says faculty organizations would be against them if it represents a global shift from hiring full-time faculty on the tenure tract to more adjuncts. "It also undermines academic freedom," he adds. "If you are hired semester by semester, you are unlikely to say something that might jeopardize your employment. That is why tenure and job security for faculty was fought for and recognized for its value." —M.H.

Foursquare, the smartphone app that encourages people to share their whereabouts by checking in at various locales while earning points and badges, isn't just for fun. The popular geo-networking tool is being used by higher ed institutions as a community building and recruitment tool. Reprinted from the Accredited Online Colleges blog's "30+ Ways to Use Foursquare In Education" post, here are 13 Foursquare uses to consider adopting:

  1. Encourage students to visit new parts of campus: Add venues around campus to get students to explore new parts of the library or your department floor.
  2. Encourage students to socialize more: A University of Nebraska at Omaha student uses foursquare to get fellow students involved in socializing and actual activities, rather than drinking at dorm parties.
  3. New student orientation: Ask your university to create an official foursquare account like Harvard did, to help new students learn about campus landmarks and find their way around school.
  4. Recruit students: On your prospective student website, advertise your campus tours on foursquare, and invite them to check in and join the community on school visits.
  5. Teach the history of your school: A library program at North Carolina State University uses foursquare to show students archived shots of the first freshman class, old school buildings, and other historical images based on the smartphone user's location.
  6. Reiterate office hours: Remind students of your office hours by checking in to your own office or department.
  7. Tag buildings: The University of Dallas is covered in virtual tags stuck on buildings, professor's desks and other locales. Some think the tags are tacky, while others consider it a collage or record of campus culture.
  8. Push students outside the campus bubble: Introduce students to great local hotspots for eating, socializing and learning through foursquare.
  9. Keep up with study abroad students: Foursquare works everywhere in the world, so follow your study-abroad students to keep in touch.
  10. Arrange spontaneous study groups: Check in at a location on campus and invite students to join you for a spontaneous review session or study group.
  11. Connect online students: Online students can connect over foursquare by sharing interesting facts about places they study or visit.
  12. Add to school's traditions: By opening up foursquare to students, everyone will learn more about traditions, campus hotspots, and more.
  13. Share campus news: Share news about upcoming meetings, contests, construction projects and mixers happening at different campus buildings and centers.

See http://tinyurl.com/2a7yh3k for links related to the above and more ideas about how Foursquare can be used, specifically for teaching and learning.


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