As the summer comes to a close with Labor Day weekend, this week’s blog takes a lighter look at higher education. Since 1968, Beloit College has been publishing something called “The Mindset List.” Created by Ron Neif, emeritus director of public affairs at Beloit College, the list was originally created as a reminder to faculty and administrators to be careful of the references they use around today’s students.
Now co-authored with Tom McBride, a professor at Beloit College, The Mindset List helps all of us to remember the changing worldview of our incoming students. In the past decade, this list has been widely quoted at the beginning of the academic year and provided perspective and humor for faculty and parents struggling to keep up with this new generation.
Most of this year’s freshmen, the Class of 2016, were born in 1994. For these students:
- “Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitute 'American Royalty’ ”
- “If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube”
- “Robert DeNiro is thought of as Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway”
- “Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge”
- “They have never seen an airplane ‘ticket’ ”
- “For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department”
- “They can’t picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it”
- “Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf”
- “Star Wars has always been just a film, not a defense strategy”
- “They have had to incessantly remind their parents not to refer to their CDs and DVDs as ‘tapes’ ”
- “They were too young to enjoy the 1994 World Series, but then no one else got to enjoy it either”
- “Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book”
- “They grew up, somehow, without the benefits of Romper Room”
- “History has always had its own channel”
- “They watch television everywhere but on a television”
- “Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium”
Keeping with the lighter approach to this week’s blog, but at least looking for some international flavor, John Curry, a professor at the University of Bath, has compiled the best student excuses given by students for not completing an assignment. According to Curry, students have moved from the classic, “my dog ate my homework,” to more generationally appropriate excuses like my pet erased my work from my computer or my dog ate my USB stick.
But students in England seem even more creative with excuses that include “ghosts, erupting volcanoes and the outbreak of civil war.” One of his students suggested that he had been held as a spy in China, another that he had been declared legally dead.
The Mindset List helps us to understand that the times do, in fact, change. The list of excuses reminds us that some things never change. Here’s hoping for a great academic year for every generation!
(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)
We are just days away from welcoming our new freshmen to campus. Orientation weekend is full of excitement, anxiety and emotion …. especially for the parents. Parents play a critical role in their child’s transition to college. I recognize how difficult this can be in so many ways. But evidence is mounting that parents are playing an increased role in determining their child’s college career and I wonder if we are moving in the wrong direction?
As the search for a college begins, we encourage parents to help their child to make a good decision. We suggest that the role for parents is one of advisor and counselor … helping their child to clarify what is important, what are his/her interests, and what is the best fit for his/her aspirations and goals. But we also emphasize, too often without effect, that it is not the parents’ decision. The parents will not attend the college. They will not take classes or live on campus. They will not be pursuing career interests. (We do remind them that they will be paying tuition bills!)
With all of the recent studies and research on “helicopter” parenting, it should come as no surprise that parents find it difficult to refrain from taking a more active role in making the college decision. And a report published last week summarizing interviews with college administrators indicates that the parental role continues to be significant and appears to be increasing in dramatic ways.
More and more parents are now directing their child’s decision about an academic major and a career path. More and more parents are choosing for their child the institution that they believe offers the best opportunity for post-graduate success. More and more parents are attempting to insert themselves into the day to day decisions being made by their child in order to guide his/her college career and orchestrate his/her future. As one college counselor put it, “parents are more concerned on career than quality of life.” And I think this is wrong!
While I understand the realities of the economy and the job market, as well as the desire for parents to help their children, the college years are a time for young adults to pursue their dreams and their interests and to discover their passions. While no parent wants his/her child to graduate into a world of unemployment and financial stress, it would be even more distressing to see your son or daughter enter a career with no interest or enthusiasm because the current job market is strong. All parents want a better life for their children, but we can’t and shouldn’t live their lives.
In my experience, the undergraduate major is becoming less and less important. Students who major in art or philosophy can still transition into careers in nursing and education. The undergraduate educational experience should provide the opportunity for intellectual adventure and the pursuit of wide ranging interests. While life-long learning is a value, the four years of undergraduate education may be the last true opportunity for academic and co-curricular fun.
I appreciate parents who care about their children’s education. But I wish more parents would let their sons and daughters have more freedom to make decisions including a few mistakes. It is all part of growing up and taking steps along the educational journey. And good decision making is an important lesson to learn … for both the student and the parents!
(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)
My blog of July 29, 2012 was entitled, “The Unanswered Question About Penn State.” I wrote about my questions related to the involvement of the regional accrediting body called Middle States (Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools). This blog generated a tremendous response from my readers. I even heard from a few Penn State alumni.
In that blog I wrote, “Middle States may already be deeply involved in a review or an investigation of Penn State. If this is the case, it should be reported by the media, if only the higher education media. This past week’s activities by the NCAA continues to make this issue primarily a football story … an issue of the problems with a dominant athletic culture … and this is troublesome. For me, the questions are deeper and more pervasive and make me wonder about the fundamental integrity of a great academic institution.” Last week, the question was answered.
Reports in higher education publications (not to my knowledge in the broader media) stated that Middle States has been involved in the Penn State issue for some time. According to representatives from Middle States, the first communication with the university occurred soon after the details of the scandal were made public last Fall. At that time, Middle States “asked the university for a report ensuring that it was upholding the accreditor's standards of integrity.” This is exactly what I questioned in my earlier blog.
Subsequent to both the Freeh Report and the NCAA sanctions, Middle States took further action. In a letter dated August 8, 2012, Middle States has placed Penn State “on warning status and is requiring its officials to document that its finances, governance, and integrity meet the accreditor's standards.” Penn State is required to respond to the accrediting body by September 30, 2012.
In one sense, the action by Middle States is far less draconian than the NCAA in many ways. As was reported last week by Middle States, being placed on “warning” does not mean that the university is close to losing its accreditation. "Warning indicates that the commission believes that, although the institution is out of compliance, the institution has the capacity to make appropriate improvements within a reasonable period of time and the institution has the capacity to sustain itself in the long term." It is likely that the issue with Middle States will be resolved through the report generated by Penn State in the coming weeks.
But I do applaud Middle States for taking action. While it may be less important to the national media and the football-centric public, the accrediting body’s actions reflect a concern for the integrity of the entire university. Further, it acknowledges the responsibilities of the administration of Penn State to act in ways that engender public confidence. As stated by Middle States, “"if an institution conducts its affairs in ways which generate serious public concern, the commission reserves the right to request further information from the institution."
Clearly, there is public concern about Penn State in ways more pervasive than the football team.
One could argue that a “request for information” is hardly reflective of a full investigation or corrective action. But it’s a good place to begin and if nothing else, it is forcing Penn State to consider the impact of this scandal on the entire institution. As I stated in my January 29 blog,
“For me, the heart of the question is the fundamental integrity of the University. I hope that this is being investigated by the accrediting body. Because it is this core value that links all colleges and universities together. And it is central to our commitment to all who study, work and visit our campuses.
For me, football does not define Penn State University. Academic integrity and excellence define Penn State and all colleges and universities. And the potential failure to uphold these values throughout the institution is the real issue. And the question needs to be answered!”
Last week, it was.
(Your comments and ideas are always welcome.)
New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability leads and supports voluntary and
Over the past several weeks, a number of our incoming freshmen have been on campus participating in one of our two summer bridge programs. These are voluntary programs designed to help students “bridge” their high school experience to the challenges of college life.
Summer bridge programs are not a new idea. I was involved in these programs over 20 years ago. As an interesting side note, the programs I oversaw at that time were funded by the state. Despite the rhetoric by both the state and federal governments that academic success and student retention are critical, such funding is virtually non-existent.
The two programs offered at Anna Maria College are funded through the Balfour Foundation and the Sisters of St. Anne. We are extraordinarily thankful for their generosity and support. The College also subsidizes these programs from its own operating budget. And they are worth it!
AMC's summer bridge programs help students with skills training, familiarity with the College and socialization. And the results are impressive. Students who complete these programs have significantly higher GPA’s and retention rates. So although students attending summer bridge need to give up a week or more of their summer jobs and summer activities, they will reap the benefits over the next four years. Let me describe some of the goals and intended outcomes.
While all of our new students meet or exceed our admission requirements, their high school experiences are not the same. Some come from high schools with more developed writing, critical thinking, math and science programs. Some have the opportunity to take college level courses while still in high school. Our bridge programs focus heavily on writing and thinking skills. Every day, students in these programs participate in sessions lead by our best faculty. They also have access to peer mentors and tutors.
Our summer bridge programs also focus on skills and practices related to academic success where students are taught strategies to manage their academic load, study more effectively and plan their academic semester. One of the biggest risks for freshmen at every college in America is falling behind. These students are taught how to stay on schedule and even get ahead.
Familiarity to the College is an important aspect of bridge programs. During their time on campus in the summer, student participants meet most of the staff and many faculty members. They visit offices and learn when, where and how to access resources. They also learn about co-curricular opportunities so that when they return at the end of August, they already have a plan for engaging in campus life.
Another key factor in freshmen failure is a lack of connectedness. Many of our students will arrive on campus for the Fall semester having never been away from home for any length of time. They miss their family and friends. They need to adjust to a new environment and in many cases, sharing a room for the first time in their lives.
The summer bridge programs build community. Through the day-to-day activities with their cohort of students and their every evening social activities, they meet people and make friends. This socialization makes the Fall transition easier. They are already part of the Freshmen class and an active member of the AMC community.
One of the greatest responsibilities every college has is to help every student to graduate. We need to work as hard retaining students as we do recruiting them. The summer bridge programs are critical components of our retention efforts and demonstrably successful ones.
People often refer to waste in Washington by describing public works projects like “the bridge to nowhere.” I am happy to say that the programs at AMC are a bridge to success.
(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)
While there are still three months to go before the November elections, it seems that we have been in the midst of the campaign forever. I have always been interested in the reasons why people vote for specific candidates. For some people, a single issue is predominant. For others, it is a party affiliation. Some people support one candidate simply because they dislike the other candidate more.
For me, it is a somewhat complicated process. First, I try to assess candidates in terms of my personal values and priorities. Realizing a long time ago that there are no perfect candidates, I try to determine whether or not the candidate holds similar views on a wide range of issues. I am also very interested in assessing character and leadership. I want my elected officials to be people who act ethically and morally demonstrating honesty and integrity.
Finally, I also judge candidates from my professional perspective and their positions related to education in general and higher education in specific. I am interested in voting for people who support programs that provide increased access and affordability for students and recognize the value of private, independent colleges and universities.
The real challenge for me is to see through the rhetoric and the media spin and determine the candidates’ actual views and values. This is a long and difficult process that requires great effort. While I would be fine without any more TV commercials, I am always interested in speeches, interviews and the pre-election debates. And I am typically gathering information and assessing candidates right up until the last day.
With my mindset and approach, I was surprised to read the results of a recent Pew Research Center study with the headline, “Most Say They Already Know Enough about the Candidates.” According to this research, 90% of the voters say that they already know what they need to know about Obama, and 69% say the same about Romney.
One could argue that the voters have had over three years to assess Obama and observe his policies and beliefs. But there are still many who express concerns about their perception that candidate Obama acted differently after he was elected, and he has shared little of substance about his agenda for a second term.
I really wonder how almost 70% of the voters could know enough about Romney. He is just beginning to share his policy views and his record has demonstrated some evolving positions since his time as the Governor of Massachusetts.
Perhaps this research really reflects less about the full knowledge of the candidates, their views and their policy positions, and more about the approach many voters take to choosing a candidate. The most surprising statistic in the Pew Research was that only 60% of the respondents (the survey included almost 3,000 adults) knew that Romney was a Mormon, and 49% knew that Obama was a Christian. While a vast majority of respondents (over 80%) in this and every other survey indicate the importance of “strong religious beliefs," large numbers know little or nothing about the candidates’ faith, and very few are interested in finding out more. For example, only 16% of the respondents want to learn more about Romney’s religious beliefs.
While I am pleased that a candidate’s religion is less of an issue (I am old enough to remember the challenge John F. Kennedy faced running for President as a Catholic), it would seem that in order to determine if someone had “strong religious beliefs,” one would need to know something about his/her religious practice.
Why do people choose candidates? What information do they need to make an informed decision? What issues, beliefs, values are most important? According to this research … a majority of Americans are ready to vote. Are you? I know I am not.
(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)