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Posted by on in President's Blog

I was at a public event a week ago that was stopped several times to acknowledge and thank those from the military in attendance. We stood and applauded and thanked them for their service and sacrifice. While I shared in this expression of appreciation, I thought of statistics from a recent report published by the Children’s Defense Fund entitled, “We Can Do Better: Protect Children Not Guns 2013.”

One of many statistics that surprised, shocked and saddened me was that, “the number of children and teens killed by guns in 2010 was nearly five times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action that year in Iraq and Afghanistan.” In fact, since 1963, three times more children and teens have died from guns on American soil than U.S. soldiers killed in action in wars around the world. That translates to seven children and teens being killed every single day by guns in America. A child or teen is killed or injured from guns every 30 seconds.

Last year, I joined hundreds of my colleagues in support of additional gun control. Our statement entitled, “College Presidents for Gun Safety,” was sent to every legislator, every government official and every media outlet. It was joined by the efforts of many organizations, individuals and communities. But even with the memory of Sandy Hook Elementary School fresh in our minds, modest legislation to increase background checks was defeated in Congress.

Maybe Sandy Hook was not enough to change our minds since the fact is that the number of children and teens killed by guns in one year would fill 134 classrooms of 20 students each. In 2010, 18,270 children and teens died or were injured by guns. This means 17 classrooms of 20 children every week... an entire school building every week. The school building your children and my grandchildren attend ... one every week.

If you are interested in this issue, I would urge you to read this report. It can be found online at It provides statistics and analysis, as well as action steps to help address this issue. It also provides a selection of organizations you might join and/or support that are trying to address this issue.

Next week, I will share some of the suggestions for action. But the Forward to the report from Marian Wright Edelman frames it well:

“What can you do? Urge your members of Congress to protect children from gun violence by supporting common sense gun safety and gun violence protection measures for the nation including universal background checks, limits on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, consumer safety standards for all guns, public funding for gun violence prevention research, and resources and authority for law enforcement agencies to properly enforce gun laws. Parents, remove your guns from your home and be vigilant about where your children play. Boycott products that glamorize violence.”

As we prepare to begin the Advent and Christmas seasons ... seasons that center so much on life and children ... this issue should not .... cannot be ignored.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

When thinking about what is referred to as “the college experience,” do you consider this concept only in relationship to what is gained from inside a classroom or playing on a sports team? Does the idea of school spirit ever cross your mind when you think about your college experience and, if so, what do you think of when you hear the phrase “school spirit?”

My definition of school spirit is when students, faculty and staff gather to show pride in their school and support for each other. Having school spirit means being able to show how much you love your school by creating, coordinating and participating in student events or, going a step further, by actually hosting events that show how much love you have for your school.

A great example of an event that occurred recently that showed the Anna Maria College Community in action was the Midnight Madness event, which took place on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 in the Fuller Activities Center around 11:45 pm. This event was conducted to celebrate the upcoming season of basketball for both women and men at Anna Maria College. It was a way for the College, as well as guests, to see what new skills, players, and determination each team has to offer for this upcoming season.

At Midnight Madness, students not only had the opportunity to be introduced to the upcoming season but they also had a chance to participate in activities centered around basketball even if they had no prior experience in playing the sport. This event had a huge turnout and was hosted by Lynette Colome, a junior at Anna Maia College and James Lambert III. They also had a helping hand from Lisa Saverese, the Director of Student Activities who helped to put the event together. In addition, I can’t forget to mention the hard work of the players from both teams, as well as their coaches.

Prior to the event, I sat down with a few students to gain their perspective on the Midnight Madness event and the upcoming season. The first student I spoke with was Nina Anastacio who is a sophomore, resident assistant and former basketball player at Anna Maria College. When asked if she was excited about the upcoming event and season she replied that she was ecstatic. She went on to explain to me that “Midnight Madness allowed the student athletes to be introduced as part of the school team and it was a way to display a preview of the hard work the coaches have put in preparing them for the upcoming season.” Nina also stated that she is anticipating improvement amongst the players on the team and “what we are about to see from these women is going to be brand new in that Anna Maria College has never seen these women the way we will see them this season.” She continued to show her optimism in the team’s success when she stated that, “there is a high possibility of them making it to the playoffs.”

I also sat down with a member from the men’s basketball team, Caleib Fournier, to get his take on the upcoming season for men’s basketball. When asked what Midnight Madness meant to him, as well as the impact it has on him and the other players, he stated that the event “brings the school together, as well as motivates the players for success during the upcoming season.” Like Nina, he described this season as “brand new.” He stated that the players will have a whole new style of playing and that this season will be different but successful at the same time.” Even though the men’s basketball team has drastically changed since losing their three power players: Javier Bristo, Anthony Click and Brad Peterson, all graduates of the class of 2013, Calieb still maintains his strong faith in his team’s success, as well as Coach Conrad’s ability to continue leading them on a successful path. He shared that Coach Conrad has done a great job in keeping the team on track, helping them to reach their goals in the sport, gaining the trust of his players and establishing a bond.

These interviews that were conducted, as well as having the privilege to attend the very well organized event known as Midnight Madness, definitely have me excited and anxious to attend as many games as possible to support both the women’s and men’s basketball teams. Ordinarily I am not much of a sports person but hearing how optimistic, dedicated and determined these student athletes are to succeed, as well as after seeing a preview of what’s to come, I am definitely ready to show my school spirit in any way including supporting my hardworking peers while they are on the court.

A topic of frequent discussion and debate in higher education is the impact of part-time instructors (also known as adjunct faculty) on the quality of education. As the percentage of part-time faculty increases at all types of colleges and universities, more and more studies raise concerns about correlations with academic success, student retention and graduation rates. Articles appear regularly advocating the need for better employment conditions for adjuncts (e.g., higher pay, benefits, better integration into the life of the institution).

My own experience is that adjunct instruction is typically high quality. Despite their part-time status, most adjunct faculty I have known and worked with take their teaching very seriously and do everything possible to help and support students. Especially in pre-professional programs, adjunct faculty bring real world experience, currency and applicability to the classroom in ways full-time faculty cannot. Part-time faculty may be less versed in research methodologies, but often are more connected to the work our graduates will do after graduation.

A recent study presented at the Association for the Study of Higher Education annual conference is entitled, “The Effect of Part-time Faculty on Students’ Degree and/or Certificate Completion at Two-Year Community Colleges.” While the data analyzed and the study findings relate more directly to two-year institutions, I found the study helpful and applicable to all types of colleges and universities.

One of the key findings of these researchers was that part-time faculty had “no negative impact on student degree or certificate attainment.” It didn’t necessarily have a positive impact either. Rather, lower completion rates were more closely related to the size of the institution, the location of the institution and the student’s high school GPA.

Unfortunately, the summary of the research I read provided few details related to these findings. The importance of the size of the institution and the student’s high school GPA correlate with other research on multiple perspectives of student learning.

Students typically learn better and achieve greater success in environments with smaller class size, more personal attention and direct interaction with the faculty (whether full-time or part-time). Regardless of the type of institution, more able students entering college (higher high school GPA’s, college prep courses in high school, etc.) tend to do better academically and are both retained and graduate at higher levels. The impact of geographic location is less explicable. Perhaps it relates to resources of the campus, access to the campus by adjunct faculty, access to the faculty by students, etc.

This study is not a license to increase the percentage of instruction provided by part-time faculty. Nor is it a defense against improving the employment conditions for part-time faculty. But what it affirms for me is the professionalism and commitment of all faculty. Regardless of status, terms of contract, etc., faculty members, full-time and part-time, care deeply about their students, work hard to help them succeed, and are diligent in their efforts to provide the highest quality instruction possible.

I often ask students to tell me about their courses. From time to time, I hear about a “bad” professor. Typically this means boring or a hard grader. But I always hear accounts of great professors who make student success their highest priority. Think about your own college experience. I am sure you remember the best faculty members who impacted your success. And I doubt you even know if s/he was full-time or part-time!





(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Posted by on in Matt's Corner
For this blog entry, I would like to talk about something that caught my eye in the news concerning the world of entertainment. Staying within the context of new media, I wanted to express my thoughts on another form of media that is making its way to the forefront just in time for the holidays: new video gaming technology.
For most of you growing up in my generation, I am sure you found yourself playing a video game at some point during your childhood. This forum has been a proven pastime, bringing together friends and family alike to compete and play in a fantasy world that allows our imaginations to run wild. Since the dawn of this technology, many childhoods have been shaped by the escapades of Mario and others. While many parents claim that video games can be distracting, and as a college student I know that they certainly can be, I believe that these products have come to define family recreation for this current generation, and will continue to be a part of the growth of the new media into the next generation.
For me, no one really takes the time to appreciate video games for what they are.....a form of art and media that allows us to escape into another reality. Most video consoles today are used like a computer, allowing us to connect with each other over the Internet similar to the way we do with Facebook, Instagram and other venues. Now I am sure there are those who feel video games can be less beneficial or even influential in bad ways, and yes like all forms of media, there are video games that shouldn't be available to our youth, but again, like all forms of media, video games have become a part of our lives, our Christmas lists, and to some...a hobby or past time . . . so we need to appreciate them for what they can bring to our lives.
As a technology that has invaded most of our households and has become a booming business, how can we accept this form of new media as a regular part of family entertainment and what ways do you think this tool can help us out other than providing a venue for great fun? Can it be used to educate us in College or as a marketing tool? Let me know what you think.

Last week I shared some recent research on the issue of the value of a college degree. A study entitled, The Economics of BA Ambivalence: The Case of California Higher Education provides a more balanced perspective on the return on investment of a college education. While concluding that a degree is likely worth the investment, the findings of this study suggest that the question of value is not simplistic and requires additional analysis. According to their findings, the ambivalence to a college education expressed by many families and prospective students may be more justified than some of us may realize.

The authors point out that too many studies about this issue assume best case scenarios that likely create a bias in their findings. For example, most other studies assume that the student completes his/her baccalaureate degree in four years. In fact, many graduates take five years or more and a good number drop out before completing their degree. Some begin at a community college and complete their bachelors degrees at a four-year institution.

The authors also clarify that most other studies determine their estimated earning power on pre-tax earnings without consideration of progressive tax rates. These other studies also assume a single rate of economic return without consideration of the graduates ability, the chosen profession, the economy, etc. Their point is that the investment in a college degree, while clearly worthwhile, has a degree of risk. A college degree is a good investment for both the individual and society, but factors like rising tuition rates and the widening distribution of earnings among those completing baccalaureate degrees has increased the risk for every college graduate to recoup his/her investment, earn enough to repay loans, and increase overall earnings in their lifetime.

As indicated last week, the data analysis for this study was drawn from the California higher education system. While this educational system of public institutions may not mirror all of higher education, this study is broadly illustrative. Furthermore, the California job market and economy may not be typical of every state or region, but this study identifies clearly the complexity of this issue and the types of analyses necessary before drawing unequivocal conclusions. Here are their key findings:

The BA is a good investment for the average student. The graduates earnings will be greater and outpace interest rates on loans.

The BA is a good investment for both society and the individual. College graduates contribute more to the economic stability of the community and their increased earnings help to fuel the economy.

The investment in a BA is increasingly risky. Because of rising tuition rates and the potential of low earnings in certain professions, more college graduates will experience student loan problems in the years following graduation.

What can be done about this? This study concludes with these helpful insights. They suggest that students should receive more and better advising about their choices of a major, postgraduate study and career pursuits. Students need to be better informed about the economic realities of some professions.

They also contend that students need to be better informed about their options for financing their college education. There are a good number of income-based and income contingent repayment plans. The enrollment levels in these programs are low, likely because of a lack of awareness.

The conclusion to their study provides both the optimism and reality necessary:

College remains a good investment for both individuals and the state but it is a stepping stone to the middle class not a ticket. As such, it deserves the scrutiny an individual would give to any risky investment.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)