Random Thoughts and the Answers to a Few Questions

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This will be my last blog entry for 2012.  I plan to take the next two weeks off from writing, but will return in January 2013.  I want to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and a special holiday season.  I hope that we will all have a wonderful and peace-filled 2013.

I also want to thank you for taking the time to read this blog and to engage in both reflection and dialogue about the issues that are raised.  People regularly ask me the same questions about this blog.  Here are some answers: 

Question: Who writes your blog?

Answer: I write the blog each and every week by myself.  From time to time, people suggest topics.  But in the end, I choose           topics that relate to higher education and society, and topics that I believe will be of interest to you, as well as to me.  I do have people who help with the editing process.  But for better or worse, the blog is all mine.

Question: Why do you write a weekly blog?

Answer: I write it for you … but I also write it for me.  For you, I hope the blog provides information, as well as ideas that are thought-provoking.  I am amazed at how many people regularly read the blog and take the time to respond either by e-mail or in person.  But I also write the blog for me.  The commitment to write a weekly blog requires me to take time every week to read, reflect and write.  Like all of us, schedules become ever-demanding.  As a member of the academic community, I value my own scholarship, research and writing.  The blog helps me to be true to my profession.

Question: Do readers respond to your blog?

        Answer: I receive many responses each week.  For some reason, very few people want their comments posted on the website. More typically, I receive e-mails, phone calls or direct comments from people at the events and meetings I attend on and off campus. Responses to the blog fall into three general categories.  There are some people who seem to agree with almost everything I write and regularly express appreciation and support.  Thank you!  There is a second group who assess each blog entry individually.  These readers sometimes agree, sometimes disagree, but almost always add ideas or information to the conversation.  Thank you as well! Finally, there are readers who only contact me when they disagree with what I write.  While sometimes painful, these responses are particularly valuable when their criticism includes a different perspective or analysis.  I value and appreciate the intellectual dialogue and learn a great deal from these readers!

Finally, let me share a few somewhat random thoughts about higher education.  The challenges for the future are enormous.  I have written repeatedly about the issues of access, affordability, quality improvement, assessment, integrity, performance, global competitiveness, etc.  At times it is at best ironic and at worst extremely frustrating that the very storehouses of so much intellectual capital and ability are so resistant to and slow to respond to the necessary changes of the future.  Higher education needs a radical transformation.  There is some evidence of innovative curriculum models, but still too little willingness to examine ways to collaborate and create economic efficiencies.  And these changes need to come from within higher ed, not from Washington, DC or external groups.  I hope that in 2013, we, the higher education community, will show more evidence and increased progress in reforming higher ed to meet the needs of our current and future generations of students.

And to understand why this is so important, one needs only to spend some time with today’s students.  In the past two weeks, I have concluded my Fall semester conversations with every freshman, and joined our students at multiple celebrations (Kwanzaa, Christmas Concert, Christmas Dinner).  These experiences provide graphic and palpable evidence of the potential, the hopes, and the dreams of these women and men.  And the key to all of this is a great education.

Long ago I stopped making New Year’s resolutions.  Rather, the transition to a new year is an opportunity to reaffirm some long standing values and commitments.  For me, providing quality higher education for first generation college students and students/families of limited means is a noble cause.  I hope to do it better in 2013.  And I thank you for your continued interest in and support of higher education.

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

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