Flagships and Land-Grants

Many states are set up with flagship and land-grant universities. Virginia has VT and UVA, South Carolina has USC and Clemson, and my home state of North Carolina features UNC and North Carolina State University. This makes a significant impact on the goals and future of these universities. Take the following statements:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (http://www.unc.edu/ugradbulletin/mission.html)

“The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, serves North Carolina, the United States, and the world through teaching, research, and public service. We embrace an unwavering commitment to excellence as one of the world’s great research universities.

Our mission is to serve as a center for research, scholarship, and creativity and to teach a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to become the next generation of leaders. Through the efforts of our exceptional faculty and staff, and with generous support from North Carolina’s citizens, we invest our knowledge and resources to enhance access to learning and to foster the success and prosperity of each rising generation. We also extend knowledge-based services and other resources of the University to the citizens of North Carolina and their institutions to enhance the quality of life for all people in the State.

With lux, libertas—light and liberty—as its founding principles, the University has charted a bold course of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems.

Approved by the UNC Board of Governors, November 2009″

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North Carolina State University (http://catalog.ncsu.edu/undergraduate/aboutus/)

“As a research-extensive land-grant university, North Carolina State University is dedicated to excellent teaching, the creation and application of knowledge, and engagement with public and private partners. By uniting our strength in science and technology with a commitment to excellence in a comprehensive range of disciplines, NC State promotes an integrated approach to problem solving that transforms lives and provides leadership for social, economic, and technological development across North Carolina and around the world.

Approved by the NC State University Board of Trustees, 4/22/11″

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While I graduated from N.C. State with a bachelor of arts, the university seems to be more aligned with practical science and technology support for it’s undergraduates. It is an institution remarkably similar to Virginia Tech in size and emphasis on engineering, but with maybe a stronger emphasis on agriculture and the natural sciences.

UNC (and UVA) features a medical school, but also emphasizes its law school prominence. Most NC legislators hold degrees in law from UNC. Its mission statement makes room for the humanities that may help shape future leaders, in the fashion of a true university instead of an A&T college (which N.C. State was considered for a long period of time).

From these mission statements, a clear definition is made. I would expect to find a similar distinction between schools in the other states I mentioned.

What’s next for the relationship between old flagships and relatively new land-grants? Before I left North Carolina I remember hearing about curriculum consolidation that would take both of these universities back to colleges within a larger statewide University system (the UNC system beyond Chapel Hill is set up for a quick modification towards this goal). Could this save money? Would it be good for the students? (I always enjoyed the interaction between art and science at N.C. State.) And why did the medical schools never transition to the land-grant universities which may provide more resources?

-A.G. Hughes

My teaching paradigm

Recently, I’ve been exploring social constructionist ideas in research and my personal life. I agree with Kenneth Burke, that life is a reflection of symbol use. Burke goes on to say that when the heart stops beating, the symbol-user stops…..using, effectively embracing a physical reality.

I would not make this distinction. In my upcoming teaching philosophy draft, I will make an important note about my ideas that reality is only what we agree it is, and that students often have the ability to teach instructors how to see old problems through new lenses.

Perhaps this paradigm would not work for my colleagues in the physical sciences, but in my understanding of rhetoric, communication and language it is key to some of the claims I will be making in my master’s thesis. What do my pedagogy classmates think of this?

Tethered to Technology

On the course CN site, I posted a video about Google Glass, an augmented reality technology that is always working for those wearing the glasses. Users just say “Ok Glass, take photo [or other command here].” It is a device capable of web surfing, making phone calls, sending messages and video, and about anything else current bulky laptops do.

This is life enhanced by technology rather than subsumed by it as discussed in the article from this week’s reading on taking a digital sabbath. In the end, these technologies are a method of delivery for knowledge. With all communication technologies there are appropriate and irresponsible uses. What matters is purpose. Do we use technology to escape or enhance reality?

Digital Student Responsibility

This week I’ve been considering a change for the next semester of my teaching experience.

My course design requires students to keep track of dates when online assignments are due. Although I give them all the information in class before sending them off to do online work, some have suggested that reminders would help so that they didn’t miss any more assignments.
In our age of embracing the digital world, how much responsibility falls to the students? Maybe I need to strike a better balance.
I don’t want students to fall through the cracks in my course design and get bad grades for that instead of actually not being proficient in the course material. When I’m unable to let a student make up an assignment that they forgot about, it really stinks, but I have to be fair to others.
Fellow graduate students– please advise.

PBL Assignments and Inquiry

This week we read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Setting Students’ Minds on Fire.” I really enjoyed this article and discussion of how to make students care in classes.

I recently read a book titled “Teaching with your mouth shut” by Donald L. Finkel. This book encouraged such PBL methods. Finkel’s approach was on sparking what he termed “inquiry” in the students, so that this inquiry drove classes and the teacher could settle into a role that was more institutional in nature. If presented with a problem that students really care about, they will do whatever research may be required to give an adequate answer. This motivation seemed to be present in the examples provided by Mark C. Carnes in the Chronicle article.

It seems this may be the type of PBL assignment that gets students learning effectively, but doesn’t have them ripping their hair out about group work and Google Docs. There are good and bad PBL assignments, and maybe sometimes what PBL proponents may see as “studenting negativity” may in fact be legitimate concerns about the classroom environment. Surely the rotten apple doesn’t spoil the bunch, but maybe some hardworking students are feeling neglected from being told to do blind group work instead of interacting with a respected educator.

My feelings on PBL assignments are not set in stone and I welcome criticism!