Fixing the system of higher ed

This article provides a reframe on how higher education is talked about. Because of scandals, corruption, and price, higher education has been talked about as a scam or a waste. However, the author says instead of criticizing that we should be improving the system. For starters, the author suggests not mocking college graduates. Graduates are often mocked for the choice to pursue an education and potentially taking on large debts. Instead, we should all find ways to make education more attainable both in terms of lowering costs and improving the quality of the education received. The author points out that higher education is not all that effective in preparing students. Many graduates lack basic reading and writing skills, but they got their degree. Additionally, liberal arts should be valued more. Ultimately, the system must be fixed instead of continuing to make fun of it. I complete agree. Even as someone pursuing a doctoral degree, I sometimes fall into these ways of thinking. If we can do that as students, of course outsiders are going to too.

What are good responses to people who question our choice to pursue higher education degrees? What are the solutions needed to fix the system?


Education as a barrier to pilot career

Have you ever considered the requirements to be a pilot? According to this article, the United States is the only country that requires a bachelor’s degree and flight school in order to be a pilot for a major airline. The article questions what this reveals about American higher education. The pilots of major airlines in other nations require flight school, flying experience, and a clean bill of health. Not only has this requirement created a pilot shortage in America, it also privileges higher socioeconomic status individuals and families. Those who can afford to go to college are those that can afford to do college and flight school and become a pilot or we are asking pilots to take on tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of dollars in debt to become a pilot. Because pilots must retire at 65, the requirements also chip away at their eligible years of being in the air. When there were many applicants for pilots, airlines could weed out applicants by education. However, now it is a barrier to entering the profession. I had never considered the requirements to be a pilot, better yet what it revealed about American higher education.

What are your thoughts? What other professions could we say the same about?


Higher ed spending in Wisconsin down

It came out today that Wisconsin has taken a major hit financially in the higher education section. While most states are increasing their spending per student in higher education, Wisconsin has reduced theirs. According to the Star Tribune, they are spending about $1,500 less than the national average of $7800. As a result, there have been many cutbacks at the university level including faculty positions and other programatic cuts. Some of the issues have been political because the Republicans and the Democrats do not agree on newly proposed budgets that would help the universities financially.

What are the short-term and long-term implications for the student body, faculty, and the university as a whole? How can the Wisconsin university system recover from these financial woes?


Increased minimum wage on campus

Last month, Virginia Tech increased its minimum wage for its full-time staff from $10 to $12 an hour. This wage was already above the federal minimum wage and brings the wage closer to the living wage calculated by MIT. The living wage is a calculation of the wage needed to make a living in that particular area and accounts for the cost of living in that area. Staff who was already making $12 will be bumped to $13.50. The University of Virginia had recently said they were upping their staff hourly wage to $15 an hour. I had heard very likely about it. I was researching living wages as I was preparing for a lecture. I am hopeful that this wage increase will be a trend in higher education. Full time staff members, in many ways, keep the universities running and are often taken forgranted. Raising the wages is a statement by universities to say that they value their work and want campuses to be a place people want to work. What do you think? Did you hear about this? Where does the money for these raises come from?

News Article:

ECU chancellor steps down

Last month in Greenville, North Carolina, East Carolina University’s Chancellor Staton stepped down. As a recent ECU graduate, this resignation was a surprise to me. The Chancellor’s term was short. He started at ECU in 2016. Turn over at just three years is not long and does not provide consistency to the students. Undergraduate students may experience two to three different chancellors before they graduate – a rare occurrence. Naturally, to become a chancellor, you must have been successful in your previous university affairs as Staton was in Georgia. What could have gone so wrong? He had many accomplishments at ECU including rebranding, gaining funds for new buildings, and creating a Rural Prosperity Initiative.  Still, many people criticized him for the school’s struggling sports program and for supporting the building of an expensive university chancellor’s home. While I do not know all of the reasons for his resignation, I do feel that many of those who criticized him may not fully understand the role of a university chancellor. For example, I feel the responsibility for sports programs should not go back to the chancellor. What do you think? Agree or disagree?

ECU News:

News & Observer:

Change to Higher Ed.

One change I would make to higher education would be more consistency in preliminary or qualifying examinations for doctoral students. While I respect departments or institutions freedom to decide on these examinations, I believe consistency in the specific discipline at minimum would provide a standard level and reduce some negative feelings between departments or institutions. Among doctoral students in my field, I know that doctoral students compare what qualifying  examinations look like at each discipline. There can be judgments or envy placed on the perception of how ‘easy’ or how tedious one department’s exams are compared to another. At times, I have found myself doing the same thing. While it may be impractical or far fetched, this consistency could also unite the field by preparing doctoral students in similar ways through their qualifying examinations.

Social Media in the Classroom

Understanding instructors’ reasons to engage in social media for educational practice is an understudied body of research. Esteve Del Valle, Gruzd, Haythronthwaite, Paulin, and Giblert (2017) explored instructors’ motivations and experience with social media for educational purpose. The present study utilized a Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology framework. Three-hundred and thirty-three university instructors were surveyed about their overall use of social media and past, present, and future use of social media in their teaching (Esteve Del Valle et al., 2017). Results found that personal use of social media, age, social influence, and other supports such as effort expectancy and conditions of facilitation were associated with social media use in the classroom.  Multimedia sites, social networking, and document sharing were the most used platform for teaching. Use of microblogging and presentation sharing is expected to increase in future teachings (Esteve Del Valle et al., 2017). Overall, a wide variety of social media was used in the classroom and for personal use. The authors pointed to engaging in social media as the first step in considering and using it for teaching (Esteve Del Valle et al., 2017).

This study does a sufficient job of contributing to the gaps in the literature about instructors’ reason for social media use.  What must be further explored, in my opinion, is how instructors are using them and the underlying reasons why. I stand firm that instructors must have a reason for using social media in the classroom that is justifiable over the traditional counterpart. For example, it may be frustrating for students to create and maintain a Twitter account for a class for the sake of having and using Twitter when a discussion board or other more traditional forum would work. If the students are engaging with other tweets or other twitter users outside of the classroom, perhaps there is justification in that. How cautious should instructors be in using social media in the classroom without proper underlying reason? How can philosophies and theories of pedagogy guide us in the area of social media in the classroom?

Esteve Del Valle, M., Gruzd, A., Haythornthwaite, C., Paulin, D., & Gilbert, S. (2017, January). Social media in educational practice: Faculty present and future use of social media in teaching. In Proceedings of the 50th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Open Access

The Journal of Human Sciences and Extension (JHSE) is an open-access peer-reviewed journal that covers a range of fields including mine (Human Development). It also covers extension, health, nutrition, and agricultural education. Mississippi State’s School of Human Sciences sponsors this journal.  This journal aims to disseminate information and bridge the gap between research and practice. This journal describes open access as its articles being “freely available to read, download, copy, print, and share/transmit.”

Admittedly, I was not familiar with any open access journals in my field. When searching, I came across this journal, which I was most interested in because of its multidisciplinary scope. I found some journals that referred to them as OpenSelect. Authors had the option to submit their journal for open access (with a fee) or regularly. I was unfamiliar with this journal type. One concern I have with JHSE or some open access journals is impact factor. I was not able to find an impact factor for JHSE. But if a journal has a lower impact factor whether its open access or not, scholars may be less likely to publish in it.

The open access movement is fairly new to me. However, as time goes on, I believe more journals and technologies will move this way.


Ethics: What needs to change?

The case I reviewed was Anil Potti of Duke University – School of Medicine. In this case, Anil Potti who was an Associate Professor of Medicine falsified research data in several publications and a grant application. Data were altered to make it look like patients were responding better to the treatments than in actuality. Anil Potti neglected the scientific methods and those publications have been retracted. The settlement agreement with ORI included that in any research position he holds in the next five years must be supervised. That institution must report that the data, procedures, and methods are accurate in the future.

I have several reaction and questions to this case.

First, out of curiosity, how were these misconducts found out? What does the process look like? How common is it that an individual who has a research misconduct violation gains employment at another research institution? It is hard for me to imagine that a university would hire someone after having such a case. It is a liability or a further responsibility to that university to supervise that individual. It seems like they’d be better off to higher another applicant.

How should research integrity and ethics be changed to prevent cases like this from happening in the future? IRB training alone is not enough. What other checks and balances should be in place?

While it is never acceptable to falsify data, I think it is important to consider the climate of academia. Researchers are under incredible pressure to publish and secure grants to maintain their position or to get tenure. I could see how this pressure may contribute to cases of misconduct. How can we navigate this pressure? We need to have realistic standards and timelines for how much and how timely research can be done.

The implications of Potti’s misconduct are grand. Because it is related to medicine and treatment, if this research had not been caught, people could have been harmed or killed by the false claims about this drug. While research misconduct in other fields may not have such grave effects, it is not okay to falsify data in any field regardless of the implications.

Mission Statements: Timeless or Not?

To see the diversity in mission statements, I chose two universities that vary in structure. NC State University is a large, public land grant university and is a part of the University of North Carolina (UNC) system. Mars Hill University is a small, private liberal arts university in the mountains of North Carolina. NC State is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is the second largest city in the state. Mars Hill University is located in the small town of Mars Hill, North Carolina on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

NC State University’s mission statement reads:

“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.”

This statement was adopted in 2011 after being approved by both the NC State University Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors. I find NC State’s mission relatively comprehensive. It emphasizes research and teaching through problem solving and engagement with its public and private partners. These partnerships are critical as NC State is located in the capitol on North Carolina and in Research Triangle Park, a place for leading industry companies. What is missing to me is the third component of a land grant’s mission of extension or outreach. As the home of Cooperative Extension in the state, it should be reflected in their mission. Other than that critique, their mission is fitting for a university of its type. Having to get the approval of the UNC System for their individual mission statement is an added layer that other unaffiliated universities do not have to go through. There are pros and cons to this affiliation. In one way, having the alignment with a system can tighten an individual university’s mission in order to reflect the larger mission of a group of universities shaping higher education in the state. However, it is another barrier to get approval from this system.

Mars Hill University’s mission statement reads:

“Mars Hill University, an academic community rooted in the Christian faith, challenges and equips students to pursue intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth through an education that is: grounded in a rigorous study of the Liberal Arts, connected with the world of work, committed to character development, to service, and to responsible citizenship in the community, the region, and the world.”

This statement is quite older as it was adopted in 1997. What’s unique about Mars Hill’s also provides a religious identity statement. It is, in a way, an expansion of their mission statement that details and defines their mission through their religious perspective. It is a lengthier statement. This mission statement places more focus on the student and the development of their students. I think it demonstrates what they expect of their students and academic community in terms of growth and they describe how that growth and development will be achieved. In that respect, it is prescriptive and detailed.

These two universities reflect an older mission statement (1997) in contrast to a more contemporary one in 2011. One question to consider is when should a mission statement be updated? Is a mission statement supposed to stand the test of time? My own views are mixed. While I believe a strong, guiding mission statement should hold up over the decades, there is also nothing wrong in a university reflected that the world is changing rapidly. They may wish to update their mission statement to reflect new trends in education and the world. How should universities navigate this question about the longevity of mission statements?