Mission Statement of Virginia Tech and Harvard College

I’ve been a hokie for 3 years, but never thought about the mission statement of Virginia Tech. I love Virginia Tech and this assignment brings a very good opportunity for me to get to know its mission. Being very curious, I searched on the VT website and copy and paste it here as shown below:

“Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) is a public land-grant university serving the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. The discovery and dissemination of new knowledge are central to its mission. Through its focus on teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement, the university creates, conveys, and applies knowledge to expand personal growth and opportunity, advance social and community development, foster economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life.”

The link is: http://www.president.vt.edu/mission_vision/mission.html

When I was very young, a Chinese girl student became very famous all over my country (I’m from China) just because she got the admission from Harvard University.  Now, 3 years after I came to USA, Harvard is still the best university.  When I was searching its mission statement, I found that there was no formal one for Harvard University but there’s one for Harvard College that is only for the undergraduate program:

“Harvard College adheres to the purposes for which the Charter of 1650 was granted: “The advancement of all good literature, arts, and sciences; the advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences; and all other necessary provisions that may conduce to the education of the … youth of this country….” In brief: Harvard strives to create knowledge, to open the minds of students to that knowledge, and to enable students to take best advantage of their educational opportunities. To these ends, the College encourages students to respect ideas and their free expression, and to rejoice in discovery and in critical thought; to pursue excellence in a spirit of productive cooperation; and to assume responsibility for the consequences of personal actions. Harvard seeks to identify and to remove restraints on students’ full participation, so that individuals may explore their capabilities and interests and may develop their full intellectual and human potential. Education at Harvard should liberate students to explore, to create, to challenge, and to lead. The support the College provides to students is a foundation upon which self-reliance and habits of lifelong learning are built: Harvard expects that the scholarship and collegiality it fosters in its students will lead them in their later lives to advance knowledge, to promote understanding, and to serve society.”

The link is: http://www.harvard.edu/faqs/mission-statement

Comparing these two mission statements, both statements have a stress on new knowledge. Both universities encourage their faculty and students to create or discover new knowledge, which provides a foundation for the advancement of current knowledge and can lead to innovations or even revolutions  in different areas. Also, both universities stress on serving for the whole society. Each university is a small unit in the whole big society like a part in a big machine. The university cannot function without the society. If the stability and economics of a society is unsatisfactory, the education there won’t be good. In turn, universities should take responsibilities to cooperate with industries, to serve the community, and to advance the society.

What is different from these two statements is, the  statement of Virginia Tech focuses more on the university role in the society while that of Harvard College focuses more on students’ development, i.e., more student-centered. Harvard seeks student’s full participation, free expression, critical thinking, and full intellectual development.


The objective of problem based learning (PBL)  is to train students on how to solve real-world problems. Actually, problem-solving skill is very important no matter you are a CEO of a big company, or a waiter/waitress in a restaurant, or a professor at a university, or a researcher in a national lab, or a policy-maker in a government, or a student at school/university. Everybody encounters problems/difficulties in his/her life. We need to learn how to solve problems in order to live a good life. While problems could differ from one to another, the list below shows, generally, a step-by-step guide on how to solve a problem.


1.      Problem definition

2.      Information collection and analysis

3.      Implementation of solutions

4.      Evaluation

First of all, we need to know what the problem is. Your desk is a mess? Cannot start your car? Insomnia? No enough money for a missionary trip? The laser of the equipment doesn’t work? Hard to communicate with others? Hate your job? Unhealthy? Unhappy? Lonely? To define the problem, usually not so difficult, is the starting point of problem-solving. Try not to avoid or ignore problems if you seriously want to solve them.

Once the problem has been identified, the focus shifts to analysis of the problem. What causes this problem? To answer this question, it could be time-consuming and frustrating in real world. We need to collect enough information by reading books, searching online, talking to friends or experienced professionals and so on. What do we know or not know about it? What do we need to know? With enough information in front of you, you begin to know what the possible causes are and get a better idea about the accurate solution. The cause could be a single one, or several possible ones. In the latter case, we need to test one by one until the true cause is found. Sometime the situation could be complicated, with different factors influencing each other. After diagnosing, we need focus our energy, time and thoughts on the solutions. Brainstorming could gather different ideas among team members or friends, which generates several different solutions that require you to choose the best one. Asking people for help or advice on what to do or what they did in similar situations could also be useful especially when you cannot solve the problem on your own (admittedly, one cannot solve every problem).

Now, it’s time to implement the solution, to try, to test whether it’ll work. Yes, it’s a great day, isn’t it? No, sad but need to be patient. No matter yes or no, it is important to evaluate the results. What did you learn from the test? Could the solution be a better one? If the problem is not solved, we may need try other solutions or repeat steps 2 to 4 until it’s solved. Also, it’s good to share or communicate with people on the successful experiences or not successful but still helpful lessons you’ve learned.

Solving real-world problems can be overwhelming, complicated and frustrating. Persistence, patience, creativity and team-spirit, are all important. Don’t give up until the problem is solved.

Racism exists now?

Last week, we read an article about the hidden brain,where Vedantam states that unconscious messages are actually far more influential than conscious messages and will always tell us people’s races, even from a very young age. I agree with his statement, but I think the recognization/awareness of races is not unconscious because it’s easy for normal human beings to tell the differences of skin color, white, black or yellow. It’s apparent, not hidden anywhere. People are aware of it, while they just choose to avoid talking about it most of the time.

Races are there. How about racism? From my own observations and experiences,I tend to believe that racism still exists even though racial discrimination has been improved, just as  William Faulkner said, which is also cited in the Whistling Vivaldi’s book, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” As a Chinese, who came to US for graduate study about 2 years ago, I know that Chinese immigrants were banned from entering the United States until 1943. Also, Chinese were prohibited from testifying against whites and were often assigned more dangerous jobs at some points. Now, situations has been improved a lot, Chinese people can apply H1 visa and have a good job and also apply for green card or citizenship. However, did the racism against Asian disappear? I guess it’s very hard. It’s not something superficial, it’s something deep inside your heart. Of course Asians can work, talk, or have dinner with whites, but you can still feel the subtle difference. One of my old friend who have lived in US for more than 30 years told me that it’s impossible to eliminate racism. One of my other friend who had his son in US told me that even his son speaks native English, it’s still very hard for him to have good White friends.

Racism is of course bad. Nobody can choose which country to be born. Nobody can choose his/her parents. Nobody can choose his/her historical epoch nor the circumstances of upbringing. But, we can choose how we shall live, how we shall deal with different races. Let’s be fair to everybody and treat everyone equally.

diversity is everywhere

Let’s look at a orchestra. It consists of at least one guitarist, one bassist, one keyboardist/pianist, and a drummer, and the lead singer. If everyone played drums and no guitars, nor singer, nor keyboardist or bassist, you can imagine the boring situation instead of a orchestra. This is the diversity in a orchestra.

In a classroom, some students are white, some are black, some are yellow. Some are male, some are female. Some are relatively young, some are older. They also differ in physical appearance, beautiful or normal-looking, tall or short, wearing dresses or jeans, etc. More over, they differ in language, personality, strengths or weaknesses, hobbies and so on so forth. This is the diversity in a classroom.

In a workplace, people are also different in those aspects mentioned for a classroom. Researches show that the diversity of a workplace enhances the positive business outcomes, increasing sales revenue, customer numbers and therefore profits. This is the diversity in a workplace.

Now, let’s expand to a larger view, a country. Apparently, citizens are all different. Also, there are different organizations, institutes or companies that play different roles in the whole society and that interlink and cooperate with each other.

Diversity is everywhere and important. Get along with and respect others and embrace the diversity.

Why technologies?

Before we talk about the reasons why to use technologies in education, I’d like to share the following interesting video about the history of technology in education, where simple drawings are used to describe different ages of education in a timeline ranging from 30,000 BC to the year of 2000. Everything has been developing along history, so does the technologies in education.

Why do we need technologies in education?

Many people, including teachers,students,researchers, and policy-makers, keep talking about the vital role of technologies in education. And as a matter of fact, more and more instructors are experiencing new technologies in their classrooms. There are many advantages of using technologies:

1.Technologies have made the delivery or explanation of knowledge easier and more convenient for teachers. Besides traditional chalks and books, now they can use powerpoint presentations,do digital photography, make a video, blog, etc, which actually also make the understanding of knowledge easier.

2.Students are able to get access to the teacher’s course materials and  free online resources anytime and anywhere. Nowadays, each student has his/her own laptop and can get internet very easily. They don’t have to limit their studies to a particular classroom or to 45 minutes.

3.Each student can study at his own pace and order that will work best for him/her. Since individuals are different, some are fast while some are slow. Plus it is impractical or too expensive for one-to-one teaching. Information technologies make it possible that students can repeat some topics that are tough for them or can explore deeper on a certain subject without disturbing the whole class.

4.Students can interact and collaborate with classmates better with the help of technologies. Take Course Networking (CN), the website we are using right now for example, classmates can discuss on a topic, share interesting links or information, or ask questions anytime and anywhere, which builds a virtual community among classmates and therefore reinforce the connection between each other.

5.Technologies are of great importance in sharing with the world. Instead of being isolated from the rest of the world in old days, classrooms can all be interconnected with other experts nationally or internationally nowadays to share experiences, discuss or learn together via the use of tools such as Skype, Google talk, blogs or websites. Distance learning course is a good example for this.









Blogging to me

Blogging, oh my god, never thought about doing it in English,  my second language, especially after my advisor joked on my report, saying that it’s bleeding (you know when people review a paper, the changes will usually become red; so after my advisor reviewed my report, most of the fonts were changed from black to red.). I’m sure that my writing is very poor. It’s just a headache, frustrating, time-consuming and confidence-destroying. Blogging sounds intimidating. Nevertheless, GEDI is providing the opportunity for blogging and kind of makes me force myself to do it. It won’t be easy for me (I even google search to see whether I’m using the right word and I may still use wrong words), but on the other hand I’d love to try and I believe a good start is half the battle. So here I am, where I never expected to be. Such is how people grow. Keep an open heart, drag myself out of my comfort zone, and try things that I think I’ll never do.

Back to blogging itself, it’s not new at all, why still many instructors don’t blog to better teach a class? In fact, some students (yes, I do) even prefer old-fashioned ways of teaching, e.g. writing on a blackboard. Can blogging really be useful and effective for teaching? Will students tend to read pages of mathematical derivations on a website? Won’t it be easier if someone can actually show you how to use a equipment than watching a video on line? In the point of my view, in-person teaching is still the most effective way that will engage with students the most. However, blogging do share knowledge and experiences and provide free resources which you can turn to when you don’t have anyone to ask and which can save time and effort. Therefore, it might be a good supplement to face-to-face teaching, particularly for certain subjects. After all, you don’t have to learn everything face-to-face. So should I question the role of blogging in education or just trust those who state that blogging can change a person’s life? If blogging is useful, to what extent could it be applied to teaching and how to appropriately take advantage of it? Here I am, to answer these questions, by experimenting on myself and communicating with colleagues.