Mission Statements: Comparison of VT to ECU


The mission statements of Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (VT) and East Carolina University (ECU) are shown below.  I chose these public schools because I have recent experience with each of them.  Founded in 1872 as an all-male agricultural and engineering college, VT is a major university in the southwest Virginia mountains.  Founded in 1907 as an all-female teaching college, ECU is a major university in the low-lying inner banks of North Carolina and is six hours southeast of VT by car.  At 2,600 acres, VT is fairly landlocked and makes use of satellite locations outside of the Town of Blacksburg.  At 16,000 acres, ECU is rapidly growing and spreading out into the City of Greenville with its athletic facilities and medical and dental schools.  VT has been strongly entrenched in face-to-face (F2F) classes.  ECU has focused on F2F classes as well as distance education (DE) classes; some entire degree programs (e.g., MBA) are offered through DE classes.  The current Covid-19 global pandemic has forced Virginia Tech to suddenly make huge progress into its form of the distance education mode of instruction.

Mission Statements


The VT mission statement is 47 words long, and ECU’s is 109.  Both mission statements include words about:

                • Public service
                • Regional impact
                • Global influence
                • Quality of life
                • Knowledge
                • Research
                • Creative expression
                • Positive change

VT’s mission statement is one long sentence that reads as inspiration to strive for an ideal organization.  ECU’s mission statement reads as a detailed list of worthy goals.  Noticeably, the word “inclusive” does not appear in the ECU mission statement but “multicultural” and “cultural” do.

By enrollment, VT is the 2nd largest university in its state while ECU is the 4th.  ECU is governed by the University of North Carolina System and is in a state of rapid, expansive growth.  It has been actively and consistently seeking to become a world-class medical education and research enterprise.  VT is expanding at a slower pace than ECU, largely due to the negative impact growth is having upon the small town of Blacksburg.  The slower growth of VT’s expansion into the medical field has turned out to be an advantage due to the Covid-19 crisis and resulting restrictions placed upon non-emergency hospital services.

The Board of Visitors (BOV) is the governing body of Virginia Tech; thirteen of the fourteen members are appointed by the governor.  The Board of Governors (BOG) is the governing body of the entire UNC System, and a Board of Trustees (BOT) is the governing body of ECU.  Of the 13 volunteer members on the BOT, 8 are appointed by the BOG and 4 by the North Carolina General Assembly.  Therefore, politicians in power often exert influence on the priorities and operations of both VT and ECU.  This is not the case at private universities.

On My Mind #5: Musings About Textbooks – Preferences and Practicalities

The reason I chose to write about this topic is because I have read other blog posts concerned about textbooks, their cost, and their relevance.  I hope this post will be accepted as an additional viewpoint.


I usually prefer printed works over online books or digital articles, especially if the material is well-written and worth keeping for reference.  I still have some textbooks from undergraduate and graduate school that have made several moves between Virginia and North Carolina.  I have, in fact, pulled some out occasionally to clarify some point of interest.  For me, handling books is a pleasant experience because I like the smell, the feel, and the look of them.

Another reason I prefer printed materials is that they are easier on my eyes to read.  People of all ages have varying eye problems.  Since kindergarten, I have had to deal with a significant number of small floaters in my eyes.  They look like raindrops, lint, bugs.  Floaters affect my vision and disrupt my ability to read.  Nothing can be done to remove them.

Looking at anything on a plain light background makes the floaters more distracting.  Reading poorly photo-copied long journal articles is even more troublesome.  I had to drop a class last semester because I could not keep up with the digital reading.

At the beginning of this semester, I attended an open house at Virginia Tech Libraries.  It was a very worthwhile experience.  An expert at one of the ten topic stations explained ways they can help students with vision and reading problems.  I plan to take them up on their offer to help.


Some bloggers have asked how professors choose which textbooks to use in their courses.  I have been told by a faculty member that, in many programs, a committee of professors reviews and selects textbooks.  Having the discretion to choose a textbook may be a privilege of those teaching a one-professor course.  If I were able to choose a textbook for a course, I would research what books are used by top-tier programs and likely select one of those.  I would be especially interested in authors who have practical experience in their subject.

High textbook pricing is hard to get around.  In an “advertorial,” the bookseller Follett says, “Only five main textbook publishers control about 80 percent of the market — and competition among them is keen.  To keep their edge, publishers introduce new versions every two to three years, even if the content hasn’t changed much.”

Follett summarizes by saying, “As tuition-related costs continue to remain in the spotlight, so too will discussions about textbook prices. There are three key players determining the ultimate prices that students pay: faculty members, publishers and bookstores. With the publishing industry not showing signs of lowering their prices, the burden falls to the faculty members and the campus stores to offer some relief. To help students, faculty members can select titles with used and rental options. Professors can also order their course materials on time, which enables bookstores to manage inventories and offer the strongest buyback pricing. Campus stores can also create money-saving programs, such as by offering used and rental books. Options are plentiful. And when students take advantage of them, the real cost of their textbooks drops.”

Open access textbooks will continue to become more popular as faculty who are price-sensitive choose to use them in their courses and write them for license-free publication.  I hope the faculty who emerge from this Preparation of the Future Professoriate program will take up that banner and charge forward.

At this time, I do not have anything to offer regarding relevance … relevance of a course, relevance of a topic, or relevance of a textbook.  Relevance is a value judgement based upon context and depth of knowledge.  It is good and timely that the idea of relevance is being included in conversations about pedagogy and the future of higher education.






On My Mind #4: Sudden Change in Motivations and Expectation Alignment

Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s theory of human motivation is 77 years old but continues to have a strong influence on my thinking about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Abraham Maslow, 1908-1970

In 1943, Maslow published a paper called A Theory of Human Motivation.  In it, he described five sets of needs people attempt to satisfy in a particular order.  Although “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” is typically displayed in a triangular or pyramidal form, he never did so.  Many psychologists and business management theorists have found fault with Maslow’s labeling and order of needs, but his work was a starting point for many to follow.

Representation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

What our needs and wants were at the beginning of Spring 2020 semester have rearranged in priority.  Most of us have not moved solidly to the bottom of the triangle; our needs may change daily depending on which needs become unfulfilled.  Two examples of our most apparent basic needs are toilet paper and fast, reliable internet service.  Who would have thought those two things would become unobtainable in 2020?

Two other basic necessities that have quickly become unobtainable for millions of people in the United States are jobs and employee provided healthcare.  There is serious concern about some states going bankrupt and being unable to payout retirement benefits and current employee salaries.  Difficult choices will sadly be made.

What intrinsically motivates academicians in higher education – undergraduate students, graduate students, researchers, professors, administrators – changes over their lifetime and as personal circumstances alter.  What extrinsically motivates them changes, too.  Extrinsic motivators are often rewards that are subject to change based on the resources available.  As we know, available resources wax and wane with economic fortunes and societal conditions.

As of April 30, 2020, this is not a good time to expect many changes in extrinsic motivation coming from upstream at Virginia Tech.  Nor can many services be continued that we have come to enjoy as the total college life experience.  All people and all organizations are in survival mode.

Because circumstances and opportunities have changed so quickly and drastically, I expect that issues surrounding Expectation Alignment Disorder (EAD) will become less pronounced.  Actual work experiences may not misalign enough with our expectations to cause poor performance, low self-worth, or job resignation.  Many of us will be grateful to maintain or find a job that provides a steady income, health insurance, possibility for advancement.

The main problem with an extrinsic motivator is that elimination of it has negative consequences … unless something perceived as equal or higher in value is added to replace it.  Once a reward becomes expected, it is no longer a motivator.  The removal of a reward becomes a demotivator or is seen as a punishment.

Hopefully, we can think about how we can motivate ourselves and others as we make our way through the next year or so.  Realistic expectations and clear, kind communications will be key.


On My Mind #3: Frozen Like a Deer in the Headlights

“Frozen like a deer in (the) headlights” is an idiom.  An idiom is a culture-based expression not meant to be taken literally.  According to The Free Dictionary online, the meaning of the expression is, “In a state or manner of paralyzing surprise, fear, or bewilderment.  Likened to the tendency of deer to freeze in place in front of an oncoming vehicle.”

I have been frozen … frozen in place with respect to my education and course assignments.  The oncoming vehicle is the deadline of May 11th.  That is when all the assignments are due.  Can I do them and all my other tasks that have suddenly become high priority?  Do I go back to Food Lion in the evening after a truck is expected to deliver paper products?  Or do I join my classmates in a Zoom meeting?  Can I find hardware online for work in progress while limited stock is still available?  Or do I compose a blog post.  Can I even think straight to write an interesting blog post?  I feel guilty for choosing normally mundane chores over scholastic endeavors.

Repetitive searches for illusive high-demand basic necessities.  The regular arguments about whether I should walk into a grocery store.  An online ordering, curb-side pickup system that charged my credit card four times and eventually resulted in one-third of the requested items, none of them basic necessities.  The natural foods store employee who was miffed because I bought two non-essential pairs of organic cotton socks – on sale – and did not get the heck out fast enough.  Repeated reprimands by friends and family who have someone else to deliver their groceries.  Sometimes that someone is me.  I feel guilty for getting on people’s nerves.

I have no strong fear of contracting COVID-19 or dying from it, but it could be catastrophic if given to my husband.  In February, I had Type A influenza with fever, body aches, fatigue, and sleepiness.  Aside from the fever, the flu was a more intense version of my typical day.  I’m one of 4 million U.S. adults with fibromyalgia, a chronic neuro-muscular condition.  Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction techniques help control symptoms, but there’s been a short supply of them for quite a while.  Some days I feel energetic and overexert; when I’m “on a roll” getting things done, I don’t like to stop.  I later feel guilty for not remembering to pace myself.

This daily feeling of guilt about what I do or do not is unlike me.  I have always had a “can do” attitude and usually figure out a way to do what needs doing.  I sometimes ruminate over mysteries or problems until I have an epiphany, a sudden and striking realization.  My positive thinking cap is not working.  It will take many highly skilled medical researchers to develop reliable tests, treatments, and a vaccine to stop the carnage of the novel coronavirus.  Hopefully, they will have an epiphany soon.  Until then, physical distancing is the best thing I can do for everyone.

In bewilderment rather than fear, I have been frozen by too many competing demands and by guilt for not making the right choices.  Are there any right choices at this time?  I feel deep sympathy for leaders who are struggling with much more important decisions than mine.  This is one of those times when there is no sure, safe path to follow.  There are only serious consequences in every direction.  Some people do not have the luxury of freezing in place.


Future of the University: If I could change only one thing, it would be to emphasize customer focus.

Higher education is a business with many customers: students, faculty, staff, alumni, athletes, fans, grant funders, employers, taxpayers, and others.  Of those, it is students who are often not treated like valuable customers.

The most successful businesses are customer focused.  They produce goods and services that will benefit their customers.  They realize that keeping a customer is easier than attracting a new one.  They try to accommodate their customers when there is a problem.  They know that satisfied customers will beget more customers.

I understand that a student may not bring to mind the traditional image of a customer.  In this case, the customer cannot simply buy a degree.  If that happened, the value of a degree from Virginia Tech would be diminished for all graduates.   The student customer pays for an educational experience.  What happens when that experience is altered? Either by too many negative experiences or the removal of positive experiences?

With remote education becoming the order of the day, institutions of higher education will be competing for students (customers) who can take courses around the world.  There are already highly respected institutions like Arizona State University who offer complete degree programs online and advertise widely.  Like the British estates after World War I, beautiful campuses may quickly become antiquated.  It will be a great challenge to remain a going concern.

On My Mind #2: Fall 2020 Off-campus Rental Housing Forecast

My forecast about Fall 2020 off-campus rental housing is that it will be a renter’s market.  Prices will begin to drop by summer as student’s delay signing new leases and renewals.  Vice-president of Student Affairs Frank Shushok advised students to “wait a little bit to make a decision.”  By June, President Sands expects decisions to be made regarding fall semester courses – remote or face-to-face – and costs.  Whatever decisions are made, they will have huge financial implications.

If all courses will be taught remotely, there will be no imperative to live near Virginia Tech … for students or for educators.  The demand for rental housing will decline across all price points.  As occupancy rates drop, downward pressure on prices will benefit those who call the New River Valley “home” and those who would like to.

Current residents who have a steady income will have greater opportunities to move out and up.  Area residents who have been pushed out of Blacksburg may choose to move back.  People who drive to work and study at Virginia Tech from Floyd, Roanoke, and West Virginia may move closer in.  There will be more options.

Many alumni, Hokie families, and former residents have a soft spot in their hearts for Blacksburg.  With pent up demand, Blacksburg will not be abandoned like a North Carolina mill town.  However, the Christiansburg rental housing market may not fare as well from the property owners’ point of view.

On My Mind #1: College Town of Blacksburg Residential Real Estate Forecast

Over the next year, I expect the college Town of Blacksburg residential real estate market value will decrease and days-on-market will increase.  Contract terms will begin to favor buyers, and sellers will need to present their homes to a higher standard.  Sellers who expect to get near asking price will discover that their homes need to be inspected, repaired, landscaped, and staged before listing as is done in North Carolina cities and towns, for example.

Progression of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to impact and influence Virginia Tech decision makers.  Whether we have remote or face-to-face courses during the Fall 2020 semester is only part of the economic problem.  Massive unemployment and plummeting retirement funds will have a greater effect on ability and willingness to relocate.

Potential incoming faculty and staff may decide not to relocate, not to resettle their families, not to leave their support system.  They may rent an apartment until the dust settles.  They may commute and rent a room or stay in a hotel when their physical presence is required.  International students and researchers may leave and not return … a huge loss.  Retired faculty and staff, who can no longer travel to visit children and grandchildren, may move away and take their valuable skills and talents with them.

Without attending football games, tailgating, and home parties, demand for a “Hokie House” will sharply decline.  As with the Great Recession of 2008, second and third homes will be shed.  People who cannot sell vacant property may have no other option than to ignore maintenance.  Unkempt property will negatively affect values of neighborhood properties.  We’ve seen this before.

However, Blacksburg did not experience a huge drop in real estate value during the Great Recession as did places like Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona.  Many alumni, Hokie families, and former residents have a soft spot in their hearts for Blacksburg.  Hopefully, pent up demand for housing in and near Blacksburg will provide shelter from a housing crisis.  Zillow forecasts a one-year drop in value of 1.9%.

Zillow 1-year Forecast for Blacksburg, Virginia



In the changing landscape of open access, the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE) is a hybrid publication which is allowed open access for some articles.

Journal of Engineering Education

“The Journal of Engineering Education (JEE) serves to cultivate, disseminate, and archive scholarly research in engineering education.” Wiley Library Online

Since JEE is a journal published by  John Wiley & Sons, Inc., some but not all of the articles are granted open access.  Wiley is one of the giants in the research publications industry that has been resistant to open access.  Because several large institutions of higher educations have joined together to renegotiate (unheard of before recent events) “big deal” contracts, Wiley is making some concessions.

My first experience with Case-based Teaching (CBT) was in strategic marketing.

When I studied for my MBA in the Pamplin College of Business, I took a course in strategic marketing.  The weekly class time was Monday evening 6:00-8:50 p.m., and that was the first time I experienced a long evening class.  The professor used a textbook and assigned Harvard business cases for weekly homework in preparation for class discussion.  Class participation was graded every evening.

That was also my first experience with case-based teaching (CBT).  Harvard got into the game early, and the professor chose weekly cases that explored a topic that we were covering in the textbook.

For me personally, there were pluses and minuses regarding the business cases and the follow-up discussions.  At the time, I had several years of engineering experience working at large manufacturing companies.  The cases were well-written and covered issues about well-known companies.  They challenged me intellectually.

Many of the dilemmas we explored had already been resolved and had been reported in the media, which was available on the Internet.  In most cases, the described company chose the best alternative action.  Some of the cases served a historical purpose but were not relevant to the current business climate.

The biggest negative for me was that we HAD TO answer a question or make a significant point that had not already been discussed during EVERY class.  That was extremely difficult because of the class size and not enough time for everyone to contribute.  I had much more work and business experience that anyone else in the class, and some of my fellow students came to resent my participation.  I was actually approached by a woman in the restroom and told not to participate during her group case presentation.  If I had complied, I would get zero points for class participation for that week.

I do see great value in using CBT if it’s done right.  CBT has evolved quite a bit since my first experience.  I plan to add CBT to my teaching toolbox.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I plan to seek pedagogic resources that will guide me on best practices.  To explore team effectiveness, I plan to assign one case as an individual project and then use the same case for a group project.  I expect there will be individuals who will outperform the teams.

Reflection on ORI Research Ethics Misconduct Cases of Brandi M. Baughman

I have chosen to reflect on the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) research ethics misconduct cases of Brandi M. Baughman, PhD while at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC).  Baughman was a repeat offender who “falsified and/or fabricated data and text” used to support conclusions in more than one research paper.  At the time of the offenses, Baughman was a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry at UNC.  UNC’s name was excluded from the first case, but the second case was brought “based on an assessment conducted by” UNC.  Although Baughman continued employment at UNC following the first case, she is no longer employed there.

The ORI “oversees and directs Public Health Service (PHS) research integrity activities on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the exception of the regulatory research integrity activities of the Food and Drug Administration.”

In chronological order, I found the following dates and events to be impactful.  In March of 2013, Baughman completed a seminar at UNC titled “Research Ethics Training for Postdocs.”  During 2015 and 2016, she was formally thanked for her research assistance in three published dissertations at UNC.  In 2016, she was a named author in a paper referred to by ORI as “PLoS One 2016” and in a manuscript referred to as “ACS 2016.”  As of May 17, 2017, the first ORI misconduct case was closed by mutual agreement; Baughman admitted guilt and agreed to retract the paper and commit to a 3-year plan of administrative actions.  As of March 19, 2018, the second ORI misconduct case was closed by mutual agreement; Baughman admitted that she had known of but did not confess to additional data falsifications and manipulations, agreed to retract the manuscript, and agreed to a 2-year plan of administrative actions to supersede the previous 3-year plan.  Details of the misconduct cases and their resolutions can be found at links below.

(In the 2017 September ORI Newsletter is a very interesting article by Chris H. J. Hartgerink at Tilburg University titled “Tools Can Help Detect Misconduct, but Culture Change is Needed to Improve Integrity.”)

What stands out to me is that Baughman did complete a research ethics training course several years before her falsified facts and figures were published.  Her unethical misconduct was deliberate.  Her misconduct was repeated in another research publication.  How could her ethical misconduct be prevented?  How can this person be redeemed?  Claiming no skills as a mind reader, I wonder how could she not have cheated many times during her academic progression?

My sympathy lies with the co-authors on the papers that were necessarily retracted.  What happens to their body of work?  Reputations?  What about the authors of the published dissertations on the UNC library website who thanked her as one of many researchers that made their work possible?  Anyone who has had research dealings with Baughman have been tainted by her scandal.




https://ori.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/sept_vol24_no2.pdf, Pages 20-21

https://ori.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/2018-06/Spring_2018_vol25_no1.pdf, Pages 14-15


https://ori.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/sept_vol24_no2.pdf, Pages 14-15