Category Archives: Preparing Future Professoriate

Blog posts for Preparing Future Professoriate Class – Fall 2020

Innovation Campuses

In this post I share some of the contrasting views I found about the recent trend of innovation campuses. I was introduced to the idea of an “Innovation Campus” in 2018 when Virginia Tech announced their innovation campus in conjunction with Amazon’s revelation that its new HQ2 will be located in Northern Virginia.

Optimistic views 

Innovation campuses are being built by universities with the goal of equipping graduates with the cutting edge skills and knowledge that leading tech companies and industry innovators are looking for. Universities want to shrink the skills divide between “what our economy needs to grow and what our graduates are prepared to offer” according to president Tim Sands [1].  Besides Virginia Tech, other institutions that are taking the innovation campus approach include Wichita State, University of Utah, University of Iowa, University of Rhode Island, Cornell, Northwestern, and Stanford.

Innovation campuses are usually designed in ways to promote collaboration, creativity, and applied learning [2]. There is a lot of optimism and excitement around the topic of innovation campuses that shows up in articles online by the universities themselves and others. The optimism seemed like an intuitive reaction from my point of view as a graduate student who went back and forth between industry and graduate school. There is so much that universities can adjust in their curriculum and teaching methods that can put graduates in a better position when they work in the industry, ideally graduates would start innovating from their first day on the job instead of facing a steep learning curve. That’s where creative partnerships are important, and innovation campuses are seen as places that foster such partnerships.

There are success stories that are being shared as results of innovation campuses. For example, Cornell Tech shared that more than 60 startups were founded by Cornell Tech alumni since 2014 [3]. This and other examples show the impact on fostering the entrepreneurial mindset among students.

What the critics say

I came across this interesting  take on the idea in an article by The Chronicle of Higher Education titled “The Campus Innovation Myth” [4]. Their point of view is that although innovation campuses resulted in breakthroughs, there were many “disappointments”.

They start by talking about these “Myths” by examining how well universities were able to commercialize scientific discoveries. While the research shows that it is true that universities don’t commercialize their patents at high rates, but I think that the point of innovation campuses isn’t only that. It doesn’t have to always be a patent, additionally, it is a norm in the startup world to lose money in the early stages.

The article continues to mention how universities don’t necessarily deliver to their promises of innovation. It also raises the concern of influence of tech giants in higher education. Additionally, the authors mention how universities aim at healing divides of access and equality, however, it is unclear how partnering with tech companies in urban areas would achieve that goal.

I think that these are not necessarily myths but challenges facing innovation campuses. They are things to think about moving forward while asking questions such as what shape will innovation campuses take, how would they evolve, who will benefit the most, and how?





The Future of Higher Education

When I started thinking about this week’s post, a few things came to mind, however, I chose to write about something more timely and global. The change I would like to see in higher education in the *near* future is adapting digital transformation to their educational model.

What I mean by digital transformation isn’t the same as shifting classes to online, as you may already know. Adopting digital pedagogical practices is the future of learning and teaching. This topic is more relevant today in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though, digital transformation goes way beyond online classes but it presented an opportunity for higher education institutes to re-evaluate their readiness and their infrastructure. I am a supporter of digital transformation because of a couple of reasons:

  • It provides solutions for equal opportunity to lower-income students and to members of disadvantaged minorities
  • It is more resilient in the case of unexpected events such as pandemics
  • It allows for a more individualized learning experience for each student that suits where they are in their learning journey





Technology and Innovation in Higher Education

After COVID-19 forced colleges and universities to shift to online classes in spring 2020, discussions within the higher education community have been happening to evaluate the status and find ways to get the most out of the online learning experience. Some opinions argued for online learning citing benefits such as increased opportunities for student engagement due to the use of technology, flexibility for students, and cost relief in some cases. On the other hand, there are some challenges that remain such as difficulties in time management for students, mental health and wellness, lack of engagement, ensuring reliable internet access, and dealing with financial stresses in light of COVID-19. We’ve all heard some, if not all, of these opinions inside and outside classrooms at some point this year!

I came across an article on Inside Higher Ed about a survey conducted on 2 steps; one in May 2020, and the second in August 2020. This survey was trying to research how the attitude of faculty has changed towards the statement “online learning is an effective method for teaching”. Below is chart that shows the modest 10% increase in the proportion of surveyed faculty who agreed with the above mentioned statement.

Chart showing the change in faculty attitudes towards online learning* .

Additionally, the second part of this survey, “Fall like no other”,  focused on how professors and their colleges and universities prepared for an online fall semester. The chart below shows the faculty priorities for the fall semester and how they changed after spring.

Chart showing top faculty priorities for Fall 2020*

It seems like the summer was a busy time for institutions and faculty to reflect and make plans moving forward. The trends in the chart suggest that more faculty are focusing more on increasing engagement as part of the learning experience. This includes engagement at multiple levels; between the instructor and the class, between the instructor and individual students, and among students.

Even though students and faculty came a little more prepared for the fall being online, challenges remain, and one of the biggest concerns is equity. According the article, faculty said that when classes shifted to online in March it  “..disproportionately affect students from low-income and other disadvantaged backgrounds, which is why two-thirds of surveyed instructors said they were concerned about equity gaps”*. This time around, students, faculty, and universities have gained a lot of experience from the spring semester and so far have shown a higher degree of preparation going into the fall. This gives the hope that we are able to bridge the equity gap and overcome challenges by implementing strategies to achieving the priorities set for the fall semester and beyond.


Open Access

Open Access journal publications have been steadily on the rise for the past few years. In 2019, there were estimated 600,000 open access articles published worldwide [1]. For this week’s post, I looked into The Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR).

JAIR is an open access scientific journal that is dedicated to spreading Artificial Intelligence (AI) research to the global AI community. Their scope seems to be comprehensive in all major areas of AI including agents and multi-agent systems, automated reasoning, constraint processing and search, knowledge representation, machine learning, natural language, planning and scheduling, robotics and vision, and uncertainty in AI.

An interesting fact about this journal is that it was established in 1993 making it one of the first open access journals on the web. Additionally, this journal does not require authors to pay any fees for submissions unlike some other journals, this is very encouraging for authors to publish in this journal. The turn around time for submissions is somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks which is considered on the quicker side compared to other journals, this quick turn around time combined with the free nature of the journal seems to tempt authors to submit papers that are not completely as polished as they could be. That being said, the journal seem to have a rigorous blind peer review process to maintain high quality publications.

JAIR is published by AI Access Foundation, which is a nonprofit public charity whose purpose is “to facilitate the dissemination of scientific results in AI”. Their open access policy states that individual users have the right to read, download, or link to articles but cannot publish or sell complete volumes of the journal, that right is reserved exclusively for AAAI which is located in California. It must be noted that AAAI is a sponsor for JAIR , so perhaps that exclusive publishing deal is one of the ways to keep the journal free.




Ethics: Research Misconduct Case Reflection

Ethical standards in research are essential to building and maintaining the trust in scientific research and academic institutions. Codes and policies related to research conduct help in achieving the aims of research such as knowledge, truth, and promoting the welfare of the public. In funded research, ethical norms can help the public keep researches accountable for their work.

The Case

As I was browsing misconduct case summaries on the ORI website I came across this case. In summary, a postdoctoral fellow at University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) engaged in research misconduct by falsifying data included in 1 paper and 2 grant applications submitted to the National Institute of Health (NIH). This researcher manipulated data in bar charts to exaggerate the findings of tests to support the research hypothesis.


I believe that this act of misconduct was reckless because it could have potentially endangered peoples health, or at least resulted in an ineffective treatment, in either scenario the results would be completely against the purpose and mission of this funded research. What was interesting in this case is that the investigation appears to be initiated by UMMS and further analyzed by ORI, this shows the importance of having an effective ethical code within an institution. In my opinion, adhering to ethics in research is a shared responsibility between the researchers, the research institution, and the funding agency.

Another interesting aspect in this case is that it says “Respondent neither admits nor denies ORI’s findings of research misconduct” which was different from the dozen cases I read on the website where researchers seemed to cooperate and admit the misconduct behavior. In the case of this particular researcher, I noticed that the NIH put a very thorough list of actions to supervise the researcher’s work as consequences to the misconduct behavior. Examples of these actions included having his research supervised for a period of three years, requiring any research institution employing him to implement a supervision plan, requiring the research institute to submit a certification to ORI to assure the data validity and methodology accuracy.

In conclusion I believe that each researcher should think of themselves as the first line of defense to protect the integrity of the scientific research process and subsequently, the social benefit of the public.

Mission Statements of Higher Ed Institutions: Reflection Post

In this post I will be discussing mission statements of two universities, The University of Jordan and the University of Stuttgart. I have attended The University of Jordan for my undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering, therefore, I have a good level of familiarity with the institution. I chose to look into the University of Stuttgart because a friend of mine attended it for his master’s degree, he also earned his bachelor’s degree from The University of Jordan. My friend and I had many discussions in the past about his academic and campus life experiences in both institutions and that motivated me to write this post.

The university of Jordan

Located in Amman, the capital city of Jordan, The University of Jordan is a public university and is the largest and oldest institution of higher education in the country [1]. The university consists of 24 schools with various disciplines of sciences and arts[2]. The total number of students enrolled was 50,000 during the 2019/20 academic year. Their mission statement is [3]:

  • Providing students with fulfilling learning experiences, conducting knowledge-generating research, and building firm societal ties, within an environment that is attractive and financially stable, and conducive to creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship

What stands out, at least to me as a reader, is that the university is aiming at balancing their focus between different aspects of their role as an institution.  One can see four broad themes in the mission statement: learning, society, financial stability, and creativity. It was interesting to find a “financially stable” environment mentioned in the mission statement, however, it reflects on a lot of the financial challenges that continue to face both students and higher education institutes in developing countries such as Jordan. Based on my experience, the university adopts a model where they introduce a trade off to keep education affordable by limiting campus facilities and non-academic activities/resources available to students compared to academic resources. In my opinion, the last part of the mission statement is forward-looking in the sense that strong academics can fuel innovation in the future.

The University of Stuttgart

Located in Stuttgart, Germany. The University of Stuttgart is one of the oldest technical universities in Germany with highly ranked programs in civil, mechanical, industrial and electrical engineering. During the academic year 2019/20, a total of 24,540 students were enrolled in all 10 colleges within the university[4]. Their mission statement is[5]:

  • The University of Stuttgart is a leading, technically-oriented German university with a global presence.
  • Basic research that is both insight-oriented and practically-relevant is the key to its functioning.
  • The University educates not only outstanding experts in their chosen domains but also personalities who think globally and interactively and act responsibly for the sake of science, society, and the economy.
  • Through its research and teaching, it fosters the general welfare and contributes to economic success.
  • As an employer, it creates space for diversity and equal opportunity as well as fair treatment for all – regardless of status, age, ethnicity and gender.
  • The University of Stuttgart advocates for open-mindedness, individualism, and community spirit. Thanks to this culture of integration, it is able to create and pass on knowledge for a responsible shaping of our common future.

The university of Stuttgart seems to bring forward their global presence and strength as a technical university, this is closely tied to its reputation in certain fields such as advanced automotive engineering and industrial engineering. Keeping in mind that Stuttgart is the home of notable companies such as Mercedes-Benz and Porsche which influences the culture of the institution to be technically and economically oriented.

The university of Stuttgart’s mission statement also includes the contribution to economic success, my interpretation of this point, after reading their strategic goals, was that they want to equip their graduates to be attractive for future employers of a global scale. This part stood out to me when I compared it to the University of Jordan’s statement, it shows how universities in an advanced economy think differently compared to smaller, developing economies.

The University of Stuttgart addressed inclusion for both students and employees in a specific manner to show their commitment to diversity, perhaps because Germany is the second most desired immigration destination in the world after the United States [6]. The university of Stuttgart’s efforts in community spirit can be seen through programs that promote diversity such as the cross-cultural mentoring program [7] which encourages German students to interact with international students. On the other hand, The University of Jordan has a similar program offered only for students of “Arabic for Speakers of Other Languages”, that is most likely because those students make up the vast majority of international students on campus.