The Future is Now: Why Universities Much Adapt to Today’s Students

Universities are required to be many things. They must be areas in which the future generations are taught. Areas that push forward progress in science, literature, mathematics and the multitude of other avenues of intellectual merit. But, they must also be flexible, able to adapt to the rising growth in those seeking to further their knowledge and education. As anyone who has been present within academia f is aware, such flexibility is not easily performed.

As this article outlines, the world education system serves as a trillion dollar industry, one growing by the year. While I do not feel qualified to speak on the implications for such an industry, I do feel it necessary to comment on how it serves those who seek to be a part of it, and what it must do to better accommodate them in the future. As it stands, Universities must be able to adapt to the present requirements of a world in which the sum total of memorized knowledge can be accessed from one’s front pocket. Katie Puckett, the author of the article, comments that certain aspects of education that have been seen as central in the past may fall by the wayside as we live in the digital age. While I don’t fully agree that the digital age invalidates topics such as grammar and foreign language education, she makes several salient points. I particularly agree that the system of decades past, of rows upon rows of students facing a lecturer, should be reexamined. I also agree that Universities should be expected to put a firmer emphasis on project based learning, the application of knowledge rather than its memorization. This to say nothing of the rapid rises in cost, all but ensuring that those who decide to pursue higher education will accrue a debt that will follow them for decades.

We live in quite possibly one of the most educated time periods in human history. As more and more of the current generation seek out a hand hold in higher education, is it the responsibility of the University to respond to them. My change would see Universities moving away from the standards by which the student was considered a number, an item on a factory belt, and adapting to the necessities of the digital age. A complete reevaluation of the classroom set up, consistent digital options for classes, and a proper explanation on how we can shatter to barrier to entry that cost has more and more become.

Social Media: Please Use Responsibly

Social media exists in an ever shifting view point with regards to its place within education. At times, seen as the “danger”, the hole students can fall into leading to avenues of depression, jealousy, and even addiction. At others, the “blessing”, an area where like minded individuals can come together to share information, discuss new ideas, and escape stresses of the physical world. Whether either of these ideals, or any of the countless others one could come up with, is a bit to much of a broad topic for this post, however, one truth does remain: social media is a tool.

Any student who has gone through the advent of shifting to virtual learning in the past two years can understand that, and might agree that any tool is only as good the one using it. This is where faculty comes to play. Doctors Abdullah Al-Bahran and Rebecca Moryl have created a list of 10 items to ease the shift to online education, a skill which I believe is mandatory in COVID to post COVID era ( . What I find gratifying is the that the focus of their list is not so much on topics of “How to keep Zoom from crashing.” But more related to how retain student engagement. Curating an online presence that’s goal is on education first and foremost. Celebrating your student’s successes publicly within the forum you create. Encouraging co-disciplinary spaces. These are methods in which faculty can use social media to create a more holistic space for education that they authors delve into. But, I’d argue that this goes beyond just the virtual space.

The opening sentence of the article seems to inform the reader that this content was created in response to the COVID-19 epidemic:

“COVID-19 has upended normal social connections that develop between students and professors. We are missing the connections that develop through casual interactions in office hours, pre-class discussions, post-class questions, and any other in-person interaction”

And the suggestions they have laid out are an excellent series of ideas towards bridging the gap created by COVID, but I will argue that they should not end there. Or, perhaps it’s proper to say that these techniques of engaging students virtually should not come as a response to an epidemic, but rather, be the norm in the digital age. Having an online presence should augment the educational relationship a teacher seeks to cultivate and these tips serve as an excellent method of proactive strategy, not just reactive. I believe that employing them during less provocative times is just as necessary as during the times in which they were suggested.

We Trust: An Ethics Discussion

Case: Logan Fulford

Ethics, and how we as scientists hold to them, serve as an agreement that we hold with our work, our colleagues, and the greater world that we present this work to. They form that basis of a promise, a promise that, due to these standards, what we present is, to the best of our knowledge, a true and accurate representation of our findings. The cases presented on the ROI represent individuals who, for any number of reasons, have failed in holding to that promise. The case of Logan Fulford,  former graduate research assistant (GRA) and student of the  University of Cincinnati (UC). While Logan has neither confirmed, nor denied the following breaches of conduct, the ROI has confirmed that he “intentionally, knowingly, and/or recklessly falsifying data”. Within both published and unpublished manuscripts, Logan was found to have reused and relabeled images to “represent the expression of different proteins and/or different experimental conditions”. His work has since been retracted from Science Signaling 2016 and Logan himself is currently undergoing the second year of a two year long super visionary period of his research.

If one is to search the ORI database, they will find no shortage of established doctors with years of experience, guilty of misrepresenting their work or otherwise breaking that code of ethics that we are all responsible to uphold. Several of these in the medical field.  For example, the case of Dr. Ya Wang, former Professor and Director, Division of Experimental Radiation Oncology, Department of Radiation Oncology at Emory University. Dr. Wang has 83 publications with the Emory University alone, a successful career as a director of an established college.  Logan Fulford was no established doctor. He was a graduate student researching cancer cells at a children’s hospital. But now, Mr. Fulford and Dr. Wang  have one thing in common, the first link that appears when researching their names isn’t a paper on the information they’ve put forward, but a link to the article explaining how they failed in their task.

IOB and Open Access

Take a system, any series of individual parts that come together to accomplish a task, and you have the basics of integration. The Journal of Integrative Organismal Biology (IOB) takes this concept and promotes articles that explore advances that arise from said integration within biological systems. The primary subject matter of the journal is organismal biology, exploring topics ranging from Animal Behavior to Vertebrate Morphology.

IOB is an open access journal which publishes research, reviews, techniques, practices, and commentary through the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB). To this end, all articles published through the journal are under an open access license immediately upon publication. Publication Licenses are based on the following price ranges.

CC BY licence – £1325 / $1800 / €2025
CC BY licence member rate – £930 / $1260 / €1420

It is worth noting the price to allow for a fully open access publication for non-members. While this price may seen to sit on the higher range, what is interesting is IOB’s policies regarding these ranges. IOB. Due to being published in partenership with Oxford University Publishing (OUP) as well as SICB, IOB is subject to OUP’s Read and Publish agreements. These agreements allow funding for open access publishing to be provided through the institutions and consortia themselves. Thus, authors from participating institutions can publish open access, and the institution may pay the charge. Alongside this, IOB affords discounted publishing rates as a member of the Society, serving to further encourage scientists to join I just believe it is worth noting. Finally,  the journal’s further benefits the author by assuring that this publication fee is the only one they will pay. Authors will not have to pay for any charges related to submission, page count, or color.

In conclusion, IOB serves as an open access journal dedicated to the spread of biological systems information. The journal, alongside SICB and OUP, has set into motion systems that allow for growing financial ease of submission, constant publication, and an assurance that the information will be easily available once published. In such a  way, I am more than satisfied with the practices of this journal.

The Responsibility of HBCUs

When given this assignment, the first thing that came to my mind was the same question that many thousands of black students across the country possess: is it my responsibility to explain where I have come from? I considered other Colleges and Universities, perhaps exploring how Ivy Leagues manage the image that they present to the world. But, there will always be a moment where I introduce Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) such as Morehouse, Spelman, or Howard, and the people I speak to have never heard of these names or what they represent, or go so far as to question their necessity. So, as an alumnus, yes, I believe that I do have a certain amount of responsibility to illuminate these schools. That illumination will begin with my alma mater, Morehouse College.

“Morehouse College is a student-centric and mission-driven institution.

The mission of Morehouse College is to develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service.

As the only historically black college or university dedicated to the development of men into leaders, we realize this mission by providing a world-class liberal arts education while emphasizing the intellectual and character development of our students. We assume a special responsibility for teaching the history and culture of black people.”

Morehouse’s mission statement reflects the tenants of the College and its responsibility as an all-male HBCU. The College’s mission takes the stance that the students who study there will be leaders in their chosen fields. Because of this, the college’s mission extends past the education and employability of its students. The College must also educate it’s student on the history and culture of those who came before them. This become just as, if not moreso, true for Historically Black Universities.

“Howard University, a culturally diverse, comprehensive, research intensive and historically Black private university, provides an educational experience of exceptional quality at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels to students of high academic standing and potential, with particular emphasis upon educational opportunities for Black students. Moreover, the University is dedicated to attracting and sustaining a cadre of faculty who are, through their teaching, research and service, committed to the development of distinguished, historically aware, and compassionate graduates and to the discovery of solutions to human problems in the United States and throughout the world. With an abiding interest in both domestic and international affairs, the University is committed to continuing to produce leaders for America and the global community.”

As we move from the College to University setting, it’s worth noting Howard’s higher focus on research, post undergraduate education, and a range of focus that extends towards the global community. As the article “What do universities want to be? A content analysis of mission and vision statements worldwide” mentions, these are certain key areas that such Institutions commonly address. It’s what expected. What is also expected, and what I’m always glad to see a University address, is their dedication to servicing black students as well.

I titled this article “The Responsibility of HBCUs” because there is a unique series of expectations that are laid at the feet of such institutions.  As the reference article mentions, the mission statements of Colleges and Universities share similar key points, such as a mention of “research” and a University’s desire toward having a larger global impact. We even see the latter in Howard’s statement. But, they also mention that “Public universities were more focused on individuals (students) while private universities were more focused on process (teaching)”. To this, I assert that HBCUs don’t have the luxury to ignore the individual. Morehouse makes education of the history and culture of it’s students a key issue that it address. Howard too does this, albeit while asserting their dedication to global impact. That is what is emblematic in these mission statements, as is the mission, the responsibility, of all HBCUs. To provide knowledge which not only creates a future for its students, but illuminates the past that lead them here.