More Converging Forces: Higher Education Edition

Jul 15 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers]

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Higher education has been my theme this week. It began with my son's orientation at the University of Minnesota. While there I downloaded the current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education which includes several articles of interest:

And an interesting discussion has arisen at A College Education, Gratis and Online, a commentary regarding the tuition-free online UoPeople.

Then last night my dad tossed me his copy of the July 9 issue of The Economist which features a Business article, How to make college cheaper.

These articles have common threads woven throughout, including what college faculty do and how much it costs. One common theme is separating the research and teaching missions of institutions so public "teaching money" does not end up subsidizing the research mission. Many of our assumptions about providing education get challenged in a good way.

This statement in the article about the Texas education agenda sent major chills up my spine:

Taxpayers deserve to know why many professors teach less than a full load and "where their research is being published, how many people are reading it, how much is it being cited, or is it, for lack of a better term, a publication for the sake of a publication - or worse, a vanity project?"

So now think-tank dudes want to look at the impact factor and citation rate of everyone's work on campus? The academic community has enough trouble deciding how to measure impact. As a pediatric nephrologist, I am working in a field with ~500 practitioners in the US at any given time. In such a specialized field, the impact any paper can have is limited by this small audience. Does that mean my work provides less value to the world than a neurobiologist who studies basic cellular functions in the brain and discovers stuff that can make the cover of Science? Not if your child has kidney disease, I bet.

Higher education has outpaced inflation for several years, and we need to reign in its costs (as we do for healthcare, as well). However, US universities are the cream of the crop; that's why so many students come from other countries to take courses here. We must not lose all the good stuff we have as we make changes.

Click on over and enjoy the other pieces, particularly the UoPeople discussion.


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More Thoughts on Change: Last One, I Promise

Jun 30 2011 Published by under [LifeTrajectories]

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For the last time, I post from my office overlooking midtown Omaha. The last box is packed, and I will be leaving this fine academic institution once the few loose ends are tied up.

We came to this midwestern place over 13 years ago. At that time, our lives consisted of our jobs and the tasks and joys surrounding school-aged children.

We leave with an empty nest and the new opportunities that come with that freedom, as well as the challenges of our new career paths.

Of course, most of you reading this message know me at WhizBANG! I will remain at this (virtual) address, as well as my other haunts on the internet. I promise I will get back to my usual content - healthcare, urine, and fashion or lack thereof - after today. But this week has left me a bit melancholy and, frankly, freaked out. I finally feel the change coming.

For those of you who know me in the flesh and blood, I would like to say farewell with the most memorable good-bye performance I can think of:


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Switching Channels

Sep 21 2010 Published by under [Education&Careers], Continuing Development

Tools for Thought

Yesterday another cohort of eager faculty began The Administrative Colloquium, a project-based faculty development course I direct. The first workshop involves a lot of introspective reflection. Participants learn about their Strengths (as defined by Gallup) and Meyers-Briggs types. Defining how you see the world and how it may differ from the frame others use often produces "a-ha" moments. There are other tools we could use, but these provide two frames for examining their own actions and those of others.

We also work on aspects of mission, vision, and values. Each participant must construct a personal mission  and examine its alignment with their academic unit. This process led some past members of the Colloquium to change positions.

More at stake than a bad program choice?

Change is always scary. Even when it represents a good choice, the best choice, you are stepping into the unknown. Will you see what you want when you press that button on the remote? Or will regular programming be pre-empted? You never know until you push the switch- and some choices are more difficult to reverse than changing to another channel.

I  explored my own mission and motives these past two days. I made an easy change in August when I joined Scientopia. Now the stakes are bigger.

No matter what path I choose, my life will change soon. In a year my "baby" will leave for college. The nest will house only my husband and I (and Dottie, our energetic cat). Even though change may be expected, even welcomed, it stresses me. And it is the only constant in life.

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