Next Time, Fail Better

How can you become a better learner?

By Paula M. Krebs (Wheaton)

Humanities students should be more like computer-science students.

I decided that as I sat in on a colleague’s computer-science course during the beginning of this, my last, semester in the classroom. I am moving into administration full time, and I figured that this was my last chance to learn some of the cool new digital-humanities stuff I’ve been reading about. What eventually drove me out of the class (which I was enjoying tremendously) was the time commitment: The work of coding, I discovered, was an endless round of failure, failure, failure before eventual success. Computer-science students are used to failing. They do it all the time. It’s built into the process, and they take it in stride. Continue reading “Next Time, Fail Better”

There’s More Than One Way to Defend Your Country

How should higher education be funded?

By Joseph R. Urgo  (St. Mary’s – Maryland)

I remember receiving my college financial-aid package in 1974, and among the grant and work-study information was a letter about my eligibility for a National Defense Student Loan. I don’t remember what the letter said, but I do remember stopping cold. What did my acceptance to a residential liberal-arts college have to do with national defense? Continue reading “There’s More Than One Way to Defend Your Country”

Stop Telling Students to Study for Exams

Are students learning the best way?

By David Jaffee (North Florida)

Among the problems on college campuses today are that students study for exams and faculty encourage them to do so.

I expect that many faculty members will be appalled by this assertion and regard it as a form of academic heresy. If anything, they would argue, students don’t study enough for exams; if they did, the educational system would produce better results. But this simple and familiar phrase—”study for exams”—which is widely regarded as a sign of responsible academic practice, actually encourages student behaviors and dispositions that work against the larger purpose of human intellectual development and learning. Rather than telling students to study for exams, we should be telling them to study for learning and understanding. Continue reading “Stop Telling Students to Study for Exams”

First, Figure Out Why We Are Failing

Is higher education improving or going down hill?

By Judith Ramaley (Winona)

In his inaugural speech, President Obama declared that “our schools fail too many.” Few would disagree with the fundamental premise that we must promote greater educational attainment for everyone if we are to meet the challenges of today’s world. The United States once led the world in the percentage of young adults with college degrees, but in recent years, 15 other nations have surpassed us in that measure. Some nations are already pulling ahead of us in the proportion of their total adult population that holds college degrees. Continue reading “First, Figure Out Why We Are Failing”

Growing Elitism

Who gets to be on top?

By Thomas J. Espenshade (Princeton)

On balance, elite higher education helps maintain social inequality in America, and the economic recession is magnifying that problem, especially at public institutions.

During the past two decades, research that Alexandria Walton Radford and I conducted found that a rising proportion of students who are enrolled at selective colleges and universities has come from the top two social-class categories: upper-middle- and upper-class families. And at the private institutions we studied, there is a pronounced upward slope to the relationship between the probability of being admitted and the socioeconomic status of one’s family. Continue reading “Growing Elitism”

We Have Yet to Use Them Where They Are Needed Most

Are we evaluating colleges the right way?

By Sylvia Hurtado (UCLA)

College-completion rates only partially reflect institutional quality, and we have yet to adequately make use of completion information for institutional improvement where it is needed most—with students who are first generation, low income, or are from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Recent analyses of national data that track full cohorts of freshmen to graduation suggest that completion rates reflect entering-student characteristics and intentions, how students are able to finance college, peer norms associated with enrollment-mobility patterns, and institutional resources. Continue reading “We Have Yet to Use Them Where They Are Needed Most”

How My Brother’s Death Shaped My Life

Admissions Essay: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

By Michael S. Roth (Wesleyan)

Michael Roth tells a very personal story about his deceased brother’s influence, and how he strives for goodness as a way of honoring the brother he never knew. His studies and research on tragedy and loss stem from his family’s own experience with death. Read his inspiring essay from the Wall Street Journal.

Michael Roth is the current president of Wesleyan University and former president of California College of the Arts. He is the author of five books, including Memory, Trauma, and History: Essays on Living with the Past, which was published Fall 2011.

How My Professors Shaped Me

Admissions Essay: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

By Catharine Hill (Vassar)

For Catharine Hill, it was more than one person who made an impact in her life. It was two specific professors that encouraged her to take her love of economics and education and merge the two, thus bringing her to the position she holds today. You can read about the influence they held in her essay for the Wall Street Journal.

Catharine Hill is the president of Vassar College and former provost at Williams College. An economist by trade, she previously worked for The World Bank and the Congressional Budget Office.

How Nelson Mandela Influenced Me

Admissions Essay: Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

By Marvin Krislov (Oberlin)

For Marvin Krislov, no one made a bigger impact on his life than Nelson Mandela. His desire for social change and equality led him to study Mandela’s life and even visit the prison in which Mandela was incarcerated. Mandela is a major influence for his book on affirmative action in higher education. Read Krislov’s Wall Street Journal essay on Mandela’s influence.

Marvin Krislov is the current president of Oberlin College and the former vice-president and general counsel for the University of Michigan. He is co-author of the book, The Next 25 Years: Affirmative Action in Higher Education in the United States and South Africa.

What Edmund Burke Did For Me

Admissions Essay: Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

By Russell K. Osgood (Grinnell)

Russell Osgood models his views on justice and compassion after conservative icon Edmund Burke. His adulation and respect comes from Burke’s belief that change is best accomplished by a gradual movement in structures and institutions rather than by a violent upheaval. Osgood wants to lead his own life that way. For more, read his essay from the Wall Street Journal.

Russell Osgood was president of Grinnell College from 1998-2010. He is currently serving as Visiting Professor of Law at Washington University Law.