Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Worst That Can Happen

Inside Higher Ed
October 3rd, 2014

Recently, I have had two sources of stress in my life. One was the knowledge that my visiting assistant professor appointment at my alma mater, St. Lawrence University, is coming to a close, necessitating my return to the academic job market.
The other was the fact that I was out of refills on my prescription for the synthetic thyroid drug levothyroxine. This is a pill I have to take every day, and the fact that I was out of refills meant that I would have to go to visit a doctor’s office.

 I don’t really like going to the doctor’s office. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1998, when I was 21, and the disease came back twice before remissions seemed to stick in the spring of 2000.

Asking for Help

Inside Higher Ed
October 1st, 2014

Sometimes we are overwhelmed. The forces of life converge, place us in a bind, and restrict our ability to do our jobs. We’ve all watched it happen to a friend or colleague. Perhaps many of us have experienced it for ourselves. In these moments, our work life can become secondary, and probably should become secondary in many cases.
We need, during these moments, to ask for help.
It can be very uncomfortable to have to tell one’s colleagues about a personal, professional, or health problem that is or might affect your ability to do your job. I have found, though — both as someone who has had to ask for help and as someone sometimes asked by others for help — that our colleagues are most often empathetic to our plights and willing to help pick up short-term slack.

Managing Your Academic Career

Inside Higher Ed
October 14th, 2014

In my 10 years of interviewing and/or observing approximately 100 faculty members at various types of institutions, I have learned a great deal about how to shape and manage academic work in ways that promote meaningful, balanced, and satisfying careers. To prepare for a presentation at new faculty orientation at Saint Joseph’s University on academic career management strategies, I reviewed the field notes, interview transcripts, and publications from all of my past studies of academic careers with one question in mind: What strategies might best help new faculty members manage their academic careers during a time of rising expectations, decreasing resources, and diminishing boundaries between work and life?
From my review, I developed three categories of career management strategies that participants believed contributed to their professional success. The categories included: establishing a purpose, planning intentionally, and communicating strategically. Although these concepts are certainly not new, it is clear that the academic career and its complex settings are not always conducive to promoting these strategies.

Finally! Academics Describe Their Research in Terms We Can Understand

Chronicle of Higher Education
October 20th, 2014

A few weeks ago, The Chronicle Review published an essay by Steven Pinker that took academics to task for their incomprehensible writing.
“In writing badly,” wrote Mr. Pinker, “we are wasting each other’s time, sowing confusion and error, and turning our profession into a laughingstock.” The implication is that academese could use a grand stroke of simplification.
What follows, however, might be taking things a little far.
Researchers took to Twitter over the weekend to rally around the hashtag #emojiresearch, attempting to describe their research in emojis—the little smiley faces and other caricatures ubiquitous in text messaging, among other platforms.

The Value of Research Funding

Inside Higher Ed
October 21st, 2014

To many people at research universities, it may seem self-evident that federal research and development support actually results in scientific breakthroughs. A new paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that the assumption is correct.
In the study (abstract available here), four economists at the University of Kansas analyzed data from 147 research universities for the period 1990 to 2009. They focused on chemistry (for which they include chemical engineering) as a field present at research universities and one that involves both basic and applied research.
While the authors don’t express surprise that federal support makes a difference, they stress the importance of science advocates knowing that such investments pay off, not just assuming so.
The study examined the top departments in federal support, and going to 147 means that it includes research powerhouses, but also plenty of institutions that have modest R&D infrastructure.
Tracking the flow of research dollars in chemistry, the research found that additional funds for chemistry research result in more published papers and in more citations of those papers. In other words, scientists can point to a “confirmation of a positive relationship between research funding and knowledge production.”
The study also finds that chemistry professors became much more productive during the time period studies, perhaps based on technology advances in addition to the availability of funds.

Cal State and Its Faculty Reach Tentative Contract Deal

Inside Higher Ed
October 17th, 2014

Negotiators for California State University and its faculty union said Thursday night that they had reached tentative agreement on a three-year contract extension. Under the terms of the deal between Cal State and the California Faculty Association, the compensation pool for union members -- who include librarians, coaches, and counselors as well as professors -- would rise by 3 percent this year, resulting in a 1.6 across-the-board increase and pay raises of up to 4.6 percent for certain groups of instructors.

MOOC Provider edX Offers First Advanced Placement Course at Rice U.

Chronicle of Higher Education
October 21st, 2014

Rice University on Monday launched a free Advanced Placement course in biology, representing the first time that edX—the prominent provider of massive open online courses—has hosted an AP class for high-school students.
edX, which was created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in 2012, will host further AP courses in the coming months. For example, Boston University and MIT will both offer AP physics courses starting in January.

U. of Michigan Gets Accreditor Approval for Competency-Based Degree

Inside Higher Ed
October 21st, 2014

The University of Michigan's regional accreditor has signed off on a new competency-based degree that does not rely on the credit-hour standard, the university said last week. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools gave a green light to the proposed master's of health professions education, which the university's medical school will offer. In its application to the regional accreditor, the university said the program "targets full-time practicing health professionals in the health professions of medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and social work."

Teaching and the University of Tomorrow

The Chronicle of Higher Education - Vitae
October 21st, 2014




Last week, I attended the De Lange Conference held at Rice University every other year, this time on “Teaching in the University of Tomorrow.” The future-oriented theme had both intrigued me, and left me a little skeptical. But ultimately I was won over by the chance to attend, for the first time, a conference exclusively focused on teaching. I would be able to talk shop about learning and pedagogy. Like many other academics, I’m concerned about what the university of tomorrow might become.
Additionally, the conference organizers at Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence hoped to develop an active Twitter backchannel alongside the lineup of powerhouse speakers. Joshua Eyler, the center’s director, even recruited a cadre of “so-called social media fellows,” including Jason Jones, Dorothy Kim, Liana Silva, Ben Railton, and me, who tweeted the event under #delange9. This was my first conference as an official tweeter, though I’ve done so unofficially on panels at the American Academy of Religion and American Studies Association. I hoped that our Twitter backchannel might not only report on keynotes, teaching demos, and panels but also offer analysis and commentary. The best conference tweets include not only what was presented but also critique.

Last week, I attended the De Lange Conference held at Rice University every other year, this time on “Teaching in the University of Tomorrow.” The future-oriented theme had both intrigued me, and left me a little skeptical. But ultimately I was won over by the chance to attend, for the first time, a conference exclusively focused on teaching. I would be able to talk shop about learning and pedagogy. Like many other academics, I’m concerned about what the university of tomorrow might become.
Additionally, the conference organizers at Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence hoped to develop an active Twitter backchannel alongside the lineup of powerhouse speakers. Joshua Eyler, the center’s director, even recruited a cadre of “so-called social media fellows,” including Jason Jones, Dorothy Kim, Liana Silva, Ben Railton, and me, who tweeted the event under #delange9. This was my first conference as an official tweeter, though I’ve done so unofficially on panels at the American Academy of Religion and American Studies Association. I hoped that our Twitter backchannel might not only report on keynotes, teaching demos, and panels but also offer analysis and commentary. The best conference tweets include not only what was presented but also critique.
- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/768-teaching-and-the-university-of-tomorrow#sthash.pyq3m34c.dpuf

Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Accepts Adjunct Professorship

The Chronicle of Higher Education
October 21st, 2014

The average net worth of adjunct professors just got a little higher.
Steve Wozniak, the computing pioneer who co-founded the company that became Apple Inc., has been named an adjunct professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, in Australia, the college said in a news release. It is his first adjunct appointment.
Mr. Wozniak—known as “Woz”—will work with students and staff members in the university’s Innovation and Enterprise Research Laboratory. He has visited the campus only once and is doing his instruction via video stream. He will make his second campus visit in December.
“It’s hard to imagine a more iconic mentor for UTS students than one of the most influential technology pioneers of the modern era,” said the university’s deputy vice chancellor for research, Glenn Wightwick, in the announcement.

Faculty at Winona State U. Vote No Confidence in Minn. System’s Chief

The Chronicle of Higher Education
October 21st, 2014

Faculty members at Winona State University have voted no confidence in the chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, Steven J. Rosenstone.
The system’s chief marketing and communication officer, Kim Olson, told Minnesota Public Radio that “we have not been formally contacted by any Winona faculty about a vote of ‘no confidence’ or to discuss any concerns that would lead to a vote of this kind.” She also noted that the faculty association on the campus comprises only 28 members.
Winona State’s Faculty Association Senate cited “a recurring pattern of secrecy” among system leaders in the unanimous vote, along with concerns about spending and a lack of student and faculty input in long-term planning.
The university, which enrolls about 8,200 undergraduates, is one of 54 campuses in the system.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Measuring Humanities Degrees Misses Much of Their Value

The Chronicle of Higher Education
October 20th, 2014

Plenty of people know how much they paid for their college degree. Fewer can tell you what it’s actually worth.
That disparity is something new research from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators project is hoping to fix.
The project is focusing on wage data from the American Community Survey, but some say using earnings as a sole measure of success misses the value of a degree and how it serves society.
“We’re trying to figure out what the best measure for this is,” said Robert B. Townsend, director of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ office in Washington and a researcher on the project. “A lot of this is, ‘How do you measure the value of a good teacher to society?’ It’s a real challenge.”

Syllabus Design for Dummies

The Chronicle of Higher Education - Vitae
October 20th, 2014



I know plenty of teachers who dread writing their syllabi, putting them off until the last minute when, finally, the night before classes start, they quickly crank out just enough to make it look like they know what they’re doing. Don’t do that. You will be much better off if you allow some time to think about the syllabus before writing it. A syllabus should go through multiple drafts before it’s shared with students.
Since a large portion of Vitae readers are graduate students and early career professors, we decided to put together an introductory guide to syllabus design. I always enjoyed the course design part of teaching, so I want to share the best course prep strategies I picked up as a teacher of freshman composition. See what you think and then use the Teaching Tips group to continue the discussion.


I know plenty of teachers who dread writing their syllabi, putting them off until the last minute when, finally, the night before classes start, they quickly crank out just enough to make it look like they know what they’re doing. Don’t do that. You will be much better off if you allow some time to think about the syllabus before writing it. A syllabus should go through multiple drafts before it’s shared with students.
Since a large portion of Vitae readers are graduate students and early career professors, we decided to put together an introductory guide to syllabus design. I always enjoyed the course design part of teaching, so I want to share the best course prep strategies I picked up as a teacher of freshman composition. See what you think and then use the Teaching Tips group to continue the discussion.
- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/754-syllabus-design-for-dummies#sthash.YCtzYgTx.dpuf
I know plenty of teachers who dread writing their syllabi, putting them off until the last minute when, finally, the night before classes start, they quickly crank out just enough to make it look like they know what they’re doing. Don’t do that. You will be much better off if you allow some time to think about the syllabus before writing it. A syllabus should go through multiple drafts before it’s shared with students.
Since a large portion of Vitae readers are graduate students and early career professors, we decided to put together an introductory guide to syllabus design. I always enjoyed the course design part of teaching, so I want to share the best course prep strategies I picked up as a teacher of freshman composition. See what you think and then use the Teaching Tips group to continue the discussion.

One Faculty

AAUP National
October 2014

The One Faculty campaign grows out of the AAUP's long history as an organization seeking to improve working conditions, shared governance, economic security, and academic freedom for all those who teach and do research in our universities and colleges. We believe that these issues are important to all faculty, including full- and part-time non-tenure-track faculty, and those who are on the tenure-track.
Through the One Faculty campaign, AAUP staff, leaders, and members are working together to develop tools that faculty can use on our campuses to gain concrete improvements in job security and working conditions for faculty on contingent appointments.
Especially now, when we are facing administrative bloat, increased attacks on academic freedom, and a further narrowing of options for faculty governance, it is essential that we stand together as One Faculty. When we speak and act with one voice, we demonstrate our commitment to our profession, our students, and one another. Working together through our chapters and state conferences results in more equitable handbook and contract language, more robust shared governance, and better educational policies. Join with us to improve working conditions for everyone doing our work. For more information, call or e-mail the AAUP’s Department of Organizing.

Reforming Shared Governance?

The Chronicle of Higher Education
October 15th, 2014

I won’t spend the whole week recapitulating Rice’s De Lange conference on “Teaching in the University of Tomorrow” (see yesterday’s post on “Seeding Social Media”) but I did want to draw folks’ attention to one more thing: William Bowen’s talk on technology and changing American priorities related to higher education.
Bowen describes the financial and demographic challenged facing higher education, and argues for a more technologically coherent platform that would help colleges deliver courses in online or blended formats. ITHAKA has made his report available for download, and it’s certainly worth reading–not least because the written report is more nuanced than the public presentation.
Because shared governance has long been an interest of mine, I wanted to highlight Bowen’s call for faculty simultaneously to cede control over curricular delivery *and* to be more forgiving of administrative missteps: