Monday, June 13, 2011

How About Something Positive?

John Gardner

One of my colleagues in our Institute, rolled his eyes at me the other day as he gave me some feedback (which I always welcome no matter what the feedback). His message to me was that my blogs had a tone of distress, negativism, pessimism, and he encouraged me to write about something positive. He added a reflection that his own aging process was leading him to see things in our society with much more concern now that he was fortyish than when he was in college. That was a nice way of saying he could understand then why I who am considerably older might see things with an eye of even greater concern. But, I took the message to heart and have been thinking about what is it these days that I feel positive about, particularly in my context of being a professional higher educator. OK, here goes:

1.   I am pleased to see that the regional accreditors have so much more influence than they used to. They are truly the big dogs driving much of the pressure on us for continuous improvement.
2.   I am pleased that the concept of “self study” as driven by the regional accreditors is now much more meaningful, taken far more seriously, and an impetus to innovation on many campuses.
3.   I am pleased to see how much positive attention the community colleges are getting from, seemingly, all sectors –the public, the lay press, state and federal governments, and our country’s president. I think this is long overdue.
4.   I am encouraged by how much more discussion there is by administrators and faculty alike about the necessity for us higher educators to take more responsibility for student learning. We really have become serious about insisting on measures for student learning and efforts to improve that.
5.   I am truly gratified that the concepts that I have worked so hard for related to the desirability of institutions paying more attention to new students, have truly been institutionalized.
6.   I am pleased to see the growth in interest in paying more attention to transfer students. I believe they are a population that encounters great discrimination and that we cannot possibly increase our nation’s degree attainment rates without more attention to this growing population (currently about 62% of students pursuing a baccalaureate degree).
7.   I am pleased to see how successful women students have become in our colleges and universities not designed for them.
8.   I admire greatly the courage and trust millions of our students display towards our higher education system that they continue to come to us in ever greater numbers, in spite of the challenges that many recent grads are having in securing optimal employment.

This is a hard exercise. I could go on. I will keep thinking along this vein.

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