Posts Tagged ‘AAC&U 2011 Annual Meeting’

By: Edmond Chang

Transformation is hard, and looking back to last week, I appreciated the opening plenary’s vision—which both Mark C. Taylor (Columbia University and Williams College) and respondent Michael S. Roth (Wesleyan) agreed is needed to change the business and culture of universities. You cannot have a future if you cannot imagine one.  But to be honest, even as a “digital humanities guy,” I am uncertain and uncomfortable with the plenary’s broad technological and globalizational fixes.  It comes as no surprise then, given that I am an English major, that I want to frame my response as a close reading, particularly of the metaphors invoked by all sides last night.

It is important that AAC&U Senior Vice President Caryn McTighe Musil who introduced the opening forum, spoke about the conference’s theme of “global positioning,” of “navigation,” of “maps,” of “movement” and “progress,” while being mindful of the histories, legacies, and violences of imperialism, capitalism, and global domination.  Nonetheless, the rhetoric is a convincing one—one that echoes President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address where he, too, challenged the nation to “win the future,” to take back time, space, and choice as American birthrights.  But these metaphors of trade, of transnational flows, and of nostalgic exploration are now linked up to new formations and logics, new metaphors that deploy technology and the twenty-first century as both an unavoidable, uncharted territory and a “new world” ripe for colonization and conquest.  The immense potential of computers, the Internet, and mobile technologies are undeniable, and they must be heeded.  But these very potentials for democracy, liberation, and flexibility can also (and already have) serve hegemony, unfreedom, and the intensification of the now mouthful military-prison-industrial-entertainment-educational complex.  Let us not forget that telecommunications and computer networks were the product of military and security programs.  Let us not forget that digital imaging and global positioning systems are leveraged to police and surveil bodies and populations.  Cooperation often becomes cooptation.  Qualitative often is simply disguised quantitative.  Vision often becomes (a single) somebody else’s vision.  These are the very lessons I have learned from looking at and experiencing firsthand the struggles for democracy by minorities and the disenfranchised and the marginalized.  These are the very informatics of domination that Donna Haraway presaged in her influential “A Cyborg Manifesto.”

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By: Rebecca Frost Davis

Can we preserve and transform liberal education for a networked world?  The opening forum of the 2011 AAC&U Annual Meeting raised this question, and I saw affirmative answers and strategies throughout the conference.

Mark Taylor, the opening forum speaker, called for us “to move from a world of walls and silos to one of webs and networks” (as Maggie Stevens (iccmaggie) tweeted).  But what does that world look like, and how does liberal education work in that context?  Webs and networks naturally make us think of technology, especially the Internet, but Taylor is calling for more than just using technology tools.  I heard it put this way in the Q&A after the HEDs up sessions on Friday morning:  “Higher Ed use of technology has so far been varnish on traditional methods rather than the paradigm shift that is needed.” Following the 2010 AAC&U Annual Meeting I wrote a blog post about that varnish called, “Technology and Learning Disconnect,”  in which I wrote about typical attitudes toward technology that I saw at the conference:

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By Ken O’Donnell

On Thursday, January 28, 2011, US Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education Eduardo Ochoa gave a bird’s-eye view of the nation’s efforts to increase its proportion of college graduates.  He called these efforts the “North Star” of the Obama administration’s education policy.

In Ochoa’s view, the obstacle to degree production is limited national capacity.  Income to universities from state governments and from endowments is falling, leading to steep increases in prices students must pay – which, even so, cover less than 30 percent of the cost of education.

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By: David Hubert

The E-portfolio Forum at AAC&U’s Annual Meeting featured many excellent presentations. I was drawn to “Balancing Student-Centered E-Portfolios with Assessment using Open Source Tools,” by Frank Kline and Helen Barrett, both of Seattle Pacific University, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The presentation was well-balanced, with Kline providing a detailed introduction to an electronic portfolio initiative in Seattle Pacific’s Education program, and Barrett adding the “big picture.” Seattle Pacific previously had three years of experience with commercial e-portfolio products, but ultimately decided to go with a Web 2.0 solution that allowed for student-owned portfolios based on WordPress. Students in the education program build their e-portfolio and structure it around established standards and criteria for prospective teachers in the state of Washington. The portfolios contain artifacts and reflection from program courses, but the assessment of the students’ portfolios centers on “meta-reflections” that task students with demonstrating how their work shows that they have met the standards and criteria required for licensure in Washington.

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By: Ken O’Donnell

Hillary Pennington of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spoke Thursday about her organization’s role in national efforts to improve degree production.

She began with a rundown of the challenges we face: higher enrollments with less funding, improvements in access unmatched by any uptick in completion rates, and an achievement gap that’s doubled since 1975.  Against this reality, the Gates Foundation has set priorities:

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By: Michael Kerchner

Undergraduate research experiences have proven themselves to be transformative to students’ development and are widely implemented in the form of ten-week summer internships hosted on the home campus of faculty principal investigators. Some of the projects in these summer internships have outcomes with clear global relevance – e.g., strategies to assist in the eradication of pandemic disease outbreaks in Africa and elsewhere on the planet. Yet, arguably, these experiences’ global relevance may be diminished if students and faculty have no opportunity to immerse themselves in a culture that is unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Now, some institutions of higher learning are expanding the scope of undergraduate research to feature cross-cultural immersion as a mechanism for insuring that a truly transformative learning outcome is achieved.

Several institutional programs were featured in a session at the AAC&U 2011 Annual Meeting. One originates from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). The experience begins with a weeklong introductory element on the UCO campus. During the following weeks, a group of students and faculty travel to Greece and Turkey and visit historical and cultural sites to obtain a “boots on the ground” perspective of the region and its peoples. For the latter portion of the summer, faculty and student teams work on different research projects in collaboration with teams from the host institution: Uludag University in Bursa, Turkey. While the research progresses during the week, there are opportunities in the evenings and weekends for continued cultural explorations in the surrounding region.

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By: Michael Kerchner

Consider the answers to the following questions:

  • •Who is Margaret Thatcher?
  • •What percentage of students in the class of 2010 report having one chronic physical or emotional disability?

As each new academic year begins on college campuses across that nation, one of the widely circulated items of interest has been the College Mindset List compiled by Ron Niefand and Tom McBride at Beloit College.  As someone who once felt intrinsically “in tune” with my students, it is always somewhat distressing to browse through the list of attributes that distinguish successive groups of entering first-year students from their predecessors.  The net result the list has on me is to invoke nostalgia as well as an increasing concern for the inevitable march toward my own demise.

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By: David Hubert

This year’s annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is an especially exciting one for Salt Lake Community College (SLCC). The conference is serving as the kickoff for two important national projects—the Giving Community College Students a Roadmap initiative, sponsored by the MetLife Foundation, and the Connect to Learning (C2L) initiative sponsored by the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. SLCC is a participating member of both efforts. We have a Roadmap team and a separate C2L team here in San Francisco, and as the leader of both teams, I’m in a rather unique position to comment on their complimentary natures.

With the Roadmap initiative, AAC&U is bringing together twelve community colleges from around the country in a three-year effort to “enhance programs to engage students at their entrance to college and guide them to be active partners in their academic endeavors.” It is especially focused on supporting student success initiatives that are anchored in essential learning outcomes. The C2L initiative is coordinated by LaGuardia Community College’s Making Connections National Resource Center, and is bringing together twenty-two higher education institutions in a three-year effort “to explore and strengthen best practices in e-portfolio pedagogy.”

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By: Edmond Chang

Heather J. Knight, president of Pacific Union College and the featured speaker of the Networking Luncheon for Faculty and Administrators of Color, is vibrant, vivacious, and indeed, colorful.  Her talk, “Race, Gender, and the College Presidency,” which was punctuated by shout-outs, humor and infectious vim, outlined her particular road to becoming a college president and the specific challenges faced by women and women of color as faculty and administrators.  Given that the majority of faculty and administrators at US colleges and universities are still predominantly white and male, given the struggles for gender and racial and class equity, and given the hard, slow social, political, and institutional changes in gender and race politics, President Knight stressed determination, visibility, institutional fit, developing opportunities, service, and empowerment of self and others.

President Knight spoke of a particular gendered incident while she was learning and working toward becoming an administrator.  A colleague of hers, a fellow woman, told her that in order to be taken seriously she would have to give up her hot pink suits, her turquoise suits, and her blazing red suits and dress more appropriately in black, navy blue, and gray.  President Knight swore at that moment that she would never “succumb to gray.”  But the anecdote, corroborated by a later story about how an anonymous evaluation of her work as president boiled down to changing her “distracting hair,” reveals the very norms, structures, prejudices, and expectations around gender, around women, and around women of color that diminish their agency, abilities, and confidence to matters of style, femininity, and the perceived liabilities of being a woman.

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By: Edmond Chang

I am deeply honored to be selected as one of the 2011 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award recipients.  I am humbled to be counted among such esteemed and talented peers, past and present, who represent a wide range of disciplines and institutions. It is a heartful and hopeful feeling to be recognized for not only what we have accomplished but what promise we hold for the future.

The start of the New Year has always been for me a time of reflection, of recounting, and of prospection.  And the start of this year has been particularly conflicted, both amazing and sobering.  I am entering my last year, ostensibly, of my dissertation and looking ahead to going “on the market” this coming autumn.  I am watching friends and peers of my cohort going through that process right now, freshly returned from the Modern Language Association’s annual conference in Los Angeles.  And I am witnessing a country, a culture, deeply embattled over minds, bodies, resources, even history itself—a struggle that continues to cut deeply into the very domains I have dedicated myself to keeping vital and inviting.  I think about years to come, about the now-average multiyear job search for PhD English grads, about the political and economic climate I will enter, and I can genuinely say that I look forward to the challenge.  After all, these challenges are the very things that the arts and humanities, liberal education, and teachers and activists hope to transform and overcome.

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