Monday, March 9, 2009

What I am Reading Today

Video and story from the BBC about the remains of Shakespeare's first theater. The thought of a new theater rising on the foundation of one where Romeo and Juliet might have had its premier is really quite remarkable. They also show the portrait recently identified as that of Shakespeare.

Dean Dad's musings about spousal hires and the next group of college leaders. The commentariat jumped on the spousal hire issue, probably because it is an even bigger issue in the current economy. Having seen my share of two-body hires over the years, it has been about 50:50 where hiring the woman was the driving force and I have also seen one instance where the guy was the primary hire and his spouse turned out to be the star. You really can't tell. Maybe the second half, about a possible leadership vacuum, deserved to be left alone. It comes up often, about as often as worries that we won't have enough of X coming down the pipeline. There always seems to be enough of X coming along. As DD seemed to say, if you really do think it is a problem, start grooming the next group of leaders at your own institution.

Reading more of an excellent discussion from last Thursday over at Dean Dad's, where a bunch of random ponderings generated quite the open thread. I put in my dos centavos more than once, but I want to elaborate here.

On the question of demographics, the population of our CC has been pretty stable for the past decade. We have the odd feature that the median age (around 21) corresponds to a local minimum in the age histogram! The mean age is several years higher than the median, reflecting a long tail toward the high end. We have always been a "transfer" CC, feeding Wannabe Flagship University down the road ... filling in the empty seats as their students drink their way out of school. We thus get a lot of traditional age students, including ones from outside our service area who are forced to go to our CC because they didn't make the freshman cut. The past year has seen an apparent decrease in the out of town group (staying closer to home because of money issues?) but an increase overall as budgets force a reduction in freshman enrollment at Wannabe Flagship and more top notch students (AP calculus, etc) choose us because we cost less. I have not seen the latest IR numbers for our "unduplicated headcount", but they will be interesting.

On the issue of more men coming to school, and how that impacts the college, I found the suggestion of a need for more support systems quite interesting. Our college is planning for one group, returning military on the GI bill, who will likely need a variety of support systems to adjust to the "real" world. I already see quite a few of those in my physics classes, but most were from Iraq 1 or the early part of Iraq 2. I'm guessing that the Army hasn't let too many out who can put boots on the ground. (The exception being young men like the triple-amp who is taking classes in our building.) We have only limited experience with that cohort, but we have some veteran's groups on campus that provide mentors and a support group. What we don't seem to deal with very well are the unemployed and underemployed young men who were failed by the K-12 school system the first time around. Our support systems seem to work much better with women who return to school, often while being the sole support for their children, than with men who find their way here.

We appear to do particularly badly with high school "graduates" who are barely literate and end up in our developmental ('prep', 'remedial') classes. I fear that most of those classes are organized too much like the structured environment they grew to hate in K-12, and we struggle to get them to use our less-structured learning environments.

Then there is the peripheral, but non-trivial, issue of female professors in mathematics and the sciences. Doctorate or not, they just don't get respect from our fairly conservative male students. They seem to view any woman in the classroom as a "teacher" (and K-12 teachers get no respect) rather than a "professor". They don't respect or trust what they are being taught, acting as if they know more chemistry than someone with a graduate degree in the subject. I wish there was some "academic support system" to help these kids adjust to the real world where experts come in two different genders as well as several different colors and accents. When racism (based on national origin, not color) showed up this semester, I was particularly taken aback. That last kid will be in for quite a shock when he gets to the Wannabe Engineering College and discovers how few professors there speak English as a first language.

1 comment:

Doctor Pion said...

Dean Dad looks psychic. The day after he wrote that "wondering aloud" essay with its comment about retention of men, IHE had an article on that very subject! Check out this article from March 6.