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          VICE News Daily: No End in Sight to Europe's Migrant Crisis      Comment   Translate Page      
The VICE News Capsule is a news roundup that looks beyond the headlines. Today: Italian authorities rescue thousands of migrants over the weekend, hundreds of women and girls freed from Boko Haram, dialysis patients in Yemen face setbacks because of ongoing air strikes, and Germany is still a graveyard of unexploded World War II explosives. […]
          Study: Repeat rapists committing vast majority of sexual crimes      Comment   Translate Page      

Researchers have, many times over, confirmed a sobering fact: fraternity members tend to commit rape much more frequently than their non-Greek-life peers. They’ve also documented that serial offenders account for many campus sexual assaults.

But a new study quantifies in a staggering way the prevalence with which men in fraternities and on sports teams engage in sex crimes on campuses -- and how repeat rapists are to blame for a vast majority of these incidents. The report suggests that the vast majority of assaults involving alcohol are committed by serial perpetrators.

Experts on campus sexual violence said that these new data support the idea that administrators should kick out students they’ve found responsible for rape. And, they said, it demonstrates need for more targeted education -- especially among the men and groups who are committing the most sexual assaults.

Three professors -- from Union University in Tennessee, Bowling Green State University and University of Redlands -- used data from the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey, or CORE, developed by the Core Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. The group there helps institutions figure out students’ attitudes toward drug and alcohol consumption.

The researchers looked at survey data from more than 12,600 male students at 49 colleges and universities in one Midwestern state that was not named. The institutions included in the sample were both two- and four-year colleges.

A little more than 5 percent of those men self-reported that they had committed a sexual assault when alcohol was involved. This matched other literature, which has put the percentage of college men who committed a broader range of sexual crimes between 6 and 11 percent.

Of those who sexually assaulted someone while under the influence, it was more common for them to do it again rather than just once. The researchers found that nearly 3 percent of the men in the overall study committed assault twice or more when alcohol was a factor.

“If you have a man who has been accused of sexual assault and you … find him responsible, it makes sense to expel him from the institution, not necessarily just give them educational sanctions,” said John D. Foubert, dean of the College of Education at Union and one of the report’s authors. “It’s cutting down on the rate of rape at the institution drastically.”

More significant was how many more incidents could be attributed to recurring rapists rather than one-time offenders.

The authors of the study weren’t precise with these data, given that students in the original CORE survey could report a range of how many assaults they had committed (again with alcohol involved). For instance, students could report if they assaulted someone three to five times -- in this case, the researchers counted that in their report as an average of four assaults per person.

The researchers documented approximately 2,071 sexual assaults -- of those, roughly 950 assaults, or about 46 percent of the incidents, were committed by students who admitted to raping 10 or more times.

S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, which consults with colleges and universities on sexual assaults and federal policy, said this was the most striking figure.

“Removing those repeat perpetrators from the population is the only solution in my point of view,” Carter said.

As the researchers note, the men didn’t always classify their acts as rape, per se. Other studies and interviews with men have found sometimes they consider their victim saying no to be a game or a way to spice up the encounter.

Being associated with a fraternity or an athletics team also had a positive correlation with alcohol-fueled rapes, the study found. Heads of fraternities were less likely to commit alcohol-related assaults than just members. The opposite was true for sports teams -- the leaders of the teams reported more assaults.

This reporter provided Todd Shelton, a spokesman for the North-American Interfraternity Conference, with a copy of the study, but Shelton said by email he did not have a chance to review it.

“I will say sexual violence has no place on any campus or in the fraternity experience,” Shelton wrote in his email. “NIC fraternities are committed to creating safer campus communities and recently adopted new health and safety guidelines including banning hard alcohol at fraternity houses and events to create a safer environment for members and guests.”

A previous study by Foubert shows that men who joined fraternities were just as likely to have committed sexual violence prior to college as men who didn’t join a fraternity. But the same study showed that fraternity men were three more likely to assault women than their counterparts, suggesting that fraternity culture was the driving factor for the assaults.

Institutions should more aggressively focus on teaching students in “high-risk” environments such as fraternities and sports teams, rather than just the general population, Foubert said. He said bystander training -- educating students to intervene when they see their peers are about to commit a heinous act -- has been proven to be effective. Foubert called for more research with a larger national sample, noting their information was from a single state. He said it would also be beneficial to interview directly admitted rapists to learn their motives and how they behave.

“They don’t define their behavior as rape -- they sometimes define it as seduction,” Foubert said. “I think it would be helpful [to know] what their techniques are to alert women.”

Colleges and universities trying to stamp out sexual predators could learn from law enforcement efforts to prevent terrorism, said Peter F. Lake, a law professor and director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

Lake used this analogy -- the public shouldn’t write off fraternities in total, just as they shouldn’t consider all people of a certain race to be terrorists. Institutions should partner with fraternities to help locate bad apples in a group or the misbehaving fraternities on campus. He said many times, the fraternity members, most of whom are not raping women, don’t have the knowledge or skills to respond to “serious psychopathic behavior.”

“If you eliminate the ones that are doing that from the culture, then the culture will thrive,” Lake said.

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          Proposal calls for eliminating student loan default status for struggling borrowers      Comment   Translate Page      

In a speech last year arguing that higher education faces a crisis in the U.S., Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pointed to eye-popping numbers from the federal student loan program.

Only a quarter of borrowers are making progress paying down their loans, she said, while 20 percent are either delinquent or in default. More than a million borrowers default on their student loans each year, and recent research has suggested the problem is growing worse.

The consequences for those borrowers can be severe, including hits to their credit score and garnishing of federal benefits. Their college may also withhold academic transcripts, and some states will suspend occupational licenses.

While DeVos herself has yet to call for specific changes with defaults in mind, a recent proposal makes the case for Congress to reduce defaults by simply eliminating the loan status outright.

Severely delinquent borrowers could still face negative consequences like credit reporting but would not be cut off from receiving federal student aid to pursue a degree. The idea may sound radical. But it wouldn't include the major costs to the government of large-scale loan forgiveness, argues Colleen Campbell, director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress and author of the proposal.

It could also put new scrutiny on whether the tools used to collect the most delinquent loans are truly effective as Congress explores potential changes to loan repayment through an update to the Higher Education Act.

Campbell argues that by ending default, the government could reallocate the $1 billion it spends on debt collections annually to more direct assistance to borrowers when they first start to struggle repaying their loans. Eliminating default would also allow borrowers to keep their access to federal aid like Pell Grants and continue making progress toward a degree.

“The federal government has extraordinary collections mechanisms for student loans that aren’t available for other kinds of consumer debt,” Campbell said. “It’s unnecessary to place additionally punitive consequences on top of collections. So why don’t we remove one of the consequences that is most damaging to folks who have been disenfranchised and who are most likely not benefiting from their experience in the postsecondary system?”

She said federal policy shouldn’t remove tools for struggling borrowers to improve their economic situation, especially opportunities to continue their postsecondary education.

A federal student loan enters default when a borrower has been delinquent for more than 270 days. After that, the loan is reassigned from a loan servicer to a debt collection company.

Ending default status wouldn’t mean removing any tools for the federal government to collect on student loan debt, Campbell said. Severely delinquent borrowers could be automatically enrolled in income-driven repayment plans. And the government could garnish wages and withhold tax refunds for those who still don’t repay their loans.

The government could also much more effectively use the money it spends on collections each year, Campbell said, by paying for better loan servicing.

“We can do much more intensive counseling between servicers and borrowers early on to prevent the worst outcomes,” she said.

Her proposal argues that eliminating default should be accompanied by other legislative changes to the financial aid system such as streamlining repayment programs, simplifying the application for federal student aid, providing more grants to students and creating clearer paths to loan forgiveness. Campbell also calls for assessing loan servicers using more objective measures so that the companies with the best repayment outcomes for borrowers receive new accounts.

Information on defaults is limited. But analyses of recent federal postsecondary data show high rates of default among African American borrowers in particular, even those who completed a degree. Nearly a quarter of black student borrowers who began college in the 2003-04 academic year and earned a bachelor’s degree had defaulted within 12 years.

The federal data also show that defaults depend more on a student’s circumstances and the type of institution they attended than their total amount of debt. Defaults are highest, in fact, among borrowers with the smallest loan amounts. And students who enrolled at for-profit colleges starting in 2003-04 were four times as likely as community college students to have defaulted on their loans 12 years later, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution.

“This would overwhelmingly help people who don’t finish college, who received a certificate, who are borrowers of color, who are Pell Grant recipients,” Campbell said. “What we know about default is that it overwhelmingly impacts those communities.”

But industry representatives said debt collectors and loan servicers are "as different as apples and oranges."

"There needs to be more help for people who are delinquent," said Shelly Repp, senior adviser and counsel at the National Council of Higher Education Resources. "That doesn’t mean in our view you should get rid of debt collectors once they are in default."

Repp said removing debt collectors from the student loan system also wouldn't save the federal government money, since they only receive payments for loans they collect on.

"That doesn’t mean that more resources can’t be also applied to helping borrowers earlier in the process. As this report points out, compensation to servicer is very low."

Campbell said, however, that collections firms are paid $1,700 for each loan they rehabilitate. And the numbers for those borrowers aren't impressive -- nearly 40 percent of rehabilitated borrowers re-default within three years.

Some financial aid experts say proposals like eliminating default, like efforts in recent years to promote income-driven repayment, wouldn’t actually address whether borrowers are making progress paying down their loan principal. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research for, said student aid policy experts have long questioned whether collection agencies are cost-effective. Many of the most powerful tools used by those companies, he said, could be employed by loan servicers. But he said defining away defaults wouldn’t solve the fundamental issue of loan repayment.

“I do not believe that superficial changes to the name of the problem or slight tweaks to the system will provide a real solution to the underlying problem,” Kantrowitz said. “Unfortunately, policy makers have a tendency to paint a problem a different shade of blue and declare the problem solved.”

But Jessica Thompson, director of policy and planning at the Institute for College Access and Success, said the proposal was an intriguing idea.

“It really does get down to changes that we think are pretty common-sense,” she said.

Thompson said many of the most punitive consequences attached to default aren’t in the interest of the borrower or the taxpayer, because they aren’t effective at getting loans in good standing. Default status for student loans was also created under an entirely different paradigm, when private banks would make loans with backing from the federal government, she said.

The Education Department signaled last year that it was interested in moving away from use of collections firms in the federal student loan program.

And the White House made clear last month that overhauling how defaulted debt is collected remains an ongoing concern for the Trump administration. A broad-ranging executive order on higher ed signed by President Trump included a directive for the Education Department and Treasury Department to recommend reforms of collection on defaulted student debt.

Previous attempts by the Education Department to move away from reliance on debt collectors have been hamstrung by legal challenges. While the executive order could mean more political capital is put behind those efforts, action from Congress could be necessary to move the student loan system away from reliance on debt collectors.

Senate lawmakers are currently discussing a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act for the first time in a decade. Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate education committee, has proposed streamlining loan repayment by having payments automatically deducted from a borrower’s paycheck.

Some researchers have argued that payroll withholding could be the best way to prevent defaults. But Campbell said eliminating default outright would provide benefits to borrowers without overhauling student loan payments in a radical way.

“This isn’t a new repayment plan. It isn’t a complete rejiggering of how people make payments on their loans,” she said. “It’s basically a behind-the-scenes change that ultimately borrowers would experience in a very tangible way.”

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          Czech president blocks professorships of academic critics      Comment   Translate Page      

The president of the Czech Republic is attempting to turn the country’s population against intellectuals and polarize society by vetoing professorships for critical academics, according to an art historian who has had his promotion repeatedly blocked.

Miloš Zeman, who is known for his opposition to Muslim immigration and closeness to Russia and is often described as a populist, has repeatedly used presidential powers to block the professorships of political opponents since he was elected in 2013.

In the latest development during a dispute stretching back to 2015, Prague’s Charles University announced in February that it would launch new legal challenges against Zeman for blocking the professorships of two academics put forward by the university.

“He is struggling against intellectuals and polarizing society in this country,” said Jiří Fajt, currently director general of the National Gallery in Prague and one of the two affected academics.

The president’s “populist” aim was to convince the majority of the population that they did not need to listen to intellectuals, Fajt told Times Higher Education, eroding academic freedom in Czech universities. He wanted to undermine “the position of intellectuals in this society,” he warned.

Fajt said that he thought his appointment had been blocked in part because of his support for Zeman’s opponent during the 2013 presidential elections.

Czech presidents -- who wield far more political power than presidents in countries such as Germany, where they are in essence figureheads -- have had a long-standing right to approve professors put forward by university scientific boards, explained Tomáš Zima, rector of Charles University, but this had never caused serious issues before.

“These problems started only after Mr. Zeman became the president of the Czech Republic,” he said.

This is not the first time that Zeman has blocked the professorship of a critic. In 2013, the president refused to approve the promotion of Martin Putna, an expert on Czech literature who prior to the presidential election released a satirical impersonation of Vladimir Putin urging Czechs to vote for Zeman, Radio Prague reported.

The incident caused an outcry, triggering student protests in favor of Putna, and was seen by critics as an unprecedented use of presidential power, as previous incumbents had never overruled a university’s choice before.

In Charles University’s latest lawsuit, “our key argument in the current lawsuit is that the president cannot question or review whether a professorship candidate is sufficiently qualified or has adequate moral integrity,” explained Zima -- this is rather a judgment call made by universities themselves.

In a press conference announcing the lawsuit, Zima accused the president of menacing academic freedom. “At this moment, this is a violation of rules and academic freedoms at Charles University, but in future it may concern every one of you,” he reportedly warned the country.

Charles University’s legal challenge is now being processed by Prague’s municipal court, and the university is awaiting a hearing, he said. Both professorial candidates have also filed previous lawsuits against the president, Zima added.

Fajt said that the veto had denied him the opportunity to teach students, and the lack of a professorship was an issue of “social status” and “acknowledgment of my academic qualifications,” he said. The president had raised questions about his habilitation thesis -- a kind of second doctorate -- even before 2015, he said. “I don’t know him personally at all. We have never met each other,” he said.

A spokesman for the president said that he had rejected the professors for “substantial legal and moral reasons” but did not elaborate further.

But a presidential statement in January accused Fajt of demanding a bonus to his salary from a bank that had partnered with his gallery, and of not being truthful in his professor application, claims that Fajt dismissed as “total nonsense.”

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          Colleges announce commencement speakers      Comment   Translate Page      
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          Ousted dean returns at Western Kentucky      Comment   Translate Page      

Institutions often double down on unpopular decisions, fearing they’ll otherwise be perceived as weak.

Not Western Kentucky University. In a speedy show of what many on campus are calling strong leadership, the institution reinstalled a dean whose ouster last week brought down the provost.

The university’s new acting provost, Cheryl L. Stevens, announced the decision to reinstall Larry Snyder as dean of the Potter School of Arts and Letters in a campus email.

“Given the magnitude of work to do in degree transformation, we must have stability in leadership as we work our way forward,” Stevens wrote. “I look forward to working with Dr. Snyder and the Potter College community as we continue our efforts to provide the educational experience our students want and deserve.”

Western Kentucky is undergoing an extensive program review. A governing Board of Regents committee is set to review a universitywide task force's recommendations for program transformations and suspensions today. Those recommendations, made public only this week, include cutting 101 programs. Nearly half of those majors, minors or other kinds of programs don’t have current students, according to information from the university. The rest do. Majors targeted for elimination are French and popular culture studies, both in Potter.

Stevens said that Snyder will return as dean on Monday and finish out his term, through 2021. Merrall Price, a professor of English and special assistant to the provost who was named Potter’s acting dean, will remain in the provost’s office through July 1. After that, she’ll serve in Potter as an associate dean.

“I would like to thank Dr. Price for agreeing to step up on such short notice,” Stevens added. “I know she will happy to return to her duties in the provost’s office, where she is greatly needed.”

Snyder was abruptly terminated last week by Western Kentucky’s provost of less than one year, Terry Ballman, neither for cause nor misconduct. A day later, the Faculty Senate called a special meeting and voted no confidence in Ballman. Her many faculty critics said at that meeting that getting rid of Snyder midsemester, just as the university faces a major round of program cuts, made her unfit to lead them through tough times ahead. Faculty members and students saw Snyder as an advocate for strong academic programs in the face of calls for budget cuts.

Ballman resigned the next day. And by the middle of this week, Snyder was effectively back as dean.

Snyder said in an interview that he had a case of “whiplash” but was otherwise fine. Despite the challenges the university is facing, he said, he never considered declining the invitation to return. Previously, he was set to return to his faculty job in the department of religion and philosophy.

“Part of my disappointment with the previous episode is that I thought we’d put a number of things in place to address the coming changes,” he said, referring to the program review. “I wanted the opportunity to put those in motion … I didn’t feel I could abandon the college and faculty and students until we got farther along with this process, to a better point.”

Snyder confirmed secondhand reports that he was forced by Ballman to resign. Asked why, he said it remains a mystery, apart from a vague reference to his not being a “good university citizen.”

Considering the rapid vote of no confidence and that even students protested Snyder’s firing, it appears that’s not a common opinion. Numerous professors also said Thursday that they were happy -- and hopeful -- to have Snyder back on board.

'People Tend to Like Honesty'

“We’re in the middle of this process, and this dean is an insider who knows the college extremely well and has a tremendous amount of social capital,” said Jeffrey Samuels, chair of the department of religion and philosophy. “So having someone like that at the helm of course makes implementing these changes and navigating these transitions easier.”

Stevens said that the acting dean, Price, is highly respected as well. But putting Snyder back in the dean’s office, where he’s already worked on the program review, simply assures “more faculty buy-in.”

Price said that she was “happy to step up” and “even happier to step back.”

“It’s been a turbulent time on campus and in the community, and I’m confident [Snyder] and Provost Stevens will help guide us into calmer waters,” she said.

Rob Hale, chair of English, said the reaction to Snyder’s resignation “demonstrates what a valued member of the university community he is and has always been. I really can’t think of anyone who is more respected than Dean Snyder. I’m thrilled that he’ll return to lead my college through the challenges we face. My load just got a whole lot lighter.”

Professors beyond Potter opposed Snyder’s forced resignation. Asked why he’s so beloved, Kirk Atkinson, associate professor of information systems and University Senate chair, said Snyder engages with students in ways deans typically don't, such as by showing up to their art shows and theater performances. With faculty members, Atkinson said, Snyder is a straight shooter. He’s indeed warned the faculty that program cuts will be deep. But he’s also assured them he’ll be their advocate throughout the process.

"He's honest, and people tend to like honesty," Atkinson said. 

Even in light of the new information about the cuts, he added, “the mood on campus -- especially with reappointment of [Snyder] -- has been fairly positive. People remain hopeful, and that’s a good thing.”

Snyder, who has been dean for four years but on campus for three decades, described his leadership philosophy like this: “I didn’t necessarily aspire to academic leadership. But I’ve always understood that my role is to be a servant to the college. My primary task is to pave the way for the faculty to teach and do research and for students to learn. And if I’ve done that well, folks probably don’t know a whole lot about what I’m doing behind the scenes because they don’t need to.”

Snyder also said he felt more confident about the future than he did a few weeks ago, in that “this particular episode brought the campus together in a unique and unprecedented way.”

Western Kentucky's budget problems stem primarily from steep state funding cuts. There are issues specific to Kentucky at play, such as an unsustainable public pension problem. But many institutions elsewhere are reviewing their academic programs in an attempt to stave off financial disaster. Snyder advised other colleges and universities facing change to "bring faculty into the conversation -- make them a part of it. Be as open and transparent about all of it as possible. We’re only going to pull into safe waters if we’re all pulling on the right sails."

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          Georgetown students vote to pay reparations for university's tie to slavery      Comment   Translate Page      

As the debate over reparations heats up, Georgetown University students voted Thursday by a large margin to impose a fee on themselves to pay reparations for the university's ties to slavery.

The student election commission announced the results early this morning. The measure attracted just under two-thirds of voters and passed, 2,541 to 1,304.

The measure calls for the university to start with a fee of $27.20 per semester in the fall of 2020, "in honor of the 272 people sold by Georgetown," referring to the slaves sold by Jesuits to finance the university in its early days. The resolution says that proceeds from the fund "will be allocated for charitable purposes directly benefiting the descendants of the GU272 and other persons once enslaved by the Maryland Jesuits -- with special consideration given to causes and proposals directly benefiting those descendants still residing in proud and underprivileged communities."

The proposed fee would be a tiny fraction of the price of attending Georgetown, where tuition alone is more than $55,000 this year.

While the measure is not binding on the university, the vote comes as Democratic presidential candidates have elevated the national debate over reparations. The vote also marks a potential shift in higher education.

In recent years, many colleges -- including Georgetown -- have conducted studies of their ties to slavery. Those studies have led to publications, academic conferences and monuments that honor the labor of slaves.

But the vote by Georgetown is the first move to have students pay reparations.

The resolution calling for reparations summarizes the argument this way: "As students at an elite institution, we recognize the great privileges we have been given, and wish to at least partially repay our debts to those families whose involuntary sacrifices made these privileges possible. As individuals with moral imagination, we choose to do more than simply recognize the past -- we resolve to change our future. And since we truly wish to 'go, set the world on fire,' we choose to do so in this place, on this day and with this ballot." (The quote refers to a guiding idea of Jesuit philosophy.)

The university has praised the discussion set off by the student referendum but stopped short of saying it will adopt the new fee.

Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, issued a statement that said in part, "We value the engagement of our students and appreciate that they are making their voices heard and contributing to an important national conversation. Any student referendum provides a sense of the student body’s views on an issue. Student referendums help to express important student perspectives but do not create university policy and are not binding on the university."

A Georgetown senior, Hunter Estes, in an essay in The Georgetown Review, outlined reasons he opposes the reparations fee. He questioned whether there is a system in place to appropriately use the funds, and he noted that every additional expense puts a stress on student budgets (and the financial aid budget of the university).

"At the end of the day, this referendum raises a larger question of who should be culpable for the failures of an institution," Estes wrote. "My question is, why should students accept the moral and financial burdens of the university’s apparent failures. If one believes that the university has not done enough in the process for memory and reconciliation in regards to slavery, then why not hold the school accountable? … I ask, why is it that to correct an injustice, we should place upon the students another injustice, in regards to the mandated acquisition of student money with no ability to opt out?"

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          Friday Fragments      Comment   Translate Page      

Surveys can surprise.

As part of the Academic Master Plan and its focus on student basic needs, we did a survey of students to find out what they struggled with most, and where they saw themselves needing the most help. Over 1,500 students responded, which is enough to give some confidence.

I wasn’t surprised to see issues with money and transportation. Students expressed concern about high prices in the cafeteria, which occasioned the development of some lower-cost options there.  They complained about textbook costs, which suggests that our work on OER is timely. But the single biggest issue they complained about, by far, was anxiety. 

Students were allowed to indicate more than one issue. About two-thirds of those who named anxiety as a struggle also named other factors, including academic and financial challenges.  But anxiety, as an answer, far surpassed anything else.

I’ll admit I didn’t expect that.


A term like anxiety is pretty capacious, and may sometimes best be addressed indirectly.  Financial precarity can lead to anxiety, for instance. When that’s true, addressing the anxiety head-on would be missing the point.  But enough students named it by itself that I have to wonder what else is going on.


Astronomy really isn’t my beat, but I enjoyed all the coverage of the first photograph of a black hole.  And I definitely enjoyed seeing The Girl see the pic of the scientist’s face when she first saw the photo on her monitor.


Friday is “international day” at the kids’ high school.  To commemorate it, they’re supposed to bring in foods characteristic of their ethnic background.

They could choose between Irish, on TW’s side, and Swedish, on mine. Two fine and proud cultures, yes, but neither cuisine has the box-office appeal of, say, Italian or Mexican.  We settled on Swedish meatballs, on the theory that bringing in lutefisk would imperil their social standing. Friends don’t make friends eat lutefisk.

I always get a little twitchy around festivals like these.  They assume that everyone has close and real ties to previous places.  That isn’t necessarily true. I’ve never been to Sweden, and don’t speak a word of Swedish.  For lack of a better word, the embrace of those roots is utterly optional. Yes, we embraced the Swedish chef as a culture hero when I was a kid, but that was mostly a goof.  (And the Swedish chef is hilarious. To this day, whenever I hear a reference to chocolate mousse, I think of him.) Growing up where I did, I was much more conscious of being not-Italian than I was of being Swedish.  For the kids, it’s even more distant.

If events like “international day” led to thoughtful discussions of the ways that identities are chosen, shed, and redefined over time, I’d be all for them.  But I have a feeling they’ll go only about as far as meatballs.


Speaking of food, I ran a food-related poll on Twitter earlier this week.  The deli counter in the cafeteria does a daily special, and the special that day was an Italian sub.  When I asked for one, the guy behind the counter referred to it as a hoagie. Then the woman at the register referred to it as a hero.  So I polled my tweeps. Is it a sub, a grinder, a hoagie, or a hero?

Sub won, with nearly ¾ of the vote.  Hoagie came in second.

When I showed the results to The Girl, she laughed.  “Grinder? That’s a gay dating app!” I assured her that the sandwich name, popular in New England, pre-dated the app.  I’m pretty sure they’re unrelated, though one never knows. The confusion could lead to some awkward conversations in Boston.

To be fair, linguistically awkward moments aren’t confined to Boston.  Locally we have a chain of sub shops called Jersey Mike’s. Last weekend TW and I went there for lunch.  If you’re avoiding bread, you can order a “sub in a tub,” in which the fillings of the sub are put in a salad container.  TW, a grown woman, ordered “an Italian in a tub.”

Reader, I raised an eyebrow. 

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          How a white male template produces barriers to minority scholars throughout their careers (opinion)      Comment   Translate Page      

“Legitimate” pursuits of knowledge are expressions of power, write Rebecca A. Reid and Todd A Curry.

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          Proposal Would Overhaul Public Service Loan Forgiveness      Comment   Translate Page      

Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would cut the wait time for debt relief under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and expand eligibility to any borrower who holds a federal student loan.

The PSLF program promises debt cancellation for borrowers in eligible public or nonprofit sector jobs who make 120 monthly qualifying payments. It also requires that borrowers hold federal direct loans.

The bill, which was introduced by New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Virginia senator Tim Kaine, would allow borrowers to have half their debt forgiven after meeting eligibility requirements for five years. And it would expand eligibility to all types of federal student debt, including FFEL loans issued before the switch to direct federal lending in 2010.

The legislation would also require the Education Department to provide clearer guidance to borrowers up front about eligibility for loan forgiveness and simplify the application process.

The bill is co-sponsored by 13 other Democrats, including presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker.

The Trump administration has repeatedly proposed eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. A 2017 House Republican proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act also called for eliminating PSLF, although it would grandfather in current borrowers.

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          Report: BDS Co-Founder Barred From Entering U.S.      Comment   Translate Page      

The U.S. is said to have denied entry to Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of movement to impose boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel, National Public Radio reported. Among other planned stops on his U.S. trip, Barghouti had planned to speak at Harvard and New York Universities.

The Arab American Institute, which had organized Barghouti’s travel, said in a statement that Barghouti was blocked from boarding a plane despite holding valid travel documents and that he was told that U.S. immigration officials had ordered the U.S. consul in Tel Aviv to bar him from traveling to the U.S. According to the institute, Barghouti was not given a reason other than it being an "immigration matter."

A State Department official declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of visa records under U.S. law.

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          Exchange on Liberal Arts at House Hearing      Comment   Translate Page      

U.S. Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican who does not believe in human-caused climate change, had a testy exchange at a House hearing this week with John Kerry, the former secretary of state. Kerry has criticized President Trump for relying on scientific advice from those who dispute the scientific consensus on climate change. Massie questioned Kerry's credentials, accusing him of having a "pseudo-science" degree, referring to Kerry's bachelor's in political science from Yale University. "Are you serious?" Kerry asked.

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          Academic Minute: Too Much of a Good Thing      Comment   Translate Page      

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Grinnell College Week, Andrea Tracy, associate professor of psychology, explores whether you can have too much of a good thing. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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          Call for Accountability System for All Colleges      Comment   Translate Page      

Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and member of the Senate education committee, argued in a speech Thursday for a federal accountability system that would apply to all colleges.

Murphy said there is an "outcomes crisis" in higher education driven by poor graduation rates and high numbers of student loan defaults.

"When I say the federal government has failed students, I mean we have failed students at every type of college -- public, private, for-profit and nonprofit," he said at an event organized by the think tank Third Way.

Senate lawmakers are in the early stages of negotiating a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and accountability could be the sticking point in reaching an agreement.

Senator Lamar Alexander, the GOP chairman of the education committee, has proposed an accountability system that would assess each higher ed program based on its student loan repayment rate. Democrats haven't yet offered their own plan but have emphasized the need for special oversight of for-profit colleges.

Murphy said he wants to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats on accountability. He proposed that all colleges be judged on four measures: graduation rates, loan repayment, whether graduates' loan debt is overly burdensome and the proportion of low-income students who are admitted and graduate.

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          Education Department May Offer Income-Share Plans      Comment   Translate Page      

Diane Auer Jones, principal deputy under secretary at the Department of Education, said Thursday that the Trump administration is considering establishing a program to offer income-share agreements.

Unlike student loans, students who receive ISAs commit to paying back a portion of their salary for a set number of years. While a handful of colleges have offered income-share agreements, they've mostly been limited to shorter-term boot-camp programs.

"We're thinking about how we can use the federal programs to do an experiment with income-share agreements," Jones said.

The Education Department has the ability to test new policies involving federal aid using its experimental sites authority.

Jones made the comments at the Reagan Institute Summit on Education, an annual conference in Washington focused on education policy.

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          Community college four-year degrees are smart policy, not mission creep (opinion)      Comment   Translate Page      

Presidents of America’s public universities are worried that community colleges have strayed from their mission. The source of their concern? The growing push by community colleges, state legislatures and student advocates to grant two-year colleges the authority to award some bachelor’s degrees.

According to Inside Higher Ed’s Survey of Community College Presidents, 70 percent of public university presidents worry that community college baccalaureate programs are evidence of “mission creep.” An even greater share disagrees with the idea that community colleges are well positioned to help low-income and place-bound students complete a bachelor’s degree. And about half of the presidents do not think community colleges can help address disparities in bachelor’s-degree attainment across different racial and ethnic groups.

Community college presidents feel otherwise -- and a growing body of research backs them up. Eighty percent agreed with the statement that their institutions are “in a strong position to offer bachelor’s degrees to students who would otherwise not have access to them due to cost or location,” and 85 percent agreed that giving them degree-granting authority could help close gaps in degree attainment.

Community colleges have been at the center of efforts to increase bachelor’s-degree attainment for over a decade -- whether it was the Obama administration’s American Graduation Initiative or today’s College Promise campaign. But the system we have developed to get community college students to the finish line of a bachelor’s degree does not work very well and may even be making the problem worse.

It is built on the premise that students can transfer easily from a community college to a four-year institution and complete their degree. But the transfer process is rarely easy. According to a 2017 GAO report, community college students lose an average of 37 percent of their credits during transfer. The more credits a student loses, the less likely they are to complete a bachelor’s degree.

There is also evidence that the transfer process is fueling racial and ethnic disparities in degree attainment, as African American and Hispanic students are more likely to start in a community college and thus are more likely to lose credits along the way to a bachelor’s degree, a phenomenon that researchers call the “racial transfer gap.”

Community colleges are the right place to focus efforts to increase bachelor’s-degree attainment. They are home to 40 percent of undergraduate students, and even though many enroll with the goal of completing a bachelor’s degree, fewer than 15 percent will get there. Moving the needle on degree attainment will depend upon increasing that share. But colleges need freedom to explore new strategies beyond transfer.

A growing number of states agree and are granting their community colleges authority to award some bachelor’s degrees themselves. Rather than putting the onus on community college students to go out and find a bachelor’s degree program, they are bringing the bachelor’s degree to the community college.

The degrees are generally work force oriented -- many are bachelor’s of applied science -- and most states require the college provide evidence of unmet labor market demand and/or ensure the degree does not duplicate programs offered by local public universities.

Florida was among the first states to try the approach and has taken it the furthest, with nearly 200 degree offerings in fields like nursing, IT, business and education. All but one of the state’s 28 predominantly two-year institutions offer at least one bachelor’s degree, which cost an average of $13,000, well below what students would pay at a public university. In 2018, more than 6,000 students graduated from those programs.

Would these same students have been just as successful at one of the state’s public universities? It is impossible to know for sure, but a recent study found that enrollments in universities located near one of the colleges actually increased after it started offering bachelor’s degrees. The same study found that enrollments in for-profit institutions, which charge many times more for tuition than public institutions, went down significantly in areas where community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees.

Data from the Florida Department of Education indicate that three out of four students enrolled in the bachelor’s programs were from underserved populations. More research is needed, but these findings suggest that community college bachelor’s degree programs in Florida are serving a different group of students than most public universities -- and providing students an affordable alternative.

On March 15, Wyoming became the 26th state to pass legislation allowing community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees. A headline from the Associated Press captures the moment this way: “UW fails to nix bill on 4-year degrees at community colleges.” The University of Wyoming, the state’s one -- and only -- public four-year institution, opposed the law, arguing that it contradicted efforts toward greater “efficiency and streamlining.” But for residents of Rock Springs, located 200 miles west of Laramie and home to Western Wyoming Community College, a much more convenient route to a bachelor’s degree will soon open up.

To be sure, state policy makers need to be careful as they consider which degrees two-year colleges should award. The policy emphasis on labor market value is well placed. But as the degree requirements for good jobs continue to rise, ensuring sufficient access to affordable bachelor’s degrees is the bigger challenge. And the fact is, community colleges are well positioned to offer bachelor’s degrees to low-income and place-bound students, and they can help address disparities in degree attainment.

They are more diverse, more affordable and more likely to enroll underrepresented students than their public four-year counterparts, and they operate in many more communities. Leveraging community colleges to expand access to valuable bachelor’s degrees isn’t a case of mission creep -- it’s smart policy.

Mary Alice McCarthy is director of the Center on Education and Skills at New America.

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          Review of "Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction"      Comment   Translate Page      

The best-known saying from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell goes, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." I am not at all sure the reader is meant to take this as practical advice. The poet moves back and forth between spiritual revelation and satire so often and so quickly that keeping track is difficult. "You never know what is enough," we read a few dozen lines later, "unless you know what is more than enough." That sounds altogether more balanced and common-sensical. But like the earlier quotation, it appears in a section called "Proverbs of Hell," a manifesto of rebellion against prudence, moderation and other boring heavenly virtues.

In her teens and early 20s, Judith Grisel took the road of excess to someplace close to the point of no return. In Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction (Doubleday, 2019), she recalls the "abrupt shift of perspective coincident with guzzling half a gallon of wine in my friend's basement" at the age of 13: all "desperate strivings for self-acceptance and existential purpose" disappeared, and she felt at peace and genuinely alive. The following day was another matter, of course, but she had plenty of opportunities to return to that state of mind, or at least to try.

Over the next several years, she ran the gamut of mind-altering substances -- taking as much as possible, as often as possible -- only to find each one betraying its promise of relief: "It didn't take all that long before the drug's most reliable effect was to ensure the alienation, despair and emptiness that I sought to medicate." Never Enough does not quite belong to the genre of the recovery narrative: it provides enough detail about Grisel's life as an addict to be appalling without becoming sensationalistic, while saying relatively little about how she got clean. But a turning point came when a fellow cokehead observed that they could never have too much of the drug. Addiction makes "enough" impossible.

After three decades of sobriety, the author -- a professor of psychology at Bucknell University -- takes her experience as a reference point while introducing the lay reader to the neuroscience of addiction. Her own education and laboratory work were driven by the hope of finding a cure for addiction. Today, she writes, she is "not especially hopeful about the prospects of solving something as complex and intractable as addiction anytime soon." She also find herself "increasingly skeptical that the solutions are ever going to be found solely in the brain." This admission comes after a couple hundred pages laying out some of the knowledge that has accumulated on the brain's responses to mood-altering substances. But no end is in sight.

The chemistry and physiology of the human nervous system seem almost perfectly designed for substance abuse. Find a neurotransmitter or a receptor in the brain, and there is probably something you can absorb to interfere with it in pleasurable, even ecstasy-inducing ways. But the central nervous system is self-monitoring and self-regulating, and it "counteract[s] the changes in neural activity produced by the stimulus in an effort to return brain activity to its neutral, homeostatic state." Grisel calls the changes in neural activity involved in intoxication "the a process," which elicits an equal but opposite reaction, "the b process," returning things to normal state. The b process manifests itself at various intensities depending on the substance and quantity consumed: hangovers, "crash and burn" depressions, an unbearable craving for the substance and so forth. "Generated by a powerfully adaptive nervous system," the author says, "the b process learns with time and exposure. Repeated encounters with the stimulus result in faster, bigger and longer-lasting b processes that are better able to maintain homeostasis in the face of disruption."

The more familiar term here would be "building up a tolerance." An increase in the stimulus (two lines of coke instead of one, vodka instead of an equal quantity of beer) can override the compensatory b process -- but only for so long. Furthermore, the brain's processing powers come into play: "It uses its exceptional learning skills to anticipate disruptions, rather than wait for the changes themselves, and begins to dampen drug effects before the drug has even been delivered." The brain's responsiveness can also trigger cravings for a drug when users find themselves in a place or with people they associate with the drug.

Some substances induce such a powerful disruptions in the nervous system that the compensatory process becomes agonizing; reports of the ecstasy and the crash following first-time methamphetamine use make addiction sound just about unavoidable. But many people -- most, probably -- can have a drink or smoke a joint without unleashing an escalating battle within the central nervous system that ends up in abjection. Grisel is clearly not one of them: she writes of continuing to feel cravings for various substances she hasn't touched in 30 years. "Even today," she writes,

I’m confounded by people who can drink or use other drugs but don’t. For me, and others like me, nothing short of impending doom (and often even that) would provide enough incentive to forgo pharmacological stimulation. People who stop after only one drink, mete out cocaine like a banker or keep a bag of weed around for months are entirely foreign to my experience and beyond my capacity to comprehend. On the other hand, I am able to relate to the depravity in this story from the Associated Press: "Man Accused of Trying to Swap Baby for Beer." Apparently, someone called the police after this man offered her a 3-month-old baby in exchange for two 40-ounce beers. I’m sad to say that I really do understand the perversion of values that enables such an insane proposal, and while responsibility has to be attributed to the addict, it seems obvious that no person in what might be called a "right mind" would do such a thing.

What determines whether an individual has that kind of susceptibility? Grisel notes the appeal of a seemingly logical approach to the problem: behavior leads back to neurophysiology, which leads in turn back to the human genome, where one day we might locate the sorts of markers that indicate someone prone to taking the road of excess to an early grave. Grisel's sense of progress is much more somber: "It seems to me that the more deeply we look at anything, the more complex and mysterious it becomes. It’s as if with each additional data point, our realization of how very little we understand increases proportionately; like an onion that grows as it’s peeled." She identifies four types of factors seemingly in effect in creating the sort of bottomless addiction that might well have killed her: besides genetic susceptibility, they include binge consumption, the unfinished development of the brain during adolescence and "a catalyzing environment," including obvious influences such as childhood abuse or a lack of positive role models. "It's not necessary to have all four," she writes, "but once some threshold is reached, it's like breaching a dam -- virtually impossible to rebuild."

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          'Loonshots' and Our Imagined Higher Ed Futures      Comment   Translate Page      

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall

Published in March of 2019.

We are in desperate need of an alternative to disruptive innovation theory. Nowhere is this need greater than in helping us think about the future of higher ed.

Can the ideas in Loonshots provide an alternative innovation framework to higher ed that is offered by disruption theory?

Maybe.  Quite possibly.  I’m optimistic.

Before talking about the book, let’s talk about the future of higher ed.

How much do you think that higher ed must change?  Do you think we need something radically different?  Or are you thinking the way to go is gradual and incremental?  Or are you somewhere (like most people I’d bet) in the middle.

What would radical higher ed change look like? We would probably list things like: a) dramatically lower costs, b) dramatically larger access, c) dramatically lower attrition rates, and d) dramatically better workforce outcomes, and e) dramatically more emphasis on lifetime education.   That is a dramatic list.

Some of us might throw in a wish that a liberal arts education be not reserved for the lucky (and wealthy few).  That small and tuition-dependent liberal arts colleges find some path towards economic resilience.  And that the adjunctification tide recedes, to be replaced with a commitment by universities to expand the number of tenure track positions.

We all have alternative futures that we can imagine for higher education as a system, and for individual colleges and universities.  We can all think of what a better college education might look like, and a fairer and more equitable system of higher education employment.

Loonshots is a book about how ideas once thought to be crazy have a history of changing everything.  The book is full of examples of ideas that were initially dismissed, from rockets to radar and 007 to Buzz Lightyear, which eventually ended up changing the world. (Or at least parts of the world).

Did you know the Nokia engineers had come up with a touch screen based smartphone that runs apps years before Apple introduced the iPhone?  Nokia executives killed the idea.  Loonshots seeks to explain why Apple went on to change how we think about mobile computing, while Nokia’s once dominant cell phone business eventually died.

A loonshot is a big idea or a big goal.  Loonshots always emerge as “ugly babies,” full of warts and flaws and every imaginable problem.

The higher ed loonshot idea that gets me most excited is the dream to create personalized online education at scale. I’m excited about how programs like Georgia Tech’s $7,000 online Masters in Computer Science might change the economics of education and credentialing.

A quality $7,000 masters degree sounds like a loonshot idea to me.  There have to be countless ways in which a program at that cost does not, today, match the quality of more traditionally priced residential and online programs.  There must be a million reasons why every university is not following in the footsteps of Georgia Tech.

How many of us in higher ed are quick to dismiss the idea that quality, radical affordability, and scale can co-exist?

Georgia Tech seems like a place where loonshots are nurtured.

The book Loonshots provides a great deal of excellent advice for how organizations can do that loonshot nurturing.  The author, Safi Bahcall, is a trained physicist as well as a biotech entrepreneur.  His ideas are both abstract (from academic theory), and concrete (from his experience growing biotech companies).

Bahcall argues that organizations must find a way to equally prioritize the “artists” who dream up loonshots and the “soldiers” who execute on operations.  He does not believe that individuals, small groups, or big companies (or universities) can be both artists and soldiers at the same time.  The work of dreaming up crazy ideas, and the work of delivering on current needs, is incompatible.

Any organization that favors one type of task (loonshot or operations) over the other will eventually fail.  Failure will also come if the artists and soldiers have no way of interacting, exchanging ideas, and supporting each other's work.  There must be an organizational equilibrium between the people exploring crazy ideas, and the people that keep the organization from running off the rails.

How often do universities carve out space for loonshots?

What are you reading?

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          Preparing the Thesis Proposal Defense      Comment   Translate Page      

Ingrid J. Paredes is a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at New York University. You can find her on Twitter @ingridjoylyn.

In my program, we have four major milestones towards graduation: the qualifying exam, which is based on a critique of a peer-reviewed publication; the thesis proposal defense; the data defense; and finally, the dissertation defense. At the end of this month, I’ll check #2 off of my list. The defense requires the preparation of a report and delivery of a presentation detailing what I plan to do for the last two years of my PhD. Since defenses are often set up similarly, I’ve compiled a roundup of my own tips on how to prepare.

Create a Plan and Compile Your Resources
As soon as you schedule your proposal defense, create a plan for what tasks you need to accomplish. Megan’s checklist is a great place to start. Talk to other graduate students in your department who have defended recently, especially students who share committee members with you. Talk to your adviser to ensure that your timeline works.

At Megan’s suggestion, I also included non-thesis daily tasks into my schedule, including commute time, leisure time, and food plans in my own timeline. I’m usually flexible with these, but having them on my calendar for the weeks leading up to my defense has helped me budget my time properly. I am also very religious with my writing time – even if I hit a block with my proposal, I try to work on other projects (like this blog post!) or journal to keep momentum. To avoid distractions, I usually set a timer for 20 to 30 minute intervals where I focus just on writing, and then I take a break for a few minutes.

Before I write a paper or start a slide deck, I write on a stack of index cards with each of the topics I’d like to discuss to storyboard my research. This process works because it removes the distractions that come with working on a computer. Like, when I’m writing in Word, I often get so caught up with formatting and inserting references after each sentence that I write that it distracts me from actually writing.

For my proposal, I’ve organized my cards into three sections that I laid out on the floor: the introduction, the proposal plan, and my conclusions. Each index card has a title and a few bullet points and/or sketches of the material I plan to discuss. I laid these out in separate columns in front of me, which allowed me to easily visualize how much time I was dedicating to teach topic as well as the flow of my talk. I’ve run through this deck of cards a few times now, reciting a very rough version of my talk and reorganizing them as I’ve seen fit. It’s only once I feel confident about the logic of the presentation that I’ll actually finish writing and create my Powerpoint slides.

Backup Slides
My weak point in presentations is taking questions –I’m usually so nervous that I freeze. Having backup slides has been a safety blanket for me. Whenever I make a slide on a topic and feel like I need to provide more information, I chuck all of that information into a separate slide deck. That way the information is on hand for me to pull up on the screen in case any questions call for it. Preparing these is studying for the exam in and of itself!

Time Yourself
I speak really quickly when I’m nervous. To avoid finishing a 30 minute presentation in 10 minutes, I run through my presentations a few times with a timer on, even timing pauses and slots for questions. These pauses allow me to catch a break as well as for my listeners to do likewise.

Ask for Specific Feedback
When I first started preparing my for my defense, my adviser told me to pretend like I’m a lawyer. Make my presentation tight, from logic to design. I suggest practicing with your lab group and peers as well as with groups that aren’t familiar with your work. I have a few friends who are used to this by now, and I’ll go to them asking for feedback on specific aspects of my talk, like grammar, the number of “um’s” or “likes” I say, or slide design. Friends outside of my field have also been helpful in asking me about the basics of my research, helping me tighten my arguments.

I try to practice in front of the same crowd twice, first for an initial run, and then in the second go. Afterwards, I have a set of questions that I like to ask:

- What stood out to you in the talk?​
- Which part of the talk was most boring?
- At which point if any did I seem the most nervous/unsure?
- Did you notice any body language—hand gestures, looking away from the audience?

My presentation is 30 minutes long, which is a little over the length of a sitcom. While I know I won’t be as funny as an episode of Fresh off the Boat, I can plan to be as engaging as possible, and the best way to do that is to ask the audience themselves for feedback!

For writing, I’ve recorded an audio version to see how the words sound off the page. I’ll stick with a sentence until they sound right for me to say out loud. For presentations, I go back and make revisions right after a rehearsal while they’re fresh on my mind.

Day Of
While I’m not there yet, I do have a day-of ritual for any exam or presentations! I eat my favorite meal, I go through my presentation no more than twice, and I wear an outfit I’ve planned a few days in advance and practiced my talk in. Most importantly, I make sure to buy a bottle of champagne to celebrate immediately after.

What tips do you have for preparing for your quals?

[Image courtesy of the author.]

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          Kushner Wasn’t a Republican Until 2018      Comment   Translate Page      
“Jared Kushner has finally officially registered as a member of the Republican Party, voting records show, despite working as a senior adviser for his father-in-law, President Trump, since the early days of his administration,” Vice News reports. “It wasn’t until Sept. 20, 2018, that Kushner changed his New York City voter registration to ‘Republican’ from […]
          Venezuela Border Chaos & Vatican Sex Abuse: VICE News Tonight Full Episode (HBO)      Comment   Translate Page      
This is the February 25, 2019, FULL EPISODE of VICE News Tonight on HBO. 2:04 Venezuela’s pro-government militias, better know as colectivos, have been operating in the cities with total impunity. Now, they’ve been given the task of securing the border; they will serve as a second line of defense if the opposition tries to […]

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