Author discusses his new book on college teaching

The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You About College Teaching (Harvard University Press) is about what many professors don’t know because they haven’t been taught. David Gooblar, who has taught writing and rhetoric at the University of Iowa, and is now associate director of Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching, offers tips and ideas in a conversational tone. He responded via email to questions about his book.

Q: In your book, you talk a lot about getting students to talk. What are some good ways to do this, and why is it so important?

A: Learning does not happen if students aren’t engaged. Talking is simply one of the most common ways that students engage with our courses and their classmates. Does that mean that any time a student talks she’s actively revising her prior knowledge and learning something new? No, of course not. But it does mean that she’s present, that she’s engaged and that you can work with her. For almost every kind of college course, students feeling comfortable enough to talk in class is a necessary precondition to their learning. A course that values student voices is one that honors students’ autonomy; signals to students that their lives, experiences and wisdom all matter; and creates a space they can make meaningful for themselves.

The best way to get students to talk is to plan on it. If your conception of teaching is to talk at students for a half an hour and then ask, “Any questions?” students will understand that their talking — or not talking — matters little to the class. If, however, you structure your class in a way that depends on what students say, you’ll have much better luck at getting them to talk. Design activities in which students need to talk to each other and to you. Begin discussion of a topic by asking students what they already know about it. Encourage students to illustrate important concepts with examples from their own lives. We don’t teach English or physics or anthropology; we teach students. Center students and what they know — and don’t know! — in your pedagogy, and you’ll find that they’ll do lots of talking.

Q: What about science courses? Does this approach work there?

A: Definitely, although I know it can be a hard sell to some instructors. The lecture is so embedded in college science instruction — especially when we think about large introductory lecture classes — that it may seem impossible to adopt an approach that centers students. But there has been a small but dedicated cadre of scholars who have been promoting new approaches to science education, particularly since the 1990s, after a number of studies showed a marked decline in science majors. I’m thinking of Kimberly Tanner, Eric Mazur and Carl Wieman, but there are many others.

Mazur’s peer instruction approach (which began in his physics classroom at Harvard) has been very influential, as has, to some extent, the 5E instructional model. I’m a big fan of what’s known as inductive (as opposed to deductive) teaching. Instead of teaching theories or general principles and then introducing applications of those big concepts, inductive teaching begins by giving students problems to solve, through which they make hypotheses and begin to construct general theories. That’s when teaching the underlying principle can really be effective, after students have figured out for themselves why it needs to exist.

Q: When a professor has to teach certain material in a class, how does he/she let students “own the course”?

A: We know that if students feel that the course is their own, they are much more likely to be motivated to learn. One way to encourage that sense of ownership is to cede control over elements of the course, wherever possible, to students. Let them decide. We need to look for ways to give students control of their learning.

This process begins by thinking carefully about your goals for the course and for your students. By first establishing a handful of significant learning goals for your students, you’ll be able to figure out the elements of your course you absolutely have to control. What you don’t need to control, you can put students in charge of. You may need to cover certain material, but do you need to assess students’ knowledge in a specified way? Maybe you can give students some choice about their assignments. Or about what kinds of secondary sources they consult. Or even about the structure of individual class periods. Student buy-in is just about the most important factor I can think of for a successful course. If you want to encourage student buy-in, give students choices.

Q: What is a two-stage exam, and how can it improve teaching?

A: The two-stage exam is a technique I learned about from the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. Essentially, students take the same exam twice: first individually and then immediately afterwards in small groups. In their groups, they can compare where their answers differed from each other, discuss how they arrived at those answers and come to a consensus on which answers are ultimately best. Most instructors weigh the individual exam far more than the group attempt — so students still have to study hard. Students receive immediate feedback on their answers while at the same time gaining exposure to alternative approaches to difficult problems. It’s a great technique.

But more important than the technique — or any technique, for that matter — is the change of mind-set the technique suggests. What I try to do in the book is move away from seeing good teaching as the accumulation of a series of discrete teaching tips in favor of encouraging instructors to adopt a mind-set that prioritizes what we know about how students learn best.

So while I love the idea of two-stage exams, even better is the shift they seem to reflect, from seeing exams as merely a method of assessing student performance to seeing them as a further opportunity to promote learning. We should be looking for those opportunities everywhere.

Q: What about student evaluations of professors? How can they be improved?

A: There is ample evidence that student evaluations reflect pernicious biases, and we should be suspicious of how well they can measure learning or teaching effectiveness. I personally think that departments and institutions should move away from using evaluations to assess faculty performance for employment decisions. But for the college instructors who I hope will read my book — whether they are graduate students teaching for the first time or tenured professors looking to reinvigorate their practice — the more salient question is whether or not evaluations can be useful in helping us to improve our teaching.

The book’s final chapter offers a whole host of ways to revise your teaching, including ways to use evaluations constructively. One way is to give students opportunities to evaluate the course informally well before the end of the semester. This signals to them that you care about their experience of the course, that you want to know what they think in time to do something about it. I think such a practice encourages students to take evaluations seriously, which can pay off when they fill out the more formal surveys at the end of the semester. Student self-assessments, as well, can help students consider their role in creating the course — a valuable counterweight to the usual model of them evaluating you. Finally, the book provides advice on how to draw clearer conclusions by reading student evaluations calmly, which is a tall order for academics who care about their teaching.

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The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You About College Teaching (Harvard University Press) is about what many professors don't know because they haven't been taught. David Gooblar, who has taught writing and rhetoric at the University of Iowa, and is now associate director of Temple University's Center for the Advancement of Teaching, offers tips and ideas in a conversational tone. He responded via email to questions about his book.

Q: In your book, you talk a lot about getting students to talk. What are some good ways to do this, and why is it so important?

A: Learning does not happen if students aren’t engaged. Talking is simply one of the most common ways that students engage with our courses and their classmates. Does that mean that any time a student talks she’s actively revising her prior knowledge and learning something new? No, of course not. But it does mean that she’s present, that she’s engaged and that you can work with her. For almost every kind of college course, students feeling comfortable enough to talk in class is a necessary precondition to their learning. A course that values student voices is one that honors students’ autonomy; signals to students that their lives, experiences and wisdom all matter; and creates a space they can make meaningful for themselves.

The best way to get students to talk is to plan on it. If your conception of teaching is to talk at students for a half an hour and then ask, “Any questions?” students will understand that their talking -- or not talking -- matters little to the class. If, however, you structure your class in a way that depends on what students say, you’ll have much better luck at getting them to talk. Design activities in which students need to talk to each other and to you. Begin discussion of a topic by asking students what they already know about it. Encourage students to illustrate important concepts with examples from their own lives. We don’t teach English or physics or anthropology; we teach students. Center students and what they know -- and don’t know! -- in your pedagogy, and you’ll find that they’ll do lots of talking.

Q: What about science courses? Does this approach work there?

A: Definitely, although I know it can be a hard sell to some instructors. The lecture is so embedded in college science instruction -- especially when we think about large introductory lecture classes -- that it may seem impossible to adopt an approach that centers students. But there has been a small but dedicated cadre of scholars who have been promoting new approaches to science education, particularly since the 1990s, after a number of studies showed a marked decline in science majors. I’m thinking of Kimberly Tanner, Eric Mazur and Carl Wieman, but there are many others.

Mazur’s peer instruction approach (which began in his physics classroom at Harvard) has been very influential, as has, to some extent, the 5E instructional model. I’m a big fan of what’s known as inductive (as opposed to deductive) teaching. Instead of teaching theories or general principles and then introducing applications of those big concepts, inductive teaching begins by giving students problems to solve, through which they make hypotheses and begin to construct general theories. That’s when teaching the underlying principle can really be effective, after students have figured out for themselves why it needs to exist.

Q: When a professor has to teach certain material in a class, how does he/she let students “own the course”?

A: We know that if students feel that the course is their own, they are much more likely to be motivated to learn. One way to encourage that sense of ownership is to cede control over elements of the course, wherever possible, to students. Let them decide. We need to look for ways to give students control of their learning.

This process begins by thinking carefully about your goals for the course and for your students. By first establishing a handful of significant learning goals for your students, you’ll be able to figure out the elements of your course you absolutely have to control. What you don’t need to control, you can put students in charge of. You may need to cover certain material, but do you need to assess students’ knowledge in a specified way? Maybe you can give students some choice about their assignments. Or about what kinds of secondary sources they consult. Or even about the structure of individual class periods. Student buy-in is just about the most important factor I can think of for a successful course. If you want to encourage student buy-in, give students choices.

Q: What is a two-stage exam, and how can it improve teaching?

A: The two-stage exam is a technique I learned about from the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. Essentially, students take the same exam twice: first individually and then immediately afterwards in small groups. In their groups, they can compare where their answers differed from each other, discuss how they arrived at those answers and come to a consensus on which answers are ultimately best. Most instructors weigh the individual exam far more than the group attempt -- so students still have to study hard. Students receive immediate feedback on their answers while at the same time gaining exposure to alternative approaches to difficult problems. It’s a great technique.

But more important than the technique -- or any technique, for that matter -- is the change of mind-set the technique suggests. What I try to do in the book is move away from seeing good teaching as the accumulation of a series of discrete teaching tips in favor of encouraging instructors to adopt a mind-set that prioritizes what we know about how students learn best.

So while I love the idea of two-stage exams, even better is the shift they seem to reflect, from seeing exams as merely a method of assessing student performance to seeing them as a further opportunity to promote learning. We should be looking for those opportunities everywhere.

Q: What about student evaluations of professors? How can they be improved?

A: There is ample evidence that student evaluations reflect pernicious biases, and we should be suspicious of how well they can measure learning or teaching effectiveness. I personally think that departments and institutions should move away from using evaluations to assess faculty performance for employment decisions. But for the college instructors who I hope will read my book -- whether they are graduate students teaching for the first time or tenured professors looking to reinvigorate their practice -- the more salient question is whether or not evaluations can be useful in helping us to improve our teaching.

The book’s final chapter offers a whole host of ways to revise your teaching, including ways to use evaluations constructively. One way is to give students opportunities to evaluate the course informally well before the end of the semester. This signals to them that you care about their experience of the course, that you want to know what they think in time to do something about it. I think such a practice encourages students to take evaluations seriously, which can pay off when they fill out the more formal surveys at the end of the semester. Student self-assessments, as well, can help students consider their role in creating the course -- a valuable counterweight to the usual model of them evaluating you. Finally, the book provides advice on how to draw clearer conclusions by reading student evaluations calmly, which is a tall order for academics who care about their teaching.

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Handshake, popular career-services platform, now open to all students

Since its launch in 2014, career-services platform Handshake has dominated the higher ed market. Despite revelations that fraudsters have been able to create faux internships on Handshake, and students raising privacy concerns, the online service has spread to more than 800 institutions, where college career centers mainly use it to connect students to potential employers — including every Fortune 500 company.

Handshake has been moving for years toward a business model more akin to networking websites such as LinkedIn or Facebook. The platform’s most recent shift, announced Tuesday, seems to continue this trend, though Handshake’s co-founder, Garrett Lord, said it is not a media company.

Now any student with an email address ending in .edu can sign up on Handshake for free without being required to be enrolled at one of the colleges or universities with which the company has partnered.

Handshake’s representatives are touting the change as a way to continue “democratizing” job opportunities and helping students find employment or an internship with one of Handshake’s more than 400,000 employers, regardless of where the students live or attend college. Colleges and universities use Handshake to store student information such as résumés, cover letters and university transcripts. Students build online profiles using their own information and list their academic interests. Employers can review these profile and post jobs or internships, also for free.

The move by Handshake is an indication of how students are now far less reliant on actually visiting college career services centers for help finding internships and jobs. This trend has forced administrators in these offices to redefine their roles in assisting students get a start on their career paths.

“Opening up Handshake and launching peer-learning features will make it easier for students and recent grads to share advice and learn from one another — in addition to their amazing career center advisers — so they can more easily find a job that’s right for them,” Lord wrote in an email. “Most college students starting their careers don’t have established professional networks to leverage, and these enhancements to Handshake have been made to meet students’ unique job and internship search needs.”

Though other companies offer platforms similar to Handshake, many institutions’ career services offices prefer Handshake because it’s easy for students and administrators to use. This is the case at Loyola Marymount University, a private Jesuit college in Los Angeles that has used Handshake for three years.

Branden F. Grimmett, associate provost for career and professional development, said he appreciates that Handshake was made available to all students because it’s helpful for them to know how to navigate the platform, even if they attended an institution that doesn’t use Handshake. He said now if students transfer to Loyola Marymount from a institution that doesn’t use the platform, they might have some familiarity with it.

He also likes that universities that do use Handshake retain some unique features that aren’t available to students who signed up for Handshake outside a university. For example, Handshake rolled out student reviews of employers in recent years. The reviews document their experiences at certain companies or in particular jobs.

“It’s good that they recognize the value in what universities are paying for,” Grimmett said.

Lord wrote in his email that “Handshake is even better for students at our 800-plus partner schools.” He believes students benefit from working with professors and career services staff who rely on Handshake to help advise and mentor students. Colleges also receive data about the number of students that use the platform and are placed in positions.

In a separate, written statement, Handshake executives seemed to want to assure paying clients that making the service available to more students would not diminish the relationships with the colleges that pay for it.

“Universities have been at the center of Handshake since the company was founded, and that’s not changing,” Christine Cruzveraga, vice president of higher education and student success at Handshake, said in the statement. “Opening up access is a critical next step in contributing to educational equity and realizing our mission of democratizing opportunity for every student — including those that may attend an institution without the resources to offer career services. We’re all part of this larger ecosystem.”

Three college representatives interviewed for this article either declined to say or did not know how much their institutions paid for their contracts with Handshake.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, the group representing career services professionals, declined to comment on Handshake or similar services.

Lord helped create Handshake after dropping out of Michigan Technological University. He has said that his computer science-oriented friends who attended the university couldn’t find internships nearby because it was located in Michigan’s secluded Upper Peninsula.

Handshake will most likely benefit students who attend smaller institutions that may not host robust career fairs, said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education.

First-generation or impoverished students particularly have trouble finding positions, and programs such as Handshake can help them market themselves and track down these jobs, Kruger said.

Student career services on college campuses have been transformed because of the ubiquity of Handshake and other similar platforms. Administrators often can’t get students to visit career center offices anymore, and the job counselors have become more like guides that help students apply for online postings rather than find them actual opportunities, Kruger said.

He noted how students are developing virtual career profiles — “passports,” Kruger calls them — and taking them from institution to institution, especially as more students are transferring nowadays.

“Over all, when I talk to folks around campus, I think this move is a pretty positive one,” Kruger said.

Joseph A. Testani, assistant dean and executive director of the Gwen M. Greene Center for Career Education and Connections at the University of Rochester, said his staff is trying to help students make sense of all the job opportunities and information at their fingertips.

“More information isn’t always better,” he said.

Testani likened some of the services Handshake offers to Yelp or Glassdoor. Students tend to trust the opinions of other students over other adults, even alumni who have been in these positions before, he said.

Rochester sends students email blasts about career services events through Handshake, as well as job postings that are curated to match the academic interests they indicate in their profiles, Testani said.

“We’re trying to navigate more critically to figure out where students are at,” he said.

Handshake has come under fire for potentially infringing on student privacy. Inside Higher Ed reported in 2017 that students were unaware their personal information — such as grade point averages — had been posted for the view of employers. Some privacy experts suggested at the time that the students had not closely read Handshake’s terms of service, because universities said the students had given permission for all of their information to be made somewhat public.

A student at the University of Delaware last year was able to construct a fake employer, register it on Handshake and view her peers’ personal information.

Privacy settings are now much clearer for students when they log on to Handshake, Lord said

All students have the option to remain completely anonymous on the Handshake network and only use it to view or apply to jobs or interact with their career centers. They can also choose whether they want to appear in searches employers conduct.

Students with public profiles can separately decide whether they want to share their GPA, Lord said. He said before Handshake started its employer-review system, it tested it with students “to ensure they understood their community privacy options clearly.”

Handshake also recently formed a Trust and Safety Council, comprising privacy experts, lawyers and administrators, which meets weekly to discuss various issues and features of the platform.

“We’re happy to report that Handshake’s rate of fraudulent job postings or moderation flags is far below any other site students are using to find jobs or get career advice,” Lord wrote in his email.

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Since its launch in 2014, career-services platform Handshake has dominated the higher ed market. Despite revelations that fraudsters have been able to create faux internships on Handshake, and students raising privacy concerns, the online service has spread to more than 800 institutions, where college career centers mainly use it to connect students to potential employers -- including every Fortune 500 company.

Handshake has been moving for years toward a business model more akin to networking websites such as LinkedIn or Facebook. The platform’s most recent shift, announced Tuesday, seems to continue this trend, though Handshake’s co-founder, Garrett Lord, said it is not a media company.

Now any student with an email address ending in .edu can sign up on Handshake for free without being required to be enrolled at one of the colleges or universities with which the company has partnered.

Handshake’s representatives are touting the change as a way to continue “democratizing” job opportunities and helping students find employment or an internship with one of Handshake's more than 400,000 employers, regardless of where the students live or attend college. Colleges and universities use Handshake to store student information such as résumés, cover letters and university transcripts. Students build online profiles using their own information and list their academic interests. Employers can review these profile and post jobs or internships, also for free.

The move by Handshake is an indication of how students are now far less reliant on actually visiting college career services centers for help finding internships and jobs. This trend has forced administrators in these offices to redefine their roles in assisting students get a start on their career paths.

“Opening up Handshake and launching peer-learning features will make it easier for students and recent grads to share advice and learn from one another -- in addition to their amazing career center advisers -- so they can more easily find a job that’s right for them,” Lord wrote in an email. “Most college students starting their careers don’t have established professional networks to leverage, and these enhancements to Handshake have been made to meet students’ unique job and internship search needs.”

Though other companies offer platforms similar to Handshake, many institutions’ career services offices prefer Handshake because it’s easy for students and administrators to use. This is the case at Loyola Marymount University, a private Jesuit college in Los Angeles that has used Handshake for three years.

Branden F. Grimmett, associate provost for career and professional development, said he appreciates that Handshake was made available to all students because it's helpful for them to know how to navigate the platform, even if they attended an institution that doesn’t use Handshake. He said now if students transfer to Loyola Marymount from a institution that doesn't use the platform, they might have some familiarity with it.

He also likes that universities that do use Handshake retain some unique features that aren't available to students who signed up for Handshake outside a university. For example, Handshake rolled out student reviews of employers in recent years. The reviews document their experiences at certain companies or in particular jobs.

“It’s good that they recognize the value in what universities are paying for,” Grimmett said.

Lord wrote in his email that “Handshake is even better for students at our 800-plus partner schools.” He believes students benefit from working with professors and career services staff who rely on Handshake to help advise and mentor students. Colleges also receive data about the number of students that use the platform and are placed in positions.

In a separate, written statement, Handshake executives seemed to want to assure paying clients that making the service available to more students would not diminish the relationships with the colleges that pay for it.

“Universities have been at the center of Handshake since the company was founded, and that’s not changing,” Christine Cruzveraga, vice president of higher education and student success at Handshake, said in the statement. “Opening up access is a critical next step in contributing to educational equity and realizing our mission of democratizing opportunity for every student -- including those that may attend an institution without the resources to offer career services. We’re all part of this larger ecosystem.”

Three college representatives interviewed for this article either declined to say or did not know how much their institutions paid for their contracts with Handshake.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, the group representing career services professionals, declined to comment on Handshake or similar services.

Lord helped create Handshake after dropping out of Michigan Technological University. He has said that his computer science-oriented friends who attended the university couldn’t find internships nearby because it was located in Michigan’s secluded Upper Peninsula.

Handshake will most likely benefit students who attend smaller institutions that may not host robust career fairs, said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education.

First-generation or impoverished students particularly have trouble finding positions, and programs such as Handshake can help them market themselves and track down these jobs, Kruger said.

Student career services on college campuses have been transformed because of the ubiquity of Handshake and other similar platforms. Administrators often can’t get students to visit career center offices anymore, and the job counselors have become more like guides that help students apply for online postings rather than find them actual opportunities, Kruger said.

He noted how students are developing virtual career profiles -- “passports,” Kruger calls them -- and taking them from institution to institution, especially as more students are transferring nowadays.

“Over all, when I talk to folks around campus, I think this move is a pretty positive one,” Kruger said.

Joseph A. Testani, assistant dean and executive director of the Gwen M. Greene Center for Career Education and Connections at the University of Rochester, said his staff is trying to help students make sense of all the job opportunities and information at their fingertips.

“More information isn’t always better,” he said.

Testani likened some of the services Handshake offers to Yelp or Glassdoor. Students tend to trust the opinions of other students over other adults, even alumni who have been in these positions before, he said.

Rochester sends students email blasts about career services events through Handshake, as well as job postings that are curated to match the academic interests they indicate in their profiles, Testani said.

“We’re trying to navigate more critically to figure out where students are at,” he said.

Handshake has come under fire for potentially infringing on student privacy. Inside Higher Ed reported in 2017 that students were unaware their personal information -- such as grade point averages -- had been posted for the view of employers. Some privacy experts suggested at the time that the students had not closely read Handshake’s terms of service, because universities said the students had given permission for all of their information to be made somewhat public.

A student at the University of Delaware last year was able to construct a fake employer, register it on Handshake and view her peers’ personal information.

Privacy settings are now much clearer for students when they log on to Handshake, Lord said

All students have the option to remain completely anonymous on the Handshake network and only use it to view or apply to jobs or interact with their career centers. They can also choose whether they want to appear in searches employers conduct.

Students with public profiles can separately decide whether they want to share their GPA, Lord said. He said before Handshake started its employer-review system, it tested it with students “to ensure they understood their community privacy options clearly.”

Handshake also recently formed a Trust and Safety Council, comprising privacy experts, lawyers and administrators, which meets weekly to discuss various issues and features of the platform.

“We’re happy to report that Handshake’s rate of fraudulent job postings or moderation flags is far below any other site students are using to find jobs or get career advice,” Lord wrote in his email.

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New presidents or provosts: Belmont Empire Everett Hastings Ottawa Tallahassee UNC Asheville UWGB Washington State Winthrop

  • Michael Alexander, director of the School of Music at the University of Northern Colorado, has been selected as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.
  • Garikai Campbell, provost and dean at Knox College, in Illinois, has been appointed provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
  • Jim Malatras, president of Rockefeller Institute of Government, part of the State University of New York System, has been chosen as president of Empire State College, also part of SUNY.
  • Adrienne McCormick, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Winthrop University, in South Carolina, has been named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs there.
  • Mitzi Montoya, Sara Hart Kimball Dean of the College of Business at Oregon State University, has been appointed provost and executive vice president at Washington State University.
  • Madeline Pumariega, former chancellor of the Florida College System, has been chosen as executive vice president and provost at Tallahassee Community College, also in Florida.
  • Barbara Sunderman, interim vice president for academic affairs at Hastings College, in Nebraska, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Dennis Tyner, senior vice president and provost at Ottawa University’s campus in Arizona, has been appointed as president there.
  • Jeremy Vittek, dean of instruction at Belmont College, in Ohio, has been promoted to vice president of academic and student affairs there.
  • Daria J. Willis, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Onondaga Community College, in New York, has been selected as president of Everett Community College, in Washington.
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  • Michael Alexander, director of the School of Music at the University of Northern Colorado, has been selected as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.
  • Garikai Campbell, provost and dean at Knox College, in Illinois, has been appointed provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
  • Jim Malatras, president of Rockefeller Institute of Government, part of the State University of New York System, has been chosen as president of Empire State College, also part of SUNY.
  • Adrienne McCormick, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Winthrop University, in South Carolina, has been named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs there.
  • Mitzi Montoya, Sara Hart Kimball Dean of the College of Business at Oregon State University, has been appointed provost and executive vice president at Washington State University.
  • Madeline Pumariega, former chancellor of the Florida College System, has been chosen as executive vice president and provost at Tallahassee Community College, also in Florida.
  • Barbara Sunderman, interim vice president for academic affairs at Hastings College, in Nebraska, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Dennis Tyner, senior vice president and provost at Ottawa University's campus in Arizona, has been appointed as president there.
  • Jeremy Vittek, dean of instruction at Belmont College, in Ohio, has been promoted to vice president of academic and student affairs there.
  • Daria J. Willis, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Onondaga Community College, in New York, has been selected as president of Everett Community College, in Washington.
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The Marist list reveals what the freshmen know

It seems like it’s always been here, but this is only the 22nd edition. The Marist Mindset List (formerly the Beloit list) after the college that founded it, is the list that tells you what freshmen know — and what they don’t (traditional age freshman). Marist College took over the list this year.

Here’s the list for this year:

1. Like Pearl Harbor for their grandparents, and the Kennedy assassination for their parents, 9/11 is an historical event.

2. Thumb, jump, and USB flash drives have always pushed floppy disks further into history.

3. The primary use of a phone has always been to take pictures.

4. The nation’s mantra has always been: “If you see something, say something.”

5. The Tech Big Four — Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google — are to them what the Big Three automakers were to their grandparents.

6. Their smart pens may write and record faster than they can think.

7. Nearly half of their generation is composed of people of color.

8. When they pulled themselves up off the floor for the first time, they may have been hanging onto the folks’ brand-new Xbox.

9. There have always been indecisive quadrennial debates regarding the future of the Electoral College.

10, Oklahoma City has always had a national memorial at its center.

11. Self-contained, battery-powered artificial hearts have always been ticking away.

12. Because of Richard Reid’s explosive footwear at 30,000 feet, passengers have always had to take off their shoes to slide through security on the ground.

13. They are as non-judgmental about sexual orientation as their parents were about smoking pot.

14. They have outlived iTunes.

15. Heinous, sexually-based offenses have always been investigated by the Special Victims Unit on Law and Order.

16. The Mars Odyssey has always been checking out the water supply for their future visits to Mars.

17. Snapchat has become their social media app of choice, thus relieving them of the dilemma of whether or not to friend Mom.   

18. In an unprecedented move, European nations via NATO have always helped to defend the U.S. militarily.

19. They may well not have a younger sibling, as the birth rate in the U.S. has been dropping since they were in grammar school.

20. PayPal has always been an online option for purchasers.

21. They have witnessed two African-American secretaries of atate, the election of a black president, Disney’s first black princess, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

22. As they crawled on the floor, TV headlines began crawling at the bottom of the TV screen.

23. “Pink slime” has always been a food additive.

24. With flyovers, honor guards, and “God Bless America,” sporting events have always been marked by emphatic patriotism. 

25. Only two-thirds of this generation identify as exclusively heterosexual.

26. Segways have always been trying to revolutionize the way people move. 

27. YouTube has become the video version of Wikipedia.

28. There has always been an International Criminal Court, and the U.S. has never been a signatory.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

29. Newfoundland and Labrador has always been, officially, Newfoundland-and-Labrador.

30. There has always been an American Taliban.

31. By their sophomore year, their generation will constitute one-quarter of the U.S. population.

32. Apple iPods have always been nostalgic.

33. They have always been able to fly Jet Blue, but never Ted and Song.

34. Quarterback Troy Aikman has always called the plays live from the press booth.

35. It has always been illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in New York State.

36. Except for when he celebrated Jeopardy’s 35th anniversary, Alex Trebek has never had a moustache.

37. Face recognition technology has always been used at public events

38. Skilled DJs have transitioned into turntablists.

39. The Apple Power Mac Cube has always been in a museum.

40. The year they were born, the top NBA draft pick came directly out of high school for the first time.

41. They have always been concerned about catching the West Nile virus.

42. There has always been a DisneySea in Tokyo.

43, They have grown up with Big Data and ubiquitous algorithms that know what they want before they do.

44. Most of them will rent, not buy, their textbooks. 

45. They have probably all been “gaslighted” or “ghosted.”

46. There have always been “smartwatches.”

47. Their grandparents’ classic comics have evolved into graphic novels.

48. They have grown up with a Patriot Act that has dramatically increased state surveillance to prevent terrorism.

49. Defibrillators have always been so simple to use that they can be installed at home.

50. Pittsburgh’s Steelers and Pirates have never played at Three Rivers Stadium.

51. Congress has always banned human cloning completely and threatened arrest for offenders.

52. At least one of the murderers of the four school girls in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963 has always been in prison.

53. Monica and Chandler have always been married on Friends.

54. Blackboards have never been dumb.

55. A Roman Catholic Pope has always visited a mosque.

56. Cal Ripken, Jr., has always been retired.

57. The U.S. has always been withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

58. Euthanasia has always been legal in the Netherlands.

59. Teams have always been engaged in an Amazing Race around the world.  

60. Coke and Pepsi have always been competing in the sports hydration science marketplace.

 

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It seems like it's always been here, but this is only the 22nd edition. The Marist Mindset List (formerly the Beloit list) after the college that founded it, is the list that tells you what freshmen know -- and what they don't (traditional age freshman). Marist College took over the list this year.

Here's the list for this year:

1. Like Pearl Harbor for their grandparents, and the Kennedy assassination for their parents, 9/11 is an historical event.

2. Thumb, jump, and USB flash drives have always pushed floppy disks further into history.

3. The primary use of a phone has always been to take pictures.

4. The nation’s mantra has always been: “If you see something, say something.”

5. The Tech Big Four -- Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google -- are to them what the Big Three automakers were to their grandparents.

6. Their smart pens may write and record faster than they can think.

7. Nearly half of their generation is composed of people of color.

8. When they pulled themselves up off the floor for the first time, they may have been hanging onto the folks’ brand-new Xbox.

9. There have always been indecisive quadrennial debates regarding the future of the Electoral College.

10, Oklahoma City has always had a national memorial at its center.

11. Self-contained, battery-powered artificial hearts have always been ticking away.

12. Because of Richard Reid’s explosive footwear at 30,000 feet, passengers have always had to take off their shoes to slide through security on the ground.

13. They are as non-judgmental about sexual orientation as their parents were about smoking pot.

14. They have outlived iTunes.

15. Heinous, sexually-based offenses have always been investigated by the Special Victims Unit on Law and Order.

16. The Mars Odyssey has always been checking out the water supply for their future visits to Mars.

17. Snapchat has become their social media app of choice, thus relieving them of the dilemma of whether or not to friend Mom.   

18. In an unprecedented move, European nations via NATO have always helped to defend the U.S. militarily.

19. They may well not have a younger sibling, as the birth rate in the U.S. has been dropping since they were in grammar school.

20. PayPal has always been an online option for purchasers.

21. They have witnessed two African-American secretaries of atate, the election of a black president, Disney’s first black princess, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

22. As they crawled on the floor, TV headlines began crawling at the bottom of the TV screen.

23. “Pink slime” has always been a food additive.

24. With flyovers, honor guards, and “God Bless America,” sporting events have always been marked by emphatic patriotism. 

25. Only two-thirds of this generation identify as exclusively heterosexual.

26. Segways have always been trying to revolutionize the way people move. 

27. YouTube has become the video version of Wikipedia.

28. There has always been an International Criminal Court, and the U.S. has never been a signatory.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

29. Newfoundland and Labrador has always been, officially, Newfoundland-and-Labrador.

30. There has always been an American Taliban.

31. By their sophomore year, their generation will constitute one-quarter of the U.S. population.

32. Apple iPods have always been nostalgic.

33. They have always been able to fly Jet Blue, but never Ted and Song.

34. Quarterback Troy Aikman has always called the plays live from the press booth.

35. It has always been illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in New York State.

36. Except for when he celebrated Jeopardy’s 35th anniversary, Alex Trebek has never had a moustache.

37. Face recognition technology has always been used at public events

38. Skilled DJs have transitioned into turntablists.

39. The Apple Power Mac Cube has always been in a museum.

40. The year they were born, the top NBA draft pick came directly out of high school for the first time.

41. They have always been concerned about catching the West Nile virus.

42. There has always been a DisneySea in Tokyo.

43, They have grown up with Big Data and ubiquitous algorithms that know what they want before they do.

44. Most of them will rent, not buy, their textbooks. 

45. They have probably all been “gaslighted” or “ghosted.”

46. There have always been “smartwatches.”

47. Their grandparents’ classic comics have evolved into graphic novels.

48. They have grown up with a Patriot Act that has dramatically increased state surveillance to prevent terrorism.

49. Defibrillators have always been so simple to use that they can be installed at home.

50. Pittsburgh’s Steelers and Pirates have never played at Three Rivers Stadium.

51. Congress has always banned human cloning completely and threatened arrest for offenders.

52. At least one of the murderers of the four school girls in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963 has always been in prison.

53. Monica and Chandler have always been married on Friends.

54. Blackboards have never been dumb.

55. A Roman Catholic Pope has always visited a mosque.

56. Cal Ripken, Jr., has always been retired.

57. The U.S. has always been withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

58. Euthanasia has always been legal in the Netherlands.

59. Teams have always been engaged in an Amazing Race around the world.  

60. Coke and Pepsi have always been competing in the sports hydration science marketplace.

 

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Majority of Republicans have negative view of higher ed, Pew finds

President Trump has questioned the value of community colleges and suggested universities “restrict free thought.”

Survey results in 2017 suggested that typical conservatives had increasingly begun to share the president’s dim view of higher ed. In a Pew survey, only 36 percent of Republican and GOP-leaning respondents said higher education had a positive effect on the direction of the country — a steep drop-off from responses only two years before, although the slide had begun in 2016, before the election. (NOTE: This article has been updated from an earlier version to clarify when the poll numbers began dropping.)

Results from another recent Pew survey indicate that those views have persisted. In July, only 33 percent of Republican survey respondents said higher ed had a positive effect. And 59 percent believed higher ed had a negative effect on the country’s direction, the highest number in the survey’s findings so far.

Rather than a temporary blip, the Pew findings suggest a continuing challenge for college leaders hoping to maintain or repair a bipartisan consensus in support of postsecondary education.

That Pew survey found 67 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents had positive views of higher ed, a slight drop-off from two years prior. Over all, 50 percent of U.S. adults said they had positive views of postsecondary education.

“It is certainly something we’re aware of, and we do find it troubling,” said Dan Madzelan, associate vice president for government relations at the American Council on Education. “Higher education historically has not been caught up in any kind of partisan divide.”

The factors behind the lower approval rates (higher ed had positives of 63 percent for all Americans in 2015) likely go beyond partisan attacks or controversies driven by cable news. Americans of all political persuasions have cited the rising cost of college in previous survey responses. And the elite college admissions scandal that unfolded earlier this year damaged the higher ed brand even though it involved only a handful of highly selective institutions.

The overall picture of the public’s view of higher ed is probably more complicated as well. Surveys released by D.C.-based think tanks in 2018 and this year found broad support for the value proposition of higher ed even among conservatives.

And Pew findings suggest colleges aren’t unique in their lower standing with the general public.

Views of U.S. Institutions Are Down Across the Board

The latest numbers on the partisan divide over higher ed came from a July survey of opinions on major U.S. institutions. No more than 50 percent of respondents had positive views of the impact made by entities like large financial institutions, tech firms, churches, labor unions, large corporations and the national news media.

Only unions and banks had seen significant improvement in public perception since 2010, according to the Pew results. And tech firms had seen the most precipitous drop-off in positive public opinion. Whereas 50 percent said they had a positive view of tech companies’ impact in July, 68 percent had positive perceptions of the sector in 2010. The gap in views between Republicans and Democrats on the industry was also fairly small compared to other institutions.

It’s not clear why positive views of higher ed among Democrats may have dropped off since 2015. The July survey, which polled roughly 1,500 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percent for questions on partisan views, didn’t ask detailed questions about common concerns with colleges — such as cost, degree value or free speech on campus.

Pew conducted the survey about four months after federal prosecutors filed indictments against dozens of individuals involved in buying their children admission into elite, highly selective colleges. The scandal stemming from that operation, dubbed Varsity Blues, fueled public cynicism of the idea that higher ed is a meritocratic system.

David Schleifer, vice president for opinion research at Public Agenda, cautioned against attaching too much significance to the apparent drop in positive views among Democrats.

“It’s not a major drop like you see when you look at the Republican side,” he said. “Let’s see where that goes over the next year.”

More Nuanced Findings on Public Perceptions

After Pew and Gallup shed light on Republicans’ increasingly negative view of higher ed, subsequent surveys have presented a more nuanced picture of public opinion. A New America report in 2018 found Republicans and Democrats agreed on the value of a degree. The sharpest divide was over who should pay for college — the government or students themselves.

A Third Way survey released this summer found roughly 50 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of higher education, while 44 percent had negative views. The survey also found overwhelming GOP support for vocational schools and public community colleges. And both Republicans and Democrats surveyed supported accountability for low-performing institutions by large margins.

Schleifer said the kinds of questions surveys pose could affect how respondents report their views on higher ed. Individuals could have very different reasons for concluding colleges are having a positive or negative impact on the country.

“It’s important to keep in mind that that’s a really different question from whether a degree is important for economic success or important for success in the workplace,” he said.

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President Trump has questioned the value of community colleges and suggested universities “restrict free thought.”

Survey results in 2017 suggested that typical conservatives had increasingly begun to share the president's dim view of higher ed. In a Pew survey, only 36 percent of Republican and GOP-leaning respondents said higher education had a positive effect on the direction of the country -- a steep drop-off from responses only two years before, although the slide had begun in 2016, before the election. (NOTE: This article has been updated from an earlier version to clarify when the poll numbers began dropping.)

Results from another recent Pew survey indicate that those views have persisted. In July, only 33 percent of Republican survey respondents said higher ed had a positive effect. And 59 percent believed higher ed had a negative effect on the country’s direction, the highest number in the survey’s findings so far.

Rather than a temporary blip, the Pew findings suggest a continuing challenge for college leaders hoping to maintain or repair a bipartisan consensus in support of postsecondary education.

That Pew survey found 67 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents had positive views of higher ed, a slight drop-off from two years prior. Over all, 50 percent of U.S. adults said they had positive views of postsecondary education.

“It is certainly something we're aware of, and we do find it troubling,” said Dan Madzelan, associate vice president for government relations at the American Council on Education. “Higher education historically has not been caught up in any kind of partisan divide.”

The factors behind the lower approval rates (higher ed had positives of 63 percent for all Americans in 2015) likely go beyond partisan attacks or controversies driven by cable news. Americans of all political persuasions have cited the rising cost of college in previous survey responses. And the elite college admissions scandal that unfolded earlier this year damaged the higher ed brand even though it involved only a handful of highly selective institutions.

The overall picture of the public’s view of higher ed is probably more complicated as well. Surveys released by D.C.-based think tanks in 2018 and this year found broad support for the value proposition of higher ed even among conservatives.

And Pew findings suggest colleges aren’t unique in their lower standing with the general public.

Views of U.S. Institutions Are Down Across the Board

The latest numbers on the partisan divide over higher ed came from a July survey of opinions on major U.S. institutions. No more than 50 percent of respondents had positive views of the impact made by entities like large financial institutions, tech firms, churches, labor unions, large corporations and the national news media.

Only unions and banks had seen significant improvement in public perception since 2010, according to the Pew results. And tech firms had seen the most precipitous drop-off in positive public opinion. Whereas 50 percent said they had a positive view of tech companies’ impact in July, 68 percent had positive perceptions of the sector in 2010. The gap in views between Republicans and Democrats on the industry was also fairly small compared to other institutions.

It’s not clear why positive views of higher ed among Democrats may have dropped off since 2015. The July survey, which polled roughly 1,500 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percent for questions on partisan views, didn’t ask detailed questions about common concerns with colleges -- such as cost, degree value or free speech on campus.

Pew conducted the survey about four months after federal prosecutors filed indictments against dozens of individuals involved in buying their children admission into elite, highly selective colleges. The scandal stemming from that operation, dubbed Varsity Blues, fueled public cynicism of the idea that higher ed is a meritocratic system.

David Schleifer, vice president for opinion research at Public Agenda, cautioned against attaching too much significance to the apparent drop in positive views among Democrats.

“It’s not a major drop like you see when you look at the Republican side,” he said. “Let’s see where that goes over the next year.”

More Nuanced Findings on Public Perceptions

After Pew and Gallup shed light on Republicans’ increasingly negative view of higher ed, subsequent surveys have presented a more nuanced picture of public opinion. A New America report in 2018 found Republicans and Democrats agreed on the value of a degree. The sharpest divide was over who should pay for college -- the government or students themselves.

A Third Way survey released this summer found roughly 50 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of higher education, while 44 percent had negative views. The survey also found overwhelming GOP support for vocational schools and public community colleges. And both Republicans and Democrats surveyed supported accountability for low-performing institutions by large margins.

Schleifer said the kinds of questions surveys pose could affect how respondents report their views on higher ed. Individuals could have very different reasons for concluding colleges are having a positive or negative impact on the country.

“It’s important to keep in mind that that's a really different question from whether a degree is important for economic success or important for success in the workplace,” he said.

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MeTooSTEM group and its leader face criticism from former members

MeTooSTEM has accomplished much since it was founded in 2018 to fight sexual harassment in academic science. Since November alone, according to the group’s accounting, it has engaged with more than 750 individuals requesting assistance, filed hundreds of open-records requests about harassment cases and made dozens of complaints to funding agencies regarding researchers’ conduct.

The group has visited some 20 campuses to discuss federal laws governing gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct in education, put on webinars and awarded $12,000 to advocates for women in science. Its founder BethAnn McLaughlin, also received the Disobedience Award from Massachusetts Institute of Techonolgy’s Media Lab last year, alongside Me Too movement found Tarana Burke and consultant and activist Sherry Marts.

But in recent days MeTooSTEM has been called out for how it responded to a request for help. And former members of the group have since renewed their criticism of MeTooSTEM’s priorities and of McLaughlin, a neuroscientist who was until July an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University. Others have predicted the group will fold. What’s up?

“Generally, we had serious concerns about communication and leadership styles, a lack of transparency and victim advocacy training, and the priorities of the leadership,” four former members of MeTooSTEM — biomedical professional Vidhya Sivakumaran, Cornell University postdoctoral researcher in molecular medicine Tisha Bohr, Indiana University postdoctoral researcher in physics Erica Smith and University of Illinois at Chicago developmental biology Ph.D. candidate Deanna Arsala — said in a joint email. “Since our departures, we have been in contact with many victims who feel they have been mistreated and bullied by Dr. McLaughlin. We are deeply concerned and feel that this pattern of behavior is continuing to hurt others.”

Most recently, the women said, McLaughlin on Twitter “disparaged and lied about” Smith, who has been open about being a survivor of sexual misconduct.

McLaughlin declined to comment in detail about the former members’ general allegations. She has previously responded to them in depth, here. But she said that MeTooSTEM continues to grow and that there is room for many more advocacy voices in science’s antiharassment movement. She urged against “punching down” on anyone fighting for positive climates across the sciences — including her critics.

“I don’t want to be part of any organization that tells any woman how to speak her truth,” McLaughlin said. She added, “But if you want to know why I’m doing something, think about safety.”

The safety comment was a reference to what happened last week: McLaughlin, who receives regular requests to meet with survivors, became increasingly alarmed by someone asking, via Twitter, first privately and then publicly, to meet her in person and warning that she was under surveillance. McLaughlin consulted with a small group of core MeTooSTEM volunteers. Eventually Josh Fessel, an assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt, told the person asking for help to contact the police for immediate assistance. The anonymous person objected, saying such a directive went against MeTooSTEM’s values and purpose. Some of McLaughlin’s critics saw the public part of the discussion and called it inappropriate, even “gaslighty,” since MeTooSTEM was founded in large part to give those facing harassment alternative reporting options and support.

A conversation followed, with McLaughlin at one point tagging her attorneys and accusing Smith of “talking shit.” Smith is “so done,” McLaughlin also said. McLaughlin was subsequently accused of gatekeeping the movement.

 

A prominent anti-harassment advocate is telling falsities about a junior scientist, survivor & advocate over a misinterpreted tweet and says “your done.” This is not a tone problem, this feels like bullying, retaliation, gatekeeping. #MeTooPhD #ScienceToo #AcademiaToo #MeTooSTEM https://t.co/WpChkO8Kkn

— Tisha Bohr (@TishaBohr) August 14, 2019

 

Asked about critiques of her management and advocacy styles, McLaughlin said, “I kind of coined the ‘harasshole’ phrase. So knowing that, if you expect me to be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s not going to happen.”

McLaughlin has faced prior negative feedback about her tone. But Bohr emphasized that the issue is not primarily a stylistic one. Referencing her own earlier resignation letter, which was co-written with Julie Libarkin, a professor of geocognition at Michigan State University who manages a master academic harasser list, Bohr said that one of her biggest concerns “was the lack of organization and transparency, which made it difficult to get anything done or know what was going [on] or know what was expected of me or how to navigate the organizational structure.”

Bohr thought that she was joining MeTooSTEM with Libarkin as a co-founder, she said, “so that was an ongoing struggle that Julie and I were having — not having any power to invoke the growth or change we thought was necessary because all our requests for access were basically ignored by BethAnn.” (Note: This sentence has been updated from an earlier version to reflect that Bohr thought Libarkin, not Bohr, would be a co-founder.)

She added, “I felt the movement needed to be more inclusive. Another big concern.”

Libarkin did not respond to a request for comment.

In their own separate resignation letter sent in April, Arsala, Sivakumaran and Smith cited a “lack of transparency, policies and communication within the organization leadership team.” That includes learning about MeTooSTEM initiatives on Twitter at the same time as the public, the women wrote, “without any prior discussion with the leadership team.” A Board of Directors also was created without the women’s knowledge, even though they believed they would be included on that board, they said.

Arsala, Sivakumaran and Smith also said that MeTooSTEM receives little input from racial and ethnic minorities, and that “many outside the organization have noticed it has prioritized the voices of cisgendered white women.” Additionally, the women said, some of their questions about the organization’s nonprofit status were met with “anger and retaliation,” unlike other white women’s questions. MeTooSTEM is now a registered nonprofit organization.

Teresa Swanson, a recent MeTooSTEM award recipient and current core volunteer, and a community engagement specialist for the University of Washington’s molecular and cellular biology graduate program, said the movement provides “a much needed space for previously ignored conversations about how harassment harms STEM, how to handle harassment and what needs to happen to change STEM cultures.”

MeTooSTEM as an organization provides “support to victims of gender and sexual harassment in order to help retain their health and careers,” she said. That includes providing them security cameras, covering other related expenses, hosting online support chats called MeTooSTEM Talks and advocating for small- and large-scale policy changes to protect scientists and hold harassers accountable.

Of McLaughlin, Swanson said she is a “tireless advocate for victims and is committed to learning, growth and change. In the time I’ve known her, she has constantly worked towards improving herself and the community she loves.” 

MeTooSTEM currently has a small board and group of regular volunteers. McLaughlin said that the organization’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the process of reporting harassment is no longer potentially more damaging to survivors’ mental health and careers than the actual misconduct they’ve endured.

“Too often what is happening on campuses is that the Title IX process is driven by fear and university lawyers trying to protect reputations over individuals,” she said. “That’s unacceptable.”

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MeTooSTEM has accomplished much since it was founded in 2018 to fight sexual harassment in academic science. Since November alone, according to the group’s accounting, it has engaged with more than 750 individuals requesting assistance, filed hundreds of open-records requests about harassment cases and made dozens of complaints to funding agencies regarding researchers' conduct.

The group has visited some 20 campuses to discuss federal laws governing gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct in education, put on webinars and awarded $12,000 to advocates for women in science. Its founder BethAnn McLaughlin, also received the Disobedience Award from Massachusetts Institute of Techonolgy's Media Lab last year, alongside Me Too movement found Tarana Burke and consultant and activist Sherry Marts.

But in recent days MeTooSTEM has been called out for how it responded to a request for help. And former members of the group have since renewed their criticism of MeTooSTEM’s priorities and of McLaughlin, a neuroscientist who was until July an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University. Others have predicted the group will fold. What’s up?

“Generally, we had serious concerns about communication and leadership styles, a lack of transparency and victim advocacy training, and the priorities of the leadership,” four former members of MeTooSTEM -- biomedical professional Vidhya Sivakumaran, Cornell University postdoctoral researcher in molecular medicine Tisha Bohr, Indiana University postdoctoral researcher in physics Erica Smith and University of Illinois at Chicago developmental biology Ph.D. candidate Deanna Arsala -- said in a joint email. “Since our departures, we have been in contact with many victims who feel they have been mistreated and bullied by Dr. McLaughlin. We are deeply concerned and feel that this pattern of behavior is continuing to hurt others.”

Most recently, the women said, McLaughlin on Twitter “disparaged and lied about” Smith, who has been open about being a survivor of sexual misconduct.

McLaughlin declined to comment in detail about the former members' general allegations. She has previously responded to them in depth, here. But she said that MeTooSTEM continues to grow and that there is room for many more advocacy voices in science’s antiharassment movement. She urged against “punching down” on anyone fighting for positive climates across the sciences -- including her critics.

“I don’t want to be part of any organization that tells any woman how to speak her truth,” McLaughlin said. She added, “But if you want to know why I’m doing something, think about safety.”

The safety comment was a reference to what happened last week: McLaughlin, who receives regular requests to meet with survivors, became increasingly alarmed by someone asking, via Twitter, first privately and then publicly, to meet her in person and warning that she was under surveillance. McLaughlin consulted with a small group of core MeTooSTEM volunteers. Eventually Josh Fessel, an assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt, told the person asking for help to contact the police for immediate assistance. The anonymous person objected, saying such a directive went against MeTooSTEM's values and purpose. Some of McLaughlin’s critics saw the public part of the discussion and called it inappropriate, even "gaslighty," since MeTooSTEM was founded in large part to give those facing harassment alternative reporting options and support.

A conversation followed, with McLaughlin at one point tagging her attorneys and accusing Smith of "talking shit." Smith is "so done," McLaughlin also said. McLaughlin was subsequently accused of gatekeeping the movement.

 

 

Asked about critiques of her management and advocacy styles, McLaughlin said, “I kind of coined the ‘harasshole’ phrase. So knowing that, if you expect me to be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s not going to happen.”

McLaughlin has faced prior negative feedback about her tone. But Bohr emphasized that the issue is not primarily a stylistic one. Referencing her own earlier resignation letter, which was co-written with Julie Libarkin, a professor of geocognition at Michigan State University who manages a master academic harasser list, Bohr said that one of her biggest concerns “was the lack of organization and transparency, which made it difficult to get anything done or know what was going [on] or know what was expected of me or how to navigate the organizational structure.”

Bohr thought that she was joining MeTooSTEM with Libarkin as a co-founder, she said, “so that was an ongoing struggle that Julie and I were having -- not having any power to invoke the growth or change we thought was necessary because all our requests for access were basically ignored by BethAnn.” (Note: This sentence has been updated from an earlier version to reflect that Bohr thought Libarkin, not Bohr, would be a co-founder.)

She added, “I felt the movement needed to be more inclusive. Another big concern.”

Libarkin did not respond to a request for comment.

In their own separate resignation letter sent in April, Arsala, Sivakumaran and Smith cited a “lack of transparency, policies and communication within the organization leadership team.” That includes learning about MeTooSTEM initiatives on Twitter at the same time as the public, the women wrote, “without any prior discussion with the leadership team.” A Board of Directors also was created without the women’s knowledge, even though they believed they would be included on that board, they said.

Arsala, Sivakumaran and Smith also said that MeTooSTEM receives little input from racial and ethnic minorities, and that “many outside the organization have noticed it has prioritized the voices of cisgendered white women.” Additionally, the women said, some of their questions about the organization’s nonprofit status were met with “anger and retaliation,” unlike other white women's questions. MeTooSTEM is now a registered nonprofit organization.

Teresa Swanson, a recent MeTooSTEM award recipient and current core volunteer, and a community engagement specialist for the University of Washington's molecular and cellular biology graduate program, said the movement provides “a much needed space for previously ignored conversations about how harassment harms STEM, how to handle harassment and what needs to happen to change STEM cultures.”

MeTooSTEM as an organization provides “support to victims of gender and sexual harassment in order to help retain their health and careers,” she said. That includes providing them security cameras, covering other related expenses, hosting online support chats called MeTooSTEM Talks and advocating for small- and large-scale policy changes to protect scientists and hold harassers accountable.

Of McLaughlin, Swanson said she is a "tireless advocate for victims and is committed to learning, growth and change. In the time I've known her, she has constantly worked towards improving herself and the community she loves." 

MeTooSTEM currently has a small board and group of regular volunteers. McLaughlin said that the organization’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the process of reporting harassment is no longer potentially more damaging to survivors' mental health and careers than the actual misconduct they've endured.

“Too often what is happening on campuses is that the Title IX process is driven by fear and university lawyers trying to protect reputations over individuals,” she said. “That’s unacceptable.”

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George Mason and NOVA team up with InsideTrack to improve transfer process

Virginia’s largest community college and a prominent public research university have co-partnered with an educational management and student support service provider to improve academic outcomes for transfer students.

The partnership between Northern Virginia Community College, George Mason University and InsideTrack, a company that helps higher ed institutions increase student enrollment and graduation rates, is part of a larger strategy to improve and streamline the process for students who want to transfer from NOVA, as the community college is often called, to George Mason.

The two institutions are already part of a collaborative program begun last year, called ADVANCE, which guides NOVA students through the transfer process and helps them integrate at George Mason. Administrators from both institutions say the affiliation with InsideTrack will help them scale up the program as the number of participating students grows. The total number of students in the program will have doubled to nearly 700 when the new academic year begins next Monday. Administrators expect that pace to continue during each academic year.

George Mason’s total undergraduate enrollment for the 2018-2019 academic year was 25,508, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning. The total included 6,717 new undergraduates and nearly half of them, 3,006, were transfer students, although not all of them were from the ADVANCE program.

The partnership with InsideTrack will help enhance and expand the program to provide students with “consistent, personalized support throughout their time at both institutions,” according to an announcement by the three parties.

InsideTrack will provide training on academic coaching, tailored for specific student demographics, to staff at both institutions and will also coach a subset of students to tailor the methodology and model best practices. The company also will be working with institutional leaders to develop the infrastructure to build a sustainable professional coaching system.

“Improving collaboration between two- and four-year institutions is one of the most powerful levers available to improve college completion and enhance social and economic mobility,” Rose Pascarell, vice president for university life at George Mason, said in the announcement. “It is also why we are working with InsideTrack, to ensure that students who begin their journey at NOVA and complete it at Mason enjoy consistent, holistic support that adapts to their evolving needs.”

The partnership with InsideTrack is a three-year agreement. Pascarell said the costs would not be passed on to students and that student services would instead be shifted internally at both institutions. (She said in an interview Monday that she would provide numbers about the actual costs but did not produce any figures.)

“This is not just an add-on but a shift in the way we provide services to students to be more responsive to their needs,” she said.

The move comes at a time when the demographics are changing on American college campuses, particularly at community colleges, and more first-generation students are enrolling along with more students from low-income households and immigrant families.

These students tend to struggle more in college and face barriers that keep them from completing their studies and graduating or from going on to earn a degree at a four-year college. College administrators are increasingly looking for ways to help these students succeed, including by making the often bureaucratic, complicated and time-consuming transfer process easier to manage and accomplish.

“Having that partnership with InsideTrack gives us more flexibility and helps us be able to serve more students more quickly,” Keri Bowman, director of academic planning and advising at NOVA, said in an interview.

“I think in general our students, and particularly at NOVA, tend to be less experienced with college, may be first-generation students and have some access issues,” she said. “We want them to learn the business of college, how to do NOVA and do college in general, and also have them transfer more smoothly.”

Pascarell said InsideTrack was chosen because it was among the first of such companies “to apply a coaching methodology” to the services it provides.

“They’re helping us define the methodology and helping us build it out … so that we’re able to respond to a student population that will grow in the thousands in the next couple of years,” she said.

Pascarell noted that course selection advising, academic coaching, resource referral and support services for transfer students are separate functions on most college campuses and are provided in different departments. And those services are usually incomplete, she added.

“We’re trying to create what I believe is a new, comprehensive coaching and advising model where students are really connected with the same folks throughout their transfer process … and students are advised and coached by the same people,” she said.

“It’s really clear to me that students don’t separate their needs by function. That’s not how they see us or seek out the supports they need,” she said. “We noticed that students would find their homes within a certain department or with a certain adviser,” and they would try to get all their needs met through that department or person. “This is our attempt to be more responsive to students, to create a set of supports from the point of when they transfer from the community college to transition and integration here.”

Dave Jarrat, InsideTrack’s senior vice president for engagement and growth, said the new partnership reflects a larger trend.

“There are a lot of institutions moving from a more transactional approach toward a more development-coaching approach to student support,” he said. “I do think we’ll be seeing more of this for reasons of demographics and for reasons of costs.”

Jarrat said his company would help NOVA and George Mason break down silos between admissions, student affairs and faculty advising departments.

“There are different organizational cultures and history being brought to this,” he said. “We have a lot of experience helping organizations change and persist in that change” and helping them “develop a sustainable approach to provide what students need, particularly the first-generation or low-income student.”

Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an expert on transfers, is generally supportive of efforts to help students. He counts NOVA and George Mason’s transfer collaboration as among a handful nationwide that appear to be doing a good job. (He said, though, that the partnership with InsideTrack “looks like an interesting, boutiquey type of effort.”)

“I think what you’re seeing at George Mason and NOVA, in general, is what is happening across the country,” he said. “They’re creating this guided pathway for transfer students and monitoring their progress. The trend is a good thing.”

But it’s not occurring on a large enough scale, he added.

“There’s no question that even with the efforts they have made, that advising at community colleges is grossly inadequate for transfer students and very complicated,” he said, speaking generally about transfer programs. “But in fairness to both four-year and two-year colleges, the resources for advising are very thin, especially at community colleges.”

Jenkins’s research has found that, in general, only 15 percent of transfer students end up earning a bachelor’s degree, and among low-income students, it’s just 10 percent. What’s more, many transfer students end up earning excess credits that are not transferable to four-year colleges but that cost them precious time and money, delaying them from completing their studies and earning associate degrees and preventing them from transferring to four-year colleges.

“People are not going to pay for this inefficiency, and that’s why community colleges are hurting and enrollment is declining,” he said.

“The vast majority of transfer students think they’re going to get a bachelor’s degree” but don’t, he said. “When I talk to transfer students, I just want to cry — the barriers that they face on both sides are so bad.”

Jenkins said part of the problem is that four-year colleges, especially regional colleges, are heavily oriented toward providing support services to freshmen.

“They have weeklong orientation programs for their freshmen, and they tell transfer students, ‘OK, you can register online,'” he said. “They’re going to lose these students if they don’t create these strong pathways.”

He said colleges should align their programs to help students get good jobs or transfer to four-year colleges with declared and defined majors. He said colleges should also reorganize their academic programs around schools and meta-majors.

Still, he acknowledges, “It’s enormously complicated.”

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Virginia’s largest community college and a prominent public research university have co-partnered with an educational management and student support service provider to improve academic outcomes for transfer students.

The partnership between Northern Virginia Community College, George Mason University and InsideTrack, a company that helps higher ed institutions increase student enrollment and graduation rates, is part of a larger strategy to improve and streamline the process for students who want to transfer from NOVA, as the community college is often called, to George Mason.

The two institutions are already part of a collaborative program begun last year, called ADVANCE, which guides NOVA students through the transfer process and helps them integrate at George Mason. Administrators from both institutions say the affiliation with InsideTrack will help them scale up the program as the number of participating students grows. The total number of students in the program will have doubled to nearly 700 when the new academic year begins next Monday. Administrators expect that pace to continue during each academic year.

George Mason's total undergraduate enrollment for the 2018-2019 academic year was 25,508, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning. The total included 6,717 new undergraduates and nearly half of them, 3,006, were transfer students, although not all of them were from the ADVANCE program.

The partnership with InsideTrack will help enhance and expand the program to provide students with “consistent, personalized support throughout their time at both institutions,” according to an announcement by the three parties.

InsideTrack will provide training on academic coaching, tailored for specific student demographics, to staff at both institutions and will also coach a subset of students to tailor the methodology and model best practices. The company also will be working with institutional leaders to develop the infrastructure to build a sustainable professional coaching system.

“Improving collaboration between two- and four-year institutions is one of the most powerful levers available to improve college completion and enhance social and economic mobility,” Rose Pascarell, vice president for university life at George Mason, said in the announcement. “It is also why we are working with InsideTrack, to ensure that students who begin their journey at NOVA and complete it at Mason enjoy consistent, holistic support that adapts to their evolving needs.”

The partnership with InsideTrack is a three-year agreement. Pascarell said the costs would not be passed on to students and that student services would instead be shifted internally at both institutions. (She said in an interview Monday that she would provide numbers about the actual costs but did not produce any figures.)

"This is not just an add-on but a shift in the way we provide services to students to be more responsive to their needs," she said.

The move comes at a time when the demographics are changing on American college campuses, particularly at community colleges, and more first-generation students are enrolling along with more students from low-income households and immigrant families.

These students tend to struggle more in college and face barriers that keep them from completing their studies and graduating or from going on to earn a degree at a four-year college. College administrators are increasingly looking for ways to help these students succeed, including by making the often bureaucratic, complicated and time-consuming transfer process easier to manage and accomplish.

“Having that partnership with InsideTrack gives us more flexibility and helps us be able to serve more students more quickly,” Keri Bowman, director of academic planning and advising at NOVA, said in an interview.

“I think in general our students, and particularly at NOVA, tend to be less experienced with college, may be first-generation students and have some access issues,” she said. “We want them to learn the business of college, how to do NOVA and do college in general, and also have them transfer more smoothly.”

Pascarell said InsideTrack was chosen because it was among the first of such companies “to apply a coaching methodology” to the services it provides.

“They’re helping us define the methodology and helping us build it out … so that we’re able to respond to a student population that will grow in the thousands in the next couple of years,” she said.

Pascarell noted that course selection advising, academic coaching, resource referral and support services for transfer students are separate functions on most college campuses and are provided in different departments. And those services are usually incomplete, she added.

“We’re trying to create what I believe is a new, comprehensive coaching and advising model where students are really connected with the same folks throughout their transfer process … and students are advised and coached by the same people,” she said.

“It’s really clear to me that students don’t separate their needs by function. That’s not how they see us or seek out the supports they need,” she said. “We noticed that students would find their homes within a certain department or with a certain adviser,” and they would try to get all their needs met through that department or person. “This is our attempt to be more responsive to students, to create a set of supports from the point of when they transfer from the community college to transition and integration here.”

Dave Jarrat, InsideTrack’s senior vice president for engagement and growth, said the new partnership reflects a larger trend.

“There are a lot of institutions moving from a more transactional approach toward a more development-coaching approach to student support,” he said. “I do think we’ll be seeing more of this for reasons of demographics and for reasons of costs.”

Jarrat said his company would help NOVA and George Mason break down silos between admissions, student affairs and faculty advising departments.

“There are different organizational cultures and history being brought to this,” he said. “We have a lot of experience helping organizations change and persist in that change” and helping them “develop a sustainable approach to provide what students need, particularly the first-generation or low-income student.”

Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, and an expert on transfers, is generally supportive of efforts to help students. He counts NOVA and George Mason's transfer collaboration as among a handful nationwide that appear to be doing a good job. (He said, though, that the partnership with InsideTrack "looks like an interesting, boutiquey type of effort.")

"I think what you're seeing at George Mason and NOVA, in general, is what is happening across the country," he said. "They're creating this guided pathway for transfer students and monitoring their progress. The trend is a good thing."

But it's not occurring on a large enough scale, he added.

"There’s no question that even with the efforts they have made, that advising at community colleges is grossly inadequate for transfer students and very complicated," he said, speaking generally about transfer programs. "But in fairness to both four-year and two-year colleges, the resources for advising are very thin, especially at community colleges."

Jenkins's research has found that, in general, only 15 percent of transfer students end up earning a bachelor's degree, and among low-income students, it’s just 10 percent. What's more, many transfer students end up earning excess credits that are not transferable to four-year colleges but that cost them precious time and money, delaying them from completing their studies and earning associate degrees and preventing them from transferring to four-year colleges.

"People are not going to pay for this inefficiency, and that's why community colleges are hurting and enrollment is declining," he said.

"The vast majority of transfer students think they’re going to get a bachelor’s degree" but don't, he said. "When I talk to transfer students, I just want to cry -- the barriers that they face on both sides are so bad."

Jenkins said part of the problem is that four-year colleges, especially regional colleges, are heavily oriented toward providing support services to freshmen.

"They have weeklong orientation programs for their freshmen, and they tell transfer students, 'OK, you can register online,'" he said. "They’re going to lose these students if they don’t create these strong pathways."

He said colleges should align their programs to help students get good jobs or transfer to four-year colleges with declared and defined majors. He said colleges should also reorganize their academic programs around schools and meta-majors.

Still, he acknowledges, "It’s enormously complicated."

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National ‘nudging’ campaign produced no increase in FAFSA applications, college enrollment

Nationalized “nudge” campaigns that shower students with emails and text messages to encourage them to apply for federal financial aid do not budge enrollment rates, as education researchers may have hoped based on the past success of smaller-scale outreach.

A study by economists at five universities, released this month by the National Bureau for Economic Research, suggests that consistently nudging incoming and current college students to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid had no effect on college enrollment or financial aid recipient rates. Researchers tested a campaign on two distinct groups of students — high school seniors who applied to college using the Common Application and college students of all levels (incoming, applied but did not enroll, currently enrolled and dropouts) who applied within an undisclosed large state system, said Kelly Rosinger, an assistant professor of education at Pennsylvania State University and one of the six researchers who authored “Nudging at Scale: Experimental Evidence From FAFSA Completion Campaigns.” Her colleagues were from Brandeis and Brigham Young Universities and the Universities of Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Previous research has shown the success of nudging on a smaller scale from sources familiar to students, like advisers or local community organizations, Rosinger said. But for this study, the researchers tested whether nudging would be effective through state- and national-level organizations with broader reaches, like the Common Application, which is one possible reason the outreach didn’t garner results, Rosinger said.

“When we think about scaling up, working with national and state-level organizations, the messaging has to be more generic than the previous messaging had been,” Rosinger said. “Common Application covers the nation, and students are somewhat familiar with it when applying to college … The students have a weaker connection to Common App.”

The Common Application and the state system sent “experimental” text messages to about 700,000 students over all, about 340,682 high school seniors who had registered with Common Application, a majority of them lower-income and first-generation students, and 350,407 incoming, current or former students who had applied within the state’s higher education system.

All 800,000 students in the study received some type of standard text message with federal financial aid information, but the experimental groups had further communication, like emails, infographics, mailers and varied text message content tailored to students’ identities. For example, if a student was identified as low-income, texts included the benefits of receiving financial aid.

“It didn’t seem to matter how we framed the message or how we sent the message; we weren’t finding differences between them,” Rosinger said.

The experiments produced no substantial results, and Rosinger and her colleagues will likely continue to pursue the possible explanations for students’ unresponsiveness to large-scale nudging, she said. They hypothesize that more widespread nudging does not take into account individual students’ needs and that the messaging is too general to connect with students.

“If they don’t know the messenger, and they’re coming out of the blue, it’s also a matter of trust and skepticism,” said Philip Oreopoulos, a professor of economics at the University of Toronto, who has also done extensive research on nudging strategies. “More and more, as texting and email have been used as efforts to try to market or pitch ideas or thoughts to younger generations, I think they’re becoming more skeptical and disinterested in the messages. It becomes more automatic to tune them out.”

“In contrast, if the effort of this type of information, a reminder campaign, were coming from a friend, the school, a teacher, where you felt like paying more attention to the message, at least at the beginning, the message becomes more salient,” Oreopoulos said.

Another possible explanation for the null results, the study argues, is that information about FAFSA submission is distributed more widely by other sources than in the past, and students don’t need the additional information or assistance these nudges attempted to provide.

The researchers do acknowledge that “complexities associated with [FAFSA] can deter college-ready students from enrolling or succeeding in higher education,” specifically low-income or first-generation college students, whose families are less likely to have experience applying for federal financial aid, but the results show that these students in the Common Application system were generally uninterested in receiving assistance with the process.

Nudging efforts are particularly aimed to provide support that’s absent when disadvantaged students’ parents or high schools are not as involved in the college application process, Oreopoulos said, but text message reminders are much less effective than sitting down with an adult to complete the FAFSA.

“Parents from more advantaged backgrounds are already on top of application deadlines and making sure their child is aware,” Oreopoulos said. “In many ways, this is trying to level the playing field. [But] there are some better ways to level the playing field than others — having schools work through applications with students is much more like having a parent there to help.”

The “Nudging at Scale” researchers acknowledged this by sending 2,000 of the Common Application sample students text messages offering one-on-one advising through College Possible, a nonprofit organization that provides college admissions coaching for low-income high school students.

Only 11.6 percent of these students even responded to those messages, according to the study, and again, there was no significant difference in FAFSA application or college enrollment results when the researchers compared the one-on-one advising students to those who received more standard text messages about federal financial aid, Rosinger said.

There’s still hope for nudging techniques — it’s promising that a large organization like the Common Application agreed to assist with the nudging experiment, Oreopoulos said, and the “Nudging at Scale” team remains excited about the effectiveness of the strategies over all, according to Rosinger. Through his own research, Oreopoulos has found that it’s extremely difficult to nudge students to change study habits or other behavioral tendencies, even on a smaller scale, but behavioral economics remains one of the cheapest ways to prompt students into enrolling and completing college, he said.

“I haven’t lost hope,” Oreopoulos said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that there’s still things we can do, but [for] the deeper problems of lack of access and lack of completion, I don’t think we’re going to be able to address those in a meaningful sense just by nudges alone … Maybe more meaningful impact depends on more heavy lifting.”

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Nationalized “nudge” campaigns that shower students with emails and text messages to encourage them to apply for federal financial aid do not budge enrollment rates, as education researchers may have hoped based on the past success of smaller-scale outreach.

A study by economists at five universities, released this month by the National Bureau for Economic Research, suggests that consistently nudging incoming and current college students to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid had no effect on college enrollment or financial aid recipient rates. Researchers tested a campaign on two distinct groups of students -- high school seniors who applied to college using the Common Application and college students of all levels (incoming, applied but did not enroll, currently enrolled and dropouts) who applied within an undisclosed large state system, said Kelly Rosinger, an assistant professor of education at Pennsylvania State University and one of the six researchers who authored “Nudging at Scale: Experimental Evidence From FAFSA Completion Campaigns.” Her colleagues were from Brandeis and Brigham Young Universities and the Universities of Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Previous research has shown the success of nudging on a smaller scale from sources familiar to students, like advisers or local community organizations, Rosinger said. But for this study, the researchers tested whether nudging would be effective through state- and national-level organizations with broader reaches, like the Common Application, which is one possible reason the outreach didn’t garner results, Rosinger said.

“When we think about scaling up, working with national and state-level organizations, the messaging has to be more generic than the previous messaging had been,” Rosinger said. “Common Application covers the nation, and students are somewhat familiar with it when applying to college … The students have a weaker connection to Common App.”

The Common Application and the state system sent “experimental” text messages to about 700,000 students over all, about 340,682 high school seniors who had registered with Common Application, a majority of them lower-income and first-generation students, and 350,407 incoming, current or former students who had applied within the state’s higher education system.

All 800,000 students in the study received some type of standard text message with federal financial aid information, but the experimental groups had further communication, like emails, infographics, mailers and varied text message content tailored to students’ identities. For example, if a student was identified as low-income, texts included the benefits of receiving financial aid.

“It didn’t seem to matter how we framed the message or how we sent the message; we weren’t finding differences between them,” Rosinger said.

The experiments produced no substantial results, and Rosinger and her colleagues will likely continue to pursue the possible explanations for students’ unresponsiveness to large-scale nudging, she said. They hypothesize that more widespread nudging does not take into account individual students’ needs and that the messaging is too general to connect with students.

“If they don’t know the messenger, and they’re coming out of the blue, it’s also a matter of trust and skepticism,” said Philip Oreopoulos, a professor of economics at the University of Toronto, who has also done extensive research on nudging strategies. “More and more, as texting and email have been used as efforts to try to market or pitch ideas or thoughts to younger generations, I think they’re becoming more skeptical and disinterested in the messages. It becomes more automatic to tune them out.”

“In contrast, if the effort of this type of information, a reminder campaign, were coming from a friend, the school, a teacher, where you felt like paying more attention to the message, at least at the beginning, the message becomes more salient,” Oreopoulos said.

Another possible explanation for the null results, the study argues, is that information about FAFSA submission is distributed more widely by other sources than in the past, and students don’t need the additional information or assistance these nudges attempted to provide.

The researchers do acknowledge that “complexities associated with [FAFSA] can deter college-ready students from enrolling or succeeding in higher education,” specifically low-income or first-generation college students, whose families are less likely to have experience applying for federal financial aid, but the results show that these students in the Common Application system were generally uninterested in receiving assistance with the process.

Nudging efforts are particularly aimed to provide support that’s absent when disadvantaged students’ parents or high schools are not as involved in the college application process, Oreopoulos said, but text message reminders are much less effective than sitting down with an adult to complete the FAFSA.

“Parents from more advantaged backgrounds are already on top of application deadlines and making sure their child is aware,” Oreopoulos said. “In many ways, this is trying to level the playing field. [But] there are some better ways to level the playing field than others -- having schools work through applications with students is much more like having a parent there to help.”

The “Nudging at Scale” researchers acknowledged this by sending 2,000 of the Common Application sample students text messages offering one-on-one advising through College Possible, a nonprofit organization that provides college admissions coaching for low-income high school students.

Only 11.6 percent of these students even responded to those messages, according to the study, and again, there was no significant difference in FAFSA application or college enrollment results when the researchers compared the one-on-one advising students to those who received more standard text messages about federal financial aid, Rosinger said.

There’s still hope for nudging techniques -- it’s promising that a large organization like the Common Application agreed to assist with the nudging experiment, Oreopoulos said, and the “Nudging at Scale” team remains excited about the effectiveness of the strategies over all, according to Rosinger. Through his own research, Oreopoulos has found that it’s extremely difficult to nudge students to change study habits or other behavioral tendencies, even on a smaller scale, but behavioral economics remains one of the cheapest ways to prompt students into enrolling and completing college, he said.

“I haven’t lost hope,” Oreopoulos said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that there’s still things we can do, but [for] the deeper problems of lack of access and lack of completion, I don’t think we’re going to be able to address those in a meaningful sense just by nudges alone … Maybe more meaningful impact depends on more heavy lifting.”

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Survey finds mental health issues are common among trans college students

Gender-nonconforming and transgender students are four times more likely to report mental health issues compared to the rest of their peers, according to a new study that is the largest so far to focus on this population of college students.

Researchers relied on data from the Healthy Minds Study, an annual online report on student mental health from college campuses across the country. The new study examined responses of more than 65,200 students from 71 American institutions who were enrolled in college between 2015 and 2017.

Roughly 1,200 respondents said they had an alternate gender identity, meaning they do not identify with the gender that matches their birth sex. The researchers grouped these students — about 2 percent of the study’s sample, which included transgender students, gender-queer students and gender-nonconforming students and others — into a category called “gender-minority students.”

Almost 80 percent of these gender-minority students reported having at least one mental health issue compared to 45 percent of their cisgender peers — students whose gender aligns with their assigned birth sex.

The study was published Friday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Its lead author, Sarah Ketchen Lipson, an assistant professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University, said while mental health professionals and LGBTQ advocates are aware that gender-minority students are much more likely to grapple with mental health issues, the general public is not.

Lipson said that she hopes the scale of the study causes college administrators to pay attention to these vast mental health disparities.

“The direction of the findings is not surprising,” said Lipson, “but the fact that there are these disparities, and magnitude of that disparity, as a researcher, it makes you take a step back and run the numbers over and over.”

More than half of gender-minority students — 58 percent — screened positive for depression, according to the study. And 53 percent of them reported having intentionally injured themselves in a way that was not suicidal.

Less than 30 percent of cisgender students screened positive for depression, and 20 percent reported a nonsuicidal self-injury.

Three percent of gender-minority students had attempted suicide compared to less than 1 percent of cisgender students, the study found. More than one-third of gender-minority students said they had seriously considered suicide.

College officials need to require training for professors and staff members around gender minorities, similar to how many institutions teach their faculty members about sexual harassment, said Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and coordinator of the LGBTQ advocacy group Campus Pride’s Trans Policy Clearinghouse.

Beemyn called for more funding for mental health initiatives that would help trans students.

“Every college needs to have trans-experienced therapists, if not at least one trans-identified therapist, and should have at least one support group specifically for trans students,” Beemyn said.

Lipson said administrators need to enact campus policies that would benefit gender-minority students and improve their mental state. For a particularly beneficial example, she pointed to shifts in name-change rules, in which students are allowed to alter their name in college records without doing so legally.

When professors call gender-minority students by their preferred name, it can help them feel like they belong, Beemyn said. Allowing those students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity also makes them feel safe and comfortable. Research published last year shows that gender-neutral bathrooms are among the accommodations gender-nonconforming students want most at their institutions. And a 2016 survey found that being denied gender-appropriate bathrooms and housing could lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts among gender-minority students.

“Is it any wonder that trans students have mental health issues when they are typically denied the ability to be seen as how they see themselves on a daily basis?” Beemyn said. “This means making sure that students are able to use the name they go by and are treated as their gender throughout the institution. Students need to be able to indicate their gender and have this gender be used for housing assignments and sports teams. They need to be able to indicate their pronouns in administrative systems and have these pronouns respected.”

Lipson called for further research on “campus and social environments that are supporting gender-minority students and allowing them to thrive.”

“There’s many stakeholders who will look at these data and be filled with a sense of urgency,” Lipson said. “But we know how change in higher education works oftentimes — it’s following and constantly looking around at what others are doing. And we need campuses that will champion this work and be proactively inclusive.”

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Gender-nonconforming and transgender students are four times more likely to report mental health issues compared to the rest of their peers, according to a new study that is the largest so far to focus on this population of college students.

Researchers relied on data from the Healthy Minds Study, an annual online report on student mental health from college campuses across the country. The new study examined responses of more than 65,200 students from 71 American institutions who were enrolled in college between 2015 and 2017.

Roughly 1,200 respondents said they had an alternate gender identity, meaning they do not identify with the gender that matches their birth sex. The researchers grouped these students -- about 2 percent of the study's sample, which included transgender students, gender-queer students and gender-nonconforming students and others -- into a category called “gender-minority students.”

Almost 80 percent of these gender-minority students reported having at least one mental health issue compared to 45 percent of their cisgender peers -- students whose gender aligns with their assigned birth sex.

The study was published Friday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Its lead author, Sarah Ketchen Lipson, an assistant professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University, said while mental health professionals and LGBTQ advocates are aware that gender-minority students are much more likely to grapple with mental health issues, the general public is not.

Lipson said that she hopes the scale of the study causes college administrators to pay attention to these vast mental health disparities.

“The direction of the findings is not surprising,” said Lipson, “but the fact that there are these disparities, and magnitude of that disparity, as a researcher, it makes you take a step back and run the numbers over and over.”

More than half of gender-minority students -- 58 percent -- screened positive for depression, according to the study. And 53 percent of them reported having intentionally injured themselves in a way that was not suicidal.

Less than 30 percent of cisgender students screened positive for depression, and 20 percent reported a nonsuicidal self-injury.

Three percent of gender-minority students had attempted suicide compared to less than 1 percent of cisgender students, the study found. More than one-third of gender-minority students said they had seriously considered suicide.

College officials need to require training for professors and staff members around gender minorities, similar to how many institutions teach their faculty members about sexual harassment, said Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and coordinator of the LGBTQ advocacy group Campus Pride's Trans Policy Clearinghouse.

Beemyn called for more funding for mental health initiatives that would help trans students.

"Every college needs to have trans-experienced therapists, if not at least one trans-identified therapist, and should have at least one support group specifically for trans students," Beemyn said.

Lipson said administrators need to enact campus policies that would benefit gender-minority students and improve their mental state. For a particularly beneficial example, she pointed to shifts in name-change rules, in which students are allowed to alter their name in college records without doing so legally.

When professors call gender-minority students by their preferred name, it can help them feel like they belong, Beemyn said. Allowing those students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity also makes them feel safe and comfortable. Research published last year shows that gender-neutral bathrooms are among the accommodations gender-nonconforming students want most at their institutions. And a 2016 survey found that being denied gender-appropriate bathrooms and housing could lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts among gender-minority students.

"Is it any wonder that trans students have mental health issues when they are typically denied the ability to be seen as how they see themselves on a daily basis?" Beemyn said. "This means making sure that students are able to use the name they go by and are treated as their gender throughout the institution. Students need to be able to indicate their gender and have this gender be used for housing assignments and sports teams. They need to be able to indicate their pronouns in administrative systems and have these pronouns respected."

Lipson called for further research on “campus and social environments that are supporting gender-minority students and allowing them to thrive.”

“There’s many stakeholders who will look at these data and be filled with a sense of urgency,” Lipson said. “But we know how change in higher education works oftentimes -- it’s following and constantly looking around at what others are doing. And we need campuses that will champion this work and be proactively inclusive.”

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Report finds student loans make up growing share of severely delinquent debt

The New York Fed this week presented an unsettling picture of how student loans stack up to other household debt.

Defaulted student loans have surpassed all other types of household debt classified as “severely derogatory,” including mortgage and credit card debt, according to a report from New York Fed researchers.

Fed researchers defined severely derogatory debt as any kind of delinquent loan combined with a repossession, foreclosure, or charge off. The proportion of debt falling into that category in U.S. households has stayed fairly consistent for the past four years. But defaulted student loans now make up 35 percent of that debt.

Auto loans are the only type of severely delinquent debt to see the same growth in recent years, but they trail student loans in the severely delinquent category.

That trend though is not entirely shocking, said Colleen Campbell, director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress.

“Student debt is fundamentally different from other types of debt,” she said.

Because other types of household debt are underwritten — meaning they assess the creditworthiness of borrowers before making a loan — those markets have tightened since the Great Recession. But the federal government has continued to lend to student borrowers at roughly similar rates because student loans work like an entitlement benefit.

Other key differences separate student debt from other kinds of household debt. Homes and cars can be repossessed by lenders and the debt charged off. When a student loan borrower becomes delinquent, interest on their loan continues to accrue and their balances grow.

The surge in college enrollment during the Recession, when many people out of work sought new skills to boost their chances of employment, has also likely contributed to the growth in delinquent and defaulted loans in recent years, Campbell said.

“We’re getting to a point now, several years out from the recession, where we’re going to see peak defaulting by borrowers from that period,” she said.

Other consumer advocates say student debt delinquencies have been exacerbated by the failures of actors like student loan servicers.

“My main reaction to this data is that it confirms what advocates in the student borrower advocacy community have been saying for a long time: that student debt has hit crisis levels in the U.S.,” said Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform.

Unlike mortgage lending, she said, there is no industry-wide framework at the federal level to regulate student loans. Goldstein said the findings of the New York Fed report underscored the need for state lawmakers to pass student borrower bill of rights legislation.

A growing number of states this year have passed legislation adding new oversight of student loan companies, although Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said only the federal government has the authority to regulate the student loan program and the industry says such measures don’t address the fundamental challenges with student debt.

Sandy Baum, a nonresident senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said it’s likely that many student borrowers hold other types of loans and that they would prioritize that debt.

“Until you really analyze who are those people who hold other debts, what they owe, what did they spend their money on, I don’t think it makes a ton of sense to say ‘oh my god, it’s student debt that’s the problem,'” she said.

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The New York Fed this week presented an unsettling picture of how student loans stack up to other household debt.

Defaulted student loans have surpassed all other types of household debt classified as "severely derogatory," including mortgage and credit card debt, according to a report from New York Fed researchers.

Fed researchers defined severely derogatory debt as any kind of delinquent loan combined with a repossession, foreclosure, or charge off. The proportion of debt falling into that category in U.S. households has stayed fairly consistent for the past four years. But defaulted student loans now make up 35 percent of that debt.

Auto loans are the only type of severely delinquent debt to see the same growth in recent years, but they trail student loans in the severely delinquent category.

That trend though is not entirely shocking, said Colleen Campbell, director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress.

"Student debt is fundamentally different from other types of debt," she said.

Because other types of household debt are underwritten -- meaning they assess the creditworthiness of borrowers before making a loan -- those markets have tightened since the Great Recession. But the federal government has continued to lend to student borrowers at roughly similar rates because student loans work like an entitlement benefit.

Other key differences separate student debt from other kinds of household debt. Homes and cars can be repossessed by lenders and the debt charged off. When a student loan borrower becomes delinquent, interest on their loan continues to accrue and their balances grow.

The surge in college enrollment during the Recession, when many people out of work sought new skills to boost their chances of employment, has also likely contributed to the growth in delinquent and defaulted loans in recent years, Campbell said.

"We're getting to a point now, several years out from the recession, where we're going to see peak defaulting by borrowers from that period," she said.

Other consumer advocates say student debt delinquencies have been exacerbated by the failures of actors like student loan servicers.

"My main reaction to this data is that it confirms what advocates in the student borrower advocacy community have been saying for a long time: that student debt has hit crisis levels in the U.S.," said Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform.

Unlike mortgage lending, she said, there is no industry-wide framework at the federal level to regulate student loans. Goldstein said the findings of the New York Fed report underscored the need for state lawmakers to pass student borrower bill of rights legislation.

A growing number of states this year have passed legislation adding new oversight of student loan companies, although Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said only the federal government has the authority to regulate the student loan program and the industry says such measures don't address the fundamental challenges with student debt.

Sandy Baum, a nonresident senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said it's likely that many student borrowers hold other types of loans and that they would prioritize that debt.

"Until you really analyze who are those people who hold other debts, what they owe, what did they spend their money on, I don't think it makes a ton of sense to say 'oh my god, it's student debt that's the problem,'" she said.

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