The Best of 2014

Looking back. Looking ahead.

December 15, 2014

What is the coolest thing that happened in higher ed and/or on your campus(es) in 2014 and what do you hope to see more of in 2015?

Janine Utell, Philadelphia, PA

Right now most of what I’m thinking about is what I don’t want to see more of in higher ed:  no more racism, no more violence against women, no more cuts in funding, no more injustice against adjuncts.  Colleges and universities play a unique role in our society; they are one of the few places where one’s only job (among a handful of other things) is to care about ideas, to formulate new ideas, and to think about how those ideas can effect change in our society.  I’m lucky to work at a place that takes this very seriously as its mission, and makes constructive work and collaboration among colleagues possible in order to fulfill that mission.  I’d wish this for more places as we work to address the challenges facing us in 2015.

Rachel Ellett, Beloit, WI

I am excited by the conversations on my campus about how to communicate the value of a liberal arts education in the 21st century. We have moved beyond the now ubiquitous defensive posture, to a more proactive vision of students translating their liberal arts mindset and skills into exciting projects and careers. I think that this allows our students to begin to understand the value of a liberal arts education in their own lives, but more importantly, the value of liberally educated people to society as a whole. I hope that they will come to realize the best way to challenge injustice - in whatever form it takes - is to becoming a globally oriented citizen, who is committed to a lifetime of learning beyond any particular specialization.

Meg Palladino, New Haven, CT

There are so many cool things happening on my campus, I don’t know where to begin!  Just this month of December, we hosted Jimmy Carter, who gave a moving talk on discrimination and violence against women.  Yale Professor (and former President of Mexico) Ernesto Zedillo was named among the top most influential thinkers of 2014, and the Dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies was awarded the 2014 International prize for Biology.   However, the coolest thing I have witnessed this month was the “die-in” demonstration, which started at the Yale Law School and extended over several city blocks.  The die-in was to protest the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown Jr., and others during altercations with police.  The protest brought together students, faculty, staff and the community in a peaceful way. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings.

Jeanne Zaino, New Rochelle, NY

One thing I hope to see more of on campuses next year is research which can help us understand the many social problems and issues we face. So many of the concerns that have captured the attention of students and faculty over the last few weeks regarding Ferguson, for instance, are ripe for social research. On the question of grand jury indictments, why are so few police officers indicted in comparison to others accused of crimes? Should police forces be sociologically or descriptively representative of the communities they serve? And if so, what types of policies can help us achieve the goal? The questions are numerous and critical. As an added bonus, more research in these areas may serve to underscore once again how wrong-headed the last several years of congressional attacks on NSF funding of social science research really are!

Gwendolyn Beetham, New Brunswick, NJ

Since I started my position at Douglass Residential College at Rutgers University in October, there have been so many cool things happening on campus I’ve lost count! A highlight was the first annual Douglass Global Summit, spearheaded by my colleague, Margot Baruch, along with many of the amazing students here at Douglass. The event drew over 250 students, faculty, staff, and community members, who joined in a lively day-long discussion on women and girls’ health worldwide which touched on everything from the shackling of pregnant women in prisons to the gendered effects of Ebola. Off campus, I was proud to be involved with organizing three panels on the theme of feminist perspectives on contingency at the annual NWSA conference, which has resulted in a contingent faculty interest group, online and journal publications (in progress!), and a successful Indiegogo campaign. In recent weeks, I’ve also been honored to witness and participate in the local manifestation of the national protests against racism and police brutality organized by students here on campus. All of these actions make me hopeful for 2015 and beyond!

Lisa Ijiri, Cambridge, MA

Cool happenings at Lesley University in 2014 connected innovative arts, education, and counseling programs with global audiences.  A specially designed interdisciplinary trauma intervention master’s program for Guyanese social workers graduated a class of 16 future leaders. Education programs were recognized by the AACTE for innovative practice as demonstrated in our comprehensive Unified Assessment System. The Expressive Therapy programs celebrated their 40th anniversary of bringing an arts integrated focus to mental health counseling.  The Lesley sponsored Boston Speaker Series hosted the likes of Madeline Albright, Ken Burns, George Papandreou, and Steve Wozniak. Student scholarship included research on the effects of media stereotypes on Muslim Americans.  And the new Lunder Arts Center with its historic church roll on Mass Ave. neared completion toward a January 2015 opening!  


What do you want to see more of in 2015?



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