Southern Cal President Speaks Out on Ex-Dean

C. L. Max Nikias, president of the University of Southern California, issued a letter to the campus Tuesday about growing concerns over a scandal involving a former dean of the medical school, Carmen A. Puliafito. An article in the Los Angeles Times reported that Puliafito, prior to resigning as dean last year, had been spending time with drug users and criminals, had used methamphetamine and other illegal drugs, and had been photographed doing so in numerous locations, including his office at USC. Shortly after the article appeared, the university announced that he was on leave from his faculty position and would not be seeing patients. But the idea that a dean of a medical school could be engaged in such conduct has stunned many on campus. Puliafito has yet to comment.

In his letter, published by the Times, Nikias said that there were limits on what he could say, because of privacy rules regarding employees. But he did write that the university "categorically condemns the unlawful possession, use or distribution of drugs." He also wrote that drug use is not uncommon and "impacts individuals at all levels of society." And he noted numerous reports of people in powerful positions who "function in their workplace but have serious issues affecting their private lives."

Nikias added, "We understand the frustrations expressed about this situation, and we want to assure our community that we are taking all the proper steps to examine and address it. More broadly, we are working to determine how we can best prevent these kinds of circumstances moving forward."

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Zenith Unveils New Name for Everest Campuses

Zenith Education Group, a nonprofit career college chain, today announced a plan to rebrand the Everest campuses it purchased in 2015 from Corinthian Colleges, a controversial for-profit that collapsed after a nudge from U.S. Department of Education.

The remaining 21 Everest locations will carry the name Altierus. Zenith made the decision to change names last fall, according to Peter Taylor, its president and CEO.

“It was really hard to shake the reputation of the past,” he said. “Every conversation we had to say, ‘We’re not those guys.’”

Zenith has invested a substantial amount of energy and money in an effort to improve Everest and WyoTech, the now three-campus technical institution it also bought from Corinthian. The changes at Everest include an ongoing complete curriculum review and "refresh" in all disciplines, with enhancements to facilities and laboratories. Zenith also began a holistic admissions process featuring financial literacy counseling, started offering campus-based academic and personal support for students, and cut tuition by 20 percent while providing more scholarships and grants.

ECMC Group, a large student loan guarantee agency, owns Zenith. It created a $250 million endowment for the chain, which lost $100 million in 2015.

“When we acquired these schools more than two years ago, we focused on righting their course to provide a quality experience that helps students get good, family-supporting jobs in high-growth industries where skilled workers are lacking,” Taylor said in a written statement. “Having laid this critical groundwork, we’re now in a position to build on it and reach our ultimate vision of becoming a third pathway for nontraditional students for whom community colleges and for-profit schools haven’t worked.”

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How to respond when you've been passed over for an internal job (essay)

When you compete for a different job on your own campus and lose out, how do you respond to such a setback? Judith S. White offers advice.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017
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Internal Disappointments

Student Borrowing Rises, Sallie Mae Says

Students and parents are borrowing more to pay for college, according to the latest installment of a survey by Sallie Mae, which the large student lender has conducted for a decade.

The average amount students and families (Sallie Mae surveyed 800 from each group) reported paying for college during the just-completed academic year was $23,757, which was roughly the same as the previous year. Scholarships and grants covered 35 percent of what families spent, the largest contributor to the total expenditure.

Borrowing climbed to 27 percent from 20 percent last year, the survey found. Student borrowing covered 19 percent (up from 13 percent), while parent borrowing was 8 percent. Over all, 42 percent of families borrowed to help pay for college.

Family income and savings covered 34 percent of expenditures on college, with parents chipping in 23 percent and students covering 11 percent.

Figure 1A: How the Typical Family Pays for College, Average Amount, Year over Year, for academic years from 2012 to 2017. Shows split between scholarships and grants, relatives and friends, student income and savings, parent income and savings, student borrowing, and parent borrowing. Figure 1B: How the Typical Family Pays for College, Funding Source Share, Year over Year.

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MOOCs test personalized online learning

Robert Ubell reports how massive open online courses are testing personalizing online learning through positive feedback to mistakes.

Georgia State improves student outcomes with data

Georgia State's extensive predictive analytics efforts are leading to better grades and student retention -- and more minorities graduating from STEM programs.

BYU-Idaho Fires Adjunct for Pro-LGBT Post

Brigham Young University, Idaho, terminated an adjunct professor of political science after she criticized the position the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds on same-sex relationships on her Facebook page, then refused to remove the post, according to KUTV. Ruthie Robertson was reportedly allowed to finish teaching her summer course but saw her contracted classes for the fall and winter semesters canceled after administrators were alerted to a post on her private Facebook page about LGBT pride month.

“I’m currently a member of the LDS Church,” Robertson wrote in the June post, which accused the Mormon church and others faith groups of selectively following portions of the Old Testament. “This organization has openly and forcefully opposed same-sex relationships and legalized same-sex marriage.” Yet church history, she wrote, “shows that the church has rescinded policies before that weren't doctrinal, and that weren't inspired by the Lord. I hope that this will someday apply to the stance on the LGBT community. I will always and forever stand up for the equality of the LGBT community.”

Robertson said she wrote the post to express support for her LGBT friends, and did not think it would compromise her job because she is not friends with any students online. Yet she was called to campus to talk about the post within hours of sharing it, she said. Robertson said it was “implied” that removing the post might save her position, but she said she could not do it. Instead, she posted an update saying she was speaking for herself only, and that her personal views had no place in the classroom. The university told KUTV that it does not comment on personnel matters.

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How to integrate millennials into higher ed administration (essay)

For the last 15 years, researchers have been trying to understand millennials -- people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s -- and their potential impacts on higher education institutions. Yet despite the wealth of accumulated knowledge, colleges still seem to have problems integrating younger people into the culture of higher education administration.

For millennials, educational institutions are considered among the least innovative and satisfying places to work, according to an article by Dian Schaffhauser in The Journal: Transforming Education Through Technology. That is particularly alarming for institutions of higher learning since, as boomer-generation administrators start to retire, upper administration and leadership turnover is predicted to hit record numbers. The U.S. Department of Education also projects enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions will increase 14 percent from 2013 to 2024, suggesting not only a high replacement demand from a millennial work force but also a need for their increased participation. In other words, as people in leadership positions start to leave higher education, it will be increasingly important to take measures to ensure that the best and brightest of Generation Y stick around.

Unfortunately, that is anything but guaranteed. In a survey of 600 millennials, as many as 61 percent complained of a lack of pathways to productive outcomes from innovative ideas. Schaffhauser’s article also noted that higher education has fairly low appeal among millennial workers due to perceived inflexible and outdated administrative practices regarding collaboration, brainstorming and incorporating innovative ideas into institutional policy. Moreover, millennials address those perceived deficiencies in ways that run counter to those from their nonmillennial colleagues and superiors. They can be brash, and they tend to ignore long-established institutional hierarchies when they make their opinions known -- such as voicing policy and procedural concerns when their boss’s boss is present. That can create feelings of disrespect among nonmillennial administrators and ultimately cause rifts.

Millennials also have distinct views about institutional hierarchy and politics. They value communication and collaboration, as well as individual empowerment. Likewise, they communicate in real time -- they text, tweet and make use of budding communication platforms more than any other generation -- and value continuing conversations over sporadic email streams and sparse evaluations.

Millennials also want to contribute meaningfully to their institutions, and so they try to interject themselves into important conversations with anyone who will engage. Unfortunately, that can look like entitlement and even hubris in institutions like colleges and universities that value strong hierarchies and seniority.

In addition, balance and overall well-being are important to millennial workers. That includes physical, mental and emotional well-being, as well as balance between work and personal life, as Micah Solomon wrote in Forbes. For them, innovation is not limited to the practices and procedures that lead to the achievement of specific goals but also extends to factors that influence employee morale -- including schedules, project loads and day-to-day operations.

Finally, millennials are idealistic. They work to develop their strengths as professionals and to contribute to the overall purpose of an institution. Where nonmillennials may have been more concerned about compensation, millennials are more concerned about institutional mission, vision and culture. This means that, to them, more is at stake when an institution is not maximizing its effectiveness in its efforts to reach its goals. That is not to say that nonmillennials are not concerned with institutional purpose and vision; rather, it just says that millennials have made this their No. 1 priority, despite institutional politics, and in ways that nonmillennials traditionally have not.

Overcoming Barriers

Fortunately, established upper-level administrators can use a number of strategies to address the aforementioned barriers and challenges. First, they can communicate their feelings about institutional practices and clarify why things are done a certain way. Millennials want coaches and mentors, not bosses, as Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, has written. They want to feel like they are involved in a dialogue with someone who is invested in their professional growth. Millennials also want to know that their superiors value their input and that it’s OK to ask questions about institutional procedures.

Second, understand that, to millennials, the job is life. Not only should they be integrated into office culture, but they should be given some stake in it as well. They should be encouraged as agents of change and not treated just as grunt workers fulfilling daily tasks. Likewise, they should be encouraged to critically examine how their office functions in ways that enhance its ability to achieve goals and contribute to an overall institutional vision. This kind of encouragement can foster such employees’ ties with the institution -- ties that are deeply meaningful and can balance the more mundane but necessary daily tasks.

Most important, do not tell millennials, “We can’t do that.” They come from a world where change is inevitable, if not highly encouraged. Just within higher education, millennials have seen changes that only a decade or two ago would have been perceived as ludicrous and near impossible: the positive impact of online resources on student access; software applications facilitating the collection and use of institutional data on unprecedented levels; the conducting of communications using mass student relations management strategies. Even more low-tech innovations -- block plans and flexible academic calendars -- are now significantly impacting higher education institutions.

In fact, innovation and change should be seen as the norm. Not only do millennials realize this, but they understand that the tools to make it happen are well within reach. (Go to any higher education administration conference and see the number of vendors introducing new platforms for every possible issue, spanning from mass course registration to forms processing.) That is why they become cynical when new ideas are dismissed outright. However, millennials aren’t stupid. They know about budget constraints and institutional priorities. All they ask is that their ideas be given a fair and sincere hearing.

To be clear, cultural integration for millennial workers is not a one-way street. Millennials can do a lot themselves to help with their integration. First, they can understand that many people have previously occupied the space into which they are stepping and that even outdated practices were successful at one point. Second, they can practice the kind of empathy that they are asking of their nonmillennial superiors. Change is difficult -- especially for institutions of higher learning -- and buy-in from experienced administrators is better earned with an understanding of where they have been as opposed to just a vision of where millennials want to go.

Ultimately, all of higher education will soon face the problem of record turnover and increased enrollment. We need to be able to count on millennials to fill the leadership gaps, but we cannot take their long-term participation for granted. If we want the best and brightest, we must be better facilitators of their integration into our campus’s administrative cultures.

James Wicks is a doctoral student of higher education and the associate director of recruitment and school relations at Texas A&M International University.

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Inside Digital Learning: Video Games -- Educational or Just Fun?

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