Conversation & Reflections on the Futures of Higher Education

Podcast for the April Session

The April session of ProVisions Teaching and Learning Series was titled Academically Adrift? Conversation & Reflections on the Futures of Higher Education.  The three presenters talked about the future of higher education and their beliefs as to whether our nation’s higher education is academically adrift.

Dr. Mark Sullivan, president of the College of Saint Rose, started his presentation by discussing the book Academically Adrift by Richard Arum. Dr. Sullivan stated that Arum’s book has shaped the conversation nationally on what liberal arts colleges are based. Dr. Sullivan then went on to discuss the different parts of this conversation (including different view points). The first discussion point was on the value of higher education versus the cost and debt-burden of higher education. Dr. Sullivan mentioned two different viewpoints in his discussion: the extreme view and the moderate view. Those with the extreme view believe that colleges are ‘wasting our investments.’ Those with the moderate view believe that colleges need to start doing things such as predicting the earning potential of different fields and students should stay away from liberal education and focus on the vocational. Dr. Sullivan said that basically this conversation comes down to what he calls the ‘Bi-Polar Opposite Strategy.’ This means that people want the cost of education to be low yet they want more access to technology and to compete with the higher education in other countries. Dr. Sullivan said that Saint Rose’s solution is to stay true to its mission. There is a balance between liberal arts education and pre-professional preparation, promote active learning, focus on skills-based outcomes, and use technology where it is needed instead of using it everywhere.

“Conventional Wisdom is Killing Us,” by Mark Putnam

“The College of 2020: Students”

Dr. Kelly Meyer, Director of Academic Advising, discussed three main points to the conversation on Academically Adrift; which he said ‘confirms the public’s worst fears. The first point was about the public ambivalence about higher education and the split perception on what college should be. Some people believe college is too costly while others believe it is worth the expense. There is a difference of opinion as to what colleges should be providing and whether or not what they provide is worth the money. Dr. Meyer’s second main point was the role that Richard Arum’s novel Academically Adrift plays in the publics ambivalence. According to Arum, a high percent of students fail to improve in learning while in college and those that do improve only improve slightly. This according to Arum is from lack of “rigor” and an excess stress on retention and engagement. Dr. Meyer next discussed three “yes, buts..” which were “structural obstacles to improving,” “student expectation obstacles to improving,” and “there are limitations to Arum and Roksa’s primary assessment tool (the “Collegiate Learning Assessment” [CLA]).” Finally, Dr. Meyer discussed how all of this relates to academic advising and reshaping student expectations. He gave three examples of how to reshape these expectations. The first example was pursuing the question of value in liberal arts education with students who don’t understand the necessity of taking liberal ed courses. Discuss how the courses can relate to personal and professional lives and explain how some weaknesses the students see are actually strengths. The second example was on student dissatisfaction with a faculty member’s teaching style. Becoming acquainted with numerous teaching styles helps a student become more flexible and prepares them for real life where they won’t have a choice in what teaching styles they will encounter. The third example was on student dissatisfaction with hard courses. There are reasons students need to take different courses.; many of them will end up having professional or personal importance to the student. These examples show that advisors have a chance to teach their advisees important lessons.

Dr. Meyer’s Power Point

Dr. Aviva Bower, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, discussed the differing discourses of intellectual development and the preparation for the job market. Students do not see the relationship between their liberal education courses and their career preparation courses. Dr. Bower moved on to discuss two concepts that can help students and professors alike see the connections. The first concept was cognitive apprenticeship which basically means that when a student is learning a skill from an expert they are also acquiring the thinking patterns of that expert. Dr. Bower believes that all types of ‘knowing’ involve using problem solving skills and that people should be able to transfer the skills they learn for one type of knowing to another type of knowing – such as transferring soccer problem solving skills to education problem solving skills. Furthermore, she believes the first step in doing this is for professors to share their own thinking with students and ask their students to connect the skills they are learning in class with other areas of their lives. Dr. Bower then mentioned the concept of ‘high road transfer;’ which is the concept of finding similarities between two differing contexts of learning. Dr. Bower’s final remarks were that of encouragement towards helping students find the connections between different knowings.

Dr. Bower’s Presentation (high-lighted sections correspond to slides from Power Point)

Dr. Bower’s Power Point


A New Foreign Language?

Most schools around the country (both at the primary level and in higher education) offer some type of foreign language class. The foreign language(s) offered in a typical primary school usually depends on what foreign language(s) is predominantly used in the school district community and/or the country. Colleges and Universities on the other hand offer foreign language courses based on student interest, languages predominantly used in the US and the most commonly used languages in the world. But what about languages that aren’t exactly foreign and not necessarily human either?

Technology is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. About every month or so a news site will list the top five career opportunities available or the five most needed professions or even the five top college degrees, and those lists always list at the very least one career or degree that involves working with technology.

So with technology as prevalent as it is, why don’t more people learn its language? A recent article in the New York Times announced that people are learning the language. Classes on computer code are filled with people wanting to learn the language of technology. Some of these people are taking these classes in order to make a future career move. Careers working with technology are plentiful and will most likely still be needed several decades in the future. In fact, if technology keeps expanding there will probably be more technology fields popping up in the near future. However, many of the people in these classes are there to help improve their technology skills so they can succeed at the jobs they already have. Considering it is a rarity for a business to not have a website, blog, or social network page it is definitely a good idea for people to become more acquainted with the technology they use every day.

With such a need for computer courses these days it is no wonder that colleges and businesses are offering up free or cheap courses. Even most libraries have staff members that will happily teach you about technology. However, many it is important to know what you will be learning before you enroll in a course. Many programs want to make sure students are more than proficient using a specific piece of technology while other programs teach the basics of several aspects of technology. The important thing to remember though is that if you want to learn more there is most definitely a course out there for you. For more information on this topic read the New York Times article “A Surge in Learning the Language of the Internet,” by Jenna Wortham.


Higher Education and the Future

The April ProVisions session is nearly here and the topic will be Academically Adrift? Conversation & Reflections on the Futures of Higher Education; which has been a hot topic in the world of higher education lately.

Nigel Thrift, a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education blog World Wise, recently posted an article on the future of British Higher Education. Thrift wrote of concerns on the major changes that are occurring in the British higher education system right now. Although there have been major modifications over the past several decades, the current changes are causing worries based on the amount of them that are occurring. The post, appropriately titled “The Future of British Higher Education,” focuses mainly on the worry that the British Higher Education will fail to focus on the proper things and will fall behind its fellow European Countries Higher Education programs. As Britain’s higher education Program is currently number one this is a very valid concern. Other countries are comparing their programs to Britain’s and saying what can we do better, while Britain has to look at their own program and ask how they can top themselves.

Another blog post from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog Wired Campus, suggests a solution to Britain’s problem: technology. Although, it does not go into detail, the post, “A Future Without Courses?, mentions a future where online learning becomes international. Students would be learning from people across the world instead of just from their own countries. While some people are already trying to get this concept to work, it is still far from being a reality and is just in the beginning stages of design.

Thrift’s post is not the only mention of the future of higher education from the Chronicle. There have been several other documents discussing it, including a podcast entitled “Why College Matters – and Why It’s in Peril.” The podcast starts out by making the distinction between College and University. The purpose of a college is mainly to obtain that has previously been known and then share it with other people. Two major factors were mentioned in the reasons colleges are in peril. The first is of course the poor economy in the United States. The second factor is the change in the positions of professors. Many professors are spread too thin by working on too many campuses or working another profession other than being a professor. These factors are contributing to the loss of the college experience and are making it harder to show people the value of a college education.

For more information on this subject read Andrew Delbanco’s book College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be or listen to the podcast.

The Professor Hacker blog also joined in on discussing the future of higher education in the post “How to Join the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (and Why You Want To).” In this post, Jason B. Jones also mentions the impact the current economy is having on higher education. Jones talks about the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education which has a goal of making sure students have a way of obtaining affordable, quality education.(this is of course only one of several goals of the campaign). The campaign is worried about those students that are have been severely affected by the major budget cuts for higher education. Unfortunately many of these students are the ones who need the most help accessing affordable education.

For more information on the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education visit:

Kevin Carey recently wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education on the book, Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. In the article, Carey discusses the surprising popularity of the book with people outside of the world of higher education. One of the reasons the book may have reached such a high level of popularity could be due to the research on colleges reported by the book. It seems that for the amount of money students are spending on college they may not be getting their money’s worth with the amount they are actually learning. However, Carey also states that the popularity of this specific book/research may be because it is the only book/research currently available to the public. Arum and Roska have also recently released new research in which they discuss two groups of college students; those who are financially and academically prepared for college and those who are not. It is not surprising to find that the later group of students often ends up in colleges where they will not be prepared for the future. Carey further asserts that the reason Arum and Roska are the first to research this topic is because the results were already known to those in higher education and that many of these people were reluctant to share the information with the world. also covered Roska and Arum’s book in an article titled “A Lack of Rigor Leaves Students ‘Adrift’ in College.” This article explains the worsening academics in higher education as a result of a lack of proper student responses on professor evaluations. Students don’t necessarily evaluate their professors on whether or not they actually taught well but rather they evaluate on how much they enjoyed the classes and how much they liked their professors. Furthermore, those students who do properly evaluate their professors are often attending those colleges that succeeding in teaching their students.

For more information read Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa or visit

At the moment, it seems the future of Higher Education definitely looks bleak. However, one good thing can be learned from all of these sources –people know that something is wrong and they are digging into the root of the problem to try to find a solution. We may be ‘academically adrift’ but at least we know that we are. As long as people are taking notice there is always hope for the future.

Thursday, April 19th

The April 2012 ProVisions session is coming up soon! Just a reminder, there has been a change of date for the April session. It will now be held on Thursday, April 19th from 12:00 to 1:15 in Standish Conference rooms A and B. Lunch will be served as well.

The title of the session is Academically Adrift? Conversation & Reflections on the Futures of Higher Education and the following faculty members will be presenting:

Dr. Mark Sullivan, President, The College of Saint Rose

Dr. Aviva Bower, Associate Professor, Educational Psychology

Dr. Kelly Meyer, Director of Academic Advising

As always there will be a discussion after the presentations. We welcome all Saint Rose faculty, adjunct instructors, and staff, as well as faculty from area colleges.

If you are unable to attend the April session, or have been unable to attend previous sessions, podcasts and summaries of each session from the 2011-2012 year are available on our blog.

The Arts and Education

The recent downsizing – and in some places deletion – of art programs in K-12 schools has made many college students quite thankful that they graduated high school before the recession hit. Many of us can’t imagine how we would have gotten through a school day without our art or music classes. It will now be up to the teachers in the major content areas to bring the arts into the lives of students.

So, why are the arts so important? The answer to this question is simple, yet complex and can be found in the teacher tube video “The importance of Art Education.” Although the video focuses specifically on art classes, the message relates just as well to music programs as well. That message is that the arts bring students together across cultures, classes, races, and social groups. The arts allow students to express themselves without words. Art and music are languages that everyone can speak and understand. Art classes can have a positive effect on student attendance and their work in other classes. The benefits the arts provide children should provide a great argument for art education should be a priority in schools.

According to’s article,”Why Arts Education is Crucial,” and Who’s Doing it Best, not all schools are underestimating the importance of the arts. Many of them still see the connection between the arts and improved grades in other subject areas. A new understanding of how the arts affect cognitive abilities has pushed some schools into not only expanding their arts programs but also using the arts to teach other content areas such as math. These schools look at the arts as a way to succeed in the No Child Left Behind initiative instead of a roadblock to success. However, not all schools feel this way and because of the years of neglect some schools have shown to the arts program it will take years to build them back up to where they should be.

The teaching channel video “Combine Academics and Dance with 4 Basic Moves” illustrates how a teacher one teacher incorporates dance moves to teach her students about shapes, movement, and other science content. The interactive lesson has students physically participating in the class and allows for a deeper understanding of the topics discusses. The physical aspect of the lesson also allows for the teacher to be visually aware whether or not her students understand the material.

While art programs in the K-12 grade levels are disappearing, they are expanding in higher education. More and more colleges are building art museums on their campuses. In the recent article, “Art Museums Giving it the Old College Try,” the New York Times reports on several campuses that focusing on creating art exhibits with contributions from other content area courses. These wonderful projects show how easy it is to not only incorporate the arts in education but how to incorporate education into the arts.

In another New York Times Article, “Teaching Children the Value of Pre-Web Pages,” Karen Jones discusses a classroom in which the students are designing and making their own illuminated manuscripts from scratch. Furthermore, in this situation, from scratch definitely means from scratch. The students even make their own paints from ground up insects, minerals, and plants. By making their own manuscripts these students are learning to appreciate the process and the products even more and at the same time they become part of the group that is trying to keep illuminated manuscripts from disappearing. The students involved in this project learned a great deal about museums, art, and science.

Another museum related project is also underway at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. After selling the buildings relegated for art classes the museum went to an expert on creating a space from recycled materials. The end product was black shipping containers with glass walls in which students could take art classes and work on their own artwork. This allows people visiting the museum to get an inside look into the art process starting with the education end of it. Students using this new space are also given the opportunity to be in the center of museum life; meeting museum staff and artists, visiting galleries, and attending museum events.

All of these videos and articles share a respect for the arts, and although not all of them focus on the arts in higher education it is safe to say they impact higher education. It is important for students to come in contact with the arts at a young age so they are able to appreciate them later on in life and feel comfortable with art used at the college level. Eventually the impact of not having the arts in K-12 schools may start to flow onto college campuses and impact higher education programs.