Entries in "education"

April 02, 2007

Case Western Reserve, highest quality education at a great value

I was pleased to read that Kiplinger's rated Case Western Reserve as one of the top 50 best values among comparable universities last week. (See the table for the full list of 50.)

I was surprised, though, to see the university's press release about our inclusion on the Kiplinger's list mentioning the other "peer" schools that we outranked on the list. I thought the point of the list was that these schools are not our peers, at least in the eyes of the people who compiled the Kiplinger's list. (why give the other "peer" schools another page to generate hits for them on the web?)

The table shows that only 15 of the top 50 schools have better student-to-faculty ratios than Case Western Reserve. Of all the private universities Kiplinger's ranked, only 15 do better than the 9 students per faculty member ratio at Case Western Reserve.

Also, only 5 of the universities on the list accept a higher percentage of their entering class. Case Western Reserve accepted 68 percent of applicants, according to the table. From an academic rankings perspective, a lower acceptance rate would improve our standings compared with other schools; however, from an applicant's perspective, a high acceptance rate is desirable, because it makes the investment of time in a college application less of a gamble.

At Case Western Reserve, we meet the total financial need of 92 percent of our students. The majority of that financial aid is in the form of grants, rather than loans. (Only 3 of the 50 schools provide a higher percentage of students with financial aid sufficient to meet their financial need.) Case Western Reserve is right in the middle of the top 50 universities in terms of the average debt of new graduates, at just under 21 thousand dollars.

March 21, 2007

is the world testing you?

I've been struck recently, in my observations of students and of others at work, by how powerful the drive to please others by meeting high standards can be. Sometimes, even when the standards are outrageously ridiculous, we just keep trying to leap over the bar, slamming our heads on the upper limits of reality, recollecting ourselves, and then leaping again. Especially for students, the semester can become a series of hurdles to run up to, leap over (or crash through), and repeat, without time to catch their breath.

It's so rare to see someone mature enough to approach a challenge or a set of really high expectations with calm consistency in their attitude and in their performance. What we often forget is that striving too much can actually reduce our effectiveness. Even hurdlers take a breather at the end of a race, before approaching the starting line for another 100 meters. Sometimes, they even drop out of a race, if they have crashed into the third and fourth hurdles, and fallen at the fifth.

What makes a difference between those who chase high expectations frantically and those who can approach them with calm consistency? Well, to an extent, maturity comes with age... and part of the reason is that the typical 40-year-old is less wrapped up in a desire to please others than the typical 20-year-old. There are some undergraduates who really don't care what I think of them, or what grade I give them, but most have almost a blind desire for approval and positive reinforcement. In some cases, there are signs of almost an addiction to the positive reinforcement of grades. I can only imagine what the voices in their conscience tell them when they fall short of their expectations for themselves, which sometimes are even higher than my expectations for them.

Even John Mayer now has a song about the pursuit of success and distinction, and the price we pay for giving in to the pressure that others (and our own internal voices of conscience and of compulsion) put on us to chase perfection in our work... it's an invitation to reflect on how to keep our own "vultures" at bay.

Here are the lyrics from the song "Vultures", off his latest album, Continuum, and a link to the album on iTunes.

Continue reading "is the world testing you?"

November 03, 2006

the journey toward perfection: a status report

On Sept. 1, I posted a blog entry about the speaker at Fall Commencement, entitled food for thought. In it, I discussed speaker Michael Ruhlman's words, both during his speech and in his book, which was assigned as a common reading for all entering first-year undergraduates in August of 2007. The book is entitled The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection. One week later, an article about Fall Commencement was published in the Case campus newspaper, the Observer -- Soul of a Chef Author Addresses Case.

One week before, Mano Singham had also written about his reactions to the book, as a professor who teaches first seminars here at Case. He tells a bit of the story of how Ruhlman's book was selected as a common reading for Case first-year students, and outlines how he dealt with his initial lack of enthusiasm for reading the book. Professor Singham makes two important points which may be helpful reminders for students in MGMT 250: (click through to read more)

Continue reading "the journey toward perfection: a status report"

October 01, 2006

management skills save the world, one orphanage at a time

One of my former students, and a recent alumna of Case Western Reserve, has been blogging about her experiences as a volunteer in Kenya. I have found her entries touching and inspiring.

"Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope." -- Robert F. Kennedy


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September 01, 2006

food for thought

NB: This blog entry was redistributed with permission in the CoolCleveland eNewsletter, also available online.

Yesterday I attended Convocation, drawn by the promise of ritual and the prospect of hearing Michael Ruhlman, author of Case's Common Reading for this year, speak. He wrote The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection more than 5 years ago, and so I hoped that his speech would go beyond the book into more elaborated thinking about what it takes to become an expert in one's chosen field. He did not disappoint.

He addressed head-on a criticism he has probably heard many times about his writing on cooking: Isn't it frivolous to write about fancy food in a time when there is so much serious stuff happening in world politics? His answer started with this assertion:

"Great cooking, in the end, has such power because it allows us to connect with our past, our future, and all of humanity, if we let it. I believe that America's insatiable appetite for food and cooking know-how is really the beginning of a spiritual quest for the bigger things: a search for meaning, order and beauty in an apparently chaotic and alienating universe."

President Eastwood looked quite comfortable listening to Ruhlman's speech up until that point, but when Ruhlman made his next main point, suggesting that sharing what he learned about master chefs brought into relief how all of America has become a culture of mediocrity, the President started to look a little nervous...

Continue reading "food for thought"

July 02, 2006

evolving notions of a mother's place

Societal expectations of mothers have evolved dramatically since the 1930s. Remember the old chestnut that women should be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen"? Gone the way of the dodo bird, right? If it were, the Ohio state legislature would not have had any reason to pass a law last year, stating that "a mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location of a place of public accomodation wherein the mother is otherwise permitted." That's why a group of mothers and babies held a nurse-in yesterday at Crocker Park in Westlake. I attended to support their rights to breastfeed in public. The event is covered on page B1 of the July 2 Plain Dealer (which is now available online).

This right has been frequently challenged in recent years. Lots of people still think that mothers with nursing babies should stay home, or go home to feed their babies. Breastpumps, bottles, and artificial baby milk make it possible for anyone to feed a baby, and once that is possible, there's more room to argue that a mother should conform to notions of modesty that have been applied to all women equally in our society. This view privileges the sexual appeal of breasts to men, and argues that mothers should not appear in public when they are using their breasts to feed their babies. It's expressed by comments such as this one, responding to news coverage of a Milwalkee nurse-in:

"Honestly think somethings are done better in a private place and why on earth would anyone want to breast feed in a dressing room, working in retail I can agree with the employees most malls set up family restrooms for this purpose. You take away from business."

Obviously, this is not a view with which I agree. Restrooms are noplace where anyone should be eating. Family restrooms in malls are great places to change diapers, but they do not have a comfortable spot to sit down and nurse.

There's a lot of work still to be done before our society broadly accepts that a breastfeeding mother's place is anywhere...

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April 25, 2006

developing a career, growing a family...

How can one develop a career and grow a family at the same time? Especially in academia, this is a sticky question. The Tomorrow's Professor blog recently explored the question of whether there is a global warming trend toward women in academia, but concludes that in many traditionally male disciplines, the climate for women is still chilly. And in all this focus on women, the broader point about how men in two-career marriages can play more egalitarian roles in their growing families while moving into academic careers sometimes gets lost. (This is a more specific version of the broader question which I addressed yesterday in my post on what fathers want.)

I was particularly struck by this series of posts at Mommy Ph.D....

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April 13, 2006

inspiring meeting yesterday -- building a regional coalition

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My NEOBEAN colleagues and I met with Eric Brewer, the mayor of East Cleveland, and he was very supportive and willing to work with us in getting breastfeeding education materials to his city's residents. He and Norm Roulet (who is working on lead abatement in the region) further challenged us to draw together a team of people to get involved in a health fair in the city next month, and to figure out how to reach out to and offer prenatal care, easier access to WIC and other government services, and make sure that all pregnant women are educated about the potential dangers of lead contamination in their living quarters.

I hope that we can draw in some student volunteers to help us with the outreach and health promotion aspects of the initiative. It would be great if we could find a way to offer health promotion curriculum in middle schools and high schools.

April 12, 2006

Anne Lamott at Amasa Stone at Case -- part 2

If you missed Anne Lamott's visit to the Case campus last Friday, I have written a little bit about it already... but part 1 was more about me than about her. In part 2, I want to try to remember what she said, which is tricky, because I did not take many notes.

John Ettorre called Anne Lamott "a poet and a mystic and a prophet and a patriot and the most honest, most moving, most luminous, soul-stirring Christian writing today, perhaps in the entire English language. And all from lefty Marin County, across the bridge from San Fran."

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January 07, 2006

Ask not what the next generation can do for you...

... ask how you can help them learn about a new charter school opening in the city of Cleveland in the fall of 2006. Read about the Entrepreneurship Prep Academy at E-City Cleveland and email john.zitzner@ecitycleveland.com if you can attend a lunch meeting on Wednesday, January 11, to find out how you can help them with recruiting students for next fall.

September 21, 2005

the illusory trend to return to traditional women's roles, and what we can do about it

Poor Louise Story. The young Yale graduate who wrote a story for yesterday's New York Times which landed on the front page is getting pummeled throughout the blogosphere (even in the comments), in Slate, and probably, by "many" of her friends. Yes, I pity her, even though I know that the critics speak the truth, because I remember being just out of school and having the sense that the trends among my peer group were newsworthy, without realizing how circumscribed a peer group I had constructed around myself.

I do not remember talking much with my college friends about our plans for marriage and family. I just assumed that I would work and raise a family with my husband. I knew that I needed to stay employable, in case of divorce or an illness that might incapacitate my husband. I had the sense that my mother had not been happy when she was not employed (she returned to the workforce part-time when I was 10 or 11), and I couldn't imagine living a life without a public role of respect. The problem is that parenthood is still not seen as a role of public respect in our society.

Continue reading "the illusory trend to return to traditional women's roles, and what we can do about it"

August 05, 2005

Good to know we're not alone

"B-schools in constant turmoil, flavor-of-the-month curriculum changes, and admissions decisions based on job-placement concerns instead of academics." Business Week comments on some recent criticisms of b-school rankings.

Ted Snyder, who I knew when I studied at the University of Michigan, is quoted at the end of the article, with the philosophy that I have heard all business-school administrators express at one point or another: "Rankings are part of the competitive terrain. Ranks are feedback. Rankings are not our identity." The question is, do they act on that philosophy, or do they treat the feedback as data as a to-do list? I'd rather see them treat the feedback as data in need of interpretation, conducted through ongoing conversations with their faculty, trustees, and other stakeholders. As the Business Week article makes clear, there are at least two schools of thought about what is wrong with business schools, and how their problems should be addressed. I'm glad to hear that other schools are considering some of the same dilemmas that we are wrestling with at Weatherhead.

There are a lot of ranking systems out there, and they are not without controversy. Each uses some criteria not used by the others, but many of them omit criteria which insiders might consider important. Endowment management, for instance, is not taken into account in the Business Week or US News and World Report rankings. Furthermore, many include data which prospective students might consider relevant, but is not necessarily an indication of educational quality, such as the percentage of applicants rejected and the average starting salary of graduates. Really, the rankings are more indications of reputation than of educational quality.

I hope we'll be able to keep all this in perspective when the US News rankings come out in a few weeks. Last year we issued the obligatory press release but didn't discuss the results or their basis much, because they portrayed us favorably. If we criticize them when the results portray us unfavorably, no one will take us seriously. So, now's the time for public conversation about whether we even want to participate in the rankings.

August 03, 2005

Education is a human right and we have community responsibilities

Two pieces combined to strike a mournful chord in a minor key as I read this morning's Plain Dealer. The first was the front-page headline, Cleveland voters reject school levy, and the second was an op-ed piece on page B9, Just enough cash to live opulently (which was reprinted from the Scripps-Howard News Service, with the original headline "Forbes' working stiff and his millions" and written by Paul Campos at the University of Colorado.

The first piece explains that with a pitifully low turnout (11 percent of registered voters) a small number of West Side voters who opposed the school levy drowned out the voices of Cleveland's schoolchildren and their needs. The reason given? They did not receive notice from the levy campaign of the reasons for requesting the levy. MaryBeth understands, but I'm not feeling that charitable this morning. Did none of those opposed voters consider purchasing a Plain Dealer at any point in the past month? Or visiting a local public library and reading it for free? Did any of them calculate how much it would cost to mail campaign materials to every household in the city of Cleveland, and compare that with the paltry budget for the campaign? Since when do people need an engraved invitation in order to vote in favor of a public good? Yep, you can tell, I'm really ranting and raving about this.

According to article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages." But apparently we have been neglecting teaching this value to enough Clevelanders that now, only 15,008 of them were willing to take the time to go to the polls and vote "yes" on the 8 mill levy. Without the revenue from the levy, the school board will need to address a projected $30 million deficit for next year.

How can this be? Well, the second piece may help to explain things. Paul Campos comments on a Forbes magazine article which calculates what it would cost to live in comfortable opulence in different US cities (such as Columbus, Ohio. Professor Campos criticizes the article authors for assuming that individuals at this enviable standard of living would only dedicate 1 percent of their income to savings, and for omitting all federal taxes and charitable donations from its calculations. Perhaps it's unfair to criticize Forbes for this one article. After all, they also publish items like this -- the most powerful women humanitarians. Still, it's hard to find those kinds of pieces amidst Forbes' overwhelming emphasis on financial wealth. Furthermore, Forbes definitely seems to be aiding and abetting the individuals in our society which is increasingly dominated by values that seem to have more to do with "keeping up with the Joneses" (or with the Gateses) than with fulfilling their community responsibilities. I share Professor Campos' concern that our society is overly materialistic, with the effect of transforming "human beings into talking monkeys -- that is, creatures who are genuinely satisfied to live lives dedicated to acquiring an endless stream of shiny new toys." There should be more to life than the pursuit of comfortable affluence.

My response to the despair I felt when I read the headline about Cleveland's failed school levy is to commit to action. If the best I can do is to find a local charitable equivalent to DonorsChoose (which concentrates its efforts in other cities, although they are currently engaged in a matching funds drive which will allow them to commit to further expansion), then that's what I'll do. If I can find the time to volunteer, then I will, even if it means that I'm spending less time at my daughter's private preschool. (We donate to the scholarship fund there as well.)

I may not be willing or able to live like Paul Farmer right now, but I will do what I can to demonstrate my belief that education is a human right, and we have community responsibilities to support public education. If you have suggestions for how I might act on my convictions, will you please let me know?