Friday, December 29, 2006

MBA Programs Get Much-Needed Update

As mentioned over at The Kept up Academic Librarian and The Universities Weblog, Yale University has responded to (entirely justified) criticism from the business community, and scholars, that MBA programs are not giving students the experience/skills that are required in the global economy.

Starting this year, study abroad is required of all MBA students. "During the first two weeks of January, Yale students will travel to one of eight destinations around the world for intensive study. They will meet business, government and nonprofit leaders."

I am certainly on the lookout for international experience/perspectives relevant to the classes I teach, and my work in the private sector (more on my dual life here). Such a shift toward what has become known as "Social Capitalism" has been celebrated by such mainstream business publications as FastCompany (for instance, see this article on Social Capitalism). If the likes of BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and FastCompany have taken notice, you can bet that a major shift in values/expectations is well under way among the nation's successful businesses.

"Doing well by doing good" isn't just an organic-produce-eating hippie thing anymore. (By the way, the Organics Industry has become a 23+ billion dollar industry in itself---quite the change from the ex-hippie startups of the 1970s, like Boulder, Colorado-based Horizon Organic).

Plain and simple, the cookie-cutter educations that characterized traditional MBA programs of the past 30 years won't make you as attractive to employers as it once did...

The changes, implemented this fall, come after criticism in scholarly articles that MBA programs have failed to teach useful skills. Other business schools are implementing or considering similar plans.

Business schools increasingly compete for students and faculty as the number of MBA programs has soared. Universities are trying to differentiate themselves with special programs, such as a growing emphasis on ethics courses in the wake of corporate scandals.

“There is a trend to being responsive to the needs of the marketplace,’’ said Arthur Kraft, chairman of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Next fall, a new Stanford University curriculum will emphasize the skills a business manager needs and require students to have a global experience.

Yale’s new curriculum aims to elevate the 30-year-old business program, its newest professional school, into the ranks of elite business schools such as Harvard, Wharton and others. Business Week ranked Yale 19th out of its top 30 MBA programs.

Mindful of the global economy, Yale and other business schools are placing more emphasis on studying abroad.

You can read the full article here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Friday, December 22, 2006

More on Engines of Inequality: This Time at the Primary and Secondary Levels

Interesting article from the AP on the distribution of Federal funds at the Primary and Secondary level. It would seem our broken aid system extends to the Primary and Secondary levels, in addition to Institutions of Higher Education.

As we've seen from the report published last month by Education Trust (I've posted the .pdf of the full report here), the nation's public universities have spent the past decade abandoning their original mission to serve as the best hope for the advancement of young people from the middle and lower classes.

Perhaps, the universities have simply taken a que from the Feds. Here's a sample from the AP article:

Poor students are shortchanged by federal and state school aid policies, a report released Wednesday says.

At the federal level, the Education Department gives states nearly $13 billion a year to help students in low-income districts.

The complex formula used to determine each state's share guarantees a minimum amount for small states. That means Wyoming, Vermont and North Dakota, for example, can get more money per poor student than do more populous states.

Federal school dollars also are tied to the amount that each state spends on education. States that spend more get more from Washington.

But this link rewards states more for their wealth than their efforts to educate poor kids, according to the Education Trust, a Washington-based children's advocacy group.

For example, the report shows Maryland has fewer poor children than Arkansas but gets about 50 percent more federal aid per poor child, $1,522, than does Arkansas, at $1,009.

The gap occurs even though Arkansas dedicates a larger share of its resources to education than does wealthier Maryland, the report says.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Michigan Tries to Lure Tech Firms, as Manufacturing Fades

This article deals with the problem of change in the Rust Belt (I'd written about it earlier this week).

Michigan has lost more than 300,000 jobs since 2000, its unemployment rate stands at a nationwide high of 6.9%, and its college graduates are moving out of the state to find work.

It gets worse.

A University of Michigan study released last month predicted the state will lose 33,000 more jobs in the next two years, marking eight consecutive years of job losses. That's its longest streak since the Great Depression. The state's unemployment rate will hit 7.7% in 2008, the highest since 1992, the study said.

You can read the full article here.

Another Interesting Post on Creativity

Richard Florida's blog, The Creativity Exchange (if you haven't read it, definitely do yourself the favor) has yet another interesting post on what it takes to foster creative spaces, and global competitiveness.

Here's a sample:

Here's an oped by Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a federation of the CEOs of hundreds of the largest employers in the Bay Area in today's San Jose Mercury News.

"We suddenly live in a truly global world ... the Bay Area Council released a survey in which 36 percent of the region's CEOs said their company now actively participates in the global marketplace, buying or selling goods or services. Among small companies with one to 49 workers, an astonishing 26 percent said they are now 'global.'"

Engines of Inequality, Continued...

Well, The Kept-Up Academic Librarian has found an article from today's New York Times dealing with the Education Trust report Engines of Inequality, which I posted about, just over a month ago...

The NYT may be slow on the up-take, but it's good to see they do care about the issue.

The more press this situation receives, the more likely it is that something will be done about it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Guest Article: Controlling Classroom Rudeness: Some Suggestions

Today's guest post is from John M. (you can see his earlier post, "Helicopter Parents and Needy Students" here).

I found this article on CNN, and it seemed very timely. As a grad student, I find myself in the unique position of being both a student and a faculty member depending on the day and time. So I've seen the the phenomena from both sides. I've had students take calls in class, inform me they were leaving early because they had "something else to do", and email me to let me know that they weren't doing their assignment because they didn't like it.

Being a student, however, has helped me to think about how to handle these situations. I've been a student in classes where my peers were acting in similar ways. I found myself very frustrated when my professors wouldn't address it at all. That motivated me to try and bring up issues of manners in my classes when I can, publically.

As an instructor, I see, though, how difficult it can be to do so sometimes. So in classes, I will try and ask people who are being disruptful to pipe down, trying to help the teacher out by not placing the full burden on them.

The largest problem, from my perspective is technology. Folks thinking that it is now ok to text message in class. To IM their friends or to surf the net while in class is also no longer seen by many students as inappropriate. There is the need to be in constant communication with one's world and class isn't seen as important enough an event to warrent not being able to send and receive communication for 2 hours.

What the article doesn't mention is that some students are learning this behavior from their own professors. I've had faculty take calls during class, or answer emails on their blackberry. If that is their level of respect for their own course, how can we expect students to honor it more?

That said, I think the professor Kirk's suggestions below are a good start to returning civility to the classroom. The tone that is set early on makes a strong impression and lets folks know what to expect from a class as well as what is or is not appropriate.

Copyright 2006 John M.




During lectures, they answer their cell phones, text message their friends and play games on their laptop computers. Are college students really that rude? Yes, says Delaney Kirk, a professor of management at Drake University in Des Moines. But, she adds, it's not their fault. "It's the same behavior we're seeing in the rest of society," Kirk says. "There's a general lack of social skills."

Part of the problem is the lure of the techno-gadgets that students bring into the classroom -- cell phones, Blackberries and laptop computers. "Students think they can e-mail, text message, check the Web and listen to you, and they can't," Kirk says. During her workshops, Kirk presents a top-10 list to help college instructors better manage their classes.

Among her suggestions:

  • Establish credibility by telling students how they will benefit from taking the class.
  • Decide how formal or informal the class will be.
  • Set clear expectations and enforce them.
  • On the first day of class, emphasize its importance by giving an assignment that students must turn in at the next class.
  • Handle discipline problems immediately.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On the Generational Digital Divide

There's an excellent article on the growing importance of computer skills (in the workplace, and beyond) over at FastCompany's site. I posted a sample from it below. The full article is definitely worth a look.

More and more of your social interactions are moving online. Here are 10 major cultural implications of social software's growth.

Social software is a subset of the broader set of technologies often called "Web 2.0." Traditionally, the Web (1.0) was comprised of simple HTML pages. Web 2.0 is a read AND a write medium. Because Internet literacy is now so widespread; because so many people have become comfortable with virtual interactions; and because of the penetration of broadband, the Web has become a social medium. Web 2.0 applications take advantage of that evolution. Quoting danah boyd, "The advances of social software are neither cleanly social nor technological, but a product of both."

We see 10 major cultural implications of the growth in popularity of social software, or more loosely, the fact that more and more of your social interactions are moving online.

Implications for Individuals

Basic computer skills really matter...and fortunately the next generation is much more technologically skilled than the current generation. It is harder and harder for blue-collar professionals, let alone white-collar professionals, to do their job without basic computer literacy. Think how often people of all socioeconomic backgrounds email one another, participate in web-based training, or apply for a job via an Internet portal. Just to get a job in the first place, you need to know how to type and how to learn new software programs reasonably rapidly. The good news: given that 33 percent of online teens share content (artwork, photos, stories and videos) on the Internet, the next generation will have an even higher comfort level with this technology than the current generation working in corporate America.

Change Sometimes Comes Painfully

I was born in an agricultural and manufacturing region of the US, better known as "The Rust Belt." Over the years, I've watched as the vast majority of young people (especially those with talent and sought-after skills) have left. And that includes me. I remember the shock after the year 2000 census, when the extent of this exodus of talent finally had solid numbers associated with it.

My region was forced to watch from a distance during the economic boom of the '90s, and they are in the process of repeating that, as tech has been taking off yet again. My home has the potential to be much more successful than it is: there are a number of very fine colleges/universities in the area. But the powers that be held on to the dream of a return of manufacturing for far too long, and have missed a great many opportunities over the past two decades.

The region has most definitely suffered disproportionately during economic downturns. Things aren't exactly improving, as the American auto industry suffers (it was one of the last local manufacturing bastions).

My uncle's auto parts plant closed last year. After 40 years of employment, he, and hundreds of other workers, were out of work and forced to re-train for an entirely new economic environment, or make due with an early retirement.

[I'd love to link to an article on this from the local newspaper, but their articles don't have unique URLs. Too bad...]


Monday, December 11, 2006

Publish or Perish--in an Ever Diminishing Pool of Scholarly Publishers

Originally, university presses were created to publish the otherwise un-publishable--the research and "high art" of scholars in various fields. However, as the universities have scaled back formerly hefty subsidies, one of the most basic realities of economics has begun to set in: A press needs to sell books (at least enough to cover expenses) in order to stay in business.

Today, a young scholar is encouraged to do her/his dissertation on "marketable" subjects. And presses are increasingly looking for work with "cross-over" potential. Publishers want--need--to find work that will appeal to multiple markets/audiences. For example, a quick perusal of the University of Alabama Press catalog will reveal a number of titles with timely subjects such as, Religion, Politics and the American Experience: Reflections on Religion and American Public Life. This isn't a "bad" thing, unless you're a specialist in a field with little commercial appeal.

Now, couple this market pressure, with a traditional institutional aversion to popular, or generalist writing. For instance, while tenure committees haven't totally ignored publications intended for general audiences, they haven't exactly lauded them either. For a long time, there was an almost total lack of understanding from the senior faculty--I've encountered numerous instances where the general grumbling consisted of statements like, "They can't get published, and they expect us to lower the standards--which we were able to meet."

But the "good old days" of plentiful outlets for traditional scholarship are over--at least for publishers. Today, scholars must rely on professional journals, rather than traditional book publishers, to gain exposure for their work.

Professors seeking tenure have fallen into a double bind--"publish or perish" as the old saying goes...but in order to publish, you have to give the publishers what they want/need, and that isn't exactly what your tenure committee is looking for.

So what does a junior scholar do? What should the institution/tenure committee do?

The Modern Language Association has been working on an answer, or series of answers. The following is the opening to their report--which is available as a free download:

In 2004 the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association of America created a task force to examine current standards and emerging trends in publication requirements for tenure and promotion in English and foreign language departments in the United States. The council’s action came in response to widespread anxiety in the profession about ever-rising demands for research productivity and shrinking humanities lists by academic publishers, worries that forms of scholarship other than single-authored books were not being properly recognized, and fears that a generation of junior scholars would have a significantly reduced chance of being tenured. The task force was charged with investigating the factual basis behind such concerns and making recommendations to address the changing environment in which scholarship is being evaluated in tenure and promotion decisions.

To fulfill its charge, the task force reviewed numerous studies, reports, and documents; surveyed department chairs; interviewed deans and other senior administrators; solicited written comments from association members; and consulted with other committees and organizations. The most significant data-gathering instrument was a spring 2005 online survey of 1,339 departments in 734 institutions across the United States covering a range of doctorate, master’s, and baccalaureate institutions. The response rate to the survey (51% of all departments and 67% of all institutions) provided a solid basis for the task force’s analysis and recommendations.

The information gathered by the task force substantiates some worries and mitigates others.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Is the Job Market for Liberal Arts Graduates REALLY as Bad as Some People Think?

It is amazing to me, how so many academics have internalized an outdated, limited view of the career paths available to those with a Liberal Arts education. In particular, I hear a consistent drone of pessimism from professors, graduate students, and professional organizations in the Liberal Arts disciplines.

I believe that this pessimism is a largely the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Granted, if you want to become a tenured professor in, say, English or American Literature, the prospects are not very good. However, is teaching the only career path open for undergraduate and graduate students from the Liberal Arts disciplines? No.

There are a number of career paths available to Liberal Arts graduates.

If you're a grad student, I'd like to share a few helpful tips from someone who has recently made a go of it on the job market.

Take a moment, and ask yourself: If I leave the ivory tower, what skills would I have? You'd be surprised.

The most important part of your job search is that you need to remember that it's up to you to educate your audience. You'll have to focus on creative ways of "selling" your skills.

So be sure to put together a diverse skill set while you're in school, and your graduate scholarship/assistantship is footing the bill. Get publishing and editing experience, train yourself in basic/relevant applications of technology (such as starting, maintaining, and marketing a website about something you your field of study). In the process of your education, be sure to:

  1. Keep a professional portfolio of everything you're involved with, or have written/designed, that the public sees (such as posters/flyers, event advertisements, as well as school publications like literary magazines, departmental/organizational newsletters, etc.)
  2. Detail your activities/responsibilities if you run campus events (such as helping to organize academic conferences, recitals, or sports events), host guest speakers, etc.
  3. Take a few classes in Marketing and Communications--particularly those that deal with Online Marketing. And maintain detailed reports of marketing activities/campaigns for your professional website mentioned above.
These experiences and skills can then be used for positions in (and this is just a sample of what is out there):
  • EVENT PLANNING (entry level median salary of $54,000)
  • Promotional materials (flyers, etc.) and the writing/advertising you do for your website (coupled with a degree of training in Marketing and Communications) can be used for positions in ONLINE MARKETING (entry level median salary of $70,000)
  • ONLINE CONTENT GENERATION i.e. writing for a website (entry level median salary of $47,000)
  • ONLINE CONTENT EDITOR "Duh!" Any English Professor--with some basic training in Marketing and Communications--can do this today! (entry level median salary of $59,000)
  • LAW CLERK Another "Duh!" This position is focused on research--which graduate students can do better than anyone (entry level median salary of $44,000)
  • CORPORATE TRAINER You're already thoroughly trained in adult education (having been a college-level instructor), and by virtue of your graduate education, are one of the strongest candidates for nearly every position you could apply for (entry level median salary of $45,000)

Just do some research, and with a little creativity, you can land a great job with the skills/experience you've assembled on your way to earning that Ph.D. in English. If you want, you can always go into teaching later on in life. Many professors in Business, Engineering, and many other industry-focused disciplines take this career path. They consider teaching to be their retirement--a working retirement--where they can give something back to the next generation of professionals in their respective fields.

Of course, while you work in whatever position you secure, you can adjunct at a local college once or twice a week, to keep current in the discipline, and earn a few extra dollars in the process.

Graduates just don't receive adequate training/mentoring in how to "market" ourselves in the private sector. This is particularly true in the Liberal Arts disciplines (such as English). I'm not faulting the faculty for this... It's an institutional/administrative oversight, which leaves many students lacking when it's time to enter "the real world."

So, as you can see, there are plenty of jobs out there for graduates of Liberal Arts disciplines. The trick is to do your homework, get creative about ways to sell yourself, and develop complimentary skills from outside your field.

Be an interdisciplinarian. Like a good investment strategy, diversification = security.

As grad students, we know we're smart, and we know that what we do has value. The problem is that most people outside of our respective disciplines don't know that.

It's up to you to reveal the treasure you are.

More at my Web Biographies page

*All info on salaries from and, based on the Denver, CO market (median salaries will vary from one geographic/economic region to another)


Monday, December 04, 2006

Google's Educational Initiative: Just What the Dr. Ordered?

Here is an interesting development. It seems like a win-win for Google and for cash-strapped schools (at all educational levels).

Schools are no longer forced to pay ridiculous prices for multi-installation licenses, just to run Office on a classroom of computers. And students don't have to worry about software-compatibility issues.

For example, one of the greatest obstacles to the greater use of technology in the classroom (in my experience) is that the software on the school's computers isn't always compatible with the software your students have at home. After all, not every student's laptop comes with Excel. And even with educational discounts (since it's the X-mas season, you may have this on your list), buying a copy of Office for your child's computer will still cost over $100.

There is also the possibility that your students may have older versions of the same software. They probably bought it for pennies on eBay or it’s unable to open files saved with newer versions of the same program.

All things considered, most of your students simply won't have the ability to open their class projects outside of the computer lab.

There seems no need worry about this any more. Google has launched a program to meet the needs of teachers, schools, and students--at the expense of Microsoft's old-school revenue model.

The free-software approach poses a challenge to Microsoft Corp., whose success revolves around sales of its long-dominant Windows operating system and Office suite. The programs -- including Word and Excel -- are installed on hard drives and information is usually stored locally as well.

Google views its educational initiative as a public service for teachers who often lack the money and expertise to introduce more technological tools into their classrooms. The company doesn't allow advertising in its word processing and spreadsheets programs, leaving it unclear how Google expects to make money.

"We think it's good to get people familiar with the other things we do (besides search), but it's not like we are trying to get some kind of lifetime value out of each student," said Cristin Frodella, a Google product manager overseeing the education project.

"We just want to help teachers engage kids with technology that makes learning seem less like drudgery."

Google is trying to engage the teachers first.

In October, the company posted an online guide to provide instructors with ideas on how to incorporate the applications into their curricula. In November, Google invited about 50 Northern California teachers to spend the day at its Mountain View headquarters to learn more about the advantages of the program.

You can read the full article here.

You can see Google's online spreadsheet and wrodprocessing software here.