I’M A Product As Much As A Professor

I’M A Product As Much As A Professor

I’m becoming convinced of this. Students come to my classes because of me and because of how and what I teach. Dr. A is now a recognized brand in Cleveland TN who offers a fun and practical college experience in communication arts and golf from a Christian perspective at Lee University for students.

College professor’s experiences and accreditations seem to be as important now as the brand of the university itself, I think. Students in my golf class were as impressed if not more impressed that I hold a Masters Teaching Golf Professional “Class A” certification than me being associated with Lee University. Interesting…

I’ve heard from two students from my golf class telling their friends, “Dr. A knows golf. Register for his course.” I didn’t hear, “Lee University offers a golf class. Dr. A teaches the class.”

Students respect professor’s accreditations and experiences a lot these days, it seems. It made me think about my personal communication arts accreditations which right now, I have none other than practical experience and many years of action research on my topics of teaching expertise.

Not for that much longer…

I’m already working on being accredited in my area beyond research where my accreditation is a PHD.

In order for students to keep “buying Dr. A,” I better give students what they want. They seem to want Professor’ accreditation in addition to an academic degree and work experience, I feel. Maybe I’m wrong about this but with all honesty and humility… I don’t think so.

Onward and upward. I have some work to do and certifications to get. The former is already in motion, that’s for sure.

I need it. God is great. He shows me stuff.

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I’m Better Today Than I Was yesterday… Much Better, Actually.

I’m Better Today Than I Was yesterday… Much Better, Actually.

Practice makes it perfect. After being a college professor for 11 years, I can confidently say that I’m a better professor today than I was back in 2008. I finally know the difference between good and great as it pertains to media production and research. After having advised more than 500 students, I can say with certainty that I have helped many students to get jobs in industry or go to graduate school fully funded. God has been good to me.

We learn many lessons in life, including lessons relating to our professional careers. Today I know the ins and outs of social media and how to get the perfect exposure in photography. The websites I design and develop are robust, easy to navigate, have great copy and its’s simple to use. I can speak in public with ease and can discern between good deeds and manipulative attempts through non-verbal communication.

My students benefit from all of that now. It’s a blessing to them, I must add.

Back in the day that wasn’t the case. I thought I knew so much about communication when in reality, I knew so little. When I see some of the artifacts produced by some of my graduate school classmates on facebook today, I know that after 11 years, they still know very little about media which is sad thing. I guess that being unaware of one’s circumstances is often the norm among many educators of my generation rather than the exception.

I thank God for the opportunity to participate and learn…

We all get better in whatever we do if we choose to practice our craft. I most definitely did and so can you.  I’m a better educator today than I was yesterday… Much better, actually. I’ve learned a lot in these past ten years but there is still much to learn. At least, I’m humble enough to realize that.

One more thing…  Never, under any circumstances give up. The word “give up” should not be on your vocabulary. You will thank me later. Just trust me. 

 

I’ve Learned As Much From My Students As They’ve Learned From Me

I’ve Learned As Much From My Students As They’ve Learned From Me

It is true. Every semester, I’m shocked by how much I learn from them. This semester alone, I’ve learned that great video games should have exit points, that click by click instruction is how college students like to learn these days… they taught me how to ride a one wheel skateboard, to sing better and innovative ways to make friends on campus. In addition, they have showed me how to use some of my own systems at the university and where to go for help a little better.

These are the lessons I can remember… There are so many more.

I have the humility to admit that they, the students, know so much… which reminds me of what my grandfather once told me, “Everybody is an encyclopedia.” “Listen to people because they often have something good to say.” There is wisdom to the former, that’s for sure. I listen to my students and put what they suggest into practice.

As I approach my 46th birthday, I’m starting to rethink the notion that old people are wiser than the youth. It depends! The kids know much more than people want to give them credit for. Today, in my website design class, I taught them how to use a google based web system to produce a landing page website for a potential business. These were some of the ideas that they came up with.

  • A foundation to raise money for Israel
  • A math tutorial business to help special education kids
  • A grocery shopping on demand business
  • A recruiting system for local organizations
  • A rapid website business for local communities
  • A mechanism to send 100 individuals to global mission trips

And more.

Who am I to tell them what or how to think? Clearly, they can think for themselves. I’m thankful for the opportunity to assist them in this process…

In this life, we all learn from each other, I say. I’m a fan of the saying, “In college, you don’t learn from a professor… you learn with a professor.” It is true man.  I feel that way. I’ve learned as much from my students as they’ve learned from me.

 

 

Are Colleges And Universities Really That Expensive?

Are Colleges And Universities Really That Expensive?

Colleges are expensive, yes. There is little doubt about that. However, what we often don’t talk about are the other expenses associated with being a college student these days. The “other expenses” are as “expensive” as college itself, I say.

College tuition where I work at costs students $7,700 in tuition a year before room and board is added to the bill. Not a bad price in today’s market, is it? Since young adults have to pay rent and eat whether they are college students or not, I will not talk too much about housing and meal plans in this article. By taking this fair metric, college costs are really then the price of tuition, student fees and books which again, I believe is the true costs of education in the United States.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that college students at university A spend 9K a year in “college only” expenses totaling a lifetime college investment of 36K. Is it little money? Of course it isn’t but this value isn’t that far off from what the market will pay recent graduates when they leave the university with a degree in communications, on average. I predict student value after graduation to be between 28 to 32 thousand dollars in medium size to large cities, by the way. 

So in reality, students aren’t really making a very bad investment by going to get a college education with a 4 thousand dollars upside down in loans over a period of 15 tears. It is is, in reality, a negligible value, especially in the long run. I would be much more concerned if the value of tuition was 26 thousand dollars in tuition a year. 

Look, my problem with this debate isn’t necessarily with the price of tuition. I agree that tuition is expensive. My problem is with constituents who talk about the large debt that students accrue without taking into account the brand new (or used) car payments they have, car insurance policies, speeding tickets received, gasoline, smartphone bills, clothes, beer… College student debt is much more than just college tuition. 

Today in my office, I calculated the “college expenses” of a student totaling 10 thousand in extras! How fair is it to say that college is bankrupting students when students themselves spend that amount of money in unrelated college expenses or more every year? Let’s not forget that folks can always find an on-line education option so driving shouldn’t be an excuse to have a car payment. The truth is that the cost of tuition is as much of a problem to the debt crisis as how misinformed our kids are when going to college. 

Unfortunately, our students will spend four to seven years of their lives in college living life as an adult and fifty to seventy years of their adult living as a poor college student. It’s tragic but I think it will happen. College students are also part of the problem (perhaps their parents) as they spend a lot of money in expenses that simply don’t matter.

College students need, more than ever, mentorship in finance and a big wake up call. I help my advisees and clients to save money during their four years of college. We are lacking caring professors who tell the students the things they need to know for life and students who are willing to look beyond the obvious and critically investigate their own circumstances in life. I took the stance to be pro-students but that’s just me. I do realize that my motto of “If you do what is best for the students, you will do what is best for you” isn’t for everyone but at least it should be considered as an option by many in higher education.

Take the lead and help students to realize that they are also part of the problem when it comes to student debt. They need to know that there are other costs in addition to student tuition. Smartphone fees, having the newest iPhone, car payments, insurance, gas… are optional. 

Colleges are expensive, of course! Let’s not ignore the fact that we have a 3% to 4% inflation a year, plus depreciation of currency, and miscellaneous cost in addition to tuition price, making this crisis in education more than just the price of tuition alone. Think about it. 

One Way To Differentiate A College Or University For Success

One Way To Differentiate A College Or University For Success

Most colleges and universities in America seem to offer the same services to their students for a varied price with minimum variation. It isn’t atypical for an institution of higher learning in the US to offer a liberal arts curriculum containing classes in English, language and a social science along with a class in physics and physical education. In addition to the former, post secondary institutions in this country ask students to declare a major and complete major courses at all levels.

Most, if not all colleges, offer an opportunity for students to pursue an internship to gain practical knowledge about the concepts and principles they have learned while in the classroom and sometimes the opportunity to do an independent study. The system seems too homogeneous to me. 

Due to the harsh competition for students that exists in higher education, colleges and universities are now offering “extra amenities” sometimes even literally shifting their business model to attract a higher number of incoming freshman and transfers to their institutions. Examples of the former include:

  1. Including Christian principles in the curriculum in order to attract more students.
  2. Requiring faculty members to live near campus to be involved in school operations 
  3. Counting on history as a means to attract a certain type of incoming freshman. *Often seen in HBCU’s. 
  4. Creating courses that are more practical in nature.
  5. Reforming the transfer student protocol to be more user friendly with community colleges. 
  6. Accepting more dual enrollment courses while students are still in high school.
  7. Creating on-line versions of their on-campus majors in order to attract non-traditional students at both undergraduate and graduate levels. 
  8. Creating more graduate programs especially masters degree programs.
  9. Offer the opportunity for students to serve while pursuing a college education.
  10. Building expensive buildings and hotel like dorms in order to impress students.
  11. Writing personal notes to potential students and having faculty call them.

And so on… All good ideas, in my opinion, by the way. Some of these attempts to recruit more students are more expensive than others, though.

They do work, for the most part. The problem is that every institution seems to be implementing most of these strategies already. Fair enough! Competition for students are here to stay, I think.

Let’s not forget that we live in an age where people aren’t having as many kids as they once did which in itself causes a direct threat to the system of higher education in the United States. Let’s also keep in mind that the number of public universities offering a four year degree has increased (the Penn State System is a good example of that) over time and that the number of private colleges closing or being acquired by other institutions have risen exponentially lately, especially if their enrollments fall under 1000. 

No wonder why we, college professors, are being asked to help position our institutions in order to assist administration to cope with such difficult circumstances. That’s difficult but not impossible. In fact, I’m, afraid that we haven’t tried something obvious, though.

BTW: I don’t have a complete solution for the enrollment problem that we are facing in higher education but I have a thought that could be argued to be the missing piece in this discussion of how to save our system of higher education in America.

I’m going to do my best to explain it to you. Here we go. In oder to differentiate one college from another, a college or university should do the following:

It should redesign courses and academic programs incorporating expertise from multiple professors in order to solve market problems through a multidisciplinary approach. Let me explain: Rather than offering a course in mathematics with a faculty member from the math department only… an institution of higher learning should create a math for communicators course, for example, incorporating concepts and examples from communication using mathematical principles to solve communication problems.

Another example would be to create a major in Data Engineering where professors of statistics in conjunction with others in engineering would then co-create the curriculum and co-teach all of these co-designed courses from a completely new and multidisciplinary perspective. As a caveat… It would be helpful to realign professor’s offices differently in order to make this plan work. I would argue that placing a professor of communication and a mathematician side-by-side (office location, I mean) would be an excellent idea to be implemented under this differentiated potential operational model of higher education. By placing a historian beside a chemist, colleges and universities could potentially start offering a course titled, “History of Atomic Structure In Western Civilization,”  

It is true that some institutions attempted to do the former but with little success. Majors like Sports Management, Education Psychology and many others have been developed with this intention in mind, I think. The reason they weren’t as innovative, in my opinion, was because these majors were primarily taught by faculty members of one academic unit. In addition, these faculty members who contributed to the development of these majors, didn’t have offices side by side with members from another department in order to keep building more multidisciplinary courses in the discipline.

There is one threat to my potential solution to the problem of differentiation in higher education. I admit… In a decade or less, more colleges and universities may adopt this way to differentiate, emulating the same organization that introduced this solution. The good news is that things change and a new idea can then be introduced ten years from now, I don’t know. Only time will tell, I guess.

Hypothetically speaking, of course…  

This potential way for a college or university to differentiate itself from others by redesigning courses and academic programs to incorporate expertise from multiple professors in order to solve market problems through a multidisciplinary approach, could be life changing. Is it the only way? Absolutely not. But, it is one way.

This is what I think. Do you have a better solution? Let’s chat.