flexible sabbatical October 23, 2018

5 Recommendations for Completing the Flexible Sabbatical


At my institution, academic administrators on a 12-month contract can receive up to a full semester of paid leave to complete scholarship in their fields. Unlike a traditional sabbatical, which is taken for a full semester, flexible sabbatical weeks are taken in clusters throughout the academic year. In this way, academic departments are minimally impacted and administrators can enjoy the benefit of well-deserved leave time.

I began my flexible sabbatical just after graduation and completed it a year later. During that time, I was able to accomplish my scholarship goals and experience the rejuvenation for which sabbaticals are known. In reflecting on my experience, I recommend the following steps to anyone interested in pursuing this type of leave:

Is Time Up for the Credit Hour? October 11, 2018

Is Time Up for the Credit Hour?


How do we know if a student has learned enough to attain a degree or credential? Likely, the answer is currently phrased in the form of credit hours: 64 semester hours to earn an associate’s degree, 128 semester hours to earn a bachelor’s degree, and so on. But the credit hour, the most widely used currency of determining work put in toward a degree, was never intended to measure student learning at all.

lifelong learning September 20, 2018

The Value of the 60-Year Curriculum


Much focus is currently turned on the metrics that measure the effectiveness of higher education. Selectiveness of admissions is certainly one such metric, but universities are also being judged on employability. However, it is not just the first job that matters; how employable graduates are long after they don cap and gown is also a critical measure of the effectiveness of an education, and institutions need to turn their focus to the lifelong relationship they will have with their graduates.

non-cognitive factors March 26, 2018

The Importance of Non-Cognitive Factors


The last few years have brought an explosion of interest in the role of non-cognitive factors in education, those behaviors outside of course content that make a real difference in student success. Educational researchers have begun to examine the ways in which colleges and universities can encourage students to develop the attitudes, habits of mind, and behaviors that enhance their classroom performance and raise their grades, and ultimately result in higher student retention and graduation rates.

helping students find a vocation February 21, 2018

Hearing the Call: Helping Students Find a Vocation, Not Just a Job


Ask any potential student or their parents about their top concerns when choosing a college, and “employability” will likely be on the list. A host of societal factors have combined to make this true: First, the Great Recession of 2008 made families much more concerned about the cost/benefit rationale for higher education, with the hope that the increasingly expensive investment will pay off in greater lifetime earnings. Second, businesses increasingly work with colleges and universities to provide much-needed input on the real-world skills graduates need to demonstrate, while also providing subtle (or not-so-subtle) pressure on institutions to train graduates to be ready to work from day one. Finally, governmental oversight and regulations such as the “gainful employment” rules have turned the spotlight on how effectively institutions are preparing their graduates to find jobs.

Skills Expectation Gap December 13, 2017

Closing the Skills Expectations–Performance Gap


A Google search for “college graduate employment readiness” produces over 2.5 million hits. Unfortunately, the top results have titles such as, “Study Finds Big Gap between Student and Employer Perceptions” (Inside Higher Ed); “Why Are So Many College Students Failing to Gain Job Skills before Graduation?” (Washington Post); and “2015 College Graduates May Not Be as Ready for the Workplace as They Think” (Time). The titles reflect an expectations–performance gap in skills.

Moving from Courses to Curriculum November 29, 2017

Moving from Courses to a Curriculum


What does it mean to offer students a curriculum as opposed to a series of related courses? How does a program, major, or minor encourage students to make meaningful connections between courses so that they develop strong professional identities? I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions. I used to teach at a larger, public university where students tended to take an “à la carte approach” to completing a program of study. Recently I started teaching at a smaller, liberal arts college, and here students follow a more prescribed sequence of courses, and they’re required to make connections between courses. Teaching here, I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily the sequence of the courses (which our students mostly take in cohort groups) that matters most—although that does add program coherence—rather, it is the intentionality with which instructors provide opportunities for students to make meaningful connections between their courses. In our department, courses are seen as comprising a curriculum.

Foster Faculty Scholarship with this Agenda October 25, 2017

Foster Faculty Scholarship with this Agenda


A major role of every academic leader is to help faculty do well. For those of us who work in institutions where becoming a productive scholar is an absolute prerequisite to earning tenure, “doing well” implies developing a scholarship agenda, and “working” a plan.

Ensuring that new faculty get off to a good start is a very important component of any successful plan. All too often we spend limited travel funds and go to extraordinary efforts to recruit promising candidates only to see them leave our institution because they realize they are not on track to earn tenure. Some, realizing they will not do well, leave as they approach their three year review. Others stay until they fail their sixth year “up or out” review. Both cases represent a lose-lose situation.