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Today’s Students Are Changing Colleges

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

When the trustees were here last weekend, I shared a compelling article with them— “Ways Today’s Students Are Radically Changing Our Colleges” from AGB Trusteeship magazine. The article reviews the findings of a six-year national study involving 33 campuses and thousands of students and concludes that students today are “different from their predecessors in ways that have profound implications for colleges.” Three similar studies were conducted between 1969 and 1993.

I would like to share some of the findings with you because you might find them interesting. To me, they raise a fundamental question, What is Middlebury’s role in educating today’s 21st-century students, and how flexible do we need to be to meet their “needs”?

The article states that the primary differences between students today and their predecessors are

  •  “Today’s undergraduates are the first generation of digital natives.”
  • “Undergraduates are older, fewer live on campus, and more attend part time.”
  • “Students are products of the worst economy since the Great Depression.”
  • “They are more immature, dependent, coddled, and entitled.”
  • “They are the most diverse generation in higher education history.”

For this column, I would like to talk about two in particular.

Digital natives: Operating in a 24/7 universe, in which almost everything is instantly accessible, is an unprecedented societal change. The article notes a “mismatch” between the students and institutions of higher ed that conduct business in real time and in real locations and use more linear, passive learning tools, such as lectures and books. Digital natives, however, “prefer active and concrete learning involving applications, games, and collaborations.” They tend to gather information as needed and “don’t understand that plagarism is wrong” because, for them, sharing in all forms is routine, highlighting another possible incongruity as we struggle to enforce our academic-honesty policies. How should Colleges deal with the fact that their students exist in an entirely different realm of experience than the faculty and administrators?

Additionally, digital natives are more comfortable texting than talking. Many people have observed that students today are not as skilled in interpersonal communication and that they don’t have the necessary tools to cope with conflict. Again, does Middlebury have a role to play here? It’s intriguing, for example, to think about interventions that would raise awareness and encourage face-to-face interaction: instituting campus-wide digital-free days or weeks, requiring conversations like JusTalks,  establishing device-free zones.

Immature, dependent, coddled, and entitled: The article describes students who rely on their parents more heavily than previous generations did; they are not as independent or self-reliant. Two-fifths reported that they “phone, e-mail, or text their parents daily” and one-fifth reported being in contact three times a day or more. The article also noted that students report feeling isolated, lonely, having “overwhelming anxiety,” and being “psychologically exhausted.” They “require significantly more psychological and emotional support.”

My colleagues and I are concerned about the psychological stresses students face, often well before they get to college, and the resiliency that many students don’t possess.  I would like to understand this better from your perspective and experience. Your observations, reactions, and suggestions about any of the topics raised in the article may help us find ways to respond to students’ emerging needs.  Most importantly, are there aspects of these findings that call for students to push themselves to claim a different experience in college?  Do you want something different from Middlebury or something different from yourself and your peers?

Copies of the article are in my office for anyone wishing to read it. It is not available online, so come by and see me in person (smile).

 

Light of the New Year

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

It’s that time of year, when the darkness descends and the days seem to retreat into a long dusk.  Add to that the “List of Things To Get Done”—before finals, before the College closes for break, before the holidays, and it can lead me into a frazzled, dazed state.

What lifts me up is knowing that decent, human warmth exists in many hearts, in many places. Random acts of kindness, it seems, aren’t really random; they are commonplace. Generosity and joy are all around us—but we often don’t notice because we are overwhelmed and preoccupied with our own busy lives.

And that is the key (something I try to remember to do): to look purposefully for these things, to notice and celebrate them—to give them more weight than the darkness and our daily obligations.

Each time I find kindness, generosity, selflessness, love, gentleness, openness, wisdom (add your own adjective here), it feels as if a candle has been lit in the night. If I find enough of them, they propel me forward and inspire me to focus on what really matters—human connection.

I’d like to wish everyone well in completing those end-of-the-year lists and all of the other matters vying for attention. May your travels to home, family, and friends be safe and restorative.

Have a wonderful winter break, and I look forward to seeing you in the light of the New Year.

It’s About (Face) Time

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe strongly in the value of dialogue. I believe that sharing ideas, opinions, and feelings directly with others is what keeps people connected—to their communities and even to themselves.

Lately, it seems as if there is an unusually high level of frustration simmering under the surface of human interactions all over the globe, occasionally exploding in scary and unproductive ways. I believe this is partly the consequence of an absence of dialogue. Annoyances, misunderstandings, and anger can be ameliorated when people simply talk with each other.

It sounds so simple, but it is becoming increasingly rare that people interact directly instead of tweeting and texting or making anonymous posts. The long-distance approach, with its delayed, often hostile, responses in the absence of real “face time” is, in my view, becoming the norm, and it is creating a numbing effect.

Everyone has probably had an experience like this: Someone has done or said something that has made you very upset. The more you think about the situation, the more upset you become—until you and the person in question talk. Suddenly you have new information and a fresh perspective that is more balanced. Even if you still aren’t entirely happy, your dismay is replaced with understanding. When we look into the eyes of another, we get immediate feedback; we sense their mood, and we have an opportunity to respond sincerely without delays—to be human together.

Here at Middlebury, we are very lucky. We have room to reflect. We have access to tremendous amounts of information  and expertise. We have the technological advances to be in touch with experts around the world. We also live in a community where we can come together and own our thoughts, be accountable for them. There is a tremendous opportunity here at Middlebury to embrace interpersonal interactions, conversations, and dialogues of all kinds. This allows us to grow.

The irony of course is that I’m saying this in a blog. But what I really want is for people to come together and talk. Often.

With that in mind, I’d welcome hearing your ideas about interesting ways for us to learn from each other in ways that are effective and respectful. You can post your thoughts here, but I also enjoy personal conversations.

 

Seeking Fresh Voices, Ideas, and Task Masters

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Hello, everyone. My guest bloggers this week are SGA President Rachel Liddell ’14, Assistant Director of Student Activities Jennifer Herrera, and Student Activities Programs and Events Manager Dave Kloepfer, writing about the social scene on campus. We look forward to hearing your comments and ideas!
—Shirley M. Collado

Welcome back! This last week, the new academic year kicked off in a major way with events like the First Chance dance party in the Bunker, Pub Night in Crossroads with WRMC, the DMC and WOC welcome-back BBQ, and McCullough Fest. Plus, Crossroads presented our palates with some pleasant surprises, such as creative, tasty smoothies and milkshakes and fresh-made sushi. When the Student Activities Fair was rained out last Thursday, McCullough became a hot spot for hanging out and reconnecting. For the first time in a while, it looked and felt alive with students—as it should be. Every seat, table, and booth was filled.

McCullough is the student center, your hub for anything, from checking your mail, to munching on a delicious snack like a “Dr. Feelgood” or a tempura shrimp roll, to studying, and even dancing the night away at Café con Leche Latin dance party. These are some of the amazing events at McCullough. Plus, they represent a fraction of McCullough’s potential. The possibilities are endless. And this is where you come in; it just takes your ideas and initiative to realize them.

We want students who are willing to “roll up their sleeves” to make things happen to come forward with ideas. We’re eager to hear what you have to say and want to do.

  • What ideas do you have for making McCullough a more attractive, cool, and fun (less institutional) space?
  • What kind of events and live music do you want to see here in Crossroads?
  • Do you want to be involved with enhancing the social scene? Tell us how.
  • Let us know what ideas you may have for improving outreach and communications about the rich activities already available, and those to come.

Feel free to contact Rachel at sga@middlebury.edu, Jennifer and Dave at student_activities@middlebury.edu, or leave comments here on this blog. We welcome ideas for new programs or events or anything else related to social-life programming that you’re burning to tell someone about.

 

Welcome, Class of 2017

Categories: General, Midd Blogosphere

It was a pleasure meeting many of you yesterday when I saw you during Voices of the Class in Mead Chapel and addressing you last night. I was struck by the high energy and enthusiasm of your class, and I look forward to getting to know you over the next four years. As you settle in to Middlebury’s life and pace, I hope you will soon feel at home here.

Middlebury has a long tradition of welcoming all kinds of students from all kinds of backgrounds to campus. As your class becomes integrated with the rest of the campus community, your unique experiences and viewpoints will begin to shape the very fabric of the College.

The Class of 2017 brings many interesting dimensions to our community. That you come from 42 countries and 43 states, that one quarter are U.S. students of color and 11 percent are international students, that 13 percent are the first generation of their family to attend college—those facts represent the range of variety your class is bringing to campus.

But these facts don’t show the full spectrum of diversity that comes from all of the layers that make up who we are as individuals and what we collectively “bring to the table.” Once you get to know your fellow students, faculty, and staff, the type of diversity you find here may astound you. I mentioned last night the breadth of experience you all possess—your ranks include a broad array of abilities, backgrounds, and insight that we look forward to engaging.

Next week, please join me in welcoming the other students back to campus who are returning from internships, study abroad programs, summer jobs, and other interesting adventures. I hope you will be able to take advantage of their expertise as you get to know them.

This blog is a good space to spark conversation. Please feel free to leave your comments and ideas here. I’d love to hear from you.

To Blog or Not To Blog?

Categories: General, Midd Blogosphere

This month marks the conclusion of my third year blogging for One Dean’s View. It seems like a good time to assess the blog’s future. Where should it go from here? I would like your opinion.

The blog has had very good readership over the last three years, with people visiting from off and on campus. But my hope that One Dean’s View would become a dynamic forum for open discussion hasn’t materialized the way I’d hoped. Over the last many months, readers have stopped commenting publically, using e-mail instead. I know of one instance where the discussion took place on a social media site.

My goal for the blog was to create a space that allows a wide variety of people to express very different ideas and to encourage a campus-wide conversation that welcomes and respects difference. Being based in the administration, I hoped it would allow us to talk about topics that might not be possible in other venues and that it might help break down barriers between the administration and student life.

The world is moving quickly, and this blog needs to evolve with it. The question is, how? It could go to sleep, reappearing only when necessary, when an important issue is at hand. It could ramp up to be more interactive, for which I would need student assistance. Or it could do something else altogether.

To inform my thinking, it would be very helpful to hear from you. What do you think about the blog? Additionally, I would like to know if there are any students with blogging, multimedia, or Web experience who would be interested in working with my office next year, to assist with the blog—with content and presentation. Please send me an e-mail if you are interested.

I’d like to thank all of the faculty, staff, and students who have written guest posts, the readers, and those who have chimed in, whether here or elsewhere, with comments.

Your opinions matter a great deal to me, and I welcome your ideas about One Dean’s View, whether you have general reactions or very specific thoughts. Please tell me what you think in the comments section. Thank you.

Arbor Day 2013

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

It’s been a gorgeous spring, and we’re celebrating with a huge Arbor Day celebration. Plan on joining us May 14th, details below. But in the meantime…

love a tree? share the love. send us photos, poems, and other art about your favorite campus tree. Submit a photo, or post on twitter with #middarborday. submit by may 10 to have your tree featured in the arbor day tree-k race! Either go twitter (@middland) or send to tparsons (at) middlebury.edu to submit. Prizes, fame, fortune, and good tree karma await. And the winning trees will become the basis of the second annual Tree-K race around campus (run 5-K,, and learn the names of 5 of the trees along the route to win) A kid’s race will be held as well. Winners receive gift certificates to the Grille.

The days events will be as follows:

Campus Tree Tour-join us for a walk around campus and learn about some of our woody friends. The tour starts at the McCullough Plaza at 2 PM, and wends its way through campus until about 3:30, when we will end up north of Battell Hall, where we-

Plant a Tree- a whole bunch of trees will be awaiting your tender loving care to be planted north of Battell Hall and in between Allen and Wright Theater. If you’ve never planted a tree this is something you should do-it will still be here for all of your reunions, like the rest of your old friends you’re eagerly awaiting to see. Afterwords, you can run or watch the-

Tree K Race-run about a 5-K loop around campus to all the various favorite trees nominated by the Middlebury campus community. Winners will receive prizes, and all kids will as well. Not too strenuous, as you’ll need to save strength for-

Food, music, and ice cream-We’ll be on the Atwater plaza, with a cookout by Grille Catering using local foods, ice cream, and listen to music by Will Cuneo and Rita Pfeiffer. Enjoy the sunshine for an hour or two before heading back inside to study for finals. A huge thank you to the Environmental Council for funding us!

So spread the word, let your neighbors know, and come celebrate our campus forest.