GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

Posts Tagged ‘conferences’

Further Updates From #ASA2012: Men’s Friendships, NCLB, and Outputs

In Happy Mondays on 2012/09/08 at 00:55

Mary Churchill, writing from Denver, Colorado in the US. 

One of the great things about the ASA Annual meetings is the Film/Video Screenings. While I missed the one showing of Jessica Valenti’s The Purity Myth, I did get to catch Erik Santiago’s Five Friends, which was very moving. The film focuses on male friendships and centers on a 65-year old man named Hank. (While watching the film, I couldn’t help but think of my husband and 7-year old son who were participating in a Father/Son weekend at a boy’s camp on Squam Lake in NH (aka the On Golden Pond lake)).

On Friday, I had attended a presentation by Rachel Dwyer (Ohio State) on Gender, Debt, and Dropping Out of College and the topic of male college drop-out rates was one that interested many of us in the audience. Although Dwyer didn’t mentioned peer support groups in her presentation, Santiago’s film made me wonder what role the lack of these groups may play in retention of male college students. In my work with Ph.D. students (particularly at the dissertation stage), I have found peer writing groups to be a crucial component of retention and completion. (UVenus writer Liana Silva has a recent post on this at her blog, Sounding Out). If, as Santiago suggests, many men struggle to build and maintain meaningful intimate relationships with male friends, this impacts their ability to connect to a supportive peer group. (as the mother of a boy, I think about this quite a bit).

After a fantastic meeting with UVenus writer, Casey Brienza, I headed over to the Colorado Convention Center for a panel on Accountability Policies and Student Achievement. Deep into several No Child Left Behind (NCLB) presentations, I was enviously reading Sara Goldrick-Rab’s tweets on the Wendy Espeland’s presentation – Valuing Education: Why Media Rankings Rankle Higher Education – on one of my favorite topics, college rankings! (how had I missed this in the 350 page program guide!? For one, it wasn’t in a Sociology of Education session – perhaps I will write a post on the pros and cons of sections…). Luckily I tuned back into my panel just in time to catch Emily Meanwell’s (Indiana) presentation on Federal Education Policy and Inequality. Meanwell analyzed congressional hearings from 1965 and 2001 to look at the shift from inputs in 1965 (family income, inequality) and a focus on compensation to a shift to outputs in 2001 (scores, achievement gaps ) and a focus on quantification. In 1965, impoverished parents were identified as the problem and schools were presented as the solution. By 2001, the focus had shifted and failing schools were called out as the problem with parents holding schools accountable as the solution. Obviously, both of these scenarios are problematic and reality is a lot more nuanced – we need to consider both inputs and outputs. Thinking about higher ed, I think of a shift in framing college as a solution/path to the middle class to framing college as a waste of time and money and the intense focus on the link between college degree and job attainment.

After a panel of NCLB, I went on to more NCLB at Building a Better K-12 Education System. I couldn’t stay for all of this but I did stay long enough to hear Aaron Pallas (Columbia) talk about teacher evaluations and the public dissemination of those evaluations. This public release has the effect of presenting teacher quality (from highly effective to ineffective) as a commodity exchanged on the market.

I instantly thought of my son and the upcoming school year. What if I knew the rankings of the two second-grade teachers…wouldn’t I fight for the higher ranked teacher? Especially if the lower ranked teacher had been labeled ineffective? Would I threaten to leave the school if I couldn’t get him out of the ineffective teacher’s class? Would they move him to the other teacher’s class? Who would be left in the ineffective teacher’s class? The children of the parents who didn’t know about the evaluations and/or didn’t fight to have their children moved?

What if we did this in higher education? What if we ranked professors based on their outputs? If all of our students took standardized tests at the end of each semester – how would this change the way we teach? Who we teach? Who we recruit to our classes? Who we discourage from taking out classes?

Have you experienced something like this? If you thought you would be promoted or fired based on these outputs, how would it change your behavior?

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed


In Happy Mondays on 2012/09/08 at 00:43
Mary Churchill, writing from Denver, Colorado in the US. 

I’m at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting in Denver through Monday and I’ll be writing up short dispatches and posting them here at UVenus.

Liminality  -I am in a funky space located somewhere between a sociologist and a member of the press. I’ve been attending/presenting at ASA since the late 90’s and this time, I am representing UVenus and Inside Higher Ed. It’s a strange feeling, a space of watching and observing rather than participating. I’ll write more on this as the weekend progresses.

I received my Ph.D. in 2004 and, after a short stint as a faculty member, took a dean position and dove into administration.  At ASA2010 in Atlanta, I presented two papers – one in Sociology of Culture (based on my dissertation research) and one in Sociology of Education (based on my administrative work). That was also a time of straddling two worlds: academic and administrator.  I was very much aware of watching faculty members at work, watching the boundaries of a discipline being actively maintained, watching graduate students being indoctrinated into the discipline through the mechanizations of a professional society.  As an administrator, I was aware of how this helps faculty become known entities in their worlds and increases their status. I was also aware of how this takes them away from their institutions, departments, students. It is not a bad tension but it is a place of push and pull.

Writing for UVenus, I can’t help but think of our writers and readers as I attend sessions, read the Twitter feeds, and watch the interactions. The Twitter feed is dominated by the voices of PhD students and early-career faculty – resisting the indoctrination and professionalization while realizing that “success” requires some sort of acquiescence.  I’d like to hear more from you in the comments on the good and bad of attending conferences.

I attended a fantastic panel on Inequalities in College Access and Completion yesterday afternoon and I’ve asked a couple of the presenters for their papers.  I’m hoping to write a more substantive post on this topic later this weekend. One important issue that came up at the end of the series of presentations was around the obligation of an academic to the people she studies. Do we prioritize the “purity” of our research over the lives of those we study or vice versa? For me, this comes back to one of my favorite topics – the role of academics with regards to public engagement.

Stay tuned for more and follow the Twitter chat at #ASA2012.

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed

Pride, Prejudice, and Publication

In Elizabeth's Posts on 2012/07/18 at 02:13
Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, writing from Evanston, Illinois in the US.

Just as the Bennet sisters had a season in which to find a spouse, academics have a season in which to cement their editorial couplings for the coming year.  Each summer, hotel conference rooms and university campuses around the globe house those who write and those who edit as they perform a series of anxiety-ridden dances.

First, you fill your card.

A year before the conference begins nervous writers apply to appear with panels.  Apply for too many and you may end up like Lydia, a cheap tease.  Apply for too few and you may spend the summer like Mary, with atonal contributions to recitals meant for others.  The perfect panel stretches you just enough beyond your comfort zone to demonstrate new accomplishments but not so far that others outshine you.  Elizabeth Bennett shines brightest when accompanied by Jane and Charlotte Lucas.  Neither Caroline Bingley nor Kitty improves her lustre.

Upon arrival, you survey the registration hall for familiar faces with whom to pass time before your first dance.  Friends exchange updates on their lives, share knowledge of the other attendees, remark upon notable absences, and down coffee in anticipation of the mental aerobics to come.

With panel partners located and caffeinated, you proceed to the appointed space for your performance.

Historians struggle with a particularly stiff line dance.  We rise in turn to read our papers.  The panel chair punctuates our proclamations with introductions of individual speakers.  Then the nervous cluster holds its collective breath and waits for the commentator’s critique.

The commentator will tell the potential editors in the room whether he or she thinks the samples just shared merit further investigation as journal articles or monographs.  If the speakers approximate Elizabeth Bennet and the editors Fitzwilliam Darcy, the commentator fills the terrifying role of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

If the commentator damns with faint praise or skewers with a rapier wit, any recalcitrant editorial Darcy in the audience may slide out the back in silence.  If the audience contains a persistent questioner, Wickham, you might draw Darcy’s attention despite Lady Catherine’s condemnation.  How you reply to Lady Catherine and Mr. Wickham plays as serious a role in Darcy’s evaluation as quality of your initial performance.  If you demonstrate incisive intellect as you respond to critique with poise or to praise with humility, you may just halt Darcy’s departure.

What every writer wants is an invitation to an individual dance – the magic moment when the editor solicits your work solo.  A sentence that begins with “your paper” not “your panel” sends the authorial heart into a swoon.  For Mr. Darcy to like the ladies of Longbourn in general would offer no special hope to Elizabeth, who needs him to settle upon her in particular.

Of course a successful relationship requires Lizzy to see Darcy’s merits just as Darcy must see Lizzy’s.

An inept proposal or reply can bring the courtship to a premature end.  An aloof editor from a high end house poses as many problems as an overeager one from the local historical society.  The former might let your prose languish at the bottom of a pile until your colleagues have preempted your finding and made your book redundant.  Poor Caroline Bingley’s waits for Darcy’s attention in vain.  The latter may push your piece into print before it receives needed editorial polish.  Lydia elopes with Wickham before she has read the fine print of his proposal.  If like Lizzy, you spurn the aloof editor too soon, you might miss his potential for an attentive partner.  Darcy had more depth than she imagined.  Set your cap at an editorial Wickham, and you will find he has run off a younger, more naive scholar behind your back.

With luck, a Georgianna Darcy can facilitate the final match.  A third party who knows the perils but sees the potential in a tentative romance can assuage lingering doubts and nudge the couple towards the altar.

It is, after all, a truth universally acknowledged, that a scholar in possession of a manuscript, must be in want of an editor.

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed .

Conference 101

In Information Minoration on 2011/03/31 at 05:48

Heather Alderfer, writing from New Haven, Connecticut in the USA

I love conferences; they allow me to be a registrar geek, among over 2,000 people, vendors, university representatives, and governmental policy makers. I was lucky to be in Seattle last week, amongst many other registrars, attending conference sessions on curriculum work flow and classroom scheduling at the annual meeting of the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. I have been working in the registrar field (if I can call it that) for about seven years now, a few years longer than entry level jobs require. But this was the first conference where I felt I was beyond entry level in the Registrar’s field. I co-presented, not for the first time, but this time I felt confident in my presentation and my speaking voice.

I am learning to be a relentless networker. I enjoy meeting people and talking registrar-speak, so attending the Registrar’s Conference is a once-a-year opportunity to geek out Registrar-style. The first few conferences I attended, I hardly spoke to anyone, and I was amazed at what other schools were showcasing. In a few sessions, I was interested enough in the topic to speak to the presenter afterwards, but in my mid-twenties I hadn’t yet learned how to ask concise questions and hand over my business card while gracefully moving on to the next presentation. But gradually I got up the courage to talk to more and more people, and have now made several mentors, friends, and peers who I reconnect with each year. They are the ones I can go to when I am confronted with a new problem I’ve never seen before, or a new policy I’m not sure how to implement.

Unfortunately, there are few opportunities for mid-career development in small offices. Even in large universities, there are only a few people who do what I do. Thus, it is even more crucial to maintain relationships with peers at other institutions. Each university culture is unique, and each problem faced by Enrollment Managers will have as many solutions as there are institutions. But how to move things forward? How do I translate the momentum from all the new ideas and approaches I’ve seen from other schools into actual/realized changed at my own institution?

I return from the AACRAO conference full of ideas for new processes and new software. Only a fraction of what I’ve seen will actually cross my desk in the years to come, but it is so important to rekindle the passion for what I do, for realizing I do have a place in this profession, and that new ideas can win out over cynicism.


Connecting With My Intellectual Family

In Anamaria's Posts on 2010/11/12 at 23:36

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten, writing from Lund, Sweden

I like conferences, I confess. There are so many types of conferences these days that it is hard to choose one’s favorites: there are “regular” conferences, a slowly vanishing category. Then we have virtual conferences, which may be poised to become the new regular kind, with many billions in value. According to some, this is a growing trend, now in its infancy but emerging as a real alternative, with its own rules and skills that academics will have to develop and master. I must admit I have never been invited to attend such a virtual meeting place for academics and therefore I cannot express a true opinion. My feeling though is that the technological issues will deter from an atmosphere of warm collegiality and that only with some advanced technology in simulation rooms will it ever grow to be a replacement of the current physical meetings.

Another type of conference increasingly discussed these days is the unconference, a more democratic type of virtual academic reunion where, according to a well-circulated definition, the participants themselves determine the program. The advantages connected to the unconference are numerous, as Ethan Watrall explains, as it is more democratic, more dialogical or interactive and also cheaper than the traditional form. Perhaps because it is a very new thing, or/and because the humanities or the social sciences are slower in keeping up with technology than natural sciences, I have not attended nor even heard of an unconference organized in my field (political science) – perhaps this is indeed admitting my ignorance, backwardness and high degree of uncoolness, but this is the truth and I must stand up for it.

For me it is the regular conference type that remains the most attractive. Maybe presenting papers allows my artistic, performative side to emerge, just like in Itir’s case. Maybe I am able to capture the vibes of a flesh and blood audience more directly, and to get more energy and inspiration from their almost imperceptible reactions. Maybe it is the possibility of looking at the members of the public in the eye and expecting, hoping, that they will stay afterwards for an informal chat and exchange of views. So is it so that I am more of the underconference type? Am I at the conference not because of the actual moment of presenting or discussing a paper, but because of its parallel universe, this “carnival in the churchyard” to quote Mark Sample?

Not quite, I answer. I like the formality of paper presentation and the discussion in the conference room just as much as I really get enriched, but also occasionally enraged, in the hallways and lobbies where the underconference takes place. This is why I have come to realize I like the small traditional conference. Perhaps this is not the place for fantastic networking as only few people attend it. But those who come are indeed interested in the narrower topic that also brought me there. I have the feeling of belonging together with these other people with whom I share this or that clearly defined academic concern. I may disagree with them to the teeth, but nevertheless I like them being there, and I am quietly grateful for their interest in my subject, for giving me comments, critiques, attention.

I was almost going to write that I like these small conferences because they connect me to parts of my intellectual family. But thinking in family terms is such a womanly thing, isn’t it?

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed.

Do You Speak…?

In Guest Blogger on 2010/10/30 at 00:08

Guest blogger, Ana Dinescu, writing from Berlin, Germany

International academic events are always a good laboratory to observe not only the various schools of thought, national educational orientations and current trends, but also opportunities to think about language and understanding. Not less importantly, they represent occasions to think about the need for permanent education, independently of our sometimes impressive academic degrees and professional performances.

In many cases, English is the lingua franca of the majority of the encounters of this type. International publications are in English or accepting submissions in English, making this language a useful tool for getting together ideas and researchers from all over the world. During these conferences, you might observe as well the creation of small national groups of researchers with the same linguistic background, who will be eager to share their thoughts and ideas better in their mother tongue. There are also people who are unable to express themselves in any language other than their own, despite impressive academic records.

International gatherings offer a good opportunity to practice a foreign language, by direct contact with native speakers. Even if you can’t learn the language – especially the grammar – in a couple of days, at least you are switching your level of knowledge to a more active one. Very often, we miss those opportunities, too afraid to translate ideas into a confusing bubbling.

However, beyond some encouraging aspects regarding the diversity side of the story, the main question during academic gatherings is how much are we able to really express ourselves and understand the discussions. Very often, I have been part of various Babel-like conversations, when only the names of the authors – well known scientists – were the common understandable reference of the dialogue. If in the area of science, the standard vocabulary is more easily translated and understood from one language to another; in the case of human sciences, the “lost in translation” effect is more confusing and misleading.

Learning to know a language is a very long and almost never-ending process. We learn with difficulty and we forget easily. You need practice and you need to actively use the new language. For this, time is the unknown element. To improve your linguistic performances you need to dedicate a serious amount of your daily – and probably busy – schedule.

On the other hand, using your time for improving the knowledge of at least two foreign languages, beyond your own, is a long-term achievement. It is brain challenging, through opening new doors for extending your knowledge and your references. It also helps us to be more tolerant and open-minded to the various human, historical and cultural differences.

I do not think there is any kind of classification of the languages you have to know. In every domain, there are always several open options. What we need, independently of our academic and national background, is to be aware of the fact that self-sufficiency is a strong poison for the brain. The antidote is to keep ourselves optimistic enough to overcome our limits of communication.

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed.

Reimagining Education in Chicago: CIES 2010

In Conference Highlights on 2010/03/10 at 09:00

Last week, I was in Chicago for the 54th annual Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) conference. If you are not familiar with CIES, the society was founded in 1956 and focuses on the “international study of educational ideas, systems, and practices.” It is a really nice interdisciplinary mix of traditional academics (predominantly social scientists), practitioners in the field, and graduate students from all over the world.

I first became aware of this organization when I hired Michelle Morais de Sa e Silva to teach a course on Comparative Education. Michelle is a Brazilian PhD student at Teachers College at Columbia and she’s fabulous – we are hoping to have her write for University of Venus very soon. She is a bit busy at the moment – she is about to defend her dissertation and she is also the proud mother of a four-month old baby boy! Michelle was a key organizer of last year’s CIES in Charleston, South Carolina and she strongly encouraged me to attend and present. I did and I loved it. It is a fantastic group of academics and practitioners who are passionate about education – from early education (preschool) through post-secondary Ph.D. programs.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Reimagining Education” and rather than paraphrasing, I will include the blurb from the website below:

  • We are living in times of rapid ideological, societal, and economic change where new ways of thinking are likely to emerge that may radically transform the way we design and implement education. The central promise of universal education, to produce a more just and peaceful world, has yet to be realized. Nevertheless much has been achieved. We are constantly developing new ways of knowing and doing. Emerging paradigms allow us to envision a better future.

I attended some really thought-provoking sessions – from large invited lectures and panels with big names in the field to smaller sessions with graduate students providing the highlights from their research. My highlights below:

  • Invited Lecture on “Reimagining Teacher Education

Preparing High Quality Teachers for Everyone’s Children: An International Perspective Kenneth M Zeichner (University of Washington)

The Take-Away: Zeichner focused on four current trends: 1- commodification and corporatization of teacher education; 2- de-funding of public universities; 3- hyper-rational accountability that undermines quality; and 4- attacks on multi-culturalism in teacher education. His thoughts for the future: 1- multiple pathways to teaching are good; 2-writing off college/university-based teacher preparation is a mistake; 3-we need to invest in education schools while promoting innovation

  • Invited Presidential Panel – Global Higher Education Futures: The UNESCO Trend Report

Phillip G Altbach, Boston College


Nelly Stromquist, University of Maryland

Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela, Michigan State University

David P Baker, Pennsylvania State University

The Take-Away: Four amazing presentations. As a trained sociologist, Baker’s presentation spoke most directly to my own background. Baker, paraphrasing Talcott Parsons – The university is at the center of postindustrial society – if this is true, what are the obligations of the university as a public good? Baker also reminded the audience that for the majority of us, our livelihoods exist because of the hopes and dreams of 18-21 year-olds – pretty sobering and grounding.

  • Regular presentations:
    • Engagement of Intercultural Communication and the Relationship of Global Competency on a U.S. University Campus (Florida State University Very nice presentation on the disconnect between intercultural communication and global competency. Evenson’s work focused on interviews with conversation partners at FSU which paired American and international students. She found that international students are pretty eager to make friends with Americans but don’t really know where to begin.
    • US teacher recruitment from the Philippines–Another neoliberal attack on education Rhoda Rae Gutierrez (University of Illinois, Chicago). Great presentation from Gutierrez on the recruitment of teachers from the Philippines to teach in urban areas in the U.S. She spoke to the conflicted position of teachers unions and the negatives and the positives of this financially-driven arrangement.
  • My panel had some fantastic presentations and I was honored to be with the presenters:
    • Panel — Negotiating the Global, the National and the Local in Higher Education
      • Global competence and higher education in the U.S.: Deconstructing the global university. Mary Churchill (Northeastern University)
      • Land-grant extension as a global endeavor: Connecting knowledge and international development.Christopher Collins (UCLA)
      • Professional education and interdisciplinary fields: The role of global “boundary objects” in the emerging open systems of the post-Soviet academe. Anatoly Oleksiyenko (The University of Hong Kong)
      • The global, the national and the local in Mexican’s higher education system: Neo-liberalism penetrating from within. Patricia Gaviria (University of Toronto)

Hope to see you next year in Montreal!

Mary Churchill

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