Future of the University

Nowadays, it looks like that people are paying more attention on the way higher education is handled than just a few years ago. Why is that? To me the main reasons are the continuing decrease in students’ performances and the lack of enthusiasm of some educators (no more dedication as seen in earlier times). These are some of the complaints that we often times hear from parents but mostly from old instructors. There is also the reliability on new technologies which drag much more attention for learners. I think these reasons in addition to many others have brought people such as scientists, philosophers, and psychiatrists to come up with too many theories in order to reform higher education. Therefore, there are many theories out there; it is almost like everybody is expert in higher education. Books and articles are being published every day, seminars, conferences and workshops are being held like never before.

I like the way teaching is being done in the US. It is different compared to the way it is most of the time (because not always) being handled in some African countries. For example, I feel in the United States, teaching and learning processes are more student-centered; there are more interactions between students and educators which is different from what students are experiencing in certain African places. And one can see that these student-centered learning processes are gaining more and more power and more ground as the younger instructors are the ones more interested in this way of teaching and they are integrating academia every day.

But is all this really helpful?

To me, I think not completely, because of the student underperformance that is being pointed out as I have mentioned earlier. Another reason, instructors can only use the material or education theories which they are aware of, or which is most accessible to them. It can be helpful or not. Some educators might even want to innovate but end up confusing their students. Finally, regarding the students, they might be used to certain activities or problem solving strategies and once they face other circumstances they become less efficient or less productive.

Wouldn`t it be better if the different actors of higher education come up with some standard that would make things work differently?

One thing that I believe should change in higher education is the huge amount of education theories that are used in this field. They may not always give good results. I think it would be great if everybody could follow the same procedure everywhere as food scientists do it in food processing. Some organizations, such as the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Codex Alimentarius have set standards that all food producers have to follow. For instance, you have the Good Manufacturing Practice regulations that are promulgated by the FDA, you can find HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) and many others.

In some African countries, I think the shift would be to try to incorporate more student-centered activities because such practices even though having some limits seem to be a better way of getting students more ready for future careers such teaching, working as engineers, lawyers, etc. I am saying this because I think, readiness for teaching in universities for example is more needed in underdeveloped countries where ineffective educational systems are the main factor that undermines economic development. Likewise, greater efficiency of engineers in place is needed because it can help limit the reliance on international expertise. Integrating graduate seminars and workshops where people interact in their program would reinforce such approaches as these are places where students gain skills and knowledge that would not be acquired in the normal lectures of their specific field of study.

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Who experiences problems while transitioning socially?

Last time, for the purpose of our Graduate Teaching Scholar program, we covered the book Culturally Responsive Teaching and Reflection in Higher Education: Promising Practices from the Cultural Literacy Curriculum Institute. While reading the chapter Embracing My Social Class Transition a Journey to More Effective Teaching, I learned about the story of one woman who now has a position in higher education. The chapter covers parts such as: If I belong here, will I lose my roots? If I belong here, am I a traitor to my upbringing? If I belong here, am I rejecting all that I hold dear?

The author explains some the hurdles she experienced before becoming a faculty member. From many of my previous readings and what I have learned from debate and shows in the news media, almost all hurdles were color related issues.  Then after reading this text, I realized that not only people of color experience some difficulties while transitioning, even though being member of a privileged group may have advantages.  There are different scenarios: while some struggle because of race related issues, others struggle because of socio-economic issues, such as first generation to go to college, social class related issues (working classes versus non-working classes), but also student debt resulting from loans, etc. And in all cases, how people manage to overcome hurdles is strongly connected to personal values, as can be seen in many reports where people explain how they dealt with such problems.  I found values to be a broad term as while thinking about it many things came to my mind. I did look at google and I was very satisfied with the first definition I found as it kind of synthetizes the ideas I have in a more professional manner which is “Important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable. Values have major influence on a person’s behavior and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in all situations. Some common business values are fairness, innovation and community involvement”. http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/values.html.

I find this exact and that is why I was little shocked when at one moment in the same chapter of the book, the author mentioned this sentence in the text “The message is that you have to “give up” where you have been and “take on” the values of the higher social class” that she considers as her take on what Zandy has said in the book, Liberating Memory: Our Work and Our Working Class Consciousness. I did not read Zandy`s book, but would love to (just for more details on what led to such considerations), because I do not agree with this way of thinking. To my opinion, they find the perfect term to describe this approach: “class amnesia”. By just imagining somebody doing so is disgusting. I cannot believe that somebody will be okay by doing so while integrating other places. I think that would be destroying for me; I would not feel my existence anymore. And to the quote: “I have come to believe that my personal history as well as circumstances at the time influenced my choices and had the potential to either limit or amplify the effectiveness of my teaching.”, I agree with the author even though I am more convinced about the amplifying effect of conserving our roots than their limiting aspect. I truly believe that being authentic, staying deeply rooted in our values constitute the best way that can to help overcome challenges and lead to more success in whatever we do in life.

Fear Before Transitioning to Work Places

Like many other graduate or even undergraduate students, I am very excited whenever I think about finishing school. And often times when we think just about our future plans, we only focus on the positive aspects, such not having to deal with stressful assignment anymore but most importantly, about getting a job that can allow us to fulfil dreams, helping others in need, etc. It was just after reading some books while taking ethic and leadership related courses, that I have realized that work places are not “paradise”, as future employees often think of them, but real social spaces. Spaces with bosses and coworkers with different backgrounds and cultures that affect (positively or negatively) the way the organization functions, but also the individuals’ daily life and society in general. Since then, I sometimes think about these sentences from Talula Cartwright in her book Managing conflict with Peers:

“When professional peers work as independent contributors, or together as teams in an organization, conflicts are bound to occur”.

“Inevitable, though, no matter how harmonious the group or how structured the organization, conflicts are bound to occur”.

These are facts but at the same time, they may scare young people who have never experienced such situations. Of course, people survive problems at work places. Furthermore, there are many theories regarding conflict management like the ones described in one of the chapters of the book I have mentioned above, but still the fear reminds. It reminds because of many unknown factors. Where will I be hired? Who will I have to deal with? Will they care about my values? Are they aware of conflict management approaches that might help avoid issues that can lead to a hostile environment? These are some of the questions that many students keep asking themselves. And unfortunately, taking ethics courses or reading thousands of stories regarding this matter cannot guarantee what the future will be. Being aware of what work places would look like (in theory) helps, even though it is still a little scaring, but at least you are aware of what might happen, and this awareness can lessen the shock once you face such problems. Somebody who is aware of none of these things might react differently either in good or bad way. That is why by just thinking about the way fresh employees will behave when facing worrying situation for the first time, I have chilling feelings. I sincerely wish that all students could take these courses before graduating. This is a big concern, and has brought me to be giving and recommending to friends who did not attend the kinds of courses I attended some books like the Young Professional Survivor Guide, etc. These are helpful tools that can guide young professionals; to me, the most important gift in life is the one that can provide someone with knowledge that can help forever.

Infographic on Instructors Views of Social Media in Higher Education

For the purpose of this GRAD 5104 Preparing Future Professoriate assignment that requires to find an infographic or article about how faculty (higher education) are using and/or reacting to social media, MOOCs, and/or other “disruptive” technologies, I have chosen a so illustrative infographic of two different point of view of two instructors.

People have diverse views on all phenomenon and activities that go with our daily life and to my view point social media usage in higher education is the most controversial one. I think this is normal as some instructors prefer in class interaction with students as they think it is more productive, hence the less efficiency raised by the instructor who is not for social media in teaching. Another reason for those who are not for changes in teaching style also is that the usage of social media in education is something new to them. This fact makes conservative people more skeptical. I am sure in a few years this group will be narrowed as parents are being more and more concerned about finances. Some of them prefer online courses for their children as sometime the tuition is more affordable but also the schedule can be more flexible and for international student this really a good option. For sure we will always have in class courses and activities but social media will keep rising as like parents, younger people are being more and more interested in online interaction too. They can work in group while staying home and even while doing other activities.

I find infographic as good tools to spread out information as they display them visually and in a succinct manner. This infographic shows the two instructors different position on social media and higher education that some authors would talk about while using thousands of words that can go up to five or more pages just to explain the subject.

samehttps://www.pinterest.com/pin/240168592608306501

Open access journal: PLOS ONE, a Nonprofit Organization

This blog topic is dedicated to pen access journal in our discipline, I have chosen the journal PLOS ONE, which I did not really paid attention to much before this assignment.  I found this abnormal but thanks to this assignment I have managed to learn more about this awesome Journal which is qualified as: “The world’s first multidisciplinary Open Access journal” which I will definitely be paying more attention and benefit from.

PLOS ONE is a nonprofit organization which has its headquarters in San Francisco, California, United States of America. It is funded in October 2000, by Michael Eisen, Harold E. Varmus, Patrick O. Brown.

What are the purpose, goals, scope, etc. of the journal?

For the purpose, I did not find a specific section titled as such but I found this statements illustrative enough for what can be considered as a purpose: “PLOS ONE helped ignite change by publishing all rigorous science and providing an expansive scope for researchers’ work, making it the largest scientific journal in the world”. I have also read one part that is a kind of an illustrating of their goal which is to provide scientists with high-quality peer-reviewing of papers but also a fast and free publication. I think this is really helpful some individuals who are not in institutions or do not have enough money to buy articles.  PLOS ONE ‘scope in contrast is well illustrated in these terms: “PLOS ONE features reports of original research from the natural sciences, medical research, engineering, as well as the related social sciences and humanities that will contribute to the base of scientific knowledge. By not excluding research on the basis of subject area, PLOS ONE facilitates the discovery of connections between research whether within or between disciplines”.

While proceeding this way they have set some specific requirement that they expect interested scientists to fulfill before being able to publish works such as Systematic reviews, Qualitative research, Submissions describing methods, software, databases, or other tools.

The journal did address open access and explain it in this manner: PLOS ONE ensures the highest standards of quality and openness for the content it publishes and boosts speed to publication by eliminating subjective assessments of significance or scope to focus on technical, ethical and scientific rigor. The journal publishes original research in all scientific disciplines, including interdisciplinary research, negative results and replication studies—all vital parts of the scientific record”.

I was curious to see how they handle blogging and I Looking at the journal parts that talk about blogging, I have noticed that they have two different types of blogs: the PLOS staff-written and edited blogs and the Independent blogs hosted by PLOS. I found very interesting the community guidelines set for Plos blogs network posts and comments. It lays out some standards that promote respect and professionalism for contributors. Likewise, for Reuse of PLOS BLOGS Network Content, Plos allows that and the requirements are well specified. It is very helpful for readers who sometimes find some blog posts so interesting insightful and informative enough that they just wish that more people would have access to those blogs.

https://www.plos.org/which-journal-is-right-for-me

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/static/publish

https://www.plos.org/who-we-are

http://blogs.plos.org/everyone/

http://blogs.plos.org/about/

 

 

 

Good to Share Research Misconduct Cases

Unethical practices are wide spread but seriously, when I first looked at Office and Research Integrity (ORI) site and saw names I was shocked. I thought that it was too much to put people’s names there. Then I said instead of going so far in thinking about names that are out there, I will first read the most recent ones. Reading through the document, I realized that the findings by the ORI regarding these research misconduct was worth having names out there. As mentioned in one case, the individual was “engaged in research misconduct by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly reporting falsified and/or fabricated data and/or falsifying and/or fabricating data”.  This did occur on two papers and the way the facts are described in detail is too much. I found it just unethical and disrespectful.

Was the respondent really aware of the harm that this practice can lead to?

How can somebody be engaged in research misconduct to this extend in research supported by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)?

To me, first, one has to be reckless enough to play around some scientific data in this way while dealing with a so ambitious and powerful institution such as the NHLBI, NHI. This is a place that care about the well-being of the population which states its mission as: “to provides global leadership for a research, training, and education program to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, and blood disorders and enhance the health of all individuals so that they can live longer and more fulfilling lives”. https://extramural-diversity.nih.gov/ic-pages/national-heart-lung-and-blood-institute

To me researchers have to be aware of this kinds of mission statements. Maybe that can help them in some way to have a better approach. Even though researchers in universities are serious and pay attention on how researches are being handled, in institutions dedicated to research scientists are more likely to have more expectations. Therefore, for me handling scientific studies this way is too risky. It is either a lack of respect or just an immature way of thinking because it might be clear for everybody that these people are skilled and experienced enough to realize if researches are well handled or no. They are many other questions that can be asked again because often times, the individuals involved in research misconduct might not be the only responsible and therefore not the only ones to blame. I think it is always good to look at many other factors.

In many cases some question that might be good to ask are: Were preliminary trainings provided before getting people engaged in laboratory experiments?

Were there any past events that occurred before and that might have led to such behaviors?

I am raising this point in the final question because in some work places, people can get caught in situations where they can easily be manipulated by others. Hence the benefit of staying far away from some practices that can compromise one’s career or scientific integrity. Trying to stay authentic can be sometimes challenging, but authenticity always helps avoid being involved in practices that can help others (such as bosses, coworkers) have leverage on us. This can result in behaviors that can harm not only oneself, but also the community. Even though this is more likely to happen to employees in work places than to students. Research misconduct, unethical practices are phenomenon that are not easy to eradicate. Therefore, raising awareness among students and faculty is a good approach, an important step that can help reduce such practices. That is why, I found it very interesting to give students and future faculty access to these cases of research misconduct. Being aware of what happened to the individuals guilty of such misconduct can obviously dissuade students to misbehave while carrying out research but also keep an eye on researchers once they have to supervise them.

UCAD and UGB Mission Statements

For the purpose of this blog post assignment I have chosen two Senegalese Universities: Université de Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (UCAD) and Université Gaston Berger (UGB).

Université de Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (UCAD)`s Mission Statements

https://www.ucad.sn/cdp/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=774&Itemid=386

UCAD is a public University located in Dakar, the current Senegalese capital. In 1918, the creation, it was named “école Africaine de médecine” (African medical school).  In 1950, it became the “Institut des Hautes Etudes de Dakar” (Institute of Higher Studies of Dakar) attached to the University of Bordeaux after the creation of certificates in field such as Physics, biology Chemistry, in addition to the preparatory for medical studies.  Later, the schools become faculties. The university then become the biggest and most prestigious in West African countries speaking French, leading to it becoming the 18th French University in 1957, attached to the universities of Paris and Bordeaux. In 1987 it was named after Cheikh Anta Diop, a Senegalese anthropologist, historian, physicist, and politician, becoming what is called now UCAD. Cheikh Anta Diop has done some studies on human race’s origins and pre-colonial African culture and constitutes today a reference, not only for Senegalese but for many Africans.

Université Gaston Berger (UGB)`s Mission Statementhttp://www.ugb.sn/articles/presentation-generale-de-luniversite.html

University Gaston Berger (UGB) is in the city of Saint Louis, the earlier capital of Senegal located in the North of the country, and was created in 1990. It was opened to respond to the growing demand and numbers of students in UCAD and also in other special schools such Ecole National des Cadres Ruraux in Mbambey (Diourbel region) that trains in agronomy and related fields and the Ecole Superieure Polytechnic de Thies (Civil engineering school in Thies region).

In my view, both university mission statements highlight aspects such as training, scientific research, development of scientific and executive resources, the need to address not only Senegalese problems but also more broadly African issues. This stood out to me because at least these universities are trying do their best in educating and training in their own African youth who everyday contribute in addressing the challenges that the continent is facing. For instance, like many thousands of people, I have received my engineering degree in Agribusiness at UCAD and I was trained by Senegalese professors, a fact that was not likely to happen a few decades earlier because these professors who taught us were themselves mainly trained by the French.  This happened because modern education did not start in Senegal at the same time as in France and other Western countries. Traditional and religious education (mainly Islamic studies) were what the local communities were interested in, focused on and even fought for when the colonialist started implementing modern education in ways that did not take into account traditional procedures. Traditionally, in each kingdom, the society was divided into classes or groups and each of those groups was in charge of a given task. Some were farmers, others in charge of communication and history telling, others in charge of crafting tools for farming or other usage, etc.  Then when modern education was initiated, all students would practice the same tasks. Therefore, families who were never involved in farming or any other given specific task that they considered as reserved to lower classes were not happy to see their children trained in such fields or techniques. However, this opposition to modern education was later abandoned thanks to the effort of the first generation of students who graduated but also to that of the soldiers who fought to help liberate France during the world wars (I and II), who claimed equal treatment for citizens. In fact, they did so because, earlier, schools were reserved for white or mixed-race people (commonly called Métis in Senegal), and a small number of students from what the colonialists called the four communes or cities of Senegal (Saint-Louis, Gorée, Rufisque and Dakar) who were considered at that time to be French citizens, even though not fully because of legal and social considerations such as being “fully blooded” Africans. Their fight led to the creation of more schools resulting in the expansion of the universities and to important changes like UCAD becoming the 18th French University, academically attached to the Universities of Paris and Bordeaux in 1957. Another important point to me is that both UCAD and UGB each year accept many African students who prefer to do at least their undergraduate studies in Senegal because it helps them not only to easily find a job once back in their home countries but also to get accepted in better universities around the world. Often times also, students from both universities work with international professors from institutions that are in partnership with UCAD and UGB. This reflects the emphasis on higher quality education and promotion of human potential in various fields in an interdisciplinary way through the development of knowledge and skills that are highlighted in the mission statements.

I found this assignment interesting because it allows me to learn more about these two institutions, something I had not paid much attention to during my years at UCAD.

 

La “Teranga”, Senegalese Everyday Thanksgiving

Have you ever ridden a taxi for free in New York City while listening to emotional and heartwarming talks about your home country’s best values?

I am pretty sure, for many of the readers of this blog, unless they are Senegalese, their response will be no!

In 2015, while trying to catch a taxi in the streets of New York City one Saturday evening, my roommate Aissatou, another friend, and I, a gentlemen parked his taxi in front of us and said “Are you from Senegal?” We said yes. “Where are you going?”, he asked. After our explanation, we rode and he said “I recognize you because of the way you are dressed”. I was wearing an African traditional dress designed in a style he used to see in Dakar, capital of Senegal. Right after, he started praising Senegalese way of life, how caring they are, how he was treated during the six years he has spent there. The taxi man was from Ethiopia, East Africa. One of the things he said was: “Senegalese are very nice people; Senegal is the only country where you can go in a house and be warmly welcomed, given some food and a place to sleep without mom and dad being worried for their daughter’s safety…”. Yes, he was right! Parents do not care that much because they raise their children well and make them street smart, responsible and aware of potential harm in life. In my country, children rarely stay alone.  Furthermore, even though parents can be very nice with you, this does not mean that they give you green light for everything.  They know how to make you understand the limits. Therefore, unless they are really bad and ungrateful individuals, guests will never think about behaving other than ethically with the ones hosting them.

Once at our destination through this nice conversation, I asked the driver the fare to pay. “No, thanks”, said the driver, “the tab is on the house”. You are giving me the chance to share our traditional Senegalese hospitality: “Teranga”, he smiled.

Imagine riding a taxi for free in New York City because you are from Senegal, the country of “Teranga”. What pride!

Teranga” is a Wolof (Senegalese most spoken language) word used to describe the Senegalese best and specific way of welcoming, taking care of others and sharing among them and others, especially foreigners. In Senegal, guests are treated with unconditional love and openness and with respect in the whole processes. This concept and way of life in Senegal, people often times equate it with hospitality but when you experience it, it is more than that.

This description of the world “Teranga” by Pierre Thiam, a Senegalese chef based in New York City is a parfait confirmation. He said: “Teranga” is much more than just hospitality, it is a value. If there’s a set of values in Senegal, “Teranga” would be the most important one. It’s the way you treat the other, the one who is not you. That person becomes the one to whom you have to offer Teranga. You have to treat him with so much respect. This is a country that values the wealth of a person not by how much he has, but by how much he shares, by how much he gives. It’s just this value has been instilled in us that we have to treat the other as the most important person in the world”, (Lynne Rossetto Kasper, 2015, Chef Pierre Thiam: ‘Teranga is the word that symbolizes Senegal the best’ at https://www.splendidtable.org/story/chef-pierre-thiam-teranga-is-the-word-that-symbolizes-senegal-the-best (see 11/25/2016).

As we always say in Senegal, giving will never make you poor because the more you give, the more you receive.  This concept and practice is well validated in nature: nature does not like emptiness. It always fills the void. One very beloved Senegalese religious leader was once approach by a disciple who asked: “Beloved, I am always in a position of need because I can never have enough of what I need. Please advise”, he said. The leader simply responded: “give more than you keep in order to make room for more to come”.  Another belief in Ubuntu philosophy.

Senegalese have a wonderful ability to make you forget for a while the everyday worries in life by helping you keep the best at the present and move forward. Another way to practice carpe diem. We strive to make life agreeable in order to live the life we love and love the life we live. Many men in our neighboring countries and even Europeans, (especially French) wish to marry Senegalese ladies because of reasons such as this “Teranga”.

What brought me to blog about this Senegalese culture was the definitions I found while looking for the meaning of Thanksgiving such as “the act of giving thanks”, “a public act of religious observance or a celebration in acknowledgment of divine favors”, http://www.dictionary.com/browse/thanksgiving (see on 11/25/2016) and also  ” Thanksgiving: the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S. or the second Monday in October in Canada celebrated as a legal holiday for people to be thankful for what they have” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thanksgiving (see on 11/25/2016).

Just one day to give thanks and share?

No! We, in Senegal are thankful every day. We share and treat others in a way we would love to be treated. People are very peaceful and good negotiators and mediators, and maybe that is why we are among the most stable nations in Africa.  We are the land of dialogue! The country of giving and receiving! We are rooted in our traditions while open to foreign culture.  Our ancestors have worked hard to leave these riches as a legacy which have also been heralded by our late first president Leopold Sedar Senghor.  Since I have been in the U.S, there is no known person from Virginia Tech professors, peace corps volunteers or simple visitors who did not testify the beauty of Senegal. “Oh what a nice country! What nice people! I wish I could spend more time there!”, they praised.

Our free taxi experience reminded me what I used to hear from old people. When you give and help, you and your family will never suffer wherever go. I remember my aunt putting food aside for eventual visitors that would show up at any time to our house. Another fact to illustrate solidarity is that families help each other in time of food shortage which is usually before harvest time. As my dad was an entrepreneur and used to produce a lot of crops as well, he used to help people a lot mainly during this period of the year. I was also told that a nice and discreet way that people helped others was identifying the less fortunate and depositing goods on their doorstep at night while they are asleep. So when they wake up they will find what is there, empty the container and leave it there at night for the owner to come back to get it. This was meant avoid embarrassing situations to the assisted. A dignified and comfortable way to bond and to practice altruistic acts!

How to bring back stability to cities?

While talking with a friend recently, she mentioned that the lifestyle in modern society seems to be playing a significant role in the crimes that people are experiencing, mainly in developed countries. Some years earlier, crimes used to be associated with robberies, but nowadays we are experiencing massacres almost every day, and nobody can really explain the reasons that lead to such horrific acts. Often, after the facts are known, experts from different fields spend days and night on news media with analyses and explanations. Authorities investigate and take more measures, increase surveillance, and do whatever they can in order help citizens live peacefully. But unfortunately, crimes are still rising like never before in more modern societies.

So as this phenomenon is not happening in developing countries, why not try to look at some of the aspects of those societies and make some changes?

We often hear people saying that it is not good for a person to be isolated or disconnected, as this can be damaging for his health, happiness, behavior, opinion, judgement, etc. What we are seeing mainly in developed countries is that some people are more and more concerned about making money than caring about relatives, siblings and even parents. People live alone and can spend days without interacting with others because of the internet. Therefore, once in trouble, they have no friends who can help them change mind and avoid doing things that can harm others. I think socialization might be hard for many people after so many years of less interaction with others, but socialization is healthier and can help avoid unhappy outcomes. Often people argue that caring about others is one of the reasons that is still holding some countries back. But I think living in a peaceful place surrounded by people who we share the same concerns, joys and whatever, always positively impacts a person`s behavior, decision making, save other people lives, etc.

It might be difficult to reverse the trend, but maybe starting from now to help children to stay more socially connected and have more occasions to engage more consistently with people from different backgrounds can have positive consequences in the future. This can help them become more open minded while growing up, and maybe more able to bring more peace and stability to societies.