Americans: We Are Strengthened by Our Diverse Perspectives

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Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, President, Florida Memorial University

Most Americans have been involved in, or heard, conversations about diversity. The topics swirling around the concepts of diversity are broad and deep. Diversity, demographically speaking, describes a range of variables employed to describe human beings—and if you attempt to list the distinct characteristics, you will probably omit a few descriptors.

Sometimes, unfortunately, we focus on the differences when reporting statistically on academic achievement, family earning, health, and so forth. Admittedly, we need to be informed about how our policies, tax dollars, and governmental interventions affect the majority of Americans and citizens with specific characteristics. Sometimes, however, segmenting our population into diverse groups can be utilized too peremptorily to imply hierarchical ranking. However, measuring some outcomes related to specific human variables can be helpful in promoting the attainment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all—as proclaimed as self-evident in our Declaration of Independence.

Like many other Americans, my concept of diversity has also been expanding as I interact with persons who share different characteristics. I recall when I served in academic affairs at a regional institution that enrolled, made accommodations for, and graduated students with characteristics often referred to as physical disabilities, my personal definition of diversity expanded. What I learned from those students has changed my perspective on diversity and broadened my understanding of courage—for life.

At Florida Memorial University, I have, once again, thought about the concept of diversity. Even though Florida Memorial University is known as a Historically Black College or University, there is a great deal of diversity among students, faculty, and staff that enriches us all. The opportunity to work academically with such a diverse range of faculty encompassing  every descriptor possible is invigorating. Faculty bring perspectives and life experiences from 33 countries including America.  When an idea is introduced at a faculty meeting, for example, we are able to discuss it from experiences that faculty have had from vantage points outside of America, from different disciplines, from family worlds that encompass unique mixtures of world cultures from times chronically different, and from their experiences in a very diverse region of South Florida.

Similarly, in meetings with students it is easy to appreciate the mix of the numerous cultures. Students bring perspectives from many countries including Brazil, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Paraguay, Senegal, Chile, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jamaica, Colombia, and Nigeria.  In many respects, the diverse characteristics of students and faculty at Florida Memorial University under girds everything we do. Now, as we highlight the accomplishments of the faculty, identify our centers of excellence, and enhance our responsiveness to South Florida, we will move forth with a broader understanding of human experiences. This broader understanding will be an asset as we employ our diverse characteristics to prepare our students for a competitive, and very diverse global community.

Legacies of Courage and Love from the Silent Generation

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Joined by Trayvon’s family, (from left) Jahvaris Fulton,
Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the legendary
Harry Belafonte is honored at Trayvon Martin’s
21st Birthday Celebration Banquet in Miami.
(Photo courtesy of Geri R. Vital, ©2016)

Recently, my husband and I had the pleasure of hearing Harry Belafonte, Jr. (who will soon celebrate his 90th birthday) enthrall an audience at the Trayvon Martin Foundation’s Fourth Annual remembrance dinner in Miami, Florida, sponsored by Florida Memorial University and other stakeholders. The Trayvon Martin Foundation is located on the campus of Florida Memorial University.

Even though Mr. Belafonte informed the audience that he had recently experienced a stroke and that he was on medication that affected his memory, his nearly 30 minute, extemporaneous speech was still a phenomenal gift to us. Looking around the ballroom, I noted that the audience was lifted a bit higher by his audacious courage, by how he promoted social equity throughout his life with his talents, his inspiring work, and by his still ardent call for us to commit to positive social action, as our daily guide.

Mr. Belafonte, and many of those he interacted with (such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the Reverend Jessie Jackson and many others) are/were members of what is sometimes called the Silent Generation. When you look at the altruistic accomplishments, the courage, and the legacy of some members of this generation, they were anything but silent—they spoke eloquently through their deeds and built foundations for a stronger America.

However, each year we lose more of these trailblazers and, thus, we look to our college students and younger adults with hope that they will step forth and carry a torch of audacious hope to broaden and deepen our human connectivity through intellectual discourse and positive social action.

My husband and I feel fortunate to have been able to interact with some of the special humans in the Silent Generation such as the incomparable Dr. Maya Angelou, Pulitzer Prize poet Gwendolyn Brooks, humanitarian Harriet Fulbright, historian Dr. John Hope Franklin, activist and academic Angela Davis, Mayor Harold Washington, the Honorable Andrew Young, heroic Tuskegee Airmen, priest-activist Father George Clements, heavyweight champion and philanthropist Muhammad Ali, and many more inventors and innovators, teachers and scholars, scientists and statesmen.

Admittedly, many of members of the aforementioned and others in the Silent Generation lived controversial lives and colored outside of the lines. As time has demonstrated, these lines are temporary boundaries that continue to change with time, through intellectual realizations and the transcendence of the human spirit. And, of course, the Silent Generation Americans were only humans!

We have marveled that lives of courage, sacrifice, and concern for others seems to have transformed these mere humans into legends. Even as they are undoubtedly contemplating the conclusions of their earthly existences, these legends of the Silent Generation seem to stand tall, despite advanced age, and vigorously employ their lives’ wisdom to heighten awareness for today’s youth in order to inspire actions that will result in an even better America and more peaceful coexistence in our global community. They have shown us the power of lives lived with altruistic purposes, and now these stalwarts are demonstrating how to bow out with dignity and grace.

Listening to their life stories–replete with challenges, missteps, and victories–and seeing a world continuing to transform through their perspectives is a special gift to be held close to the heart and deeply treasured. Though these remarkable people who have illustrated the great potential of human lives might be a bit weathered by their journeys,  their actions still serve as a clarion call for us to shake off our complacency, focus a little less on consuming, look up from our hand-held devices, and take more active roles in advancing the progress towards broader social justice, greater fairness, and respect for all lives among our global neighbors.

Holding these treasures, and the inspiring life stories of many others, close to our hearts—We thank you!

Leadership Essential-Defining Success for Others


images-3.jpgAs we approach 2016 with hope, resolutions, and anticipation, it might also be helpful to ruminate on some of the evolving concepts of leadership and the lenses they furnish for current and emerging leaders in our society. Often perspectives on leadership held by policy makers coalesce into societal policies, legislation and laws.  Leadership philosophies and styles tend to encompass a variety of perspectives, values, and notions of good lives.

In November 2015, I was honored to give the keynote address at the graduation ceremony of The University of North Carolina Bridges leadership program for women. More than 20 years ago, the UNC Bridges intensive, four-week, leadership program was designed to inform, promote, and support women in leadership roles in higher education.  I particularly enjoyed returning to the (William and Ida) Friday Center in Chapel Hill to interact with women seeking higher education leadership roles because, I had been nurtured, mentored, informed, and furnished leadership opportunities for 14 years in the UNC system.

Moreover, discussing leadership theories continues to fuel my hope that we will eventually develop leaders who will transform our society, so that the majority of Americans will experience a more perfect union. Further, the eroding public confidence in higher education, its value, and its leaders appears to be a microcosm of eroding confidence in political institutions, corporations, and many leaders in America. Probably since I was an English Literature and Language major (decades ago) the words of Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel which depict dueling social ills prior to the French Revolution seem to resonate with me as I contemplate 2016:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, were all going direct to Heaven, we were going direct the other way. Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

In short, what better time than 2016 to reflect on leadership and co-existing extremes?

The theme of the graduating Bridges class was transformational leadership. Thus, speakers were asked to share experiences, knowledge, and wisdom regarding the concept of transformational leadership.  In a nutshell, the theory of transformational leadership affirms that leaders are more successful when they facilitate the development of leadership qualities in others, when they inspire team leadership to solve problems, and when leaders are introspective about the personal values, assumptions, and paradigms from whence they lead.

In the conversations following the keynote address, the Bridges graduates and I also discussed leadership roles through the lenses of other leadership theories.  In addition to transformational leadership, we agreed that there are a host of leadership theories that attempt to inform, elucidate, and guide those seeking leadership positions in a range of societal institutions.  Some leadership theories that were viewed as illuminating various aspects of leadership include:

Authentic leadership– leaders are usually positive people who lead from honest and ethical foundations and maintain honest relationships with employees or followers.

Servant leadership–leaders desire to serve, the servant’s heart is a fundamental component for this type of leadership. The servant leader puts the needs of others before his/hers and shares power–the pyramid is flipped.

Collaborative leadership–leaders employ teams to lead a hierarchy structure that is less of a pyramid.  Current modes of communication support a more flat organizational structure in which team members learn from each other and work together to solve problems.

While reflecting on transformational leadership, and various other leadership styles, it occurred to me that the first place for an aspiring or current leader to engage in deeper rumination or for meaningful New Year’s resolutions is one’s personal values and definition of success.   In other words, the journey towards a high level leadership position, through it, and after it, begins with a person defining–What does success mean to me?

In higher education, for example, success to a leader could mean 1) advancing knowledge in a discipline, 2) improving the teaching and learning environments, 3) employing big data to truly solve intractable problems, 4) forecasting future opportunities, and/or 5) simply helping others to discover the joy and benefits of a lifetime of learning.  A personal definition of success is not only helpful, but it could lead towards a more fulfilling career, life/work balance, altruistic behavior, and healthy lifestyle.  

Even a cursory view of higher education leadership, political leadership, and corporate leadership would reveal that long term success in a leadership role is more difficult in a world defined, measured, and sometimes quartered by social media that can topple leaders through informed/ill-informed public reactions.  Thus, it is essential for leaders to reflect on a personal definition of success that will help ease some of the unavoidable bumps and turbulence in leadership roles.  It is also important to note that the meaning of success will probably change and evolve over time in a leader’s tenure and lifetime.  

So where does this leave us with our New Year’s resolutions? Hopefully, when making our lists, we will also be cognizant that every individual effort adds to the collective well-being.  When we reflect on what success means to us and our families, we will also be aware that our concepts of good lives will be played out in microcosms that will be expanded in the macrocosms called America and the global village.

 

 

Thanksgiving is a time to pause and realize we can improve our collective lives

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Usually it is very easy to compose a Thanksgiving season blog.  This year, however, there have been many global disturbances in which humans have hurt other humans.  Further, the rhetoric of too many political candidates has left many of us wondering about the general assumptions some political organizations seem to believe about the intelligence of American voters.

Unfazed by the human tragedies and the political circus seem to be the Black Friday marketers–consumerism must go on, and this year it needs to be bigger than last year. So, cut your Thanksgiving family time short to save $ on something you probably do not really need anyway.

A quote from Charles Dickens 1859 novel depicting the climate prior to the French Revolution seems apropos:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

When considering our current situations in the world with its gaps of wealth, education, understanding, and alternate versions of history, it could be easy to succumb to melancholy and to lack faith that there will be a heightening of humanity and more evenness of global, human well-being.  Maybe this melancholy is the reason why some humans inflict pain on others .  As I was once told, “hurt people–hurt people.”

Yet, when considering the extensive list of things gone awry, it is the stories of hundreds of selfless individuals, and their mostly unheralded acts of courage, altruism, philanthropy, and love that fuel the optimism shared in some of our family worlds, our communities, and generally in America.

So, this Thanksgiving, I will wish the retail industry well, look into the faces of friends and relatives with hope and optimism, laugh at the stories of our past follies, and I will try not to gain too much weight from the Thanksgiving dinner, its leftovers, and the month long holiday season.

Because most of all, Thanksgiving is a time to affirm that we can improve our collective futures with genuine acts of kindness and awareness of our global connectivity.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Home Pages and Social Media- Tools that help Students with College Choices

Recently, my husband and I were asked to review the communication strategies of a liberal arts college in the Southeast. In addition to our joint experiences and expertise which covered a range of marketing materials–view books, webpages, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.)–we also engaged in research on communication strategies for a range of institutions from Ivy League to small liberal arts colleges. social_media_iconFlower-01

Admittedly, we did not engage in focus groups or conduct extensive surveys with prospective students–that would come later to refine strategies for the specific college. We did, however, seek feedback from some recent college graduates and prospective students about the slogans, looks, and feel of selected college websites, and the general capability of most colleges to convincingly answer that critical question, “Why come here?” through their virtual open doors–their websites’ home pages.

What we learned was not surprising, but it reinforced our theory that adept design of the home page and employment of the growing multitude of social media connections have become extremely important in attracting and engaging students who regularly use social media, and who would benefit from learning about the unique college experiences and resources of a specific institution.

It was also obvious that some colleges constructed their home page for audiences other than the media saturated prospective students (i.e. with a great deal of text for students to read). Other institutions employed home pages as opportunities for students to explore how they could fit into college life–with skillful, vibrant photography, and easily visible links to various resources and social media sites. These institutions allow students to read comments of other students, to ask questions, and to use the portal as a window to observe college life, by skillfully placed links to photos and videos, depicting a range of students and faculty participating in campus and community life.

So, why is all of this important? As a nation, we seem to have reached a consensus that we must increase the number of students who complete a quality college education so that we will stay competitive in a world quickly evolving through the adaptation of technology, just-in-time learning, and innovations in the workplace that have already exceeded projections of some futurists (Remember the cinematic prediction from the movie, “Back to the Future?). Moreover, most colleges have distinct niches, cultures, and characteristics that will be a better fit for some students than others. It is through the college home page that prospective students and families will make decisions whether to visit the campus and whether the curricular/co-curricular experiences are likely to lead to a fulfilling and empowering liberal arts/professional education and/or a solid foundation for advanced study and lifelong learning.

Some of the recent graduates we asked about home pages noted that the brands/slogans seemed to be a call to action like: “Reach Within…Shape the future” and “Become yourself…Change the World.”

These slogans appeared to be more exciting and attractive than the standard claims of excellence, tradition, or a focus on famous graduates from years gone by. Another observation was that the strategic design of a home page portal to attract students who are good fits for a college is a highly cost-effective technique for attracting students. YouTube videos and testimonials from students through homepage links can also level the playing field for smaller colleges with quality learning environments, but smaller advertising budgets.  When coupled with College Board data, visits led by student ambassadors, constant email updates or news feeds, easily accessible college applications, and the demonstrated promise of their slogans, smaller colleges struggling to attract students might be pleasantly surprised about the power of a well-planned, stimulating homepage with appealing social media windows.

The Job Search-The Concept of “fit”

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Over the last couple of years, there has been sufficient media coverage on the search for jobs by new college graduates, the creation of jobs in America, the unemployment rate, and preparation needed for more citizens to be prepared for high-tech jobs.

Nonetheless, there are still hundreds of thousands of college graduates, at every level, and in all disciplines looking for something close to an open job door to launch their careers/lives, and/or to move out of their parents’ houses. Moreover, there are mid-level workers, steeped in the nexus of family responsibilities, searching for new jobs to earn more money or to acquire a better quality of life.  Further, there are Baby Boomers who are phasing out of jobs, or seeking to re-imagine how to live a quality retirement life by engaging in new interests with monetary payoffs.

Recently, I have been watching our daughter and other college graduates negotiate the hurdles to enter the workforce.  While some aspects of securing a job that works for you, as well as your working for it, have remained the same, there are significant challenges many new graduates face in order to convince those searching and interviewing that they are a good fit for the organization–at least for the near future.  Being a good fit for a job seems to mean that the prospective employer or current employees think that they can work with you, and you can work with them–at least for the time being.  The inherent limitations on the searching for a good fit approach for recruiting talented employees should be explored further–but for now, it still seems to be the norm.

As research reveals, most employees change jobs or careers numerous times in their lives, so fit  in an organization can change over time.

Yet, while watching new graduates attempt to sell their skills, enthusiasm, tech savvy, and innovative ideas to organizations, I have been reminded that establishing at least the illusion of fit for a job is a very complex undertaking.  It involves a variety of factors such as others’ perceptions of the prospective employee, past experiences of the current employees, and other factors not within the control of the job seeker. Further, strategies for projecting fit  can be different from organization to organization and at different stages of your career and life.

For example, establishing fit when you are a new graduate, usually includes creating a strong impression that you will bring energy, a fresh perspective, technological skills, and the ability to work with others. During interviews, graduates will be challenged to exude confidence, knowledge, and flexibility as they respond to questions from highly relevant to arcane.  In mid-career, prospective employees might want to project knowledge, energy, good judgement, good team skills, and a repertoire that will benefit the organization.  In many ways, searching for a job can be compared to speed dating–you have a limited time and toolkit to assess and be assessed for fit.

Not surprisingly, many new college graduates who are attempting to enter the workforce claim that even with good academic records and a few visits to their campus career centers, they do not really believe they are prepared to convince employers that they are the right person for a specific position.  Many students agree, though, that understanding of the concept of fit can be enhanced by actually observing organizational culture and participating in internships or volunteer experiences.

Some aspects of projecting fit are visual and auditory.  Students often need assistance transitioning from campus chic to work attire–in order to convince interviewers of their fit.  Even though many workplaces are allowing casual attire, there is a range of casual wear that is considered acceptable in the workplace. New graduates might not understand that range, but they can learn it quickly with a little assistance from career centers, mentors, and internship experiences.  Additionally, many of us have observed bright, caring, and talented people lose job opportunities because of their ill-fitting communication skills, both written and verbal–OMG!

To help students make a transition to an appropriate, and comfortable workplace fit, at least a few universities that I know of have charged their career service offices with maintaining a career wardrobe collection of ties, business jackets, and other accessories to help students make an acceptable visual presentation in interviews. Further, these career centers have consistently worked with students to employ the staid version of English–probably a necessary standard to establish comfort and fit when conversing with prospective employers.

Moreover, in terms of written communication, recent graduates often are unsure of how to craft an appropriate resume and how they should represent themselves (i.e., choice of pictures) on LinkedIn and other social media sites.  If I had a dollar for each student or young professional who was convinced that the same generic one-page resume is the only option for all job opportunities, I would be extraordinarily rich.  There are so many other options available for students to demonstrate what they know and can do, such as online portfolios and personal websites which portray leadership experiences, writing samples, and positive stories.

During an interview, inadequate communication skills and body language (such as posture, eye movement, and so forth) are often ways that prospective employers eliminate prospective employees. New graduates and anyone seeking to change jobs need to be prepared for online Skype, Google Hangout, or other such teleconference interviews and interactions. Organizations use them to both save money while assessing communication skills of prospective employees.  Often, potential employees are eliminated from the competition because of their micro expressions, lack of eye contact, use of space, or comments during an online interview that could suggest that there could be an issue with fit into a particular organization’s culture.

As previously stated, students who have had the opportunity to participate in the workforce through intensive internships or cooperative experiences demonstrate greater confidence when discussing their abilities and potential contributions in interviews because they have already had opportunities to sit in conference rooms and observe and mimic the behaviors of more seasoned employees.

Nonetheless, it has continued to surprise me that even the most talented graduates lack self-esteem and worry incessantly about the competition for desirable jobs.  Apparently, performing well academically does not necessarily translate into confidence in securing jobs or the overall strategies for competing for jobs.

Recently, I read an article about a new graduate who went to an unbelievable number of interviews and sent out approximately 100 job applications.  Needless to say, the job search rejections left the new graduate disappointed, but she refused to give up, and eventually secured a job through her network contacts, assisted by an extended family member.  Networking and discussing career aspirations with seasoned employees still seem to help graduates secure entrance into tough job markets.

So, how can colleges, career centers, and mentors help?  It seems that as long as human beings are judging who will be a good fit for their organizations, it will be important for those who are helping graduates and young professionals to explore and understand the concept of fit from various angles– including knowledge, communication skills, attitudes, attire, and workplace expectations.  Sometimes, it is important for the graduate to determine early in the interview process that a company is not a good fit and to pursue other better options.

Yet, I admit, the perception of fit still seems a bit flawed to me.  Hopefully, those candidates selected because they appear to fit will actually help lead organizations to a more innovative and productive future!

As A New Semester Begins–It is Important to Reassure Americans About the Value of Higher Education

thA new semester is beginning on many college and university campuses. With the smiling and hopeful faces of students and their families as they move onto college campuses around the nation, there is also the thinly veiled anxiety about the cost/benefit analysis of higher education.

Recently, I researched and delivered a presentation on the current challenges and opportunities in higher education. Of course, perspectives on these challenges and opportunities, though they might seem more pressing now, are not by any means new.

During President Clinton’s term, Public Law 105-18, (Title IV, Cost of Higher Education Review, 1997) established the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education as an independent advisory body and called for a comprehensive review of the affordability of higher education because public concern was at an all time high.

This legislation created an 11-member commission with members to be appointed by various governmental bodies. In brief, its charge was to examine factors and trends that were related to higher tuition costs, the role of state and federal policies, mechanisms for financially assisting families, and innovative ways to minimize costs for the future.

According to the final report, “The Commission’s recommendations–several dozen in total–emphasize shared responsibility to (1) strengthen institutional cost control; (2) improve market information and public accountability; (3) deregulate higher education; (4) rethink accreditation; and (5) enhance and simplify Federal student aid.” The degree to which the Commission recommendations were, and are still being enacted, is debatable.

However, in the last five years or so, the public spotlight on higher education seems to have only intensified. Articles and discussions on costs and related issues in higher education can be viewed in various publications such as Forbes, American Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. In addition to discussions about costs and graduation rates, the public appears to be more attentive to, and focus on, when things go awry on college campuses. One consequence of this scrutiny is that the terms of college presidents have shortened, and one public misstep anywhere among the rank and file can derail an academic leader. Public confidence in higher education seems to be at an all time low.

Yet, at the core of this spotlight on higher education institutions and the frequency of news stories on the costs, graduation rates, and student debt is the difficulty in determining and measuring families’ and society’s return on its investments in higher education. Some higher education leaders believe that college and university advocates should acknowledge the underlying anxiety among these investors in education and engage in more meaningful dialogues and demonstrations of the added value and contributions of higher education to local, regional, national, and global communities.

Possibly, through dialogues, demonstrations and strategic storytelling, more public recognition will ultimately emerge about the positive effects of higher education on economic development, creation of jobs, cultural enrichment, development of intellectual capital, support of small businesses, and overall heightened quality of life in various communities. However, these conversations will not be easy dialogues or demonstrations to convince families and other taxpayers who are still struggling to pay for college.  Questions linger such as: Will higher education really lead to better lifestyles and overall well being? Will debt to finance college educations result in unpaid mortgages, and living from paycheck to paycheck?

After over 30 years in higher education, it is easier to acknowledge that investments in higher education involve extremely complicated short-term and long-term benefits. Higher education outcomes include human transformations within the context of academic coursework, co-curricular activities, leadership opportunities, learning communities, residential life, and internship experiences. It is common for students to leave college with a greater sense of purpose and/or changes in attitudes and perspectives. While educators often observe how higher education transforms individuals and generations of individual families, these observations, in many cases, have not been quantified beyond graduation rates and job attainment. Many educators have seen first hand how the college education of one family member spreads like a ripple effect and changes the quality and perspectives of family worlds for current and future generations.

Because we are steeped in the culture of higher education, we educators might assume that the benefits of higher education are obvious. Thus, we do not necessarily focus on, or understand, the general anxiety of families, legislators, prospective students, and other significant stakeholders who question these investments. Moreover, as educators, we can also point to the numerous assessments already employed in measuring various academic and co-curriculum outcomes of higher education. These assessments include accreditation through the eight regional accreditation associations (i.e. Southern Association, New England, Middle States, Western Association, Council for Higher Education, and so forth) that measure each college/university’s ability to demonstrate that they are fulfilling their academic and student service objectives.

Further, many disciplines within colleges and universities are also accredited by professional associations for that discipline–such as the American Bar Association, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, National Architectural Accreditation Board, Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology–to name a few.) Nonetheless, many citizens are not aware of these regular assessments, and/or what they signify about the value and benefits of higher education.

Thus, there are more and more discussions throughout local, state and federal levels to increase accountability measures–even though it is not clear that increased measurements would capture the main benefits of higher education (i.e., producing critical thinkers, lifelong learners, and intelligent citizens who will work together to create and improve upon the tenets of our nation). Nonetheless, it is hard to escape the fact that the focus on measuring outcomes is also related to the overall general anxiety about the expected benefits of higher education for obtaining more immediate and tangible outcomes such as high paying jobs, promotional opportunities, and overall higher quality of living that includes nice cars, home ownership, and increased consumerism.

Since many families’ incomes and net worth have not kept pace with the general notions of a middle class good life, it can be argued that frustration and anxiety are probably further fueled by the unrelenting pressure on everyone to continue to consume more, better, newer products and technologies.

So, what should colleges/universities do to counteract this public pressure about costs, the expectation of high-income jobs, and queries about the value of higher education outcomes? Well, for one thing, even though numerous colleges and universities have existed for hundreds of years, they have not always worked strategically to engage in dialogue with significant stakeholders about the value that they add to families and communities. Such conversations are past due.

By highlighting and clearly demonstrating the benefits of higher education that extend far beyond graduation rates, hopefully, more Americans will recognize that critical thinking, broadened perspectives, and innovation (which, by the way, are characteristics of a quality liberal arts education) will lead to a better quality of lives for their families, children, retirement years, and future generations. The more citizens understand the broad and multi-generational benefits of higher education,  the greater the possibilities are of reducing general anxiety over costs. Hopefully, anxieties over costs will eventually be replaced by acknowledgements, or pride, that the investment in higher education delivers greater lifelong benefits than the short-term investments in new cars, bigger houses, and the latest trendy technology!

National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education, Federal Register, The Daily Journal of the United States Government, Office of the Federal Register, website.