The Most Interesting Colleges of the Day! – Aalborg and Aaltort Universities – July 16th

I saw a job opening the other day at Aalto University and it led me to wonder if this was not the first alphabetical university out of over thousands in the world. I wondered if this was my aardvark moment, the day I discovered the first alphabetical animal in the world; just before the aardwolf (trust me, this is a real animal).

Then I learned that Aalto University was my aardwolf moment because there was one more university earlier than Aalto… Aalborg University (see below).

I previously featured Ouachita Baptist University on this site, but a double vowel at the start is on an entirely new level of unique. There are a few universities whose initials result in two vowels in the abbreviated name (4 in Estonia starting with EE and 2 in India starting with II, but no other university names starting with a double vowel (other than Aarhus University, a third Aa named university).

I am far enough down this rabbit hole now to mention that technically, you could argue that a university which starts with a number could come before the letters Aa. Believe it or not, there is one university in France that is named 3iL School of Engineering (which stands for the Institute of Engineering Information of Limoges (but Engineering in French is spelled Ingenieurs, thus the 3 I’s and L for Limoges).

Now for a zoom in to Aalborg University.  Aalborg University is one of the top universities in Denmark. Established in 1974, Aalborg is located in the city of Aalborg in Northern Denmark. Aalborg is the 4th largest city in Denmark with 143,000 people. Aalborg means “the fort by the stream” and the city has ruins dating back to the 6th century Iron Age and the 9th and 11th century Viking Age.

Aalborg is officially recognized by the Uddannelses-og Forskningsministeriet (Ministry of Higher Education and Science of Denmark) and has ~17,000 students. The university differentiates itself from the older and more traditional Danish universities with its focus on interdisciplinary, inter-faculty studies; an experimental curriculum based on an interdisciplinary basic course with subsequent specialization; a pedagogical structure based on problem-centered, real-life projects of educational and research relevance – which internationally has become known and recognized as The Aalborg Model, which is also the name of a book on the model published in 2004. With the problem-based, project-organized model, semesters at AAU are centered around complex real-life problems which students attempt to find answers to in a scientific manner while working together in groups.

In 2021, The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings ranked Aalborg University number 6 in the world, out of 1,117 universities from 94 countries/regions, against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. That is the number 1 university in the European Union. Among universities under 50 years old, Aalborg is 25th in the world.

Aalto University, #2 alphabetically, is ranked 28th, right behind Aalborg in the same world ranking of universities under 50 years old. It was only founded in 2010 from the merger of Helsinki University of Technology (founded in 1849), the Helsinki School of Economics (founded in 1904), and the University of Art and Design Helsinki (founded in 1871).

Aalto University is located in Espoo, Finland. The institution has ~20,000 students. Around 30% of staff are from abroad. Courses are offered across schools of arts, design and architecture; chemical technology; business; electrical engineering; engineering; and science.

The university describes itself as committed to “identifying and solving grand societal challenges and building an innovative future”. The name of the institution is a tribute to the life and work of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. The core of the campus was designed by him. Aalto University’s operations showcase Finland’s experiment in higher education.

The Aalto Design Factory, Aalto Ventures Program and Aalto Entrepreneurship Society (Aaltoes), among others, drive the university’s mission for a radical shift towards multidisciplinary learning and have contributed substantially to the emergence of Helsinki as a hotbed for startups. Aaltoes is Europe’s largest and most active student run entrepreneurship community that has founded major concepts such as the Startup Sauna accelerator program.

An integral part of many student traditions play the brightly colored overalls worn to many events. The color of the overall signals what the student studies (e.g. the economy students are recognized from dollar green overalls). The students of technology (teekkarit) are especially noticeable, as they wear a distinctive hat with a tuft on many occasions. Technology students are also famous for, and Finland’s leading practitioners of, student pranks (jäynä), similar in principle to MIT hacks. Their most widely publicised stunt took place in 1961, when a team of students smuggled a statue of Paavo Nurmi onto the 300-year-old wreck of Regalskeppet Vasa just days before its lifting from the bottom of the sea.

The most noticeable student event of the first year of the university was Aalto on Tracks, where a group of 100 students came together to rent a private train which they traveled 6,200 miles from Helsinki to the Shanghai Expo enjoying multidisciplinary talks and workshops on the way. The event was such a success that the follow-up Aalto on Waves is planned to arrange a trip by boat to South America.

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College Knowledge o’ the Day – July 7

President Visits Incoming Students at their Homes

Claudia Schrader, president of Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, N.Y., is getting ready for the day’s meetings. She puts on a pair of bright-blue sneakers, a casual accent to her professional black sheath dress, and a navy-blue mask with the college’s logo in orange. She heads out of her office, flanked by two public safety officers, her communications and governance relations manager, and her special projects manager.

Schrader sits in the back seat of one of the two minivans that she and her entourage have packed into and chats with the driver about the best route to their destination. There are three off-campus meetings scheduled on this particular day, all of them with students who will be attending the college next fall.

These drives have become routine since Schrader started visiting incoming students last summer in the thick of the pandemic, when they could not take classes in person at the campus in Manhattan Beach. Since students couldn’t come to the campus, she decided to bring a little bit of the campus to them. Schrader calls these visits her “welcome wagon.”

First ever acquisition by a historically black university of another higher education university – Delaware State University acquires Wesley College

Wesley College

Wesley College

With the acquisition of Wesley College, Delaware State, a public institution, will take over Wesley’s 50-acre campus and capital assets appraised at about $32 million. Delaware State will also gain 14 new academic programs, including a master’s program in occupational therapy.

What was Wesley College, a 148-year-old private institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church, is now the Wesley College of Health & Behavioral Sciences within Delaware State. The college will offer programs in allied/public health, kinesiology, nursing, occupational therapy, psychology and social work.

No money changed hands in the acquisition. In lieu of a purchase price, Delaware State agreed to take on Wesley’s liabilities. The university also agreed to accept all Wesley students in good standing.

To date, 387 former Wesley students have registered to continue their studies at Delaware State, and another 85 students are in the process of registering. Together, they make up 77% of former Wesley students.

University of Oregon Receives Second $500 Million Gift for the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact

With this gift, the University of Oregon’s Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact will further expand its strengths in bioengineering and applied scientific research and training, creating new opportunities for additional students, adding faculty positions and funding a second building.

Launched in 2016 with the first $500 million gift from the Knights, the campus embodies a new paradigm for scientific inquiry that accelerates the cycle of translating scientific discoveries into solutions that create societal impact. The Knight Campus stands as a prime example of how private philanthropy is redefining the university for generations to come.

Despite Positive Experiences, Students Question Value of College

Survey finds students support their institutions and mostly plan to re-enroll — but increasingly doubt whether education is worth the price. When students were asked whether their institution cares about students like them, 75% said yes and about 66% felt that their universities are being transparent about tuition and fees. 75% agreed that online higher education should be less expensive than in-person instruction.”
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The Most Interesting College of the Day – National Defense University – July 4

Before World War II, each of the military services would take their enrollees and train them according to their respective field’s best practices. As the Cold War began, the need for the various branches of the military to collaborate and educate each other began to increase. This resulted in the Defense Department colleges gradually combining the many forces of the military under one umbrella.

The National Defense University (NDU) began in 1976 and consisted of the 1) Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy and the 2) National War College. In 1981, the 3) Joint Forces Staff College was added to the university. A year later, the 4) College of Information and Cyberspace joined. The university’s newest school is the 5) College of International Security Affairs, which was created in 2002.

The mission of NDU is “to educate joint Warfighters in critical thinking and the creative application of military power to inform national strategy and globally integrated operations, under conditions of disruptive change, in order to conduct war.”

The vision of NDU is “to create strategic advantage by developing joint warfighters and other national security leaders and forging relationships through whole-of-nations and whole-of-government educational programs, research and engagement.”

NDU’s purpose is stated as “Educating, Developing and Inspiring National Security Leaders.”

In addition to the 5 colleges within National Defense University, there is a research institute, an international student program, a library, a gaming and simulation center, and relationships with organizations throughout D.C. Students represent all the military services, along with many federal agencies, private sector companies, and partner nations.

Leading the research program is the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), which focuses research on key issues ranging from complex operations, to technology and weapons of mass destruction. INSS also serves as a think tank and is one of the primary venues in the nation’s capital for scholarly expertise on national security issues.

Students are selected to attend the National Defense University – they cannot apply. Almost 100% of the students graduate in the time allotted and almost 100% of their graduates are employed during their enrollment and after graduation.

Through its International Student Management Office, NDU hosts more than 100 International Fellows each year, who study in the university’s colleges and develop a deeper understanding of American government and society.

The size of the colleges within National Defense University (NDU) varies but range from 162 (CIC) to 1,288 (JFSC) for a total of just over 3,000. The NDU’s budget in 2015-2016 was ~$85M.  Interesting, besides the table above, most of this data came from 2015-2016, as during the last President’s administration, no annual reports were provided.

The campus’ various buildings are primarily located in D.C. at Fort McNair and Norfolk.

National Defense University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and was initially accredited in 1997. Some of the most interesting programs I discovered included:

  1. Master of Arts in Strategic Security Studies (MASSS)
  2. Counterterrorism Fellowship (CTF) Program
  3. South and Central Asia Security Studies Program (SCAP)
  4. Emerging Threats in the Contemporary Security Environment
  5. Economics of National Security (ENS)
  6. Military Technology Diffusion and Asian Defense Markets Dynamics
  7. Joint Advanced Warfighting School (JAWS)
  8. Joint Military Deception Training Course
  9. Alternative Approaches to Exploit and Orchestrate Non-Military Instruments of National Power in the “Rebalance” to Asia
  10. Arctic security challenges and the strategic positions of the various “Arctic nations”

A center called the “Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs (CSCMA)” published extensively on topics like ““The People’s Liberation Army and Contingency Planning in China.”

Another center, started in 1994, called the “Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (CSWMD) includes an academic concentration on “Weapons of Mass Destruction Studies.”

The faculty for NDU published ~150 scholarly papers listed on the last 10 pages of the annual report. Although NDU has 5 colleges within its university, there are other military related universities and colleges including:

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The Most Interesting College of the Day! – Lincoln University – June 30

If you were with me when you read this, I would bet you a large sum of money you could not guess where this college is located.

First, Lincoln University was founded in 1878. Do you want to guess who it was named after? (you’ll have to read to the end to find out)

At 2,695 students (1,577 undergraduates), it is the smallest college in the nation and one of only 8 public universities in the nation. Thoroughly confused yet?

Their motto is “Scientia et industria cum probitate,” which means “Science and industry with integrity.”

Lincoln University is the oldest agricultural university in the Southern Hemisphere. It separated from the University of Canterbury in 1961. In 2018, Lincoln University had 1,369 international students, just over 50% of the students, from 75 countries. Any ideas yet?

Lincoln University is located in the town of Lincoln just outside of Christchurch, New Zealand.

There are three main schools of learning at Lincoln:

  • Agribusiness and Commerce: accounting, management, economics, farm management, finance, marketing and property studies.
  • Agriculture and Life Sciences: agronomy, plant science, crop physiology, pasture production, animal science, systems biology, computational modelling, food and wine science, entomology; plant pathology and crop protection; ecology, conservation and wildlife management; evolution, molecular genetics and biodiversity.
  • Environment, Society and Design: natural resources and complex systems engineering, environmental design, resource planning, transport studies, landscape architecture, Māori and indigenous planning, tourism, communication and exercise science.

Lincoln University has had an Entomology Research Collection since the late 1960s, which is now the 3rd-largest entomology collection in New Zealand, containing approximately 500,000 specimens. The university also owns 8 farms on the Southern I Island of New Zealand.

In one of the most used of the world university rankings (QS), which heavily favors research universities, Lincoln University ranks 372nd. For context, this is close behind Virginia Tech and George Washington U., but ahead of Wake Forest, Tulane, and over 100 spots ahead of Boston College. For my Baylor and UVA friends, Baylor is ranked between 1,000-1,200 and UVA is 226th.

Lincoln University Students’ Association (LUSA) runs campus events such as the annual  Garden Party and O-Week. Clubs on campus include the Lincoln Soils Society, Tramping and Climbing Club, Wine Appreciation Club, LSD (Lincoln Snowboarding Department), Alpine Club, LEO (Lincoln Environmental Organisation), Food Appreciation Club, Bunch Rides (cycling), Rugby Club, Lincoln Malaysian Students Society, Boxing Club, Young Farmers Club, and Lincoln Christian Fellowship.

Rā Whakamana is an annual graduation ceremony celebrating Māori achievement at Lincoln University. It is an opportunity for whanau, friends and staff to meet graduates and acknowledge their success.  Lincoln University – Te Whare Wānaka o Aoraki, Te Awhioraki, Lincoln University Māori Students’ Association, and Te Taumutu Rūnanga collectively organise and conduct the ceremony each year.

Lincoln University offers a wide range of sporting clubs and social sports including badminton, a boxing studio, social football, indoor football, social hockey, squash, tennis and volleyball. There are 4 major sporting clubs that compete in Christchurch competitions – LU Rugby, LU Netball, LU Basketball and LU Rowing.

If you are wondering what Netball is, it is evidently played by 20M people in 80 nations and is described as, “Netball is a baby born to parents who were the sport of basketball and ultimate frisbee. There is no dribbling; no running with the ball; 7 players; ball passed within 3 seconds; ball & basket slightly smaller; no backboard; players designated to certain areas. Basketball was created in the U.S. in 1891 and women gymnasiums in England began creating netball just two years later. It is primarily a sport played by women.

Saving the best for last, Lincoln University is named for…the town in which it is located, which is named after… The Earl of Lincoln (1811-1864), former Secretary of War and Chief Secretary of Ireland for England.

And for the record, Lincoln University, New Zealand is not related to any of the following:

  1. University of Lincoln in Lincoln, England,
  2. Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois,
  3. Lincoln Memorial College is Harrogate, Tennessee,
  4. Lincoln University (HBCU) in Oxford, Pennsylvania ,
  5. Lincoln Tech (for profit) in New Jersey, Texas, etc.
  6. Lincoln University Missouri in Jefferson City.

 

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Missing Data from Student Engagement that Can Improve Student Success

This table accompanies the article My “Million Dollar” Idea.

00

p.s. special thanks to Wendy Grier, Regional Vice President, Nelnet, for the ideas on the Financial Transactions section

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My “Million” Dollar Idea

How many “Million Dollar” ideas do you have? I bet you have some good ones – I think we all do. I will also guess that none them have resulted in you having $1M (and I hope I am wrong.) Don’t worry, you are in good company. I recently decided the likelihood of me implementing any of my “million dollar” ideas is quickly diminishing. We are all probably familiar with the quote, “Talent is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” I perspire a lot, but unfortunately it is rarely in pursuit of my “strokes of genius.” So I have decided to share one of my ideas, an idea that any university interested in improving student success could implement and discover a marked improvement.

What do your online shopping, your medical records, your social media likes, and your GPS wayfinder app all share in common? The answer – they all use data to analyze problems, improve decision making, save money, and maximize customer satisfaction. The ability to collect and use data is growing exponentially this century. For example, recently, my 11 year old was mocking an electronic device that has only 1 gigabyte (GB) of storage. I thought a gigabyte sounded like a lot. Remember 5’1/4” floppy disks? They held at the most one megabyte. Today there are terabytes (1,000 GBs), petabytes (1M GBs), and exabytes (100M GBs).

With the power of today’s computers, millions, if not billions, of data points can be quickly analyzed for trends, patterns, and projections. For the past three decades, I have been in the “business” of using data to predict college student retention. The benefits of student success are many and most importantly (to me) are transformed lives. However, from a purely return on investment perspective, many respected college success scholars (Noel, Levitz, Tinto, Schuh) suggest that since it takes three to five times the amount of money to recruit a student versus retain a student in college, we could save a lot of money if we focus more on the latter. Student retention and graduation data have also increased to 35% of some formulas (U.S. New) for ranking universities.

An entire industry has risen outside of universities to help them improve student retention and graduation rates. Companies like the Education Advisory Board (EAB), Civitas , Skyfactor, and Pharos have been emerging and expanding their services over the past decade. The profitability of this type of company service was demonstrated in 2017 when EAB sold for $1.5 billion dollars.

As is the case with most great companies, they need to protect their competitive advantages. In many cases this is the “secret sauce” they use to predict student success. However, having learned more about these various predictive models, I am confident that they are leaving out essential data that could significantly improve their models’ predictability.

This is by no means an intentional mistake by these companies and universities. It basically comes down to the inability to study what we don’t know how to measure. The result in what I call the Missing Data Model which calculates student predictive success without accounting for the wider array of factors that can improve our estimates. The “missing” data is the inability of universities (and student success companies) to figure out how to capture and use a large number of student engagement indicators literally all across campus.

My Missing Data Model is rooted in a quick return to theory, instead of practice. Almost every retention theory I have studied is based on a combination of academic and social measures. Tinto wrote about the integration of the academic and social lives of the student. Pascarello’s model was based primarily on student interaction with faculty and student interaction with each other. Astin’s I-E-O model (Inputs-Environment-Outcomes) described the Environment component as interactions with faculty and interactions with students and student groups.

The challenge in implementing any of theories on a campus is that quantitative retention projections can only be based on the available data, and that numerical data is almost always represents only half of this model – the academic side. Academic data is abundant in part because 1) it is used to demonstrate competence for admission to college, and 2) high schools are expected to demonstrate positive outcomes in order to maintain and/or improve state funding. Some of these academic variables include high school grade point average, standardized test scores, high school rank, high school rigor, advanced placement credits, national academic awards, etc.

Once students begin the lived experience of college, the number of factors that can be used for student success prediction continues in with this academic theme. Examples include: college GPA, credits attempted vs. credits earned, number of D/F grades, choice of major, etc. One company’s formula for student success at Baylor reports that the following five factors are needed, along with some pre-matriculation variables:

  • GPA
  • Semesters completed
  • Transfer credits
  • Attempted credits/term
  • D/F grades

When I asked this company why the only predictive factors they used were academic data that were somewhat easy to obtain, they explained that they did not incorporate non-academic factors in their model because:

  • there was not enough research in student success research to indicate what these factors might be,
  • there were not enough universities collecting non-academic data, and therefore, it wouldn’t make sense to base a model on data that only a few colleges had gathered.

Honestly, this makes complete sense. Use the data that everyone already has. However, in this case, my colleagues and I decided to compare this company’s student success predictive model to a model we had developed which incorporated student engagement outside the classroom. We discovered that when we included these non-academic variables that the retention predictions were significantly improved and more actionable than the company’s existing student success model. Some of these variables included:

  • Students’ sense of belonging
  • Students’ sense of stress
  • Students’ feeling that at least one faculty/staff member cared about them
  • Students’ comfort with how their next semester’s bill would be paid
  • Students’ who saw their culture represented on campus
  • Students’ who thought about going home much of the time
  • Students’ number of work hours
  • Students’ attendance at an optional extended orientation experience

While these variables strengthened our ability to predict retention, they were not easily gathered. They were dependent on the results of a ~30 item survey that necessitated that university housing spent hundreds of hours working to secure a 90% response rate from first year students.

The point, however, is that there are non-academic variables, other than the easily obtained academic measures, that can be used to better predict retention. If a university does not want to make the effort to collect survey data on students early in their first semester, the challenge is to identify what other non-academic measures are available that are not on anyone’s radar.

This can be more difficult for many student affairs staff because traditionally, the majority of student affairs staff are more relationally than task focused. I’m not saying this relational approach is not important – I would argue it is essential to student success, especially when the faculty reward system is based on publications and teaching, not outside the class student interaction. Most student affairs and other student success departments serve as an effective counter-weight to the level of academic challenge faculty typically provide in the classroom (Sanford, 1962).

I share this about student affairs staff, having worked with and among them for multiple decades, because I have found myself an anomaly among many of them. My pre-student affairs background was focused on math and science (which believe it or not, I honestly enjoyed,) until I realized that I had few, if any, meaningful friendships or connections in college. When I discovered student engagements outside the classroom, my college experience (and life) were transformed and led me down an entirely new path.

As I transitioned my career to student affairs, I noticed how little quantitative data was being used in student success. Over the past 25 years, I have been able to focus on better planning, implementing, assessing and improving the design, system, and structure of the student affairs areas where I worked.

Enough about me. What I would like to share next is referred to as a “million dollar” idea because if universities started to collect this data, they would undoubtably increase student success, retention, grades, and graduation rates, which in turn would save them millions of dollars. Sadly, what you will likely discover is that few, if any colleges are collecting, tracking, and analyzing this data. Some of the data is literally low-hanging fruit, ripe for the picking, while other examples are more intrusive measures that would require deeper reflection on the benefits and drawbacks on collecting this data.

However, if you, your university, and/or your company want to set a standard for excellence in student success, you will begin to have conversations about how some of this data might be gathered and used. The accompanying list of student out-of-class engagements that follow offer a range of opportunities for data that, if collected, will provide a much more complete picture of our students and ultimately result in improved student success.

You are encouraged to share these ideas with your colleagues and ask them how the next steps might be taken. If you want additional help and insight on this topic, I will be happy to talk to you also.

Examples of the missing data which could be better predict student success is included in the post “Missing Data from Student Engagement that Can Improve Student Success”.

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Professional Stuff

It is hard to strike a balance between humility and pride when one is trying to demonstrate some credibility in an area. A humble approach would leave these pages off my blog. However, this is also a professional hub for work I have accomplished over the years and this content is a common component of most professional blogs.

I will say that the things listed in this section by no means make me any more a person than anyone else. They are primarily an outcome of hard work with significant support and guidance along the way from hundreds of people. There is nothing we accomplish in life without the love and learning from others.

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The Most Interesting College of the Day! – University of Limerick – June 21

The University of Limerick is in LimerickIreland. It was founded in 1972 as the National Institute for Higher EducationLimerick, it became a 4-year university in 1989 and it was the first university established since Irish independence in 1922. The University of Limerick has over 16,500 students and ~1,700 staff.

Their mission is “to build on the expertise of our scholars in creating, harnessing and imparting knowledge for the benefit of our students and the enrichment of their community. The students and their future impact on society is at the heart of all they do.”

The campus has unrivalled sports and cultural facilities including:

  1. Ireland’s first Olympic-size swimming pool,
  2. Ireland’s largest indoor sports arena,
  3. Europe’s largest all-weather sports complex (supposedly)
  4. Ireland’s only indoor rowing tank, which can accommodate up to 8 rowers, (The tank can simulate a variety of water conditions, providing training opportunities for rowers to reach international standards. The building also includes a launch jetty into the Shannon, a pontoon and a café.)
  5. 1,100-seat University Concert Hall,
  6. Irish Chamber Orchestra Building,
  7. Irish World Academy and outdoor sculptures,
  8. National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland and
  9. Water Colour Society of Ireland Collection,
  10. the pedestrian Living Bridge, with its light, undulating profile, is a connecting link between the university grounds on either side of the River Shannon.

The U. of Limerick Student Union (ULSU) Ents organizes entertainment for students throughout the year with most take place during Freshers Week and Charity Week.

The university is ranked fourth in attracting students who attain over 500 points on the Leaving Certificate (the final exam of the Irish secondary school system and the university matriculation examination in Ireland.) It is the only college in Ireland to receive a maximum five stars for its sports facilities. It is also Ireland’s only university to receive five stars for graduate employability and teaching. The school also received five stars for infrastructure, internationalization, innovation and engagement.

The University of Limerick’s notable alumni include many of the world’s best hurlers. Evidently, this is a sport mainly in Ireland and described as the fastest game on grass.

The University’s core values are:
› Creative and Innovative – Shape the future by looking at things differently to others. Appreciating risks but trusting our judgement.
› Inclusive and Diverse – Welcoming all. Rooted in Europe but global in reach.
› Ethical and Sustainable – Doing the right things, in the right way, for the right reasons. Tackling national and global challenges, and supporting sustainable goals.
› Supportive and Transformational – Empowering our students and staff to lead.
› Ambitious and Driven – Working with all to push the boundaries of knowledge.

Their Strategic Plan is impressive.

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The Most Interesting College of the Day – Make School – June 15

Make School states that they are redesigning higher education for the 21st century. They want a college education to be relevant for the modern economy and accessible to students of all backgrounds. They predict a sustainable and scalable model of college can be built upon the following pillars:

  • Combining the liberal arts with computing education in a bachelor’s granting program
  • Providing relevant and engaging education through real-world projects
  • Uniting students from a broad socioeconomic range who possess grit (as measured by non-traditional metrics) and a passion for impact and innovation
  • Ensuring students are the core focus of the institution
  • Systemically aligning incentives of the institution with students through Income Share Agreements (tuition paid as a percentage of salary once employed)

They explain that “Make” stands for the diverse individuals who constitute their community and “School” represents the lifelong learning of the community – unburdened with the context of a “college” or “university”. Their charter states their public benefit: “To create avenues of upward mobility for students of all backgrounds, empowering such students to contribute to society through science and technology innovation.”

The first classes at Make School took place in 2015 at a home in Palo Alto. High school students would attend for 2 months over the summer in an attempt to build and launch a product to the app store. Students did not pay for the education, instead they shared revenues from their product which ensured everyone’s incentives were aligned.

From the two founders of Maker School – “We attended Montessori schools, international schools, schools with no grades or tests, public schools, prep schools, and 2 of the most distinguished universities in the world. We studied across 5 countries and 8 cultures before meeting in computer science class in our Silicon Valley high school. Once we learned our long-term goals, our short-term came in to focus. Knowing why we were learning showed us what we should be learning. This perspective has proven to be a core principle of our pedagogy, flipping not just the classroom but the entire foundation of an education.

The dilemma that we faced (now being faced by millions of iGen youth around the world) was that exposure to this new paradigm made the traditional model of stockpiling knowledge in hope of future use feel impractical, unfocused, and disempowering. The disconnect between our university education and purpose-driven learning left us feeling wholly disengaged. We spent much of our time in our dorm rooms, diligently absorbing and applying knowledge and skills we deemed relevant to our long-term ambitions. Eventually, we chose to leave our respective universities.

Our initiative to build educational programs for our peers was born out of the desire to share this secret we had discovered. Our students told us Make School was the first time they had felt fully engaged in their education. That they learned more in two months than in two years of studying computer science in college. That they had finally found a community to which they belonged.

Our students were the visionaries that inspired us to experiment with building a new model for higher education. We’ve spent the last four years learning through application and research in an attempt to answer two fundamental questions. If we were to go back to college, what would our ideal experience be? What do we imagine college will look like in 20 years?”

Make School formally started in 2017 and has educated over 2,000 in-person students and >1,000,000 students online. Students have built thousands of apps reaching tens of millions of people; from medical solutions to women’s empowerment communities to simple games.

The majority of their students come from low to mid-income families, almost 50% identify as underrepresented minority students. Their graduates earn an average starting salary of $110k at organizations like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and top startups.

They seek to build their organization with only two primary principles. Secondary principles exist, though they are explicitly subordinate to the two primary ones.

  1. Students first
  2. A principle is only a principle if there exists a system to enforce it

As they state, “the first is self-evident, one would be hard pressed to find an institution that did not consider this a key principle. Yet institutions regularly sacrifice this principle. The importance of the second meta-principle is to ensure institutional values are upheld. Creating systems to ensure values-driven decision making will help address the core threats to organizational principles that occur with scale. Systems can implicitly prioritize values and provide decision making support to overworked team members and new hires.” Read more about their our vision.

Their culture is described in the Secret Handbook of How to Succeed at Make School.

In what may be a first, they are literally hiring their Founding President of Make School right now. This President would lead them through the final stages of accreditation and accelerate their mission to create equity in technology.

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The Most Interesting College of the Day! – The Coast Guard Academy – June 8

Some of you may be familiar with the annual Army-Navy football game or the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy for the most successful football team of the three largest U.S. service academies.

What you may not realize, however, is that there are two other service academies who have their own football rivalry.  The other two federal service academies – the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy are approximately 25% the size of the 3 other service academies and compete in Division III athletics. The Coast Guard Bears and Merchant Marine Mariners have an annual football rivalry for the Secretaries Cup.

This rivalry has been described as a small-college version of the Army-Navy matchup. It used to be called the Secretary’s Cup, since both the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines were under the Secretary of Transportation. However, the Coast Guard was moved under the newly created Secretary of Homeland Security in 2003 and the name of the rivalry changed to the plural, Secretaries Cup.  The two campuses are at either end of the Long Island Sound.  p.s. The latest meeting in 2020 was won 24–14 by Merchant Marine. Notably, it was the only Division III football game played in 2020. The NCAA canceled the 2020 D-III football season due to the pandemic.

With regards to the featured university, the Coast Guard Academy is the smallest of the 5 service academies at just over 1,000 students. It was founded in 1876 and their motto is Scientiæ Cedit Mare or “The Sea Yields to Knowledge”

The School started out as the “School of Instruction of the Revenue Cutter Service” The school moved to Maryland in 1900 and to its current town of New London, Connecticut in 1910. In 1914, the school became the Revenue Cutter Academy, and it became the Coast Guard Academy in 1915 with the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life Saving Service.

The academy was racially integrated in 1962 at the request of President Kennedy. The academy began admitting women in 1976 at the request of Congress.

Since 1929, every cadet must memorize the mission statement of the Academy, “The mission of the United States Coast Guard Academy is to graduate young men and women with sound bodies, stout hearts and alert minds, with a liking for the sea and its lore, and with that high sense of Honor, Loyalty and Obedience which goes with trained initiative and leadership; well-grounded in seamanship, the sciences and the amenities, and strong in the resolve to be worthy of the traditions of commissioned officers in the United States Coast Guard, in the service of their country and humanity.”

Each summer, cadets participate in training programs according to their class. The summers are organized as follows:

  • Swab Summer: The new class of freshmen report in to the Academy, and are sworn into the military. They undergo a 7-week basic training program that culminates on a week-long voyage underway on the barque USCGC Eagle.
  • Third-class Summer: 5 weeks aboard the USCGC Eagle training under sail, five weeks aboard an operational Coast Guard cutter or small boat station in the role of junior enlisted (i.e., standing watches as helmsman, lookout, quartermaster of the watch, or engineering watch).
  • Second-class Summer: Damage control training, weapon qualifications, navigation rules certification, aviation internship, sail training program, and three weeks as members of the cadre, who train the incoming Swabs.
  • First-class Summer: 10 weeks aboard an operational cutter in the role of a junior officer (i.e., standing bridge watches conning the ship as Officer of the Deck).

The Corps is organized as one regiment divided into eight companies, each of which is composed of about 120 cadets of all classes. The eight companies are named for the first eight letters of the NATO phonetic alphabet. Each has a special focus in administering day-to-day affairs: Alpha company manages health and wellness. Bravo Company runs training. Charlie company administers the honor system, Delta Company coordinates drill and ceremonies. Echo Company manages transportation and logistics. Foxtrot operate the cadet conduct system, organizes the watch rotations, and updates the cadet regulations. Golf Company is in charge of supplies for cleaning and repairing damaged rooms within Chase Hall. Hotel company is in charge of morale events.

The academy nickname is the Bears, after the US Rescue Cutter Bear, which made a dramatic rescue in Alaska in 1897, shortly after the opening of the academy.

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