Bringing domestic student exchange to the conversation

canada-and-usThank you to David J. Smith for bringing domestic student exchange to the conversation on global initiatives in Getting to “E Pluribus Unum”. As president of the nonprofit National Student Exchange organization and a former NSE campus coordinator, I shared the following comments.

National Student Exchange was founded in 1968, a time when our nation was searching to understand its identity, history, and how differences fit into the idea of American culture. What began as three institutions exchanging seven students has grown into a premier network of 160 colleges and universities exchanging 2,000 students annually throughout the United States, Canada, and U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam.

Initiatives to enhance global engagement often overlook the diversity of North America in their quest. Scholarships and fellowships that promote international education are rarely available for domestic study away. Domestic exchanges seldom satisfy core or general educational requirements for global engagement or cultural studies, despite their cultural breadth.

Cultural agility can be greatly enhanced crossing state and provincial borders, not just oceans. NSE member campuses report domestic study away as a high impact practice supporting student satisfaction and persistence. Increasing populations of underrepresented and first-generation students are choosing NSE study away, emphasizing the need for access and choice in these opportunities. As noted by Sobania and Braskamp (2009), recent college graduates are more likely to have a post-college career with diverse colleagues from their own country than from other parts of the world.

NSE campuses range in enrollment from 600 to more than 50,000 students. In addition to AAU Research I universities, NSE member campuses include:
12 Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU)
21 Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI)
7 Urban 13 universities
14 Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC)

As noted, succeeding in our political and global reality requires professionals who can operate effectively and empathetically in cross-cultural and international environments. National Student Exchange and domestic study away programs are not simply study abroad alternatives or preparatory opportunities; they are academic and personal experiences to be celebrated and encouraged for the dimension they bring to college students, degree programs, our workforce, and communities.


Sobania, N. & Braskamp, L. A. (2009). Study abroad or study away: It’s not merely semantics. Peer Review 11 (4).

Value of a College Degree is Rising

“Economists are not certain about many things, but we are quite certain that a college diploma or an advanced degree is a key to economic success.” ~Janet L. Yellen, Federal Reserve chairwoman

Yellen Tells College Graduates That Value of a Degree Is Rising

Senior Night

Senior night in high school sports is a time to recognize graduating students and their accomplishments. At the pre-game celebration for our local girls soccer team, players were honored with a bouquet of flowers while escorted to center field by their parents. Honors and activities are announced for each player, culminating with where they will be attending college in the fall. It was no surprise that each player from our academically ranked high school was heading to a four-year institution including several research universities and prestigious private colleges.
Fast-forward a week to an opportunity to attend another senior night, in a small town 40 miles from our small university city. Only this time as each player is introduced, the future plans are predominantly for community college. Only two of the twenty players were planning to attend a 4-year college or university. And 17 of the twenty players were Latina.
Why the difference? Demographics and privilege are most certainly a factor. Our small city is 85% White with 3% of persons identifying as Hispanic or Latino/a compared to a town where 35% of the population is Hispanic or Latino/a. The Latino population has grown dramatically in the town over the last decade with the addition of a new meat packing plant. These backbreaking low-wage jobs are attractive steady work for the mostly of Mexican-origin immigrants moving into Iowa.
College enrollment of U.S. Hispanic students surpassed that of White students for the first time in 2012. In contrast, the number of Hispanics completing four-year degrees only accounted for 9% of young adults. Hispanic students continue to be less likely to enroll in a four-year college or attend college full-time.
Our university student success committee has spent significant discussion time on Who Gets to Graduate? While formulating models for student persistence, we review many variables involved in graduating the students on our campus where Hispanic and Latino/a students make up the largest non-majority population. Our students of all ethnicities are academically motivated, but are frequently working class and first-generation, which sometimes translates to not being prepared for the rigor of higher education at a research university.
So the question becomes not only who gets to graduate, but also who gets to enroll?

The Great Debate continues…

The president of Georgia Regents University renewed discussion on the value of a college education with his recent essay, The Great Debate: Is College Still Worth It?  The piece included poll results from a new survey by the American Association of State College and Universities stating that those with a college education and those more likely to benefit from higher education believe in its worth. So, college graduates, women, and communities of color have buy in to the value of education.
…to ensure our collective future success, more Americans must appreciate the value of, have access to, be able to afford, and complete college. This message must be disseminated widely, so we can rally the will and resources necessary to make it happen.  ~Dr. Ricardo Azziz
More on the Value of Higher Education:
Why College is Still Worth It
Choose Education
Education Value
Future Earnings

It’s a Post-Doc Life (Part II): Tips and Advice

Part II of It’s a Post-Doc Life is a bit of wit, wisdom, and advice for friends and other doctoral students approaching the writing phase. See Part I if you require more introduction.

Contract with an editor in advance. Determine mutual expectations for the process. I hired an editor late in my writing process at the advice of fellow doc students in my cohort and did not have adequate editing time built into my writing calendar. I thought my editor could be working on edits for Chapters 1-3 while I put the finishing touches on my final chapters. Wrong. My editor required everything in advance so as to get a feel for the entire topic. The substantial amount of tables required extra time including several horizontal pages that were incredibly ornery for pagination. Fortunately for me, my editor was patient and well versed in the requirements of our graduate college.

Make every paper support your analysis. My faculty was supportive in allowing personal research for final projects for students who had a concrete research topic. For a qualitative research class, I redesigned my quantitative topic as a case study. For program evaluation, I reviewed how my research study would contribute to program enhancement. For statistical research, I focused on a test sample of my population for the final project and was later able to refine and submit that work as my capstone. Each of these papers shaped and enhanced my final project.

Keep your focus. Post your dissertation questions where they are clearly visible at your workspace. Even on days where no writing is accomplished, reading and processing your questions is progress. I kept a list reminding me to be positive right next to my research questions. I created Pinterest pages on focus and finishing. This may seem like procrastination, but they provided good left-brain alternatives to statistical writing. Blogging also helped.

Read dissertations. I read as many dissertations related to my topic as I could locate and found off-topic examples that had been highly praised by my department. Knowing what your faculty recognizes as good research is a great motivation and resource.

Feed your brain. Skittles and pretzels are not brain or body food for any length of time. Thank goodness I was guzzling green tea. Any semblance of a healthy diet or exercise program that I had prior to writing went out the window. In its place were the bits of time that I reserved to maintain normalcy for my family, a stolen few hours for a soccer game or baking cookies. My muscles suffered from constant sitting and I made many adjustments to my workspace. I am working hard to regain a healthier self.

Take some personal time following your defense. Immediately following my dissertation I was engaged in a campus conference then traveled away for another conference before moving into the busiest weeks of my spring semester. I struggled to quickly revise my project for an article submission, submit my final work to the grad college, sign up for commencement, and close our programs for the semester. I had little time for myself with the exception of a mani/pedi and a bit of shopping. And I was exhausted.

Don’t be surprised by Post-Dissertation Stress Disorder or PDSD. Unlike many post-docs, I was lucky to already have a wonderful job in student affairs. Although I am researching and entertaining next career steps, I already have a salary and satisfying work to wake up for each day. However the lack of deadlines, lack of pressure, decreased ability to function in the normal, and deadlines that are suddenly manageable is surprisingly stressful. A professor recently described it as similar to retirement. For my fellow doc moms out there, it’s like having a baby, but nothing to cuddle with post-delivery. If you are work and project driven, the adjustment takes time.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. There will be errors in your final submission. I have found two so far, just minor things, but our grad college does not allow corrections after submission. Although incredibly frustrating, I will live. You will too.

It’s a Post-Doc Life (Part I)

It’s the last day of the first half of the year and four months following the defense of my dissertation. My writing has been stunted since that time; or rather my blog writing, and I feel the need to finally put to print the journey of my dissertation. This first part is a bit wordy. Feel free to skip to the next post for my dissertation tips.

I began a doctoral program in education and educational leadership in summer 2009. My institution provides 3 credits of tuition support per semester (student is responsible for anything above 3 credits, all fees, books, supplies), so I was a part-time student for the next three years. Last May, thirteen months ago, a member of my dissertation committee outlined how I could complete my doctoral work more quickly than planned with a few course changes. The original idea was to defend in fall of this year with a December graduation date. Always up to a challenge, I added the final courses to my summer calendar, moved to full time student status (expensive), and gathered my committee for a preliminary research discussion.

I worked with my advisor to schedule dates for a preliminary oral defense and dissertation defense. Our graduate college requires filing of intent to present a dissertation and committee in the term prior to the oral defense. And the final defense must be at least six months after the preliminary oral. My committee paperwork was submitted in May 2012, summer term, my prelim was on August 22; the third day of the fall semester, and my defense was scheduled for February of this year.

Those summer classes were essential for defining my theoretical perspective and Chapters 1 and 3, the introduction and methodology of my prospectus. I had a solid Chapter 2, the literature review, developed over the prior year. I hastily prepared for my prelims and capstone defense (final project) in August, one of the busiest months of the year for student affairs professionals. I was underprepared for this step, failing to adequately prepare my committee, but managed to muddle through. There was great benefit from having not only a student relationship but also a professional relationship with my committee. They were incredibly gracious.

And then I ignored my research. For six weeks.

With the school year securely under way, I burned vacation days and went back to writing. After several false starts on analysis, I consulted my advisor and hired a statistician to assist with the more complicated calculations. As the statistical work began to fall into place and I developed rudimentary skills for analytical writing, I sent my completed questions to my advisor for review. Four of the seven questions required nine tables each of painstakingly intricate ratio analysis. The final paper included 54 separate tables and figures. I wanted to club myself over the head on many occasions.

As I was finishing my results and powering though my final chapter at the end of the semester, my editor suffered a broken elbow and notified me that she would not be able to do any work until after the first of the year. With a late February defense date, this seemed minor, so I kept at it, taking some time though the holidays, but working, writing, revising, lather, rinse, repeat.

January was spent in edits. My editor made recommendations, I would approve or rewrite a bit. I primarily used the editorial process for structural detail such as the table of contents, placement of tables, and pagination. Also, there are rules for publishing from our grad college that are not strictly APA style, and my editor was well informed.

With advisor approval, I was able to send a draft to my committee on February 12, fifteen days before my defense date. This may seem late for many writers, but being early in the semester, there were not yet many defenses scheduled in our department. I moved into fine-tune mode and began work on my oral presentation.

The very next day, my advisor, faced with a medical situation, requested that we move my defense date ahead a week to February 20 or 21. Now you recall that my grad college requires that a defense must be six months at minimum between prelim and final oral defense. As such, moving to February 20 or 21 required special permission. After significant wrangling by my advisor and committee, the grad college approved the request, and my defense was moved to February 20. I requested more vacation days to prepare and ultimately, a week early, I defended.

And I passed.