If sustainability is to unify . . .

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The broad concept of sustainability — doing what works best in the long run, not just what gives the biggest economic return today — must be a central component of any education relevant in the 21st century. .However, to deliver that, we need to be clear about .what we mean to achieve.


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Math Geek Mom: Two Sides of the Coin

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Even though I normally see increased education from the point of view of a professor, I am nearing the time when I will start to seem at it from the stage of see of a parent of a child who will someday go to university.

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A Pipe and a Ping Pong Ball

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Creativity and innovation are in increasing demand as an engine for economic development and solving significant difficulties, such as (preventing and) winning wars, curing condition, feeding a growing population, and discovering sources of clean water. . With new technologies, growing expenses, uneven access and outdated company versions, larger education is in require of a big dose of creative pondering.

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Totally free Thinking?

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Lately, Blade Nzimande, South Africa’s Minister for Increased Education and Education, announced that the country’s 1st universities to be founded given that the ending of apartheid will open in 2014. Work on a university in Kimberley in the Northern Cape is set to begin in September, so that it can open in time for the starting of the academic year in January. The 2nd university will be primarily based in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, a considerable agricultural district about 340km northeast of Johannesburg.

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“Not a College for People Like Them”

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Confessions of a Community College Dean

Rising star of the Twitterverse Tressie McMillan Cottom has a must-read post about her observations as a sociologist and former admissions staffer at a for-profit college.  It’s about the interaction between the prestige hierarchy of higher education, economic class, and self-image.

The money quote:

When I teach my undergraduates at my elite, private school they all recognize the for-profit college ads I play to introduce the idea of higher education stratification. I ask them why they did not apply to Everest or Strayer when they were applying to college. They tell me that it’s not a school for people like them.

“Not a school for people like them.”  

When I worked at DeVry, we had conversations like these all the time.  DeVry used to blanket every cheesy daytime talk show with ads — Ricki Lake was a favorite — and its student body reflected that.  Whenever a big muckety-muck from Home Office came to campus to exhort us to higher success rates, we usually responded by asking that the advertising be redirected to places where likelier-to-succeed students might see them.  The usual answer was that the ads worked, and as long as they worked, there wasn’t much point in redirecting them.

This strikes me as the flip side of the “;undermatching” thesis addressed yesterday.  At some level, there’s a broad — and I would say, badly dysfunctional — understanding that certain kinds of colleges are for certain kinds of people.  That’s not restricted to the relatively unobjectionable cases of women’s colleges or colleges with specific religious affiliations, where the identities are worn on the sleeve.  The larger issue is the unwritten identity that each college assumes.

Economic and cultural capital are major components of those unwritten identities.  Those overlap with race, but they have force of their own.  The students who know the difference between engineers and engineering techs go to Purdue or MIT; the ones who don’t, go to DeVry.  

The for-profits are acutely aware of that sort of thing, and they organize themselves accordingly.  As Cottom puts it:

Can you imagine applying to your flagship state university by walking into the admissions office with $ 75 in cash? It is even difficult to do at the local community college I visited recently. And community colleges are, theoretically, designed to serve demographically similar students as those served by for-profit colleges. Waltzing in with cash money is not only a bureaucratic violation but a cultural one. It signals you do not know how “;real” college works.

Exactly.  And if community colleges are serious about helping the folks who don’t come in knowing that, we could learn some lessons from the for-profits.

To my reading, Cottom puts a little too much faith in the economic cycle to explain for-profits’ success, and probably too little on the regulatory climate.  And it’s reasonable to think that the for-profits should be even more nervous about MOOCs than the rest of us.  But those are quibbles.  Go and read her piece.  Give it some thought.  She’s on to something, and we’d best figure out just what it is.

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8 Education Commence-Up Tips

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Entrepreneurial ideas related to education have flourished of late, and business plan competitions can surface some of these initial ideas. Here are eight education-related start-up ideas appearing on several lists of finalists.

Wharton Business Plan Competition
They recently selected 26 semi-finalists out of 140 teams, and the following two teams presented businesses related to education.

Certiorari: Certiorari is a comprehensive educational resource that closes the knowledge gap between lawyers and their clients.

Textbook Friend: Textbook Friend is an online platform, personalized to different schools with different subdomains, student networks, and marketing teams, in which students can communicate directly to buy and sell textbooks on campus, cutting out the traditionally large intermediary fees of bookstores and other services

MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneurs Series (MUES) Business Plan Competition
One of the ten finalists has an idea focused on education.

Excelegrade: A company that developed online software that replaces paper-based tests in K-12 classrooms with assessments on tablets, smart phones, and laptops.

Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition
At least one of the finalists is trying to solve an educational problem.

iSolv3: mobile application that allows users to solve complicated math problems by taking a picture (no typing into the calculator necessary!)

NYC Next Idea
Two out of the six finalists presented education-related ideas.

Glovico.org: A peer-to-peer online language learning platform (USA and Germany)

Cortex International: Medical Ethics Virtual Experience, a module-based, interactive ethics education program for use at medical schools and hospitals (USA and China)

Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition at Purdue
The ten finalists in the undergraduate and graduate student categories included two education ideas.

Cornucopia Farm: an agritourism business in Scottsburg, Ind., focused on educating the public about agriculture and how to interact with it in their daily lives.

Skyepack: which is a content-focused educational software environment designed to facilitate the delivery of learn-anywhere mobile content as an alternative to texts, course packs and class handouts.

Which one would get your vote if you were a judge?


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Bill Gates Has a Remedy for Larger Education: Yoda

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Just Going to

Bill Gates has diagnosed what ails increased education, and the cure is all about technologies, and also Yoda.

Speaking at the SXSW engineering conference, as reported by CNN Income, “Gates&rsquo major theme was customized learning, which can be enhanced by new technological innovation.&rdquo

And Yoda.

Yet again according to CNN Funds, Gates maintains that, “Yoda was a excellent instructor since the Jedi master understood when Skywalker is dropping interest.&rdquo

In Gates&rsquo personal words, “With this wave of application that&#39s becoming designed that personalizes to the pupil … there&#39s genuine promise here that the youngsters can go back and engage in a way they couldn&#39t ahead of.&quot

So Bill Gates and I, and just about every person else I&rsquom mindful of, agree on two huge items: one. That massive lecture classes are non-perfect atmospheres to engender learning. two. The much better different is personalized studying supervised by a mentor capable of nurturing pupil curiosity.

Gates&rsquo reply to this dilemma is “personalized software.&rdquo

As I read this, I recognized this computer software presently exists, and in some cases (mine) it&rsquos a little as well soft, about the middle specifically.

I&rsquom talking about human beings, or in Yoda&rsquos case, an indeterminate species of three-foot tall green factors with oversized ears and gravelly Miss Piggy voices.

I like Gates&rsquo Yoda analogy. Yoda is without a doubt a fine instructor. When Luke is coaxed by Obi-Wan&rsquos ghost to the swamp planet Dagobah to understand beneath Yoda&rsquos tutelage, rather than lecturing Luke Skywalker on how to harness the Force, Yoda encourages youthful Luke to search within himself.

I have to say, I at times come to feel like Yoda in my job, every student a various youthful Jedi in require of the right words of encouragement.

Most of the time I&rsquom communicating two factors, that what I am asking them to do matters, and that they are certainly capable of undertaking it.

Or, as Yoda puts it, “Do or do not&hellipthere is no attempt.&rdquo

Apparently, Gates&rsquo concept is to place Yoda on pc screens as component of the school of tomorrow, “in which college students observe lessons on the web, delivered by the brightest minds in the field.&rdquo

As Gates says, &quotIf you want the extremely greatest lectures, if you want the value efficiency, you have to break down and say, you know, allow&#39s get someone else&#39s materials.&quot&nbsp

I feel about this, and I wonder, provided a Jedi-master&rsquos capacity to undertaking his thoughts across galaxies and star techniques in an instant, why did Obi-Wan encourage Luke to look for out Yoda in person?

Possibly since software and humans are the same issue, not.&nbsp Yes, hmmm.

The assumptions that Gates and other folks like him deliver to these discussions is that education, as is, is as well costly. Soon after all, tuition is rising more quickly than inflation and university is threatening to turn into a bad investment. Technology, Gates argues, has the likely to make college cheaper, for instance by not needing as numerous professors given that, what the heck, we&rsquove received Yoda on tape!

Like Gates, I&rsquom distressed by growing tuition and the strain it puts on my students. Many more of them are taking on shocking amounts of debt, or trying to operate total-time jobs even though also getting full-time students.

But I get distressed when the discussion turns immediately towards the corporate buzzwords of “efficiency&rdquo and “productivity.&rdquo In the 90&rsquos, when unemployment was four% and we have been all acquiring wealthy on our shares of Pets.com, I don&rsquot keep in mind people falling in excess of themselves criticizing our system of larger education.

Not that we can&rsquot get greater, but the truth is, we&rsquore in fact quite great at it. The educating/learning model is not particularly mysterious. College students benefit from becoming in the presence of their Jedi-masters. Occasionally a hologram is okay, but it isn&rsquot a substitute for the real, little green factor.

Surely, universities share some of the blame for increasing tuition as they&rsquove chased amenities, increased the amount of administration, and yes, pursued the most recent technologies, but the deep economic downturn and state government reductions in funding have completed far more to improve tuition rates than any other factor.

When the Bantha dung hit the fan in the 2008 monetary crisis, the government responded by recapitalizing the banks, bailing out the auto industry, and acquiring toxic assets, probably conserving us from a devastating economic meltdown. As of March 4th, the government has been paid back $ 461 billion of the $ 605 billion it handed out, with a very good opportunity more than time to at least break even or flip a profit.

Why can&rsquot we do one thing related with colleges? Do we doubt that there will be economic (and other benefits) to enhancing education, as opposed to creating it a lot more “efficient?&rdquo

And it doesn&rsquot even have to be the government alone that does it.

Because 2008, funding to greater education in Louisiana has been cut by $ 425 million dollars.

In 2011 alone, the Gates Basis spent $ 426 million offering grants to education-relevant organizations.

Virtually all of that funds went to groups operating on integrating engineering into the classroom. They argue the technology helps teachers better do their jobs by freeing them to engage more personally with the students. That feels like the Dark Side to me, as we preserve throwing cash at technologies attempting to produce a substitute for one thing we previously have in abundance, prepared and devoted teachers.

Why can&rsquot we just have a lot more teachers educating? Smaller sized courses, much more personalized instruction, much better studying.

Not one particular Yoda on display, an army of them in the flesh.

To me this helps make sense. Hmmmmmm.

Good for spreading the word, twitter is.&nbsp Herh herh herh.


Stick to @biblioracle
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Changing A/P George at Nanyang Technological University?

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Like many social scientists with ties and genuine affection for Singapore, I was shocked when I heard Nanyang Technological University (NTU) recently denied tenure to Dr. Cherian George (pictured to the right). See here for a Storify-based compilation of stories about this ongoing debacle, and here for a 1 March University World News story. Keep in mind this is the second time he was denied tenure – the first occurred in 2009.

Cherian George has a truly rare capacity to shed light on the nature of state-society-economy relations in Southeast Asia (especially Singapore and Malaysia) via an analysis of media systems and practices. He is also a public intellectual, with an ability to write in a fashion free from the jargon all too often associated with media studies worlds.

I first heard about Cherian George's work when I worked in Singapore in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and then every year after, usually via colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who work in the media and communications fields. While I've never met him I can state, with confidence, he would have been tenured here at UW-Madison. Indeed, given his record and in demand areas of expertise matched with actual experience as a journalist, he'd most likely be a tenured full Professor by now. But there you go – the powers that be who govern NTU have decided to send George on his way.

Rather than speculate as to why NTU, led by President Bertil Andersson (a Swedish national, and former Chief Executive of the European Science Foundation, 2004-2007) and Provost Freddy Boey, chose to sanction this decision, I decided to think laterally and pondered what a position description for a replacement hire in George's areas of expertise would be like. It's worth reflecting on the value of having a non-expatriate professor with these capabilities in a school of communication and information, and in a university that seeks to support the media sector in a city-state that ostensibly desires to become a 'vibrant and robust' media hub.




Media Politics: Following the denial of tenure to Dr. Cherian George (who has a PhD in Communication from Stanford University, a Masters from Columbia University’s School of Journalism, and a BA in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University), we are looking for an even more innovative, collaborative, and forward-thinking teacher-scholar who is interdisciplinary inclined. The successful candidate should have a PhD with an active research agenda, and teaching and advising experience. Preference will be given to candidates who study the diverse politics of the media, including the norms and practices of journalism in Singapore and Southeast Asia more broadly; the sociocultural dimensions of the production, circulation and consumption of various forms of media; the formal and informal regulation of the media; and the nature of 'alternative' media vis a vis emerging social media platforms such as weblogs, Twitter, and so on. We are particularly interested in candidates who have deep regional expertise combined with international perspectives. It is also important that all candidates have 5-10 years of journalism experience in the media industry. The candidate needs to understand and be able to teach about the complex forces and diverse perspectives shaping debates in Singapore and Southeast Asia about issues like censorship, 'intolerant' speech, 'free' speech, and the nature of state influence on media systems. The candidate should committed to enhancing the role of NTU as a place where faculty are "excited about ideas,” where "risk taking" and "breaking conventional mindsets" is the new norm, and where faculty increasingly need to encourage students to "ask questions" so as to inculcate more creative and agile mindsets.


Those leading NTU (such as President Bertil Andersson) have stated that they have a "responsibility to Singaporean society."  It might be worth asking President Andersson if students at a "leading institution of higher education in the Asia-Pacific region" need to know about the phenomenon of media politics. And if so, who could realistically fill Dr. Cherian George's shoes?

Kris Olds

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Internalizing the External Evaluation Approach

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Library Babel Fish

I’m finishing up a draft of a department self-study for an external review of our library. It’s the third time I’ve been involved in one of these, and the second time I’ve been primary author. It’s making me feel reflective about this enterprise we are part of, the nature of change, and questions of purpose and agency.

Deep thoughts, in other words.

External reviews are an interesting practice. Our first review in the early 1990s brought a number of overheated issues to the surface, not unlike a volcanic event. I don’t recommend bottling everything up until a review team arrives. It’s hard on the reviewers and a mess to clean up. Some good things came out of it, ultimately. The review amplified what an accreditation team concluded at approximately the same time: the library’s budget has to be increased. I’d forgotten what a huge difference a few years of budget growth makes. The review also kicked off a few years of difficult internal discussions that led to a complete redefinition of the librarians’ roles (adopting a more holistic and shared set of duties) and the development of a collegial management model for our library organization, something I still find exciting. It works for us, and it mystifies me that more libraries don’t try it.

The second external review in 2003 was less eventful. No skeletons tumbled out of closets, no Gordian knots had to be whacked apart. We got answers to some questions we posed, we got an endorsement for the things we wanted, and we felt many of our efforts affirmed, particularly in terms of what we did to promote and support student learning.

Working on the documentation for the third external review reminds me that some of the projects we’re working on now got their start ten years ago. The reviewers noted our shelving was near capacity and warned us that we’d have to start planning accordingly. The library was packed to bursting with students who clearly felt ownership of the place and were occupying every available space. We would have to figure out how to preserve that space for students to interact in groups, study in solitude, or spread out as they worked on research. The weeding we’ve been doing wholeheartedly for the past few years stems from this recommendation.

But it also reminds me that some things are in our control, and some are not. Those budget increases leveled off and have been flat for over a decade. (Our staff costs, particularly for health care, have no doubt increased, though our staff is smaller and younger than it was.) Having ever-increasing subscription costs and a stagnant budget makes us constantly tinker with our collection, trying to cut anything that isn’t necessary. In some ways this is a healthy form of simplicity. You really need to know what your priorities are, and you have to involve the entire faculty in defining them. In good times, there’s no real need to be so analytical or reflective. We’ve gotten good at both. And we've gathered a lot of data.

A team of librarians, staff, and students conducted large-scale ethnographic study of our virtual and physical space, which also drove many of the changes we've made since the last review. We redesigned our website, we reorganized space, we created a new reference desk where we could sit side-by side with students to talk through their questions. We have a trove of information, from student and faculty surveys, to seating pattern studies, to interviews and focus groups, to picture associations and photo diaries. Lots and lots of lovely data, and it has been really useful.

But there are limits to what you can do with data. You can say “;look, students say they need more space, they need more places for solitary study, more group study areas. They’ve been saying this for 25 years. Can’t we do something about it?” Well, here’s what we can do: we can scour campus storage areas for tables that can be scrubbed up and used in place of underutilized carrels. We can create nooks in the stacks that are a little like study rooms, though never quite as popular. We can move furniture around and empty some shelves and patch things up. Because that’s in our control and requires time and imagination, but not money.

We can nip and tuck and cancel this and that to cover budget gaps. We can stop buying anything that isn’t a high priority and patch holes by canceling a thousand journal dollar subscription, making up for it by buying one $ 40 article at a time. Every time a vendor promises a cheaper version of an essential database, we can make a switch and hope the savings last longer than the time it takes to fix all the broken links. But data doesn’t lead to a bigger budget.

We academics have a habit of using the term “;bean counters” when condemning those soulless individuals in administration buildings who don’t invest in programs that aren’t performing, who run the numbers before they make decisions. How I wish more administrators were bean counters!  How I wish they cared about data, about evidence, about careful stewardship of scarce resources. It’s useful stuff, data. Every improvements we’ve made in this library was a response to the data we’d gathered. But outside the library? Decisions seem to be made by some other means.

I remember thinking during the University of Virginia debacle, a power struggle that seems to be happening all over higher education, that what rankles the most when watching those who have a bit of power try to reserve it all to themselves, is that they’re so bad at using it. The things we care about in higher education -; ethics, the logical consequences of actions, the use of evidence in decisions, the virtues of equality and a belief that rational people can make decisions for the common good, that stuff we started believing during the Enlightenment, is being replaced by something else. Something blind and careless and full of confidence in the righteousness of power. 

I suppose we could end each department meeting with the serenity prayer, but there are things that need changing, no matter how powerless we feel. So on we go, trying to introduce students to values that have been around a long, long time and may still, some day, come back in fashion. We can hope.  

Barbara Fister

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Substantial Top quality On the internet Understanding: A Discussion with USC’s Karen Gallagher

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Technology and Learning

Karen Symms Gallagher, Dean of USC Rossier School of Education, caught my eye for two reasons.   

First, I read a couple of opinion pieces in which she argued that we need to look beyond MOOCs to the potential of providing extremely high quality and intimate for-credit degree programs that leverage new options in technology and new opportunities in non-profit / for-profit partnerships.   These columns, including Higher Ed Leaders Must Lead Online and Rethinking Higher Ed Open Online Learning stand apart for their combination of a progressive call for innovation in online education and skepticism that the locus of this innovation is limited to the world of MOOCs.

The second reason that Karen ended up on my radar screen was her designation as a  Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow.   This prestigious fellowship, which is given to only two dozen educators a year, is designed to "support extraordinary entrepreneurial leaders who are committed to transforming public education." 

The fact that Karen is a strong voice for innovation in new online learning models within the context of high quality degree programs makes her selection as a Pahara-Aspen Fellow a noteworthy development.   Discussions about online education have largely bifurcated around the MOOCs or the for-profit world, with too little attention paid to advances in the quality of online and blended programs offered at highly selective institutions.  The Pahara-Aspen Fellowship may prove to be an ideal platform in which to introduce new ideas and models into the larger conversation.

Karen graciously agreed to participate in an e-mail discussion to explore her ideas around how higher ed leaders can advance both our thinking and our models around online education.

Question:  Can you briefly describe what USC has been up to with online education?

When USC President Max Nikias announced that online education must be a priority for graduate programs, we saw the rest of the university catching up with us.  Every school has been charged with moving forward with an online program, and I’m proud that the USC Rossier School was three years ahead of many others.  We launched our online Master of Arts in Teaching ([email protected]) in June of 2009, and believe me we had our skeptics at the time! How can you possibly teach teaching online?   But we are mission-driven:  all our work is designed to further our mission to improve learning in urban schools locally, nationally and globally.   Our vision is that every student, regardless of personal circumstance, can learn and succeed.  We are not a boutique school with a few students and faculty; true impact in education requires thoughtful scale.  

The only way to scale up was to take the program online.  That’s one difference between us and most of the other schools at USC. The need in this country for more high quality teachers has never been greater.  Besides receiving the masters degree from USC, students also earn a California teacher credential.  This is important to note because we have to meet the high standards of both USC and the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing.  So, students must not only meet every week via live classes using such tools as Adobe Connect, but each student is placed in a school in his or her local community from the beginning of the program  Since the online MAT started, we have graduated over 1200 students living in all 50 states and over 40 countries.  We have partnered with over 1400 school districts. And we are expanding with new online programs this year.
 Question:  What was your rationale to partner with 2U rather than do everything internally?
The issue was capacity.  We knew the content and curriculum, we had the best faculty, and we had a track record of preparing high quality teachers, but we also knew knew we did not have the expertise to build and maintain the type of Learning Management System (LMS) that would adequately support our program.  We were not going to shortchange our students in any way.  We wanted a robust, interactive, synchronous, live experience for our students and we also wanted the back-end infrastructure to be maintained by experts, so that the functioning of the technology was always sound.  John Katzman and his team at 2U (then 2Tor) worked with us hand-in-hand until we had a platform that we knew was worthy of our quality program.
 Question:  You have been somewhat skeptical of MOOCs in your writing, and I gather that this is not the strategic direction that USC is going.  Can you elaborate?

I am actually taking a MOOC course myself right now through Coursera.  Me and 260,000 of my closest friends!  I wanted to experience for myself what all the hype is about.  And as I’ve said before, I can’t help comparing them to The Great Courses, audio tapes of wonderful classes from top universities, which my husband and I always enjoyed.  I’m absorbing information, but I’m certainly not interacting in any meaningful or face-to-face discussions. Now there is a certain amount of interactivity with my MOOC experience, I’ll admit. You can post comments through many different social media during the MOOC course which, because of the number of participants, is a bit like drinking through a fire hose.  If you think of the credits rolling by at the end of a movie, that is how fast comments roll by while reading content or watching UTube videos.  I find it almost impossible to gain anything of substance from my fellow students’ postings because they are coming so fast and furiously, and often superficially.

The kind of robust interactivity and quality demanded by a hybrid degree program like Rossier’s Master of Arts in Teaching does not come cheaply, and it certainly doesn’t come for free, like the MOOC I’m taking.
This is the difficulty with a broad term like “;online”. We’re talking about apples and oranges.  But the language we use currently to categorize online education is not refined enough to differentiate experiences or signify quality.
 Question:  Tell us about the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship.  What will this designation allow you to accomplish?  What are your goals to leverage this honor?   
It was a true honor to be selected for this Fellowship, and I’m eager to meet with my new colleagues and begin this two-year experience.   We will meet for the first time next month, so our goals as a group will be formed then.  It is flattering that for the first time they brought a dean from a School of Education to this prestigious table.  I think that programs like our online MAT and our new LAUSD charter school, USC Hybrid High School, speak loudly about us.  Our work is bold.  It can be risky.  Our mission demands that of us.  Or as I like to say, the Rossier School of Education is not your grandmother’s school of education.

What questions do you have for Karen?

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