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Democracy and higher education

traditions and stories of civic engagement

Scott J. Peters

How are we to understand the nature and value of higher education's public purposes, mission, and work in a democratic society? How do-and how should-academic professionals contribute to and participate in civic life in their practices as scholars, scientists, and educators?
     Democracy and Higher Education addresses these questions by combining an examination of several normative traditions of civic engagement in American higher education with the presentation and interpretation of a dozen oral history profiles of contemporary practitioners. In his analysis of these profiles, Scott Peters reveals and interprets a democratic-minded civic professionalism that includes and interweaves expert, social critic, responsive service, and proactive leadership roles. 
     Democracy and Higher Education contributes to a new line of research on the critically important task of strengthening and defending higher education's positive roles in and for a democratic society.

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Democracy's Education

Public Work, Citizenship, and the Future of Colleges and Universities

Harry C. Boyte

Today Americans feel powerless in the face of problems on every front. Such feelings are acute in higher education, where educators are experiencing an avalanche of changes: cost cutting, new technologies, and demands that higher education be narrowly geared to the needs of today's workplace. College graduates face mounting debt and uncertain job prospects, and worry about a coarsening of the mass culture and the erosion of authentic human relationships. Higher education is increasingly seen, and often portrays itself, as a ticket to individual success--a private good, not a public one.


Democracy's Education grows from the American Commonwealth Partnership, a year-long project to revitalize the democratic narrative of higher education that began with an invitation to Harry Boyte from the White House to put together a coalition aimed at strengthening higher education as a public good. The project was launched at the beginning of 2012 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which created land grant colleges.


Beginning with an essay by Harry C. Boyte, "Reinventing Citizenship as Public Work," which challenges educators and their partners to claim their power to shape the story of higher education and the civic careers of students, the collection brings world-famous scholars, senior government officials, and university presidents together with faculty, students, staff, community organizers, and intellectuals from across the United States and South Africa and Japan. Contributors describe many constructive responses to change already taking place in different kinds of institutions, and present cutting-edge ideas like "civic science," "civic studies," "citizen professionalism," and "citizen alumni." Authors detail practical approaches to making change, from new faculty and student roles to changes in curriculum and student life and strategies for everyday citizen empowerment. Overall, the work develops a democratic story of education urgently needed to address today's challenges, from climate change to growing inequality.

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Designing the New American University

Michael M. Crow and William B. Dabars

America’s research universities consistently dominate global rankings but may be entrenched in a model that no longer accomplishes their purposes. With their multiple roles of discovery, teaching, and public service, these institutions represent the gold standard in American higher education, but their evolution since the nineteenth century has been only incremental. The need for a new and complementary model that offers accessibility to an academic platform underpinned by knowledge production is critical to our well-being and economic competitiveness. Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University and an outspoken advocate for reinventing the public research university, conceived the New American University model when he moved from Columbia University to Arizona State in 2002. Following a comprehensive reconceptualization spanning more than a decade, ASU has emerged as an international academic and research powerhouse that serves as the foundational prototype for the new model. Crow has led the transformation of ASU into an egalitarian institution committed to academic excellence, inclusiveness to a broad demographic, and maximum societal impact. In Designing the New American University, Crow and coauthor William B. Dabars—a historian whose research focus is the American research university—examine the emergence of this set of institutions and the imperative for the new model, the tenets of which may be adapted by colleges and universities, both public and private. Through institutional innovation, say Crow and Dabars, universities are apt to realize unique and differentiated identities, which maximize their potential to generate the ideas, products, and processes that impact quality of life, standard of living, and national economic competitiveness. Designing the New American University will ignite a national discussion about the future evolution of the American research university.

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Developing Learning Environments

Creativity, Motivation and Collaboration in Higher Education

Ora Kwo ,Tim Moore ,John Jones

This book addresses critical challenges for university renewal, and sketches critical issues in Hong Kong's higher education that have global implications.

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Diploma Mills

How For-Profit Colleges Stiffed Students, Taxpayers, and the American Dream

A. J. Angulo

The most significant shift in higher education over the past two decades has been the emergence of for-profit colleges and universities. These online and storefront institutions lure students with promises of fast degrees and "guaranteed" job placement, but what they deliver is often something quite different. In this provocative history of for-profit higher education, historian and educational researcher A. J. Angulo tells the remarkable and often sordid story of these "diploma mills," which target low-income and nontraditional students while scooping up a disproportionate amount of federal student aid.

Tapping into a little-known history with big implications, Angulo takes readers on a lively journey that begins with the apprenticeship system of colonial America and ends with today’s politically savvy $35 billion multinational for-profit industry. He traces the transformation of nineteenth-century reading and writing schools into "commercial" and "business" colleges, explores the early twentieth century’s move toward professionalization and progressivism, and explains why the GI Bill prompted a surge of new for-profit institutions. He also shows how well-founded concerns about profit-seeking in higher education have evolved over the centuries and argues that financial gaming and maneuvering by these institutions threatens to destabilize the entire federal student aid program.

This is the first sweeping narrative history to explain why for-profits have mattered to students, taxpayers, lawmakers, and the many others who have viewed higher education as part of the American dream. Diploma Mills speaks to today’s concerns by shedding light on unmistakable conflicts of interest long associated with this scandal-plagued class of colleges and universities.

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Discord And Direction

The Postmodern Writing Program Administrator

edited by Sharon James McGee & Carolyn Handa

The argument of this collection is that the cultural and intellectual legacies of postmodernism impinge, significantly and daily, on the practice of the Writing Program Administrator. WPAs work in spaces where they must assume responsibility for a multifaceted program, a diverse curriculum, instructors with varying pedagogies and technological expertise—and where they must position their program in relation to a university with its own conflicted mission, and a state with its unpredictable views of accountability and assessment.

The collection further argues that postmodernism offers a useful lens through which to understand the work of WPAs and to examine the discordant cultural and institutional issues that shape their work. Each chapter tackles a problem local to its author’s writing program or experience as a WPA, and each responds to existing discord in creative ways that move toward rebuilding and redirection.

It is a given that accepting the role of WPA will land you squarely in the bind between modernism and postmodernism: while composition studies as a field arguably still reflects a modernist ethos, the WPA must grapple daily with postmodern habits of thought and ways of being. The effort to live in this role may or may not mean that a WPA will adopt a postmodern stance; it does mean, however, that being a WPA requires dealing with the postmodern.

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Dispersal and Renewal

Hong Kong University During the War Years

Clifford Matthews ,Oswald Cheung

In this volume, dedicated to the memory of Hong Kong University students, faculty and members of the Court who lost their lives as a result of hostilities in the Far East during 1941-1945, we ask what happened to the University during those years of Japanese occupation when there was only the shell of a campus left standing on Pokfulam Road.

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Divided Conversations

Identities, Leadership, and Change in Public Higher Education

Kristin G. Esterberg

Through their interviews with faculty and administrators (from department chairs and deans to provosts and presidents) from a sample of eight public universities in the Northeast and their own experiences in both worlds, the authors provide a unique window into the life experiences and identities of those who struggle to make universities work. The book examines the culture of academic institutions and attempts to understand why change in public higher education is so difficult to accomplish.


Many faculty believe that one of their own who becomes an administrator has gone over to "the dark side." One provost recalled going for a beer with a faculty colleague and hearing the colleague complain about the latest memo "from the administration." He had to remind his friend of many years that he was the author of the offending document. Now he was "the administration." He realized that former colleagues now appeared in his office wearing suits and ties and referring to him by his title rather than his first name.


The disciplines serve as the tribes into which individual scholars are organized; the discipline is where a faculty member finds his community and identity. Administrators, on the other hand, identify with each other in trying to get the tribes to work together. Though most administrators came from the faculty ranks, their career paths take a different shape, especially in terms of mobility to another institution. It's not surprising that the two groups talk past each other.


A chapter is devoted to chairs of departments, who occupy an interesting middle ground. To their faculty, they can come across as a nurturing parent or a petty bureaucrat. The authors recommend training for chairs and administrative internships offered by the American Council on Education and other organizations.


The men and women on the campuses of the public universities described in the book make clear the challenges that universities face in terms of budgets, legislative politics, collective bargaining, rankings, and control of academic programs. If public institutions are truly to serve a public purpose, faculty and administrators must find ways to engage each other in shared conversation and management and find ways of engaging the university with the community.

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Do Community Colleges Respond to Local Needs?

Evidence from California

Duane E. Leigh and Andrew M. Gill

This monograph advances our knowledge about the role in local workforce development that each community college plays.

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Doctoral Education and the Faculty of the Future

American colleges and universities simultaneously face large numbers of faculty retirements and expanding enrollments. Budget constraints have led colleges and universities to substitute part-time and full-time non-tenure-track faculty for tenure-track faculty, and the demand for faculty members will likely be high in the decade ahead.

This heightened demand is coming at a time when the share of American college graduates who go on for PhD study is far below its historic high. The declining interest of American students in doctoral programs is due to many factors, including long completion times, low completion rates, the high cost of doctoral education, and the decline in the share of faculty positions that are tenured or on the tenure track. In short, doctoral education is in crisis because the impediments are many and the rewards are few; students often choose instead to enroll in professional programs that result in more marketable credentials.

In Doctoral Education and the Faculty of the Future, scientists, social scientists, academic administrators, and policymakers describe their efforts to increase and improve the supply of future faculty. They cover topics ranging from increasing undergraduate interest in doctoral study to improving the doctoral experience and the participation of underrepresented groups in doctoral education.

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