Graduates Are Told They Can Do Anything With Their Degrees. Is That Why They Feel Lost?

The Chronicle of Higher Education

…Unfortunately, for many students, the march toward high-school diplomas and college degrees doesn’t include a lot of time for reflection, technical training, or practical experience in a career. And many colleges don’t methodically connect students to alumni or local professionals who can outline what a student can expect from a profession, or how to get started. Many administrators also note that students today are less likely to have worked in high school, opting instead to concentrate on homework and activities to pad their college applications.

In the years since Mike left Wake Forest, the university has been lauded for its work in career counseling, with its vice president for innovation and career development, Andy Chan, becoming something of a rock star among colleges’ career counselors. Many other colleges are making similar efforts to blend a liberal-arts education with practical or technical skills — considered a killer combination in the job market today.

Trinity College, in Connecticut, recently formed a partnership with Infosys, an information-technology and consulting company, to establish an “Applied Learning Initiative,” providing liberal-arts students with a chance to gain (optional and noncredit) experience in technology and business. Sonia Cardenas, Trinity’s dean of academic affairs and strategic initiatives, says the partnership stemmed from a new strategy at Infosys to more intentionally hire liberal-arts majors.

“We’re not changing anything about their core education,” says Cardenas. “But this is going to give them — we hope — optional skills on the technical side that we don’t think liberal-arts colleges are offering.”…


Justice Kavanaugh: What to expect – By Kevin J. McMahon

Now that Brett Kavanaugh has taken a seat on the Supreme Court, what might we expect? To help answer this question, it is useful to employ a modified version of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s quote about “knowns” and “unknowns.”

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know”: Justice Kavanaugh is a conservative. While there is some disagreement about how conservative, every analysis I’ve read puts him at least to the right of Chief Justice John Roberts. This means that he is expected to join the chief and the other three Republican appointed justices to move the court to the right in clear and distinct terms over the next decade or so. After all, as a group, these five conservatives are quite young by historical comparisons. The oldest, Clarence Thomas, is 70, a full fifteen years younger than the oldest liberal justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The new swing justice — representing the ideological middle of the court and replacing the retiring Anthony Kennedy — will likely be Chief Justice Roberts. And while Roberts has angered conservatives on occasion, particularly with his decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), he is generally quite conservative.

With this group of five in place, the list of cases likely in line for elimination or significant reconstruction is fairly well known: Roe v. Wade (abortion), Grutter v. Bollinger (affirmative action), and Morrison v. Olson (presidential power), among others…

Kevin McMahon is the John R. Reitemeyer Professor of Political Science and director of the graduate program in public policy at Trinity College


How Students Learned to Stop Worrying — and Love Being Spied On – By David Rosen and Aaron Santensso

The Chronicle of Higher Education

In the past few weeks, you may have received, as we did, an email advertisement from Macmillan Learning for a new way to keep an eye on your students. “Are you interested in tracking attendance,” it asks, “but don’t want to keep track of paper?” Sign up for the new “iClicker Reef,” which comes with a “geolocation attendance feature.” When students show up for class, an app on their phones will indicate their presence. For large courses especially, the device makes a certain pragmatic sense: The sheer burden of monitoring 500 students means that, inevitably, some of them will disappear unnoticed. Now professors can detect patterns of attendance, and students, in an effort to improve, can track their own bad (or good) behavior.

Our own reaction to this ad, before we hit the delete button, was mainly irritation, with a hint of alarm: Here was one more instance of our students being asked to surrender something precious — their privacy. The possible benefits didn’t outweigh what was being given up. And yet, had we purchased this product, it is highly unlikely that our students would have shared our concerns. The spread of monitoring technologies in higher education has revealed a sharp split along generational and professional lines: Faculty uproar at each new apparent violation of privacy has been met, again and again, by student indifference or even enthusiasm.

When the University of Georgia began installing iris-detection cameras last year at the entrances of its dining halls and student center, roughly 900 students voluntarily pre-enrolled within the first week; when Georgia Southern introduced a similar system, in 2013, one student out of the original cohort of 3,000 declined to enroll. In the words of one Georgia Southern first-year, quoted in the campus newspaper: “It’s really cool, and you get through as fast as possible.”…

David Rosen is a professor of English at Trinity College, in Connecticut, and Aaron Santesso is a professor of literature at the Georgia Institute of Technology. They are the authors of The Watchman in Pieces: Surveillance, Literature, and Liberal Personhood (Yale University Press, 2013).


Editorial: To Halt Connecticut’s Pyrrhotite Plague, Follow Europe’s Lead

Hartford Courant

For the past year, Jonathan Gourley, with his students, has knocked on neighbors’ doors, gone down rail trails and through forests, and stopped at roadside cliffs to pick up fistfuls of rocks. The Trinity College geology professor is trying to find out more about the pyrrhotite that might lie within them.

That’s the dangerous mineral that has wreaked havoc with homes east of the Connecticut River. Too little is known about exactly where it lies in Connecticut’s bedrock.

Professor Gourley is trying to come up with some answers. “If there are going to be standards for quarries, some detailed studies of known problem formations like the Brimfield Schist will be useful,” he says.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is recommending that Connecticut adopt some of the toughest quarry standards in the U.S. because of the state’s problems with pyrrhotite in home foundations.

Given what Connecticut is going through, the Army Corps is dead-on…


Scientists Across the Globe Are Hunting for Pure Randomness

You take the interstate to get home and rely on the water utility for a drink. But have you ever felt the need for some publicly available randomness?

Governments and researchers around the world think you might, with projects in the works to produce public sources, or “beacons,” of randomness. From quantum-physics experiments to distributed projects that anyone with a laptop could help produce, a wide range of efforts aim to bring randomness to your fingertips.

Publicly available randomness helps ensure online security, free elections and fair immigration practices — and may even help address deep questions about the nature of the universe. But producing these randomness beacons ­­— secure, truly random numbers that the public can trust — ­poses huge challenges, sending researchers into the quantum realm and beyond in search of fundamentally unpredictable phenomena. Here’s why scientists see randomness as a public utility — and how they’re trying to make a mess for your sake.

What counts as random?

We’ve all experienced it, but may not know exactly what it is: Randomness is the level of disorder and unpredictability in a system. True, pure randomness is fundamentally unpredictable, said physicist Krister Shalm, who leads quantum experiments for the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). For instance, if you watched a source of truly random numbers forever, over time, your odds of getting any given number would be the same. (Randomness differs slightly from the related term entropy, which is a numerical measure of disorder.)

Why would anyone want to increase disorder in the world? It turns out, public sources of randomness can aid in a number of tasks, from safeguarding complex cryptography to shuffling card decks in online games, said Ewa Syta, a computer scientist at Trinity College in Connecticut.

“Public randomness is used in … any kind of system that requires some way to make a decision … to do anything where you want some fair way to agree upon things,” Syta told Live Science. “Basically, what public randomness gives you is a way to implement a fair coin toss.”…


At Hampshire College, A Mock Museum Of Appropriated Puerto Rican Identity

New England Public Radio
Many of the photos in Pablo Delano‘s exhibit at Hampshire College are more than 100 years old. They depict the island’s lush flora and fauna, and its people — as farmers, beauty queens, jail inmates — and in most cases, there’s some connection to the U.S. government.
Delano, a Hartford visual artist who teaches at Trinity College, has collected these photos for years. One of them, taken in the year 1900, shows four naked children standing on a beach in Puerto Rico, staring at the ocean.
The captions on display are original. For this photo, the caption begins, “Waiting for Uncle Sam — on the Beach at Puerto Rico.”
“The texts are a very important part of the exhibit,” Delano said on a recent tour of the exhibit.
This caption also includes this line:
“[O]ne of the first duties of the United States will be to establish some sort of a system of compulsory education that shall raise the people from their present state of woeful ignorance and provide better things for the coming generation.”
“It [also] talks about these children living a free, ‘Topsy’-like life,” Delano said.
He characterized the comparison to Topsy, a character in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” as sarcastic.
It’s racist.
Topsy was a young black slave, described by author Harriet Beecher Stowe as wicked and disobedient, until a white family shows her kindness and love and she becomes a girl who “strives” to be good.
Delano brought this and other images together into what he calls “The Museum of the Old Colony,” referencing how long Puerto Rico has been under someone else’s rule. He wants visitors to the mock-museum to look closely at the photos and question everything, including the captions, which were written mostly by non-Puerto Ricans…