Thursday, July 23, 2015

Anna Deavere Smith's Performances at Penn and Beyond

Anna Deavere Smith’s play, “Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education, the California Chapter,” is now showing at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. This past May, Smith delighted an audience of nearly 400 at the Penn Museum as part of the GSE centennial celebration.  

During her visit to Philadelphia, Smith performed a work in progress examining the school-to-prison pipeline. This work “would eventually become ‘Notes from the Field,’” explained Melissa Kapadia-Bodi, who was one of the event organizers. The Daily Beast recently published a large write-up on Smith and her work, explaining that “Smith did about 170 interviews for this play,” from which she draws to embody these different individuals while onstage. 

In between her portrayals of interviewees, Smith incorporates viewers into her work.  As the Daily Beast reports:

“For the second act of Notes from the Field, the audience splits into smaller groups and Youth Speaks, an arts education program, facilitate discussions with audience members on how to create change in the schools and for children.” 

Smith, who graduated from what is now Arcadia University, has been moved by recent events in the Philly educational system, reports. An article notes that Smith “wound up in Philly last year, around the same time that the Philadelphia School District had begun letting go of nurses and counselors for financial reasons. ‘What I heard about and experienced first in Philly was a great need,’ she says. ‘It went from there.’” 

Photo credit: Darryl Moran

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Looking to Volunteer? Here's Why It's A Great Option for Grad Students

As future educators, many GSE students are already highly involved in the communities surrounding them both at Penn and in the greater Philadelphia area. However, any students who may be considering volunteer commitments but need an extra boost of motivation should check out the below tips from an Inside Higher Ed GradHacker piece. Volunteering—on or off campus—does much more than simply boost one’s resume, and despite graduate students’ limited free time, it is certainly a worthwhile activity for many reasons.

According to the piece, some of the outcomes of volunteering include:

The ability to step away from academic stress and issues which actually seem petty after working with someone less fortunate.

The ability to make visible change in a short period of time, which can be a stark contrast to the academic world.

The ability to complete hands-on learning, which can “significantly inform your academic work” by observing technology, for example, at play among a population.

The ability to explore other areas of interest that are not necessarily related to one’s course of study but are also compelling. 

In addition to the reasons listed above, volunteering is excellent because it provides an opportunity for students to cultivate new relationships with both fellow volunteers and those who are being served.  Here at Penn and GSE, there are many opportunities for students to help impact the lives of those in the surrounding area. The Netter Center, for example, leads a variety of initiatives geared toward the West Philadelphia community and beyond. For information on additional volunteer opportunities in Philadelphia—pertaining to education, sustainability, and more—consult this website.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Responding to Verbal Abuse in Academia

Verbal abuse in academia is inevitable, but there are many ways to deal with the issue, Cornell University professor Robert Sternberg writes in a Chronicle piece. Sternberg outlines many methods to manage the abuse without doling it out in return.

Sternberg himself was a victim of verbal abuse that was “attempting to be both professionally devastating and personally demeaning,” he writes. He now believes, “Of greatest concern here is not what you say to the abuser, but rather with what you tell yourself.” We take a look at his tips for those in academia. 

Sometimes, abuse comes from a difficult individual who is known for behaving this way toward many people, and “[t]he way they act speaks poorly of them, not of you,” Sternberg explains. He also advocates for ignoring an abusive individual if possible or to “at least ignore the abusive words or the tone in which they were spoken.” 

You can also choose to “throw an abuser seriously off guard by reacting to a rant with kindness rather than aggression,” Sternberg says. Seems like that old “kill them with kindness” strategy is actually recommended!

Remember what teachers and professors have always told you about respectfully disagreeing with a classmate’s ideas rather than criticizing the actual student? Sternberg draws on this concept and points out that sometimes, criticism he receives is “directed not at me as a person but at me as a proponent of ideas with which they disagree.” However, because we’re looking at cases in which a tone is less than polite, respectful disagreements may be less common. Sternberg states, “Listen to what is said; ignore the way it is said.” Sifting through negative language in order to find useful criticism can be helpful. 

Every job has its downsides. Sternberg says that when it comes to criticism, “[i]t’s like paying a tax for the privilege of being an academic” as well as “a sign you are being creative and doing your job right.” 

Facing criticism from a particular individual is also a way to determine “where the abuser stands rather than thinking he or she is your pal,” which can be beneficial in the long run, Sternberg says.
Finally, academics should make sure that they, too, are abstaining from the same behavior that is bothering them and can even take a case of criticism as an opportunity to teach a colleague how to better address such an issue. 

Students, professors, and everyone else—how have you responded to verbal abuse in your academic career? Which of Sternberg’s tips do you believe is most effective?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Co-Authoring with a Professor? Here are Some Tips

Students at various points in their education—whether they are undergraduates or doctoral candidates—may have the opportunity to conduct research and subsequently publish a report alongside a professor. With this opportunity, students may have many questions about proper etiquette and behavior during the publishing process. In an Inside Higher Ed piece, DeWitt Scott, a doctoral candidate at Chicago State University, outlines several tips for those working alongside faculty members and how to make the most of this co-authoring experience. 

Scott advocates that:  

·    Taking on a manageable amount of work is necessary—problems will emerge when one is ultimately not able to complete all of the assignments he or she agreed to handle.

·    Questioning the professor when appropriate is acceptable as is holding him or her to any deadlines the two of you have established in order to maximize productivity.

·    Looking into co-presenting at a conference is a great way to engage with others in the field. 

·    Staying in touch with your professor and looping back in with him or her once you have graduated is beneficial—maybe the two of you can collaborate on another initiative. 

Ultimately, Scott writes, “The success of the project and development of the relationship depend, in large part, on your ability to be honest, assertive, and efficient.”

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Companies Covering College Costs

If you’ve been staying on top of higher ed-related news, you’ve probably heard about Starbucks’ partnership with Arizona State University which “will now offer 100 percent tuition coverage for every eligible U.S. Starbucks partner (employee).” 

Starbucks is not the only company willing to foot the cost of an employee’s education, as described in a recent Kiplinger’s Personal Finance piece. Companies are eager to “attract and retain the best talent,” and paying for employees’ degrees is a means of doing so. Partnerships described include those between Starbucks and ASU, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Strayer University, and health insurance company Anthem and College for America at the University of Southern New Hampshire. 

Stipulations vary among programs—some companies will wait to reimburse students for tuition or will only do so if students achieve certain grades. Companies may also “limit employees to career-related coursework” while in these programs. Overall, though, enrolling through a company is financially-savvy in that “benefits managers are negotiating with large universities for a better deal on tuition than you would get if you were paying for classes on your own.” Plus, as the article indicates, these partnerships are more common than one may think—and will become even more prevalent with the expansion of online education.