Keeping abreast of the morphing demographics of generational characteristics seems an essential sin for marketers, poli-sci profilers, and educators. I say sin because no one really likes to suffer the stereotypes. (As a Mexican-American, I am always reticent to confess my love of beans and tortillas. But they really are good!)
There is an entire dogma to the millennial demographic that can be ascribed to Dr. Leonard Sax  and Dr. Jean Twenge who is likewise an authority on the characteristics of iGen – the generation born between 1995 – 2012.
At 37-years old, I do not feel too distant from the characteristics of this youngest generation. Born in 1980, I’m barely a millennial, thus the iGen’s overarching generational trends of foregoing a driver’s license, obsession with safety, and not having as many friends are relatable to me as an introverted SoCal refugee who abhors traffic and has paralysis-inducing fear of germs.
My beef with iGen is with their trends in learning. In Dr. Twenge’s Atlantic piece, she documents that these post-millennials do not read. Yes, they do not read. They are literate (I assume), but they eschew the hard-won, time-honored, species-defining, practice of reading books in favor of videos and podcasts. As a lawyer, an author (albeit of law articles that no one reads), a once grade school “slow-reader” turned connoisseur of lit worthy of qualifying antecedents, and oh yes, an educator, this characteristic of not reading textbooks, ebooks, or book-books is scary on many levels.
I went existential after reading Twenge. Am I a dinosaur? Am I causing issues for my students in expecting them to read 60+ pages a week? (We do 8-week sessions in the business department.) I am trying to be positive and objective (to keep from crying): iGen-ers dislike lectures, dislike reading, dislike long formatted papers. In fact, Twenge remarks that newer textbooks are packed with pictures, a full-color palate, and must be updated at least every 2 years to fight the slide; never mind that every economic undgrad in America used Chiang’s Quantitative Methods text for the past 50 years and society progresses still.
There’s redemption. A University of Michigan economics professor, Dr. Susan Dynarski, challenged higher ed to keep laptops out of the classroom. There is an incredible amount of research showing that laptops are not as effective as old school note-taking. There’s something about processing the information and writing it down that straight transcription misses.
Anecdotally, I actually followed the old script of never missing class, sitting at the front of the room, outlining, never pulling all-nighters, and I never used my laptop in any of my classroom lectures ever. I know enough about myself that my focus will be destroyed with electronics in my proximity, and why would you blow your tuition not being fully present? This may win me some virtue points with the nerd gods, but I honestly believe that this was the best way to learn, and I try to shepherd my students in my antiquated ways. I won’t go as far as banning laptops from my classes as I am too libertarian for it, but I can present information and hope that students will aspire to the challenge. Maybe it’ll catch on.
I saw that this company called Moleskine actually sells paper notebooks for $15 and up. This is called a Giffen-good in economics and some of the irony is not lost on me that Dollar General sells a similar product at a striking discount. But if a huge markup makes the basics hip again, I welcome it.
 Twenge, Jean. (2017). iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us. New York: Atria Books.
Twenge, Jean. (2017). Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Atlantic, Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/
 Chiang, Alpha. (1967). Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics. New York: Mcgraw Hill.
 Dynarski, Susan. (2017). New York Times. Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/22/business/laptops-not-during-lecture-or-meeting.html
It was a bright sun, cool, but the sun made it feel warmer. The students looked towards me, but they looked through me. I was blurred at the front of the room.
I was not making any sounds that they could hear. On this day I would have to stand on my head.
I would have to draw funny pictures on the board. I would have to run in circles and do imitations. But nothing would work, of course. I knew that.
There was a beast in the room. They could feel it, and I could feel it. We all felt its lurking heaviness. It sat on top of us, crushing us with all its mangled metal and flashing red lights. We were smothering under its oil and gasoline and burning rubber.
I knew when I entered the classroom that the beast would be in there. I knew it was going to sit on us. I knew that there would be nothing the students nor I could do to defend against that horrible weight. I was foolishly angry at myself that I, their teacher, could not drive that horrible beast out of the room, that I could not save them from it–but the pervasive, somberness of the beast would overwhelm us. And it did.
“We’re not meeting today.”
When the room was empty, I looked again at her empty desk and told her I would miss her. Outside, the sun was graciously warm on my face. I walked with that old and worn bag of tricks clutched firmly in my hand. On most days, the tricks would still work.
There’s this phrase that you seem to hear popping up an awful lot during your first year at CSC (and probably many other places as well).
You probably feel like you are drinking from the fire hose…
Now, I know we have you drinking from the fire hose…
You all have so much going on right now and it’s like drinking from the firehose…
Yes. Yes it is.
As a career academic, this isn’t really all that new of a concept for me. Traveling way back in time, I can recall my first year as an undergraduate. New city, new school, new job, new teachers, new friends…it was all pretty overwhelming and, despite my excitement, balancing work and school with some semblance of a personal life was a big challenge. I was a chronic over-achiever throughout high school, so I had developed some skills to help with this, but I was not yet very good at the time management piece. That blur of a freshman year hit me unexpectedly as the fire hose was opened for the first time. There was so much to read…so much to write…so much to study…and not nearly enough hours in the day or enough caffeine to keep me going even though I worked for Starbucks throughout the time that I was pursuing my undergraduate degree.
Four years later and I am able to say that I successfully survived the B.S. I then decided to keep learning about biology and became a graduate student. I worked on my M.S. at the same institution, so I didn’t have to start all over on the finding friends or building up my professional reputation bit. However, this was still a pretty transitional time for me. I was being hit with more information and starting to realize just how little I understood about this field that I had just earned a degree in. The pressure from that fire hose increased as all of these new data came pouring into my consciousness, and I struggled to hold on to every drop that I could (often failing miserably and eventually redefining success as my ability to fill a bucket here and a bucket there rather than trying to get it all). By the time I started my master’s program, I had already been teaching for a year (as a senior undergraduate lab instructor), and I was beginning to develop confidence, competence, and comfort in the classroom. I somehow also balanced my thesis research, an independent research project, and writing an in-house lab manual while taking classes and teaching over the next three years.
Then came the Ph.D. years. There I was, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed graduate with two shiny new letters to tack on to the end of my new last name, Johnica J. Morrow, M.S. Being able to call myself a “master of science” had a nice ring to it. My new husband and I moved from the state we had both called home our whole lives so that I could further master my trade. There we were, newly married, moving to a new city in a new state so that I could start a new program. Cue fire hose. Not only was I teaching and conducting research for my dissertation, now I found myself also having to write grant proposals, attend training workshops, work on a number of side projects and contract jobs, deal with a whole new level of financial uncertainty from one semester to the next (I was not brought in on a grant or permanent contract for my program), build a professional reputation by attending seminars and conferences, and find time to also serve my discipline and my department. I picked up more and more responsibilities, side projects, and other obligations with each passing year. While it was certainly a fire hose situation for the next four years, the amount coming out of the hydrant was steadily increased rather than opened full-blast from day one. I eventually made it through my program, spent a year chasing a tenure-track position, and eventually wound up on the other side of the state, right here in Chadron, Nebraska.
Which brings us to where we are now. That fire hose is full-blast, high-pressure, you-had-better-get-all-that-you-can-while-you-can at this point. Oddly enough, it seems to be more of an off-and-on situation. I have had weeks of barely managing not to drown in my own feeble attempts to stay ahead of the material that I will be using in my classrooms. These weeks have been punctuated by a few days of sweet relief in which I could go home before 10 pm, actually make a decent dinner, and even shower before falling asleep so that I could start the next day that would end with me already being behind again. The fire hose is back on, but at least now I’m wearing a swimsuit.
I think one of the reasons that this semester has seemed to be so simultaneously daunting and manageable has been that I don’t feel unsupported or abandoned. I don’t feel like there is nowhere to go and no one to turn to when I inevitably need help. I don’t feel alone. I’m part of a new faculty cohort that meets every other week to encourage one another to keep drinking from this fire hose we are all dealing with. My dean has been wonderful in meeting with me to address concerns and map out a plan for me to be able to reach my goals by the end of this first semester. The good people down at UNMC who met with me this summer have continued to provide support for my efforts to build my courses here at CSC. My colleagues in my department are frequently checking in with me to see if I need help and offering words of encouragement when they see that fire hose bulging from the increased fluid rushing my direction.
This work atmosphere is so unlike what I have been exposed to at other institutions. It is so unlike what I have heard colleagues outside of CSC talk about with their home institutions. It’s so unlike all of the horror stories that I’ve read about the notoriously dysfunctional departments found in some institutions…and it all comes down to people. CSC has great people. Great faculty. Great support staff. Great administrators. Even great students, despite the few whiny moments that hit some of them from time to time.
It is certainly easier to keep drinking when you have a crowd cheering you on. It’s starting to feel like that water pressure is decreasing ever so slightly. For now, it remains….long days, late nights, a million meetings, and enough paperwork to build an igloo that could keep me warm on days when the college doesn’t think it’s cold enough to turn on the heater (these natives are much better adapted for this climate than I am, even after spending the past six years this far north).
Of course there are things that can, and hopefully will, change for the better at CSC in the coming years, but for the moment I am loving the chaos that has been my first semester. I’m exhausted, but not burnt out or prematurely jaded by the system. I’m looking forward to finishing out the year and enjoying the holidays, but I’m also looking forward to the spring semester. The good news is that even with all of this water rushing out of the fire hose and drenching me, I’m still thirsty.
Developing teacher presence is something I continually work on. Not the kind, mind you, I remember in high school where the nuns expected us to jump out of our chairs with a “Sister, Yes Sister!” whenever they asked us a question. And certainly not the kind my speech professor modeled when he taught a class or two from the rooftop of the communications building while we, below, wondered just how sure-footed he really was.
Instead, I work on things like making connections with my students. Do I know a little bit about each one so that they genuinely believe that I care about their learning? Do I know their stories? Is my voice tone such that they hear passion and not pressure? Do I have apt examples and anecdotes that back up the sometimes recondite theories and concepts?
I think we owe it to our students to strive to improve our teaching presence. And yet, I’ve come to realize that try as I may in this noble endeavor, there are those moments I lose a few students to side-conversations and cell phone sneak-peeks. That’s when I remember the beloved nuns and eccentric orators. It might also be why I wrote this poem, “Sting” (Kenney, 2016):
With my lecture on the brink of defeat
to side conversations and roaming
cell phone eyes, I asked if anyone
had trouble paying attention
to the newly introduced idea
when the quietest student of all
raised her hand and said it was the wasp
skimming the ceiling that had hers-
and every head looked up in time
to see the yellow-black glider,
its long legs dangling
like landing gear
looking for a runway.
For a second, it hovered over the middle row
as if pondering descent onto a mound
of chow mein- then quickly crossed
the room in one face-felt swoop-
the face belonging to Kicks
who removed his cap in reprisal
when the gentle voice opined
and suggested we keep in check
any weapons that whack or smack-
for venom’s fresh spill, she warned,
meant havoc and hate and harshness of hive.
She whispered why it wasn’t worth the risk
and explained how one of her friends
got stung in the mouth-
the horror of tongue-swell,
the panic of purple.
And so we sat
for what seemed a semester
with sealed lips and trailing eyes-
a kind of rattled serenity
I never thought possible, thanks
to a lesson in presence, one may I learn to land.
Kenney, R. (2016). Sting. The National Education Association Journal, 32 (1), 63-64.
Dear Faculty and Staff:
I hope you have the opportunity to connect with your colleagues across campus for the Information Fair. CSC conducts the All-Campus Information Fair once a year. This is a time to learn about various units as well as a time to talk with the members of our CSC community – in some cases our paths seldom intersect. Finger food will be available, as some of you have immediate obligations after the Information Fair.
- Chadron State 2020 — http://www.csc.edu/president/2020/index.csc
- MAP Purpose & Priorities — http://www.csc.edu/library/mapsupport/#tab2
- MAP Priorities & Sub-Priorities – click on “Priorities”
- Visit the VPAA Update archive versions on the VPAA website: http://csc.edu/vpaa/snaresreleases/index.csc
- Presidential Committees — http://www.csc.edu/president/index.csc
- Campus-Wide Committees — http://www.csc.edu/president/index.csc
Searches in Academic Affairs
Academic Affairs searches in progress for 2017-18: Director for the Office of Academic Success; Office Assistant II (Memorial Hall & BEAMSS)
Academic Affairs searches in progress for 2018-19: Music (2), Education, and Business (Accounting and Finance/Economics) faculty; Director of Assessment
All-Campus Information Fair: November 9, 2017
The All-Campus Information Fair this year is scheduled for November 9th at 11:00am. This Information Fair replaces the all-campus meeting for the month of November. Come join us as groups from around campus share updates and brand new projects with everyone.
Information tables include the following: The Big Event; PR Club; Human Resources; Health Professions/PHEAST; RLOP/Study Abroad; NBDC; Counseling Department/Accreditation; Information Technology; Rangeland Complex; Deans/Department Reorganization; Agriculture Department/Essential Studies Program, First Year Inquiry; Social Work 435 Class; Teaching and Learning Center; Library Learning Commons; Next MAP/VPAA; Sandoz High Plains ReImagination Team; Assessment/Tk20; Graduate Studies; ROTC; College Relations.
12 October 2017 All-Campus Work Session
Two important conversations regarding recruitment and retention have been held this fall. The first was the annual student, faculty, and staff leadership luncheon. The information gathered at that meeting, especially the students’ emphasis on the importance of advising, led the scheduling of the second meeting, the All Campus Work Session. On October 12th discussion leaders from Executive Council led faculty, staff, and administrators in small group discussions about advising at CSC. During both of these meetings it was clear that everyone recognized the power of effective advising on student retention, and that there are areas of strength and areas of needed improvement. The Strategic Enrollment Management Committee (SEMC) collected and collated the responses from both meetings and at its next meeting will examine these data to see what themes emerge around the issue of advising. A subcommittee will be created to address advising. In addition to the work on advising, the Strategic Enrollment Management Committee will form two other subcommittees to work on Student Engagement and First Year Experiences. The SEMC committee will be asking interested faculty, staff, and administrators to join these subcommittees. If you have a particular interest in one of these topics, please email Jim Powell of your interest.
Webinar – “What’s New in Sakai 11”
The Teaching & Learning Center invites all faculty, adjuncts, and staff to participate in an online Webinar to learn more about the changes and improvements in Sakai 11. Join in from the comfort of your own office – or anywhere – to watch the demonstration, followed by an opportunity to ask your specific questions.
The TLC’s Sam Ballard will conduct a number of 30-45 minute sessions offered completely online. These sessions will be recorded and posted on the TLC Blog for viewing by those who cannot participate.
Join from your computer on any of the following dates (no registration required):
- Tuesday, Nov 14 @ 11:00 – 11:30 am
- Tuesday, Nov 14 @ 5:00 – 5:30 am
- Wednesday, Nov 15 @ 11:00 – 11:30 am
- Wednesday, Nov 15 @ 5:00 – 5:30 pm
- Thursday, Nov 16 @ 11:00 – 11:30 am
- Thursday, Nov 16 @ 5:00 – 5:30 pm
- Friday, Nov 17 @ 3:30 – 4:00 pm
Click the link below for more information and to join in: https://academic.csc.edu/tlc/blog/csc-online-upgrade-to-sakai-11/