Amid the meanderings of my early twenties, I attended a seminary discerning the Catholic religious life contemporaneous with college. The leftovers in philosophy, theology, hermeneutics, basic Latin, and Koine Greek gave me the classical approach to enhance the rest of my education built on western thought, little different from the curriculum of Charles W. Eliot. (Plus, it made me wicked sharp at Scrabble.)
One foresaid leftover in understanding Ancient Greek were in its fables. The poet Archilochus wrote much, but his famous riddle is my favorite: “Many things the fox knows, but the hedgehog one large (important) thing.” Brighter and more creative minds than my own have wrestled with this idea, from Erasmus and Tolstoy to Woody Allen, Jim Collins and Phillip Tetlock. Many interpret it as the virtues of a crafty fox, the vices of a lazy hedgehog, or in predation. For me, I see the fable in the world of work: the world is made up of either specialists or generalists.
For good or bad, disciplines continue to slip into further fractures of subdisciplines. Lawyers specialize, for fear of malpractice, in complex subject matter, physicians continue to focus as medical knowledge grows, and science is broken into wider sub-flavors. The generalist is often seen as a dinosaur, if not a fool in certain fields. Specifically, in the professorate, I am seeing this as the differences in mission and method among the larger R1, R2, and R3 flagships and heavily-endowed privates pitted against the larger body of regional colleges. The bigger and better-funded schools niche into their focuses while generalists fill the regional colleges. Yes, there is incredible value to society with esoteric, specialized research and this should be an end in itself. But there is a risk in holistic replication across academia. There seems to be an obvious dichotomy between professors who research and the professors who teach. I see Archilochus’s fable as the difference of research professors (the hedgehogs) and the teaching professors (the foxes).
These thoughts were spawned in reading a series of articles and editorials in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Brian Nosek’s Atlantic article, and some of the works of Phillip Tetlock. To keep out of the weeds, there are incredible issues with the research professor model of education related to teaching (distinct from research). In The Chronicle of Higher Education’s articles, the research professor model has teaching as an afterthought instead of its focus. The articles further sound alarm that this model is being emulated across the academy as if it’s a goal to hole-up and go nitty-gritty cranking out obscure work that may have marginal value. Tetlock and Nosek have issues with the whole research system given the positivity bias where bad outcomes are not reported, conflicted interests showing selection bias of topic study linked to corporate ties, scientific method shortcuts, short memory of poor predictions, lack of accountability of “experts,” and the broader public’s lack of interest in the majority of the work published.
So, looking forward, will the hedgehogs trump foxes? I’d go all in on the teaching professor. Just because one may excel at research does not necessarily mean one will excel at teaching; they’re nearly completely different events. A marathoner may have the wind that lends well to swimming or biking but technique is a wholly different matter. A teacher may not be the best administrator or researcher despite the contextual, institutional and subject overlaps. Arguably, a teaching professor will likely be more in demand in the future than the researcher. The very real and unique skill of distilling and presenting difficult subject matter will not soon be replaced. Besides, the business model of big research flagships will continue to stratify where the divide of researchers from teaching professors will likely continue. The virtues and strengths of competent teaching professors will likely become distinct and not necessarily binned with researchers. In the coming years, it’s completely likely that these flagships will either spinoff research operations or eliminate the teaching requirement of their research professors.
Parker Palmer is the sage for the teaching professor. He calls for us to honor the vocation of the teaching professor as the goal for the academy. Again, not that research is wrong, but it’s incomplete. Arguably, he urges abstention from the pernicious pressure to hedgehog up and specialize, grinding away on esoteric, niche sub-subjects. The gist of the fable may truly be in the differences between predator and prey, where the generalist benefits in the virtues of the fox, never missing the entirety of the situation. The hedgehog misses out on the finished product, the bigger picture. Or maybe it’s just as simple as taking in the beauty of the forest and not getting distracted by the details of the single tree. Be it existential or aesthetic, the best path to provide quality education for our learners and for the improvement of American higher education is to fox-out and embrace the full borders of our fields.
 Πόλλ᾽ οἶδ᾽ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἕν μέγα.
 Blanchard, K. (2015, March 2). “You Publish, We Perish” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from
 Noske, B. (2015, August 27). “How Reliable Are Psychology Studies? A new study shows that the field suffers from a reproducability problem, but the extent of the issue is still hard to nail down.” Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/08/psychology-studies-reliability-reproducability-nosek/402466/.
 Berlinerblau, J. (2015, January 19). “Teach or Perish” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from
 McCormick, T. (2017, January 8). “Publish and Perish” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/PublishPerish/238816.
 Tetlock, P. (2005, December 5). “Everybody’s an Expert: Putting Predictions to the Test” The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/12/05/everybodys-an-expert.
 Kestenbaum, D., Goldstein, D. (2016, January 15). “Episode 677: The Experiment Experiment” NPR Planet Money. Retrieved from
 Palmer, P. (1998). The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
The following blog post is an article that is reprinted from Faculty Focus, an online journal that focuses on higher education teaching strategies. View the initial publication of the article printed on March 15, 2018.
“I’m afraid I’ll be the only one to think my thoughts, that no one else will see it the way I do. I don’t want to be wrong.”
That was the response by a student to a comment I made asking him to consider participating more in class discussions. The conversation took place one day after class toward the end of the 2017 spring semester when he asked me to sign an academic progress report. A good student, he submitted quality papers on a timely basis. Yet, while he paid attention to my lectures and everyone’s remarks in class, he rarely spoke.
I told him how much I enjoyed reading his assignments, that they were creative and insightful. Although he seemed to appreciate the feedback, he said, “Still… it’s what the others might think.”
His words inspired me to develop, “Another Way to Say It, Another Way to See It.” The program is an opportunity for quieter students to express their thoughts and ideas with writing contributions. I define quiet students as those who do not speak in class or who speak seldom and, when they do, they do so with great difficulty due to anxiety and/or lack of confidence.
I implemented the program during the fall 2017 semester in my face-to-face Introduction to Social Work class. Here are excerpts from the letter I posted online for students to read:
“Have you ever been reluctant to share your thoughts in class? Are there times you wished you had weighed in on a class conversation but, for some reason, did not?
‘Freshman Year’ can be a little overwhelming and I know that some of you may experience anxiety when it comes to speaking in class. That’s why I’ve created this optional forum, a temporary way for you to ‘say it’ in writing until you develop enough confidence to ‘say it’ in class.
Please know I want to hear your thoughts, especially the ones you feel are unique. Don’t worry about being “wrong” or what others think. Share your insights. You may very well be onto something that no one else sees.
And… what could be better than that?”
After discussing what I had posted online, I asked the students to submit a two-paragraph reaction to the idea. Here are some of their comments:
“I have social anxiety and every time I talk in front of a group of people, my face gets red and I start to stutter. I think this program will help me to begin feeling more comfortable expressing my ideas to the rest of the class.”
“Typically, in school, I’ve always been the kid who mumbles the right answer under her breath and waits for someone else to say it out loud. I’m not very confident in classroom settings. Having an outlet to type my thoughts rather than attempting to speak them in a jumbled mess is something I appreciate.”
“I am shy to ask questions, sometimes, because it could be embarrassing. It’s a very judgmental world and this is a good way to help those less confident feel better about expressing themselves.”
At the end of the Fall 2017 semester, there were forty-three comments posted in the forums tool. Nine of twenty-seven students contributed to the forum. Here are excerpts from posts after a class discussion about living conditions on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, approximately fifty miles from Chadron State College:
“I am filled with such heartbreak anytime I go to the reservation. I am obviously white but have never had thoughts of being better.”
“I understand how you feel concerning ‘the rez.’ It causes an aching heart to drive through it, to see hopelessness on the faces of those who survive the place.”
“What we don’t realize is that these conditions are in our own backyard.”
Value of the Project
Each of the quiet students who contributed to the forum eventually spoke in class and, each time they did, they did so with growing confidence. One student spoke for the first time in Week Ten and several times thereafter.
In a general class discussion about the value of the project, several quiet, forum-contributing students stated that they found it useful and would like to continue writing (and speaking) in the spring semester. Of the quiet students who did not contribute to the forum, several said they would consider trying it in the spring. Their reasons for not posting ranged from being “too busy” to “not knowing what to write.”
Encouraged by the students’ responses to the project, I plan to offer the program again in the spring 2018 semester. For those students who responded with “too busy,” I will continue to plug the program in class, using the opportunity to discuss effective ways of managing one’s time.
I will also offer specific examples of the types of posts they can write in hopes of motivating those who responded with “not knowing what to write.”
As one student said, “The forum allows you to get your side of the topic out there. And that can be helpful for everyone.”
Done well, teaching is challenging. I think there is always the question: Do I teach what I know the students need to learn, or do I teach what the students think they need to learn?” It’s great when what I know they need to learn and what they think they need to learn are one and the same—but that’s not always the case. Then, I resolve the question like this: I was hired for my years of experience in the field in which I teach. I do know what the students need to learn.
As the world speeds up, it seems we have the pleasure of experiencing students who desire that same speed in their classes. They often want academic instruction their way and on their terms. Knowledge can be had almost instantly today. It’s accessible everywhere. However, what the students do not have is the personal knowledge that I have of the paths upon which they will journey after they graduate, my personal knowledge of the sharp rocks, the thorny bushes, the dangerous cliffs. I am the only one who has that knowledge. They cannot access it on the internet.
A reminder of why I was hired is all that it takes for me to walk confidently to stand at the front of the classroom and teach what I was hired to teach.
I have been dealing with many more student difficulties this semester than I had to deal with last semester. There’s been more whining, more entitlement, more blaming me for their poor performance. It’s been more than annoying, it’s been emotionally draining and is really impacting my physical health and well-being. There are a few of them who have created this swirling vortex of negativity and have been pulling others in to keep them company in their seeming hatred for my class.
There are about a million things that I want to say to them. I would love to give an entire lecture on how their attitudes and behaviors are hurting them professionally and how the content of my course is nothing compared to what they will be getting when they leave CSC (most of them want to be doctors, physical therapists, physicians assistants, etc. and yet the first exam had “too much information” about human physiology…honey, this is just the tip of the iceberg). It would be a great lecture full of insights and impactful statements that they’d never really hear anyway. Plus, I don’t have a ton of class time because, you know, heavy content course and all.
With all that I have wanted to say and wondered if I should have said, I have found myself asking Craig Ferguson’s three questions over and over:
- Does this need to be said?
- Does this need to be said by me?
- Does this need to be said now?
I have often fallen more on the side of restraint, relegating my thoughts to things expressed while I’m alone, driving home from work, standing in the shower, or lying in bed trying to fall asleep. Perhaps my answer of “no” to those three questions should be “yes” far more frequently. I’ve fallen into my own vortex of negativity by repressing some of the things that I want to say for the sake of professionalism. Once you’re there, swirling around with all that cynicism, it’s hard to pull yourself out.
But, here we are. No one is going to make this semester better or easier for me, I just have to make the best of it myself. I’ve begun to read articles on ways to deal with difficult students. I’ve started seeking more council from my colleagues, which has made a huge difference. I’m fortunate to have great people in my department with lots of experience to draw upon for making decisions regarding my students. Most importantly, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos that bring me joy in hopes of getting out of this mood rut that I’ve been stuck in lately.
And yet I still come back to those three questions. When do you just need to tell students that their behaviors aren’t professional? When do you actually say, “we are done here”? How do you know if they are hearing it from you or if it would be better for them to hear the exact same thing from someone else because it would be better received? How do I know that the timing isn’t horribly bad for this conversation that someone needs to have with this student?
My friends and I often call those difficult, let’s-sit-down-for-a-chat kinds of conversations “come to Jesus meetings”. I have a few students that I’d like to have a come to Jesus meeting with, but I can’t even get them to come to my office to look at their exams (even with free chocolate available!), so what makes me think that they would even hear a word that I was saying should I ever get the opportunity for a sit-down? The answer is nothing. I have no evidence to support the idea that my words coming from my mouth right now would have any impact at all. And yet, ever the scientist (and occasionally the optimist), I also recognize that I have no data to the contrary either.
I guess we are all there, taking steps each day to do what is right, what is fair, what is in the best interest of our students, even if they disagree on all three fronts. I sometimes think that my students are convinced that I purposefully make quizzes and exams hard because I want to see them fail. Sure, I don’t dumb things down, and I don’t ask the obvious or easy questions, but far from wanting to see them fail, I am trying to challenge them…to prepare them for what lies ahead. Alas, it’s hard to convince students that you want them to succeed when they have you painted as the monster who has it out for them in their minds. Harder still is when the echo chambers of their frustrations with their own performance reverberate among their classmates rather than creating a learning community.
I’m sure many of my colleagues endure similar frustrations. In fact, I know that they do. I know that it’s always easier to blame someone else than it is to take responsibility for your own shortfalls. I know that there will always be those students who feel that you are the sole reason for their inadequacies and there’s little that can be done to change their minds. Undergraduates are not nearly as self-reflective as we seasoned academics are, and if we are being honest, we probably weren’t very good at it ourselves back in our undergraduate days either.
Self-reflection is not an easy process. It is often met with denial and stubbornness borne from a desire to remain comfortable, but you can’t grow if you are comfortable. Being uncomfortable is good for us because it forces us to be better. Exercising isn’t comfortable. Listening to people about what we should and shouldn’t eat isn’t comfortable. Hearing hard truths isn’t comfortable. Learning lots of new information in a short time frame isn’t comfortable. All of these things are important for helping us to live better, healthier lives even if we don’t want to accept the reality of this idea of being uncomfortable.
So here come those questions again. Do I need to tell students that they are going to be uncomfortable? Do they need to hear that they are going to be frustrated and disappointed with themselves just as frequently as they are proud of themselves? Do I need to remind them that they are responsible for their own learning? I think these are all a resounding “yes”. Students do need to hear these things. Repeatedly. Will they really hear it if I am the one to say it? Maybe. Maybe not. Does it need to be said right now? What better time?
I wonder if my reservation, my hesitation, is more a product of my own resistance to the uncomfortable situation of having a student become defensive and combative. I don’t like conflict, but I recognize its utility. Perhaps I need to be more prepared to just say the things that need to be said when I feel like they need to be said and less concerned with how those things are perceived by students. Who knows…maybe they might even learn something from me?
Dear Faculty and Staff:
The United States Department of Agriculture released the November 2017 edition of Rural America at a Glance (https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=85739). Rural (non-metro) areas are defined as county populations with less than 50,000 inhabitants (https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/rural-economy-population/rural-classifications/). The 2017 report outlines the challenges of the shrinking population, regional variation, and the wage lag in rural areas. Rural America includes 46 million individuals (Rural America at a Glance).
A slice of Rural America is Frontier and Remote (FAR) communities that is defined along the dimensions of population size and distance from large urban areas. FAR areas are divided into four levels with level #4 the most remote and sparsely populated (https://www.ers.usda.gov/dataproducts/frontier-and-remote-area-codes/documentation.aspx). Chadron is part of FAR level #3: more than 60 minutes from an urban area of 10,000 or more individuals. Respectively, about 8 million and 4.7 million residents live in level #3 and level #4 (https://www.ers.usda.gov/amberwaves/2012/december/data-feature-mapping-frontier-and-remote-areas-in-the-us/). The majority of people residing in FAR areas are in the Great Plains, Intermountain West, and Alaska.
Vermont, Mississippi, and New Mexico have notable FAR areas as well (https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2012/december/data-feature-mapping-frontier-andremote-areas-in-the-us/). See also 4 April 2016 VPAA Update for information on FAR.
A report for the National Center for Frontier Communities focused on water, energy and climate in remote communities within Frontier and Remote (FAR) level #2 (http://frontierus.org/thefuture-of-the-frontier-water-energy-climate-change-in-americas-most-remote-communities/). Level #2 is somewhat less remote than Level #3. The effects of remoteness on service provision, job creation and population retention are not fully understood (Ben Rasmussen, Who Are Frontier Americans? The National Center for Frontier Communities, (http://frontierus.org/frontier-partners-a-big-success/). There is much to be learned about FAR areas. This includes the similarities and differences of FAR and Rural areas.
Recently, much attention has been given to Rural high school graduates that are absent from college campuses (https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/02/15/581895659/whos-missing-fromamerica-s-colleges-rural-high-school-graduates; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/31/education/edlife/colleges-discover-rural-student.html). Forty-eight percent of people between the ages of 18-24 from cities are enrolled in higher education institutions whereas only 29% of rural residents in this age group are enrolled. Cost, culture shock, hopelessness, poverty, lack of high speed internet, and drug/mental health issues are considered factors.
CSC is the only four-year Nebraska institution that serves the FAR or Frontier Rural communities. We also serve the High Plains region and Western Nebraska. CSC plays a significant role in giving meaning to people, purpose, and place. Thus, an important goal of retaining students is engaging students by providing students the opportunity to develop, grow, and thrive; our part is the never-ending quest to orchestrate a learner-centered environment. Without your diligent efforts many students are less likely to attend college and/or complete a degree; they are also less likely to meet the challenges in this era of transformation and/or become a healthy and constructive citizen.
- 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
Faculty Searches in Academic Affairs
New faculty for 2018-19: Dr. Joan Carraher, Education
Academic Affairs faculty searches in progress for 2018-19: Music (2), English & Humanities, Science (2), Communication, Education, and Business (2)
Social Hour with President’s Executive Council
22 February 2018 (10:00-11:00 am) the Executive Council Committee hosted an All-Campus Social Hour in the Library Learning Commons (LLC). Executive Council initiated the Social Hour in response to suggestions gathered during the last year from department/unit meetings. The idea is to foster conversation across campus and provide faculty and staff an opportunity to meet with Executive Council members. Approximately 50 faculty and staff participated in informal conversations with campus colleagues. The next All-Campus Social Hour is 26 April 2018 (Thursday) 10:00-11:00 am in the LLC.
If you found this gathering to be worth your time, please convey this to an Executive Council member: Pat Beu, Joby Collins, Anne DeMersseman, Sherry Douglas, Joyce Hardy, Mary Jo Carnot, Matt Brust, Alex Helmbrecht, Melany Hughes, Joel Hyer, David Kendrick, Malinda Linegar, James Margetts, Melissa Mitchell, Jim Powell, Jacob Rissler, Deena Kennell, Lisa Stein, Danielle Lecher, Pam Anderson, and Charles Snare.
CSC and WNCC Connections Meeting
Faculty members (business, criminal justice, education, physical education, sciences, social work & psychology) and staff (registrar, transfer advisor, veterans, & admissions) from Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC) and CSC engaged in discussions to advance student success. The Strategic Enrollment Management Committee spearheaded this effort; outreach to the community colleges is a focus of one of the mini-teams of the committee. This endeavor supports Priority #4 of the Master Academic Plan (MAP). The tentative date for the next meeting with WNCC faculty and staff is 22 February 2019. If you have an interest in participating, please contact Sherry Douglas (email@example.com).
Discussion with the President on Budgets
16 February 2018, Faculty Senate committee members met with Dr. Rhine for a conversation on CSC budgets. An All-Campus Staff meeting was conducted 8 March 2018 to engage in a similar conversation. All faculty and staff were invited to the 8 March 2018 All-Campus Staff meeting. Please let me know if there are other avenues that would be beneficial to keep faculty and staff apprised as well as offer a forum for questions and discussion.
Student Engagement: Enrollment & Retention for Summer and Fall 2018
Enrollment and retention trends over the last three weeks are encouraging and reflect the efforts of everyone across the Chadron State College community. The trend lines for both summer and fall 2018 are heading in a positive direction. Please continue your efforts. You are making a difference and the efforts are appreciated. If you do not know how to assist, the 29 March All Campus Workshop will provide avenues as well as assist with focusing our efforts for the greatest impact.
New Eagle Registration & Orientation Events
Outlined in this VPAA Update is the new process for student registration and scheduled freshmen and transfer event dates for April, May, June and July. If you have questions please contact Danielle Lecher (firstname.lastname@example.org), Director of Market Development & Start. Items to note:
- All new, main-campus freshman and transfer students are expected to attend a New Eagle Registration & Orientation event (dates below) o Formerly known as “Signing Days”—re-named to better describe the nature of the event
- Students register as a part of the “Ready to Register” form
- Faculty advisors are needed at each event—including summer dates; advising for all the events is scheduled at 10:00 a.m.
New Eagle Registration & Orientation Events: 2018
|FRESHMAN EVENTS 2018:||TRANSFER EVENTS 2018:|
|Friday, April 20
Monday, April 30
Friday, May 18
Monday, June 4
Monday, June 11
Friday, June 22
Friday, June 29
|Friday, July 13
Monday, July 16
Friday, July 20