Saving lives millions at a time is not enough

by krm | Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 6:00 AM

I first became interested in the history of global health while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a trachoma-eradication campaign in eastern Uganda in the late 1960s. The campaign was well intentioned but poorly designed and implemented. It was sponsored by the Uganda Foundation for the Blind, a local nongovernmental organization that had no direct connection to the Ugandan Ministry of Health. It was, like many global-health programs today, a freestanding vertical program. It was staffed by teams of recent college graduates who had no formal public-health or medical training. There were no provisions for training Ugandans to work on the project or take it over after we left. The treatment required patients to attend our clinic once a week for 12 weeks. This was a challenge for many of those who lived miles from the clinic. In addition, the campaign was limited to one district, which was surrounded by other districts where the disease existed, but in which there were no trachoma-control programs. It thus ignored the fact that people frequently moved back and forth between districts. Our patients would disappear for weeks at a time, interrupting their treatment. Overall, the program's dropout rate was high. Finally, many...Read More

For 35 years as a faculty member and administrator, I have helped students start college. Here are my ABCs of getting started.

by krm | Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - 6:00 AM

A. Ask questions . And then ask more questions. What a wonderful opportunity you have for at least the first few weeks, if not the whole year. No one expects you to know everything, and everyone is pleased when you ask questions. Imagine you are a detective trying to figure out the mystery of your university, or an anthropologist trying to understand a new community, or a journalist writing an exposé on why your institution is such a fantastic place. Find out what makes the place tick! Ask questions of everyone. And if you need help (and we all do), ask staff and faculty. Please, ask them. Their passion—and this is true on whatever campus I have been—is to mentor and help you. I believe that leadership is the art of asking and listening.. So be a leader now: ask but also really listen.

B. Balance . I grew up with the good midwestern phrase, stand on your own two feet . But after I had four surgeries on my left foot and ended up on crutches for 6 months, I learned a new phrase that is equally important: keep your balance ....Read More

Can American higher education remain the global leader without a strong faculty?

by krm | Monday, September 26, 2016 - 6:00 AM

In the half century after World War II, American higher education catapulted onto the global stage as the “new” and undisputed “gold standard” for scientific research and graduate education. This rise is a spectacular national achievement. It is, I fear, increasingly fragile, nay even “at risk”.

American dominance as a global knowledge powerhouse reflects the concatenation of a few key ingredients at a unique historical moment. Implicit in our new book, The Faculty Factor , is the proposition that the unique “threads” (strands) of the American success story in higher education are increasingly fraying --- with significant “downside” long-term risk.

Primary among those key ingredients or threads is academic freedom – the freedom to pursue the truth wherever it might lead and whatever the risk to the established economic and political. It is that freedom that served as a magnet for the world’s leading scholars and scientists to flock to U.S. universities from Nazi Germany during World War II and from communist repression in the Soviet Union and China later in the 20 th century.

To academic freedom, the American higher education experiment added two other key threads. The first was substantial funding...Read More

On Technology and Learning

by krm | Friday, September 23, 2016 - 6:00 AM

From our seventh floor campus offices, we can visually track the slower pace of summer morphing into the bustle of back-to-school. One day the campus is sleepy. The next, the perimeter of the campus fills with mini-vans and out pour freshmen, their families, and dorm supplies to last a year. In a matter of hours, the quad transitions to a buzzing hub of people, bikes, Frisbees, and a hammock or two.

In the past decade, the way students physically navigate the campus quad has changed dramatically. Whereas 10 years ago a handful of students might have walked distractedly with their noses in books, now the vast majority traverse the walkways with phones in hand, often reading/texting/posting as they go. This year the hunt for Pokémon has taken distraction to new heights. Being perpetually plugged in is not unique to postsecondary students, Common Sense media estimates that average daily media use hovers between 6 hours and 9 hours for teenagers. Given the perpetually plugged-in nature of youth, what role does technology play in the way they experience their education inside and outside of the classroom?

In 2014, John Hopkins University Press published ...Read More

The great twentieth-century transformation of urban landscapes

by krm | Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 6:00 AM

Urban landscapes are where Pokémon Go players have recently started to go to catch virtual creatures lurking in a GPS version of what I naively think of as the real world. They are visible environments that are constant background to our lives in towns and cities, usually seen yet not really noticed. Only when we visit somewhere for the first time, or a familiar old building is replaced by a glassy tower, or perhaps a Pokémon Gym is not where it was expected to be, do we begin to wonder why somewhere looks like it does. This is precisely the question I set out to answer in The Modern Urban Landscape .

Virtual reality before Pokémon. Architects at the New York Beaux Arts Ball in 1931, with William van Alen as his Chrysler Building.

I quickly discovered that “modern” means whatever has been done since the 1880s because almost everything we see in cities is newer than that. Older parts of cities, such as medieval streets in European towns or the elegant avenues and the White House built by slaves in Washington D.C., attract a...Read More