Education conference discussions problems in higher education
The Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education celebrated its 60th anniversary during the University of Michigan’s Bicentennial with a reunion weekend conference. Featuring 25 guest panelists, the conference celebrated a weekend of learning in the School of Education Building.
Events for the conference began on Thursday including two panel discussion sessions Friday including “Emerging Issues for Teaching, Learning and Faculty” to “Student Success.” Alumni and faculty joined together to discuss issues of importance in today’s education.
Luis Ponjuan, associate professor at Texas A&M University, discussed the importance of the CSHPE and how it shaped his work and research in higher education in the Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education panel.
Known for his research, Ponjuan has focused on Latino male students, faculty members of color and STEM learning in his previous projects. He spoke at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence in 2014 and met with former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Diversity inclusion has always been framed in a way that it’s viewed as a deficit-based narrative,” Ponjuan said. “I would make the argument to focus on this notion of ‘how are you creating a diversity-inclusion and research based agenda with an asset-based narrative?’”
During his portion of the discussion, Ponjuan challenged the audience to go beyond the research and remember the real-world connection. In addition to praising the CSHPE program, he urged students to recognize their responsibility as advocates, activists and allies in their community and that they are not to simply further their careers through research.
In a later discussion on college access, Kedra Ishop, vice provost for enrollment management, analyzed the various priorities on the side of the institution of making college more accessible to students.
Ishop emphasized the balance between accessibility to students and being able to afford running a higher-education institution. She discussed the unsustainable model of accessing students while maintaining high tuition.
“We have to make a decision as a nation that it matters to put these students into the higher education system and/or the appropriate job or career,” Ishop said. “We haven’t made that decision and we aren’t acting on that.”
In the same conversation, Ozan Jaquette, University alum and assistant professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, pondered the challenges institutions face regarding accessing a diverse group of students while maintaining the demands of high tuition. Jaquette currently researches how colleges and universities change behavior to generate enrollment from student populations.
“What we really need are students who can pay the bills, and we can’t fund those students (those who need to be accessed) without full-pay students and that is where we put our recruiting effort,” Ozan said. “And that's the sort of thing people talk about behind closed doors and I wish that transparency was more on the table because then we could have debates about what really is as opposed to debates about what people say is.”
Education graduate student Emma Busch said she enjoyed hearing alumni discuss their current studies and the application of this work to the future.
“To me, the term enrollment management actually says that it is something to be managed rather than offering something amazing to students,” Busch said. “I would say that enrollment management has this negative context as opposed to something that can benefit the students, it’s as if the purpose of admissions is to benefit the University.”
After Busch graduates, she hopes to be in a position where she can make admissions policy. She currently researches whether those accepted to universities are there for merit or by luck and believes that her research will conclude that luck plays a large role in admissions.
“I am really passionate about college access and it was certainly very interesting for me to get used to the University of Michigan admissions base.” Busch said.