Clarity and Chaos: Words, Ideas, and Universities

History is difficult. Comparative history is harder. And comparative policy – the study of ideas, power, history and practice across countries – is more challenging still. If I have learned one lesson from reading about comparative educational policy, it is to tread very carefully. Assumptions and comparisons are fraught with local complexity. Stefan Collini is a…

Vision and Elite Institutions

Many of the forces that make for quality in higher education are isomorphic:  impactful faculty scholarship and research, bigger libraries, better prepared students, more opportunities for academic and student support. Many of them simply boil down to more institutional money. It is a challenge to be different and to be better. That question is at…

Scandalous Schools

I don’t read Vanity Fair all that often. A few years back, when my dentist was fancy, copies of the magazine were in her waiting room. I read it. She consistently tried to up sell dental improvements, though, and once I tired of saying “no thanks” to the filling upgrades and invisible braces, I changed…

Locating the Finish Line: Completion Several Years On

Eight years ago, William Bowen, Matthew Chingos, and Michael McPherson wrote Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities. A massive longitudinal study of student completions at a host of four-year public flagship institutions and state systems, the book was immediately recognized as an important work, a milestone in the effort to improve…

Political Science Prescience

Many years ago, as an undergraduate at Rice University, I took a course on political ideology. I wasn’t a political science major and I didn’t know anything about the professor, Fred Von der Mehden, before signing up. The class fit my schedule and completed a distribution requirement. My expectations were not high. I remember getting…

Undoing and Doing Together

It is rare to find a nonfiction page-turner about faculty and higher education. Faculty may be doing exciting and interesting things on a daily basis, but we do not often find about them on best-seller lists. Until Michael Lewis. Lewis is an extraordinarily successful writer. Beyond his journalism, magazine work and lesser-known efforts, he has…

Unacceptable is Unacceptable

Years ago I read a short piece about Richard Feynman, the Nobel-award winning physicist. I was intrigued. A genius who had the chops to work at the leading edge of his field and the communication skills to make science understandable to the public, he was known as brilliant, eccentric, dynamic, and the kind of thinker…