TWU within the Context of Higher Education


I titled the presentation today “TWU within the
Context of Higher Education”. The reason I did that is because there are some new
findings that have come out in the last couple of months that I think really
shine a different light on what TWU can do with the contributions that we have
and the opportunities that lie ahead of us. So, obviously the purpose of higher
education is that we can help the young people that come with us and develop
them into being successful, right? And we want them to be successful economically and I
know that’s what everyone has their eyes on but I would also claim we want them to be
successful citizens. So, what does that mean? Well, you know, to me that also means
having them being happy and healthy and on with their lives and you might think
well that’s kind of lofty and how do you measure happiness all of those things. So, the
exciting part is that now we have more evidence and data that actually this
does matter and this ties very much to what goes on in higher education. So,
without further ado, I’m going to refer to a piece, an op-ed piece, that David
Brooks wrote and, by the way, you should all have either received copies of the articles
and also we will have links online to some of those pieces, but he, I think,
really reminded us of the importance that universities play in society. So, if
you look back, most American institutions were founded
with the mission of developing character formation. That was
the focus, really, and it was very much in a in a religious, spiritual setting and
then over the 20th century that really officially and also effectively changed
and became much more a secular mission and also I would say in the beginning very
few people attended higher education. It was very much an elite kind of thing.
Today we have access to much more broader range etc but with that also
came this should I say a deeper look from those who pay and write
the checks, the public money checks to us. They want to make sure that when the
students leave, when they graduate, that they can be employed and that they’re successfully
employed. So, a lot more of a careerist type. So, we would get a lot more focused,
more narrowly focused on making sure that students would be able to have the
skills to become employed and somehow, and I’m sure many of you will agree that
those of you in the fields of Humanities have felt a disconnect. Well, that’s not
just what universities are all about but there has been that focus and of
course we want students to become economically self-sufficient and all of
those things, but what David Brooks talks about, and I happen to agree, is that
really universities need to look back and look at the original mission that we
have in developing character and creating happy, good citizens but within
a secular setting. So, no more of the religious setting but a different kind of context, a
secular setting. So, you also know the technology wave that has been happening
and online and books and etc, etc. So that’s yet another challenge in
higher education. David Brooks makes the point that we
really need to focus on the whole person, right? That not just whether
somebody is successful economically but all aspects of their lives. And so, the
question might be, well what is the future of the university and
what about the campuses? You know, you hear a lot about this even at the
state level of should we really be investing in building buildings? If we
have more online, will be able to reach more students and do the same thing? And
so, if you think about developing the whole person one of the critical
elements, really, is the relationships. The relationships that they build make all
the difference in their lives, in their well-being, etc., and and we now — the
reason why I’m excited and why I’m making this presentation today is that we now have
evidence and data that this actually does matter and speaks to the point. So,
what better place than a campus to really focus on developing moral
traditions, but, also, while respecting diversity. In other
words, not necessarily in one specific spiritual setting but rather in a secular
setting and respecting diversity in general. So, teaching
about moral traditions is a good place for a campus to do that and offer
transcendent experiences. I really love that word and what he talks about here is
the opportunity when you’re in college to experience things that you never
would probably experience otherwise, whether it’s a piece of music, a piece of
art, a study abroad or helping students with
disabilities, something you normally wouldn’t have thought of engaging in and
college offers you those opportunities to do that and those can be transcendent
experiences and really having those changes the way that you look at the
world. It also holds your interest in the kinds of things that you might like to
pursue for the rest of your life, not just for a little bit while you’re in
college. Now, one thing that would be a challenge, I would think, to most
universities because I’m not sure we do this really well yet, is to really
organize the learning that takes place at the university,
specifically in the humanities, but in all aspects, run very concrete challenges
that students face in their daily lives, for example grief or different
issues or relationships, love, those things are very much. The humanities
offer a very rich set of tools to really think about that and reflect on various
perspectives and I’m not sure that we have necessarily organized what we do in the
university around the challenges that actually face once they leave the
university in their lives and I would add something that David Brooks has not
talked about. He talks about the whole person and he says intellectual,
emotional, all of the things but he doesn’t talk about the physical
well-being. To me, that’s very much part of the whole person as well, so, I think we need
to keep that in mind but if you think of this context and then think about that
question again– is there a future for university campuses and lots of places
around the country are wondering about that. What better place to do these kinds
of things, these relationships, than a campus where you can have face-to-face
relationships? And, so, I think the challenge for universities that have,
that want to remain with physical campuses is to really
think about what can we do in a physical environment that you cannot do as well
in other ways. So, really capitalize on the strength of the proximity, the
face-to-face environment to really build those relationships and do the kinds of
things that we now know matter and I’ll tell you a little bit more about that in
a minute. Okay, so let’s say we make these good humans, in addition, or we help make them, I should say, in addition to productive humans, right? They’re not just productive, but now they’re also going to be this good human. So, how do we know that they are going to
be happier and have a greater sense of well-being and feel
better about their lives in general, have better employment? Well the exciting
piece is that we now actually have data on this. So, the Gallup-Purdue Index, the first
report was written in 2014. They interviewed about 30,000 alum.
Now, in 2015 they did a second report, another 30,000 alum, so that’s a total
of 60,000 alumnus. From universities all over the country, all kinds of universities–
public, private, large, small, secular, spiritual institutions– all kinds of different places
and out of those, all of those services what they tried to find out is what are
the key factors that really made people feel that their education was worth it or that
that contributed to the feelings, how they felt about their education. What are
those factors and how did they influence their lives. So, they asked all these
different types of questions and found some astonishing results. By the way,
almost 50% of the alumni who responded to the survey strongly agreed that their
education was worth the cost, which is kind of impressive, I think. And, so, what the Gallup-Purdue Index
does, is something which is different from a lot of places and really, what they
found out is that the value of culture of education is less determined by what we
typically have looked at like for example how much a university, a college
spends, the reputation of the university. It has less to do with that than
with things that are less commonly measured such as faculty
interactions, the type of experiences that students have. So, those things
seem to actually matter more than the reputation or the size, or the money that
is spent at the university, which is really interesting. Specifically, let me give you some
of this information. And this, I think, and, by the way, you’ll see why I get
excited as I give you those different points, you will see. Keep in the back of
your mind the title, TWU within the Context of Higher Ed and you’ll start, I think, to see
the story unfold here. So the students that felt that they had had experience
in a diverse background felt twice as likely than anyone else that their education
was worth the cost. They also felt much more engaged in
their employment. So, not only did they think in general it was worth it, but they
also felt much more engaged in their employment. So, those that have
experienced a diverse background, okay? The second point that’s important for us to
look at. The students who felt that they had had meaningful studies-related
internships, so something that was specifically related to their
studies but that was a real life experience. Think learn by doing. So, studies-related internships, extracurricular activities, semester-long projects like
study abroad any of those kinds of things were one and a half times more
likely than the other respondents to say that their education was worth the
cost. And this one, this is a really, really important one. so
the students who recalled that they had had very supportive relationships on
campus– either a mentor who really cared, a professor who really reached out
and cared about their learning, was excited about their learning, just
professors in general that care. Even if they had only one of those, they were
twice as likely as the other respondants to think that their education was worth the
cost. Again, I think that’s a very powerful statement and something we
really haven’t looked at in the past. We’ve looked at specifically what is it
that we deliver, whether we try to get to their heads and what do they know
when they leave, as if that wasn’t attached to the rest. And, obviously,
this piece here, the heart seems to be very important. Another question that they ask.
They wanted to see, obviously we talked a lot about debts, student debts. So, did these
debts slow these alum down? And most of these the people that they interviewed had student debts. The students who felt that they had had these really supportive relationships even if was only one of them, one
professor who really cared, a mentor who really reached out, they were less likely
to put up continuing their education and even start their own businesses. So,
they were more likely to– even though they might have had student debts– they
were more likely to continue to go on with graduate education or even start
their new business. They didn’t feel they had to wait till their debt was paid off in
order to do that, so also significant from an economic perspective, from the
state’s perspective. And I think this line, to me, says it all: it’s all about the quality of the
relationships, really. And, if you think about it, the relationships itself
is what made a difference in whether the alumni felt satisfied with
their lives, engaged in their employments, and a sense of well-being and I love
how this is broken down here. Specifically, what does that
mean, to be satisfied with your life or to have a sense of well-being? So, there were these five dimensions that they
looked at. Relationships with others. So, people who had had these kinds of
experiences on campus, and relationships on campus felt that in their current
life, after they graduated, they had better relationships with others, their
physical health was better or they were satisfied with their physical health, I should
say, they were more involved in the community, the economic situation was
good and they were satisfied with that and the last one, I think is really important.
They had a sense of purpose and I think if there’s nothing else, that to me seems
critical. When people have a sense of purpose, you know they will find their
way and they will be able to figure out how to approach the
next steps, but those aspects were directly related to those elements as I
mentioned to you before, which I think is really powerful. Now, think about this story at TWU. I mean, isn’t there anything more laudable for us to
do than really pursue helping our students become satisfied with their
lives, with their economic situation, but also with the overall well being? So for
us to really focus on the whole person seems like almost a mandate because we
do now have real evidence and real data that this really does make a difference
and the reason why I think this is so special for us is– I’ve mentioned this to
you before when I came to TWU, but what spoke to me really loud and clear
when I was going through all these different listening sessions,
is the fact that people here care. Students said that, faculty said that,
staff said that. So, people care about the students, about their lives,
about how they do. So, we have that foundation, we have that culture, but
imagine if we could really hone in on that and expand that culture,
really strengthen it to a point where we can contribute to the students this way.
That would be incredible. Obviously, it’s incredible for the students, but it’s
also incredible, I think, for TWU, but I’ll come back to that in a minute. So, the
good news doesn’t stop there. So, this is great, right? We know we’re
on the right path, we already have other elements step to make us really
successful in terms of contributing to the students lives and well-being, but
then it gets better. About a month ago, I think, The Economist came out with
rankings of all the different universities. As you know, the USNews, it will report rankings and all these other rankings and you can
kind of predict where the institutions land. I mean, there might be a few numbers here
and there, but the elite universities usually are at the
top and then the less well to do universities are usually at the bottom. I
mean, that’s kind of how it goes, right? So, they ranked one thousand two hundred and
seventy some I can’t remember the exact number I think was 78 institutions,
nationally, all four-year institutions, and what they did that is different from
the other types of rankings, which typically, by the way, what what is it that
universities go after? I call it the four R’s. I hope I can remember them. I said four, right? So, real estate, “rahrah”, you
know the football sports thing, research expenditures, and rankings. So those
are the four R’s, right? And that’s what typically universities go after and that’s
typically how they’re taught of in terms of the pecking order. What The
Economist did that is different, is they tried to disentangle student merit from the
contributions of an institution to a particular individual. Let me say that
again. Student merit, meaning if you come from well to do environment, you have very
high scores, you’re very intelligent, your’re hard working. Those are you own merits.
And there are a couple of economists that did a study a of couple years ago
that look specifically at this and they concluded that students attending
elite institution didn’t necessarily do better economically (obviously, this is The Economist) economically than students who had been admitted to an elite
institution but chose to go to a different institution, a lower-ranked
institution. In other words, the conclusion is that institution in itself
is not the one that made the difference. The difference was what the students
bring to the table, right? And, of course, we all know that. So, what they tried to
do in these rankings is to disentangle that: what does the student bring and what
does the institution contribute to that particular student’s development? So, if I
had to ask you to guess, where do you think TWU ranks among the one thousand
two hundred and seventy eight institutions. So, obviously, some of you
have heard about this before and we came out as number 45. 45. Think about this. 45 in the country in terms of how much
we contribute to individual students. That’s huge. I mean, I know
when I saw these results, that was definitely not something I had
predicted. I was blown away and I think the rest of the Cabinet was, too.
We may all now sound like “well, yeah we kind of know this”, but I think this was pretty powerful. So, what they did, the way they came up with
their results, is they looked at what they called expected earnings. Expected
earnings would be what a student would earn after graduation, had they attended any
other institution and then the median earnings is their actual earnings.
After having come toTWU, this is their actual earnings. The only way The
Economist, or anyone, for that matter, these days, can come up with this kind of
sophisticated analysis is that we now have so much more data available at the
Department of Education and all the reports that every institution fills out.
There’s so much data available and I don’t think we have even begun to mind those data, but that’s what they did. They went back to all of that
information that is available, publicly available, and they looked at
the location of institution– if it’s close to an urban setting, if it’s in a
wealthy environment. All of these different kind of
factors and they entered all of this in this regression analysis
and came up with an amazing ratio to explain the variance that’s
really high, unusually high. So, when they looked at Texas Woman’s University, the expected earnings would have been
for the student, $37,000 students, median earnings $44,800. The institution itself
contributed to a $7,000 more than if that student had attended any other
institution, which is really amazing. So, if you put those two things together– the
information from the Gallup Purdue Index and then this particular information
from The Economist, you start getting a picture of what matters and what should
we be focusing on and what can TWU do and what are some of the
implications for us, because, clearly, we now have clear information of what makes
a difference into student success after they graduate, but think about that. If it
makes a difference in how they are after they graduate, it clearly makes a
difference in terms of retaining them. I mean, they wouldn’t be at the
graduation level if they hadn’t stayed with us. So, let me just give you a tiny
little bit of information about what that also could translate to us and these are
all very rough, approximate numbers. Now, don’t take me literally to this, but just
to give you an idea of the magnitude of what this means. So, we have made about
1,100 students a year, first time in college students. As you,
know we’re moving away from freshman because this is an institution predominantly for women so 1,100 students come in. We lose about 500 of these
students typically what if we returned just one-hundredth of these any guess
what that would mean for the situation in terms of finances are you can’t
answer any idea mean $5,000,000 $5,000,000 if we
retained 100 of those 500 students who are leaving us every year that’s
substantial so besides doing something really good for the students which is
what we should be doing because I feel strongly that we shouldn’t be admitting
students if they don’t have a really good chance to make it it’s not ethical
so if we if this makes it’s really good for the students but it does make such a
huge difference for the faculty and and and and and and the whole university
because think about that if if we retain those tunes and if we were much more
successful in this in this arena it also means that they would be attracting
better faculty stronger students I mean it all it’s kind of a snowball effect so
this has very strong implications for us to really look at how can we hone in and
strengthen some of the things that we already have the rough diamond is there
but how do we publish how do we how do we make this better and really make this
something meaningful one of the reasons I share this with the Board of Regents
is that I wanted to be sure that we were all on the same page because obviously
that also means that has an impact for how you allocate resources clearly so we
obviously have to all want to do the same things and believe that this is the
right path to achieve it because this will have specific implications for what
we do So, at the fall assembly, you’ve all heard me talk
about this notion of the great colleges to work for and how how can we shine in
this and so I wanted to tie this together because I think it’s directly related. I
think it becomes really clear from looking at the Gallup survey and
economies that what is key is the faculty and staff at the institution.
It’s all about the people, right? And I know Bob Neely doesn’t like me to come
back all the time with Jim Collins because I can only do that a lot, but one of the
things he, one of the things that Jim Collins says, the very first thing one
should focus on this first who, meaning who’s on your team? Who are the people
you’re working with? Who is there? That’s what matters more than anything else. You can
have the best strategic plans and goals and everything else. If you don’t have the
right people with you, it’s not going to go anywhere. So, if that’s true and we
think that the most important thing is to attract and retain talent at the
institution and if we don’t have the very highest compensation plans ever,
then how do we do that? And I think this is a huge asset for us I think having a
college that is really committed to the right values– helping students, but also
have this environment, where this is a really great college to work for. It’s
huge. A lot of people don’t necessarily go for the highest salary but they will
go for the best working environment where you have a sense of purpose.
Remember that sense of purpose? That holds for value for faculty and for staff just
the same. So, having that, I think, is really important and that’s why I feel
so committed to doing that and, really, we have this. Again, when I talked to
everyone when I came here last year, it was very clear to me that this is right
there, so when I saw this actual service from the Chronicle of Higher Education–
they conduct this every year– I thought, “wow!” We should be in there. We should be
on the honor roll. A little background of the Great College to Work For Survey. Again, it’s done by the Chronicle. It’s in its eighth year. 281 colleges participated this year in
2015, so you see the growth. 86 of them were recognized. 86 of them and 10 made the honor roll. I tell you, when I look at the factors, we
should be on that honor roll. Within the next five years, we should be on the honor roll.
There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be and you might think these are just maybe
institutions that don’t care about the hardcore stuff. Not true. Look at who’s on
the honor roll. Baylor. Duke. I mean, I don’t think those are some bad institutions to be friends with or to be in the same kind of environment with, to
be compared with. So these are really strong places. University of Michigan Ann
Harbor. I mean, those are really excellent places but they don’t have
anything that we don’t have in that regard, in this place of best colleges to
work for. This is really something that I feel really strongly about and I’m gonna
go back one slide, two slides. You see the little subtitle here– the big impact of
small changes. At cabinet we’ve just been reading this book by Margaret Heffernan
titled Big Impact of Small Changes. A lot of the very small changes that we make
in our work environment make a huge difference, have a huge impact. So, I think that is
something for us to focus on, that we could do fairly easily because I think
we have the right people, the right values, and it’s a matter of really
focusing on some of those. So some of the ones that we picked out for this year, I’ll read them to you because I
don’t know if you can read upside down but collaborative governance was one of
them. Confidence in senior leadership. Facilities, work space, and security.
Respect and appreciation, and tenure clarity and process. Frankly, I picked out those five, I could
have picked out many others, like diversity, job satisfaction. I mean, there
are several other elements in there that I think we would do well with and I just
picked those five because it’s easy to start focusing on a handful of things
and do those really well and then we will move to the next level and then we
can continue, but the reason why I think this is so powerful because if we
do this right I am convinced that this would be huge in attracting
talent. Again, remember it’s all about talent. I think if we do that, we attract the right
talent and we now know the talent and the people that you have on the campus is
really what matters. It makes a difference to the students. It makes a difference to
everything, society as a whole. So, this is, I think, a very powerful argument and
so you can see now why I was excited after reading the Gallup Purdue Index
and then seeing the economists’ rankings. I’m thinking, “this is all just coming together”. As I like to say, the stars are aligned or all the arrows are more or less shooting in the same direction. So, what could be a long-term strategy? Obviously, we want the
competition to go up. Clearly, right? But we all know we’re not there, so we need
to find other ways to get there and we are probably not getting huge
infusions of money in the next few years, so let’s be realistic about that. So we’re going to have to achieve this in a different way, alright? If we bring really
good faculty, talented staff to the campus, you will attract also stronger students.
Stronger students will stay longer. Well, I already told you what that meant
financially. If they stay longer, I mean if not longer, but if they stay, they’re
retained and they graduate on time, it’s a huge financial benefit to the students. So all of
those things eventually bring you to the compensation, but we’re not going to get
there just by waiting for money to get there. You see what I mean? So, the goal might be that, but we have to
find another strategy to get there and I think that’s one of the strategies that we can
use to reach this goal. So, by investing in their people, great colleges create a
culture of engagement. Faculty and staff members understand and support the
institution’s mission, are provided with the tools and authority they need to
contribute their best and I think that’s really a nice summary.
You’ve seen this graphic a couple of times because I think I’ve shared it so far at both assemblies that I’ve been at so far and I must
really believe in it. The reason I bring it up is because I think it provides a really good
framework for us to think about how we move the institution. So, the triple bottom
line talks about the fact that you need to
keep three different aspects in mind when you look at the
sustainability of an institution: people, profits, and planet. People meaning
the environment, the ethical rules and practices that we use on campus. Profits matter. If you don’t have
the money, it’s hard. And then our footprint on the planet is really
important too. Now, I will say those three elements, usually– there’s a certain
tension between all three of them and it is intentional and we should actually intentionally want to balance all these three elements. Let me give you a
very specific example and I mentioned this at the Senate. The Senate, for example,
their job is to really think about the faculty and the good of the people, right?
So, let’s say we expanded that triangle there with that piece of the pie, where
the faculty, where the people are and make that really, really strong. Well, then our
circle gets out of balance and it might cut into the profits. Well, guess
what? If your profits go down, you’re not going to have two people either. See what I
mean? So, you have to have that tension and the balance between all elements. Now,
some people think administrations, some administrations, not here, but some
administrations, would focus solely on the money, do things because it brings in
economic, financial gain. If the money gets out of whack, well, then
you eat into the people pie and then it’s not sustainable because we all know
you can squeeze a lemon really hard for a while after while there’s nothing left.
So, it’s not sustainable. So, this is a model for long-term sustainability and
success. So, you can’t have either one of these pieces take over because it will
ruin the whole the whole institution. I wanted to remind us of that because I
think it is important as we move forward in these conversations, as I am
emphasizing talent and people and relationships, but you have to keep this
in mind within the framework of the triple bottom line as we make decisions.
In other words, you can’t make decisions just that benefit one piece of the pie
because the institutions will not survive. Does that make sense?

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