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A 30 second look at how education in our nation has progressed in 70 years

This is an interesting visual that shows just how drastically education of American’s has changed in the last 70 years. Watch 70 years of educational progress in 30 seconds While Americans are still among the most educated in the world, our focus must remain on increasing access to educational opportunities for all citizens.    

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Recent Supreme Court decision brings attention to importance of creating educational opportunities for all

Last Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court rendered a decision upholding Michigan’s decision to end affirmative action at its public universities. The justices ruled with a 6 to 2 vote, but were divided on their reasoning. With the differing approaches to the decision, it is likely that the issue of racial preferences is not totally resolved. Detailing this topic further is the April 27 online article Rock River Valley educators say they’ve moved beyond race-based preferences, by Register Star reporter Susan Vela whom I spoke to for her story. Rockford University does not use race as a factor in its admission process. In the past ten years, the percentage of minorities in our first year student cohort has ranged between 20 and 30 percent. Most institutions have diversity as a strategic goal as it adds to the richness of education. Our mission includes the statement that we “strive to prepare students for fulfilling lives, careers, and participation in a modern and changing global society.” Interacting with students from more than 20 states, 15 countries, and from multiple races and religions, provides practical opportunities for our students to better understand the world. Other institutions have not been as successful in building diversity. Many of those have incorporated preferences within their admission requirements. For those of us with a longer-term perspective on this issue, we remember the first critical test of racial preferences – the case of the Regents of the University of California versus Allan Bakke. Bakke had applied to UC Davis Medical School and was denied admission. UC Davis, in an effort to increase student diversity, reserved 16 of its 100 slots for disadvantaged minorities. In 1978, Mr. Bakke argued before the Supreme Court that he was denied admission due merely to race. The Court’s decision was that racial preferences were allowable, as long as race was not the only factor in admission consideration. Thirty six years later, the debate continues. As I shared with the Register Star and WREX last week, I strongly believe that these hot button issues are truly distracting our country from making progress on a far more important goal. Clearly, we are producing far too few college graduates. Our debate ought to focus more on how to encourage and support educational attainment for a much larger percentage of our population. Last week’s Supreme Court decision is fairly narrow in confirming the legitimacy of racial preference bans in public institutions within the eight states with approved legislation. Nevertheless, there is likely to be an expanded impact through future cases. There is currently a pending legal case against the University of Texas. The legal team for the plaintiff in that case is also targeting Harvard University, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Wisconsin over their affirmative-action policies. Hundreds of colleges and universities were originally founded to serve underrepresented populations (Native Americans, Hispanics and African Americans) at a time when majority institutions were unwilling to serve the same. St. Augustine College in Chicago, as an example, primarily serves Hispanics and accommodates the barrier of language through dual-language programming. If there is a complete ban on racial preferences, what will become of the mission St. Augustine was founded to serve? It has been 36 years since the Bakke ruling and the cases continue. One could argue that there is...

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Visiting campus an important step making the right college choice.

People always ask what the most important part of the college search process is. This is not an easy question to answer as there is not one simple answer. Everything from applying early and researching scholarships to Financial Aid and how to pay for school are of the utmost importance. What usually gets overlooked is the campus visit. Sure the internet and brochures give you information, but they don’t give you the full picture.  There are a couple different ways to visit a college campus. All of them offer you an opportunity to learn more about the school and get an overall feel. It is important to immerse yourself in the college’s community and figure out if it can be your home away from home for the next few years. Visit Days and Open Houses open the door to endless possibilities. You have an opportunity to meet faculty and staff, but more importantly current students. They are the ones you can learn the most from. They can tell you exactly what it’s like going to class and living on the campus. After you attend one of those days you can then decide if you want to go back and sit in on a class and meet with a professor one on one. This can help solidify your decision on where to go to college. No matter what school you choose, it will be your home for the next few years. You need to make sure that you are comfortable there and that you can see yourself part of the community. Visiting is the first step in that decision. You would never buy a car without test driving it, so don’t invest in your education until you’ve visited. Rockford University hosts several visits days each year, including the first Visit Day of the fall taking place on Monday, October 14 on the Rockford University Campus and beginning at 9 a.m. Visit Days provide prospective students and their families the opportunity to gain an in-depth look at Rockford University’s campus, faculty, student life and services. During the day there will be chances to meet with faculty, talk to admission counselors and tour the campus, located in the heart of Rockford on 150 wooded acres. A complimentary lunch will also be served in the University’s cafeteria from its on-campus dining service. Prospective students are also invited to stay overnight in one of the University’s residence halls or at one of the area’s hotels. To arrange a spot at Visit Day, e-mail (admissions@rockford.edu) or call the Office of Admission at 815-226-4050 or 800-892-2984. Upcoming visit days will be held on Saturday, November 9,  2013 and Saturday, February 1, 2014. Students and families may also schedule a personal visit at any...

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Thinking critically and creatively about workforce development

I recently served as the keynote speaker for the annual meeting of the Northern Illinois Workforce Alliance. The mission of the Alliance is to create a competitive, skilled and educated workforce for Boone and Winnebago Counties, responsive to the needs of business. I was asked to discuss the role of higher education in workforce development. As a representative of a university with a mission of education grounded in the liberal arts, I was truly pleased to be asked to speak. There are two extremely different conversations that have taken place for years, with liberal arts and workforce development in the center. Many believe a liberal arts education has nothing to offer workforce development. This point of view is usually voiced outside of the academy and generally reserves the role of catalyst for workforce development for technical and community colleges. There are also voices within the academy that are opposed to any connection between a liberal arts education and workforce development. They suggest an education is about the development of the mind and person and should not be concerned with job preparation. Since I am the president of a university that prides itself in producing quality graduates, almost all of whom aspire to enter the workforce, I find both extremes to be unfair. As I have shared before, a liberal arts education is not one of structured anarchy or one that represents a certain political persuasion. The word liberal reflects a free society and arts represents the skills needed to function in a free society. What are those skills? The ability to communicate; analyze, think critically and creatively; work with others; solve problems; and so much more. Candidly, I suggest these are the skills that employers desire. Following my remarks, Darcy Bucholz, Executive Director of the Alliance, provided information from research conducted by Adecco S.A., a Swiss multinational human resource consulting company. The research supports my belief in what employers want. In a survey of 500 employers, the following skill gaps were identified, with the associated significance: No skill gaps exist        8% Lack of computer-based technology skills   12% Lack of strong leadership skills     14% Lack of technical skills      22% Lack of soft skills (i.e., communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration)      44% At Rockford University, students take a sequence of liberal arts courses while pursuing majors, minors and concentrations in 80 areas that support a very broad array of career options. Thomas Jefferson once said, “Wherever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” I thought of this quote when I read a report from the Georgetown Public Policy Institute released this summer. The report disclosed that during the recent recession years, new theater graduates had lower rates of unemployment (6.4%) than many degree-holders in electrical engineering (7.6%) and information systems (14.7%). With all of that on the table, it is important to note that a liberal education provides so much more than workforce advantages. Our graduates have a foundation from which to improve on our civilization. In the long run, contributions to society are indeed more meaningful. Robert L. Head, Ph.D. President, Rockford...

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Celebrating Week and Month of Peace

Rockford University is pleased to be an active participant in Rockford’s Peace Month activities. We invite the community to join in the wide variety of celebrations planned. Director of the University’s Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagment Donnette Tinsley, shared more about the University’s long-standing connection to peace efforts, as well as more about the events taking place on campus in her My View column, published in Saturday’s Rockford Register Star online. Come Wedesday, Sept. 17, to learn more about labyrinths: Understanding labyrinths: 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in Grace Roper Lounge, with Barrie Carter Gibby ’70, Veriditas-trained advanced labyrinth facilitator. A shoe labyrinth will be constructed on campus on Saturday, Sept. 21, to benefit Carpenter’s Place. Donations of new, and like new, athletic shoes are being accepted on campus through Friday, September 20. A collection bin is available in the Burpee Center  lobby. Ms. Gibby will also be leading the “Labyrinth of Shoes Walk” on Saturday, September 21 from 10a.m.-4p.m on the Burpee Commons lawn. We hope you will join us in celebrating peace, this month and always....

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Can a community profit without a healthy nonprofit sector?

If someone asked you what makes Rockford great, what would you say?  Perhaps you’d mention the presence of three excellent hospitals and a city-wide network of clinics, or the abundance of social support services, from Family Counseling Services to Northern Illinois Hospice and Grief Center  to Rosecrance to domestic violence support centers such as Remedies. Maybe the incredible wealth of cultural opportunities, from Coronado Performing Arts Center to Rockford Art Museum, from Midway Village to Rockford Youth Symphony Orchestra, would top your list. Would you rattle off the names of some of our numerous higher education institutions – Rock Valley College, Rockford College, NIU, University of Illinois College of Medicine? If your interests lie out of doors, you might note the abundant parks, golf courses, natural spaces, and river walk, most open for free use by the public thanks to our fabulous Rockford Park District and Winnebago County Forest Preserve District. You might also note the great diversity of opportunities for people of faith to worship in churches, temples, synagogues and mosques. This short list highlights not only some of our community’s greatest assets, but also another distinction: all of these assets are a part of our thriving nonprofit sector!  When a community is able to recognize, support, and champion the “social profit” that a healthy nonprofit sector provides, the for-profit community also benefits.  Indeed, it is only the mutual appreciation and collaboration of all parties that will help move our community, any community, forward. In today’s challenging economic environment, it is truer than ever that by finding common ground we are better able to facilitate meaningful and measurable social change for the better. A true champion for the idea that there are “No Profits Without Nonprofits” will be visiting Rockford on May 8. Robert Egger, founder and former president of D.C. Central Kitchen and current founder of L.A. Kitchen, will be the keynote speaker at a luncheon program titled “Begging for Change: Promoting Community Innovation to find Fresh Solutions to Solvable Issues.” Egger will also be present at a Media and Nonprofit Leader Forum prior to the luncheon at Rockford College, to which the community is welcome to attend.  Interested in hearing more about his message? Visit his website or read his article “No Profits Without...

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No shortage of ethical issues in sport

Lance Armstrong, Manti T’eo, more Lance Armstrong and Livestrong fallout, Bonds, Clemens and the MLB Hall of Fame…the list will inevitably continue to grow. Providing some perspective to the many bylines of these stories  for sports enthusiasts, fans, and even the casual observer is of particular interest to Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rockford College, Shawn Klein, Ph.D., who teaches courses about ethics in sports and authors The Sports Ethicist blog. Dr. Klein was contacted by CNN.com to provide comment for their opinion roundup this week, Give Lance another chance?, evidence that whether a cycling enthusiast or not, this story has garnered the interest of the nation. It’s a safe bet that there will be plenty more to say on the topic of ethics in sport and a few more fallen idols left in its...

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