Category: education

Specialization in a tight job market


Beginning a career after college is a constant topic of conversations on campus, and a Red & Black article today draws particular attention to the experience of several recent graduates and the seeming mis-match of aspirations and opportunities. More common than not and not a cause for alarm in and of itself, the chase for experience and urgency to begin a career after college present clues about some majors and areas of study that may be better suited to the flexibility needed in an uncertain job market. In the article, for example,

[UGA grad and GEICO employee]Hickman face[d] a difficulty undermining millions of recent college graduates after they receive their diplomas trying to match a highly specialized, niche degree in a labor market filled with generalized, unskilled jobs.

According to the Accenture study, 46 percent of workers who graduated in 2012 and 2013 are underemployed and have jobs that don’t utilize their college degrees, marking a five percent increase from the previous two years.

Getchell said past experience and general skills are usually more important to employers than a degree, especially in today’s market.

“Of course, some careers require a specific degree, but others may not,” she said. “In general, employers are often more focused on skills and experiences than majors. That’s why it’s so important for college students to gain experience and develop skills during college.”

There are many decisions university students need to make - about their present and their future - throughout the course of their studies. Erring on one side can compound difficulties on another, and no student of any age is expected to navigate their college years perfectly. Perfection is not what we're after, and in many ways that is the point of a liberal arts education: a melange of cultivating interests, learning and experiences to build the unique set of credentials that, yes, make graduates attractive to employers, but that also help students discover who they are and all they might do. It's easy to endorse broad majors versus niche fields, though not always the best thing for any particular individual. That being said, we can endorse without caveat the importance of learning as much as you can about as many things as interest you while you are on this or any campus.

A university degree has never been more important - neither has our committment to the classical, liberal arts education model: Communications and analytical skills, critical thinking and creative problem solving. The traits that are applicable to all fields often lay between the pages, the chapters, the tests and projects. They are a product of all of these, plus great professors that trigger curiosity and a campus that nurtures community thinking in a global setting. The degree will say University of Georgia but its emphasis will always be on you. 

Athfest 2014


woman outside, with stageOne of the many great things about UGA is its symbiotic relationship with its hometown of Athens, Ga. The great intermingling between town and gown creates a constant fecund season for creative collaboration in arts, entertainment, education and all the related enterprises that group up around these activities. One of those is Athfest, and our students, staff and faculty will be well-represented this weekend as spectators, organizers, volunteers and performers.

The Athfest Educates program also does a great job of supporting music and arts education for Athens-Clarke County children. Another terrific initiative that, while not a direct UGA collaboration, is born of the ingenuity of our community-inspired thinking and talent that flows to and from our campus. See you this weekend.

Spring Break in Athens


Enjoying Spring Break in Athens - Ideas for entertainment, education



It’s Spring Break at UGA and campus is quiet this week.  However if you’re in town and looking to enjoy this beautiful weather, there are quite a few seasonal events worth checking out. Here’s my list of UGA-related things to do over Spring Break in the area. 


1. It’s Women’s History Month.  Celebrate the accomplishments of women this month with a visit to the Richard B. Russell Building’s Special Collections Libraries.  Photographs, books, memorabilia and artifacts documenting the first U.S. and U.K. women’s movements from 1840-1920 are on display this month.  This exhibit features rare treasures from the likes of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and many other early leaders.

Find more information at:


2. Get ready for the season with a course on Wilderness First Aid.  Offered at the Ramsey Student Center for Physical Activities from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. March 13-16, this event will get you prepared for any emergency in the wild in the coming season.

More information:


3. Take a drive to Rock Eagle in Eatonton, Georgia.  Located approximately 45 minutes from Athens, the Rock Eagle 4-H Center will inform you about Georgia Native American history. This Saturday, head on down to Rock Eagle for “Saturday at the Rock,” from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. The event features a program called “Simple Machines at the Scott Site,” a morning of exploration of simple machines and tools from the turn of the century. 

Participants are invited to roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty as they work on the early 1900’s-era homestead. Activities include cutting shingles from tree rounds with a froe and maul, shaving wood with a drawknife, sawing trees with a cross-cut saw, using a spoon gauge to create a bowl and other hands-on activities. Rock Eagle’s costumed guide will lead a tour of the site including the saddlebag farmhouse, the blacksmith shop, the smokehouse, the chicken coop, the outhouse and gardens.

Advanced registration is required. The cost is $5.

More information:


4. Head over to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia on S. Milledge on Sunday from 8 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. for a full moon hike.  The cost is $5 for a person or $15 for a family. Each walk will focus on a different topic such as the moon, constellations or nocturnal creatures. Be prepared to hike up to 2 miles on the wooded trails and in the garden. Registration requires. 

More information:


Be sure to visit the UGA calendar for other worthwhile events, including sporting events.  

Introvert in an Extraverted World


campbell interiorProfessor and head of the department of psychology Keith Campbell is also a best-selling author whose research uncovers great insights on that delicate state of affairs we refer to as the human condition. Next week, he will give a lecture on how introversion impacts learning March 4 at 2 p.m. in the Reading Room of the Miller Learning Center:

The lecture is titled "Being an Introvert in an Extraverted World: The Case of Education" and is hosted by the UGA Student Affairs department of academic partnerships and initiatives.


"There are so many situations where extraversion helps, such as a job interview, to finding a date, to participating in class," Campbell said. "This is more important now than ever because people change jobs more often, date more and delay marriage, and are expected to actively participate in classrooms."

Another terrific event that anyone at all can turn into a learning experience. How lucky you are to be on your campus.

Developing general education skills


brickman, head shotIn our contemporary campus culture, broadly construed, developing a well-rounded general education can be quite elusive. Though a broad educational experience is a perennial touchstone in strategic plans and commencement speeches alike, pressures for more narrowly defined jobs and career paths upon graduation create a tendency to whittle away at the very broadness we cherish and that we recognize as important.

On Thursday Nov. 7 at 10 am in the Thomas Reading Room of the MLC, one of the leading teachers in the UGA professoriate, Peggy Brickman, will present a public lecture on Scientific Literacy and how university courses help students build it within themselves as a part of their degree programs:

“Individuals use scientific information in many real world situations beyond the classroom, ranging from evaluating sources of evidence used in media reports about science to recognizing the role and value of science in society. Consequently, achieving scientific literacy for all is a core rationale for science coursework as part of general education (Gen Ed) requirements for undergraduates. But, how do we go about helping students develop those skills? Are courses chock full of content a mile wide and an inch deep helping to produce student with these real life skills? Or do they produce students with a false view of science as a grab bag of facts to be memorized and experiments that reconfirm existing ideas? I’m interested in teaching students to use biology in their own lives, and for the rest of their lives. I’m also interested in finding ways to measure students’ scientific literacy so I can demonstrate the value added to spending a semester in a Core General Education Science Course.”

Emphasis mine. These are extraordinarily important tenants of a healthy society. Even as we put graduates on the path to particular careers, we remember that all of our courses should also be built with the idea of training an engaged citizenry that will face many complex decisions, both personal and societal. Part of the university experience is to help prepare them for this challenge. One challenge for higher education is to strike a balance with these non-competing interests.

Image: Peggy Brickman, courtesy of UGA Photographic services.

The humanities: is everything contextual and contingent?


In 1996, a hoax perpetrated by NYU physics professor Alan Sokal exposed some of the ideological and professional blinders of academic publishing, particularly in the humanities. This and other examples build an interesting criticism of academic life as construed in the work of writer Stanley Fish in the New Republic:

The empirical truth that Fish proffers can hardly be challenged—intellectual life in this country has been highly professionalized—but its banality is hard to beat. In response to criticisms of an argument or questions about a particular interpretation, Fish merely outlines how the profession functions, as if this were an answer. The cult of theory ends in the cult of facts. Fish’s default position describes the activities of professionals. He seems convinced that this is a powerful sally—and advances it in perhaps his most consequential discussion, when he weighs in on the role of liberal education.

Here Fish is at his best and worst. He is at his best because he punctures some “grandiose claims” for liberal education—for instance, that it fosters moral uprightness, community involvement, or global justice. “What is really at stake” in the controversy over liberal education, Fish writes, are not large philosophical principles but “administrative judgment with respect to professional behavior and job performance.” What happened to the idea that liberal education is more than just skills and job performance? That it entails, as John Henry Newman put it in The Idea of a University, overcoming “narrowness of mind”? That it leads to comprehension, even enlightenment? Newman described the narrow mind this way: “Nothing has a drift or relation; nothing has a history or a promise. Everything stands by itself, and comes and goes in its turn.” Newman could be describing Fish’s educational ideal.

Just so. And we're going to cheer anytime column inches are devoted to the humanities in the popular press. But as the criticism of Fish strongly affirms, this is not enough. Only more discussions of the ways the academy comports itself will strengthen it as a profession and as a pillar of society , and reinforce the humanities and social sciences as mission-critical disciplines. They must continually present themselves for evaluation to steer clear of trends and fashion, all the while building out the body of the knowledge on which they stand.

Digital capital in the classroom


kids with computerSome great new research published out of the department of sociology, concerning the signals teachers get from students and how teacher perceptions shape student performance:

Elementary school students bring varied skills and experience to the classroom, commonly referred to as cultural capital. And when teachers notice and value these skills, students do better in school.

A new University of Georgia study, published in the April issue of the journal Sociology of Education, expands the notion of cultural capital to include a digital dimension, demonstrating that computer fluency is as important of a signal to teachers as visiting museums and attending concerts.

"We know that cultural capital matters, that teachers like to know about kids doing well outside the home and bringing that into the classroom," said study co-author Linda Renzulli, associate professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of sociology. "But maybe we need to update cultural capital and think about this other piece of information teachers are gaining about students, which isn't the ballet and isn't travel. It's actually digital capital."

In a society as broad and diverse as the U.S., inequality is a perennial issue - though it's simply not the case, as some ideologues would have it, of trying to create some uniform set of experiences for every person. Equality of opportunity is another matter, and the more we learn about how to help provide this for all young students, no matter their personal circumstances, the better-able they will be to discover their person potential and grow up to make their unique, positive contributions to society.

Image: via Wikimedia Commons, used by permission of an Art Libre license.

The Athletics-Education conundrum


With our own Georgia Bulldogs getting ready for the SEC Championship game this week against Alabama, it's worthwhile to mention one of the issues related to the excitement and the game. In an essay describing a plan to let college athletes major in sports, FSU psychology professor emeritus David Pargman brings up an interesting analogy in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Why do we impose upon young, talented, and serious-minded high-school seniors the imperative of selecting an academic major that is, more often than not, completely irrelevant to, or at least inconsistent with, their heartfelt desires and true career objectives: to be professional athletes?
Acquisition of athletic skills is what significant numbers of NCAA Division I student athletes want to pursue. And this is undeniably why they’ve gone to their campus of choice. Their confessions about their primary interest are readily proclaimed and by no means denied or repressed. These athletes are as honest in recognizing and divulging their aspiration as is the student who declares a goal of performing some day at the Metropolitan Opera or on the Broadway stage. Student athletes wish to be professional entertainers. This is their heart’s desire.

Agree or not, this is a compelling argument. And one with which our friends, colleagues and students in the arts are very familiar. The improbable comparison seems all the more on the mark in the context of what our student musicians, actors and painters are up against in their quest to 'make it'. They might have much more in common with our elite athletes than we had imagined.

via Think Progress.


Continuing Education



Our news director, Sam Fahmy, sat down with new Franklin College dean Alan Dorsey for an article published in this week's Columns. Here is Sam's article in full.



“Continuing Education”

Alan T. Dorsey takes the helm of the university’s oldest, largest and most academically diverse college


By Sam Fahmy

When Alan T. Dorsey became dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences on July 1, he took the helm of a college that educates more students and has more faculty and staff than all but six units of the 31-member University System of Georgia.

Needless to say, he’s been busy.

“Being a dean is the world’s best continuing education,” Dorsey said, reflecting on the diversity of disciplines within the college. Much of his time so far has been spent learning about the college’s 30 departments, its centers and institutes and getting to know its faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters.

Dorsey comes to UGA with nearly 25 years of experience in higher education, most recently as associate dean for natural sciences and mathematics at the University of Florida’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He is both a product and a proponent of flagship research universities and the transformative role they can play in the lives of students and in the world at large. “I’ve spent all of my career in higher education, and I believe in the education that we provide to our students and in the importance of faculty scholarship and research,” Dorsey said. “Administration gives me a chance to influence that in a small way, but hopefully in a meaningful way.”

Renowned educator to join chemistry department




Hundreds of undergraduates from nearly every major take an introductory chemistry course each semester, and beginning this fall they’ll benefit from the expertise of professor Norbert Pienta, who will join UGA in July to fill the position of Director of General Chemistry Instruction. Pienta is a leader in the field of chemical education, a research area that focuses on the teaching and learning of chemistry. He is editor of the Journal of Chemical Education, a highly regarded journal published by the American Chemical Society, whose offices will now be housed at UGA.

Pienta is known for his pioneering use of Web-based tools and software for assessing student learning, using electronic data collection and visualization models to improve the understanding of laboratory data, and creating materials about the application of learning theories and best practices in chemistry for faculty and graduate students. He recently began applying his expertise to K-12 education.