Saturday, November 01, 2008

My response to 5 questions posted by Beatrice Daily Sun

Beatrice Daily Sun

I see higher education as an integrated part of the society. ...The only way to sustain a society is for everyone to pay for his or her due as long as he or she is capable. ...I will make sure the institution lives to the frugal standard.. spend for the necessary but not for the luxury ...It is particularly important to nurture students’ sense of responsibility – study hard and go and seek answers to questions …I will promote diversities so that all views and ideas are exam objectively and will look into discrimination cases of all kinds.

1) What experience do you have that makes you a great candidate for the SCC Board of Governors?

In general, I considered higher education an integrated part of the society. It connects the K12 system, the 4-year institutions and the work force. I went through the graduate school at UNL, taught electronics at a community college and worked with hundreds of programmer in a US Air Force weather project. I then worked with civic engineer at the department of road. I later worked for Nebraska higher education agency. I am experienced but I am not an insider and I considered public’s interest my top priority. In summary, I understand the differences between a 4-year college and a 2-year college. I understand what it means to be a life long learner. I also understand the structure of the Nebraska Higher Education. But all of these do not motivate me to come forward. My believe is that even though Southeast Community College is doing a fine job in a lot of fields, I believe we can build a even better model for other Nebraska institutions. I understand that some of my ideas may not be popular at first, but I believe they are heading to the right direction, which is to be open and responsible to the society’s needs.

2) As a board member, how will you deal with financial issues that students will face; such as rising tuition costs and the lack of private loans for college?

The way I look at this issue is that someone had to pay the bill. So, who should? And to what extend should the society, the State or the Federal Government step in? As we are speaking, increasingly, States are dropping their supports for higher education institutions. Most higher education insiders will simply demand State to provide more money without demonstrating the sustainability. As a board member, I would like to be able to demonstrate our contribution and asked for public’s endorsement. I believe that the only way to sustain a society is for everyone to pay for his or her due as long as he or she is capable. For example, when I attended the graduate school, we call pop and ice cream, the luxuries. We saved pennies for our food and our future. That said, as a board member, I will promote financial aid ideas that consists of family and student efforts. For example, the 529 education-account, the loan and the work study. To make sure we make good use of our resources I will favor aids to students who taking their responsibility (a.k.a. study) seriously. I will also support the idea of establishing an emergency fund that provides short-term loan for students’ financial emergency. And in certain cases, I will support the forgiveness of those loans. But as an old saying said, you can land hands for emergency but you can’t land hands for life. To lower the cost, I, as a board member, will see and make sure the institution lives to the frugal standard. I will spend for the necessary but not for the luxury - A decent Internet access is fine while an unlimited access for video is excessive. Some of my saving ideas may call for institution’s structure changes. But my top priority will always be students’ learning, as long as an idea does not lowering students’ learning, I will take steps that are necessary to lower the cost.

3) One of the current board's guiding principles is to value and support diversity? How have you in the past and how will you in the future, uphold this principle?

First of all, I think we need make distinctions between diversity and equality. We should realize that the goal of affirmative action is about equality, not diversity. Diversity does have its value of broadening people’s view. But, to what extend, should we allow the diversity to over shadow the equality? Let’s say this, in the name of the diversity, we would like to set a rule that all American football teams have to mimic the population profile of the United State. Understand that, in this case, there will be qualified Whites and Blacks that can’t make the team because quota were created for the Natives and Asian. Would you echo this diversity view? The equality, on the other hand, will make sure that qualified Blacks will not be barred from the game. The distant goal of diversity is actually the equality. The question, however, is if diversity a route to the equality? That said, I affirmed that I will promote diversities so that all views and ideas are exam objectively and I will address all issues with solutions that apply to all race, gender and socioeconomic status. In addition, I certainly will look into discrimination cases of all kinds.

4) To promote student learning through the provision of quality instruction and curriculum is another of the board's guiding principles. How will you ensure that student is not only receiving quality instruction, but also ensure that students are getting the most possible out of the curriculum provided?

Before I start, I like to, again, emphasis the importance of being responsible. Community resource is limited; we can’t ask institutions to provide unlimited helps. Yes, providing personal tutoring/body-guard will improve students’ learning. But how efficient is that and is this kind of operation sustainable? Besides, you can herd them to pastures, but you can’t make them pasturing. To improve students’ learning, everyone has to do their parts. It is particularly important to nurture students’ sense of responsibility – study hard and go and seek answers to questions … etc. In addition to that, instructors are responsible for providing quality instructions while administrators have the role of overseeing the operation and making sure institutions fulfill its society role.

Through my 2 and half years of teaching at community colleges, I notice that a large portion of the community college students lacking the ability of independent learning. I considered this a very important issue since without this ability, community college graduates will face difficulties when transferred to 4-year colleges and will have difficulties in adopting the on-the-job training or the likely mid-life career changes. In my view, the reading comprehension is a vital part of this. Over the years, I have encounter students that were lacking this ability and, as a consequence, could not unlock their potential. On the other hand, students with this ability are totally capable of studying by themselves. And not only can they zip through courses, there are times they were bored by lectures that were designed for the majority of the students and this leads me to the idea of testing-out mentioned in a later paragraph.

Even though I believe it’s possible to improve the situation within our current higher education practices, I wouldn’t rule out other ways to improve the situation. A possible setup is to test the graduates of certain fields with third party managed certificate tests. For example, in the IT field, there are quite few certificate tests available and some employer do ask for the certificate. In this scenario, students are pressured to take up their responsibility and will see instructors as their ally. With students and instructor on the same boat, there is no stop to it.

**I post several similar comments to articles at and, only recently, the ‘State Higher Education Executive Officers’ published a paper ‘accountability for better results’ call for the use of ‘rigorous EXTERNAL accreditation’.

The idea of allowing students to take tests to acquire credits also rings bell to me. The idea will reduce students’ financial burden and, therefore, provide incentives for them to study hard and take up their responsibility. At the same time, this will build up their ability to learn and study independently. The idea of adopting technology and using pre-recorded lectures to share course material is also a good one. Institutions and instructors should not afraid of all these, they just need to adapt. These ideas will give instructors more time to do other things. It does not eliminate instructors job, it simply change their roles. Some instructors may take up the role of consulting and some of them may take up the role of learning and developing new courses. Institutions can extend their reach to other kinds of students and reducing the cost per services.

As a board member, I will see the institution respond to society’s needs and I will support the call for accountability of our institution. I see this as the only way to advance our higher education system.

5) Another principle is to develop and maintain partnerships, which the board works to do. If elected to the board, what partnerships will you strive to either develop or maintain?

As I continue to emphasize, I strongly believe that the higher education is part of the society and is responsible to the need of the society. As a member of the society, we are connected to the society in terms of needs and feedback.

Instructors in our institution will continue to advance in their fields and will need to connect to the source of the knowledge. Our students will be hired by industries and will need to continue to advance their knowledge while working. Our institution is connected to the K12 too since our students come from that system. While we are advancing our institution, we would like to help the K12 producing better qualified students since that allows our institution to move our offering to a higher level and help the whole society move to a higher level.

Our relations with University and State colleges are of vital importance. Not only that they are part of our knowledge source; they also set the bar for our transfer students. In addition to that, I considered higher education an essential part of our state’s economy and all institutions are linked. The state of Nebraska do not have unlimited resources and how we use them determines our future. At this moment, Nebraska produces highly trained graduates only to see them leave the state to work for other states. This is particularly true for Ph.D. and Master students. The only way to keep these students is to develop our own industry – a vertical industry where University and State colleges provide the research and developing expertise while community colleges provides the knowledgeable work force. Only with this kind of alignment, we can build an industry that is not only competitive but also sustainable since the whole resource is behind it.

As a board member, I will also see our institution to connect to the public and the legislature. I will seek to demonstrate our contribution and, in return, I will seek appropriate funding for our institution to help advancing the whole state of Nebraska.

No comments: