People

President-to-Be Sees Advantages for Small Colleges in Efforts to Diversify

January 31, 2016

Keith Mumma
Jorge G. Gonzalez
Journey to Kalamazoo

When Jorge G. Gonzalez trekked to the United States from his native Monterrey, Mexico, in the 1980s to continue his study of economics, he had no interest in working in higher education.

"I never wanted to be an academic," said Mr. Gonzalez, who was appointed last month as president of Kalamazoo College.

"Living in Mexico, I saw a lot of poverty, and I was convinced that, with the right economic policies, you can reduce poverty," he said in an interview here at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges & Universities. "So when I came to the United States, it was all with the intention to get a Ph.D. in economics so I can come back to Mexico and be a politician to work on those social policies."

But during his studies at Michigan State University, Mr. Gonzalez got an offer to be an instructor and "just fell in love" with teaching. He also found another love — Michigan State is where he met his wife, Suzie, a 1983 alumna of Kalamazoo, while they were graduate students.

"As I told the search committee, I already chose K College 27 years ago, when I decided to ask her to marry me, because she embodies the values of the school," Mr. Gonzalez said of his wife, a longtime school psychologist. "She is committed to global education, inclusivity, and social justice."

Mr. Gonzalez — who at Occidental College since 2010 has been vice president for academic affairs, dean of the college, and an economics professor — says that when he assumes his new post at Kalamazoo, in July, it won’t be to "reinvent" the college, but rather to focus on fund-raising, diversifying the student body, and bridging the gap between the cost of tuition and what most families can afford.

In the fall of 2014, 9 percent of Kalamazoo’s students were Hispanic, and 5 percent were black or African-American. Twenty percent received Pell Grants in 2013-14.

Because Kalamazoo is small, Mr. Gonzalez says, admissions officers have the opportunity to get to know more about prospective students than simply their scores on college-entrance exams or the number of Advanced Placement courses they took. Officers can also look at factors like the student-to-counselor ratios at applicants’ high schools, or if their school even offered AP courses.

"You need to take that into account," Mr. Gonzalez said. "If I attend a school that has 500 students per counselor, I cannot expect the counselor to write a letter that is very detailed about the student, and we cannot penalize the student for such a letter."

The key, he said, is "to see where the student is coming from, and how have they risen given the opportunities that they have had." — Jamaal Abdul-Alim

Ben Ferrari
James E. Miller
The Revival of Reflection

James E. Miller, a professor of liberal studies and politics at the New School for Social Research, says he realized a few years ago "that there was no journalism program that focused on people who would be interested in keeping alive the traditions of reflective writing" and of "contributing to the conversation of ideas and culture." He had in mind the kind of writing found in little magazines like Partisan Review, Salmagundi, and Raritan.

So he has started a master’s program in creative publishing and critical journalism at the New School to accomplish that. The program is halfway through a yearlong trial, with a full start set for the fall. Mr. Miller, an author of books on philosophers, student protesters, and rock musicians, is creating with colleagues a craft-workshop model, in which students learn about publishing from practitioners, both on the campus and in New York’s many publishing venues, which range from the mainstream to the maverick.

Students in the new program, who are expected to come from around the world, will be taught that not only writers and editors but also such workers as business and publicity managers are "necessary to get texts into circulation and into the hands of readers," Mr. Miller says. As instructors, he has called on colleagues like Juliette Cezzar, who teaches communication design and data visualization at the New School’s Parsons School of Design, and Rachel Rosenfelt, who started the online small magazine The New Inquiry and, he says, "unearthed and discovered a lot of interesting young talent."

Mr. Miller allows that entering journalism may seem, nowadays, an act of faith, but despite the "tremendous amount of disruption" in recent years, he believes that "there are going to be all sorts of new opportunities, particularly for young people who aren’t scared of coming up with completely new ways of looking at the challenges of creating and putting into circulation worlds made with words."

One requirement for students in the program is that they create a publication of a kind that is of their own invention, to show that they can, as Mr. Miller puts it, engage with both novel form and engaging content. — Peter Monaghan

Rice U.
Michelle Rae Hebl
Award Winner at Sea

Calling out discrimination and becoming aware of it within yourself are essential to combating it, says Michelle Rae Hebl.

For her success in showing this to her students at Rice University, as well as to other people, Ms. Hebl has just won Baylor University’s Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching.

The most well-intentioned and well-educated people can be prejudiced, even if only unconsciously, said Ms. Hebl, a professor of psychology and management who has published widely on stigmatization.

"I make students aware that everyone has biases and they do, too," she wrote via a texting service from a ship on the Pacific Ocean, where she is teaching in the Semester at Sea program sponsored by the University of Virginia. She said she does not pressure her students, or the people who attend her workplace seminars, to change. That would create resistance. Instead she tries to demonstrate that no matter how immune people may think they are to preconceptions and prejudices, they very likely are not.

That approach, on its own, induces change, she wrote: "I have learned that students, teachers, and people respond to objective data, and when I can present that, they become believers." They then "hold themselves and others more responsible for discriminatory behaviors."

Ms. Hebl, who has won many teaching awards at Rice, in 2005 became the first faculty member whom students had ever chosen as commencement speaker. Many of her own students go on to work in her research lab.

For some of her experiments on prejudice, students may gauge what happens when they apply for jobs or go into customer-service or medical settings wearing — or not wearing — a pregnancy or obesity prosthesis, or a hat that says "gay" or "Texan."

She says students embrace the thespian spirit of the research. They learn that prejudices are expressions of individual cultures, and at the same time come to realize that that does not excuse acting prejudicially.

The realization, she said, is "key for them to start calling themselves and others out."

The Cherry award carries with it $250,000 in cash; an additional $25,000 goes to Rice’s psychology department. Ms. Hebl is expected to teach in residence at Baylor during the spring 2017 semester. — Peter Monaghan

Honored Grad Students

Brad Jacobson, a Ph.D. candidate in rhetoric, composition, and the teaching of English at the University of Arizona, studies the impact of state standards on students’ transition from high-school-level to college-level writing.

His work now has been recognized with a 2016 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, given by the Association of American Colleges & Universities to graduate students who emphasize teaching and show promise as future leaders of higher education.

The nine other winners this year are Claire Berezowitz, educational psychology and civil society and community research, University of Wisconsin at Madison; Nusta Carranza Ko, political science, Purdue University; Annemarie Galeucia, cultural geography and anthropology, Louisiana State University; Uttam Gaulee, higher-education administration, University of Florida; Jasmine Linabary, communication, Purdue; Breanne Przestrzelski, bioengineering, Clemson University; Roman Ruiz, higher education, University of Pennsylvania; Daniel R. Siakel, philosophy, University of California at Irvine; and Désirée Weber, political science, Northwestern University. — Ruth Hammond

Obituary: Longtime Figure at AAUP

Jordan E. Kurland, associate general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, who was known as a vigorous defender of academic freedom, died on January 23 after a short illness. He was 87.

The AAUP honored Mr. Kurland last summer for his half-century of service to the group. He continued to preside over the association’s major casework in academic freedom and tenure, despite having officially stepped down 15 years earlier as director of staff for Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Mr. Kurland was involved in more than 90 percent of the case investigations conducted in the association’s history, AAUP officials said. — Charles Huckabee

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