All posts by Vincent DeFrancesco


Video: Interview With Dan Chambliss, an Author of ‘How College Works’

Relationships with friends and professors make or break a student’s college experience. That deceptively simple observation has big implications for making higher education better. In How College Works, Daniel F. Chambliss, a professor of sociology at Hamilton College, and Christopher G. Takacs, a former student at Hamilton and now a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, use evidence from a longitudinal study of Hamilton students to explore how the college experience unfolds, and what s…


Read About How You Can Make College Better

Most conversations about college reform feature broad ideas. But what can people and institutions do, realistically, to make college a better experience? How does college actually work?

Welcome to another edition of The Chronicle Book Club. This round, we’re reading How College Works, a book about small changes professors, administrators, and institutions can make to dramatically improve the student experience. The authors, Daniel Chambliss (@DanFChambliss) and Chris Takacs (@ChrisGTakacs), who …


Video Chat: Recapping ‘The Student Loan Mess’

For nearly two months The Chronicle Book Club has been discussing The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem. Today we’re wrapping up the discussion with a video chat.

The chat features Joel and Eric Best, the book’s authors; Justin Brown, an associate director of the University of Missouri at Columbia’s office of student financial aid (and one of the book club’s most active participants); and Beckie Supiano, a Chronicle reporter who covers financial aid and st…


An Update on The Chronicle Book Club’s Summer Reading

The Chronicle Book Club is a work in progress! As promised, here is an update on author involvement and conversation guidelines.

The authors of The Student Loan Mess, Joel and Eric Best, have agreed to write our weekly discussion posts. They are also open to participating in other ways. If you have an idea for how authors can be involved in the club, now or in the future, please post it to the comments section below.

We are still holding our weekly conversations, both in website comments and on …


Announcing The Chronicle Book Club’s Summer Read

The Chronicle Book Club is back this summer, reading The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem, by Joel and Eric Best. The book is highly readable look at the student-debt bubble, a subject no doubt of personal interest to many of you. You can get a sense of the book by reading this blog post the authors wrote in March.

You might want to purchase a copy as soon as possible; several readers had trouble getting our last book.

Many readers gave us feedback on the …


‘What Is College For?,’ Chapter 6: Graduate School as Higher Education’s Nerve Center

Chapter 6 of What Is College For? was a bit of a departure from the book’s central theme. The previous chapters focused on the lost public purposes of higher education and ways to revive the teaching of those purposes.

This chapter’s author, Catharine Stimpson, dean emerita of New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, touches on the book’s theme very briefly. Perhaps the most direct reference I can find is actually a quote from a Council of Graduate Schools pamphlet which …


‘What Is College For?,’ Chapter 5: Aligning Knowledge and Professional Purpose

William Sullivan, a senior scholar for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, writes in Chapter 5 of What Is College For? that the public purposes of professional education were lost as professions migrated toward the academy and away from the apprenticeship training model. The move separated practical and normative considerations of the role and duty of professionals from the cognitive and academic.

The resulting “dogma of positivism,” the author writes, restricts knowledg…


‘What Is College For?,’ Chapter 4: College Education Beyond the Elite

In 1976 The New Yorker published a cartoon by Saul Steinberg titled “View of the World From Ninth Avenue.” It depicted Manhattan’s Ninth, 10th, and 11th Avenues as covering more than half the world. Just across the Hudson River sat a sliver of land called “Jersey.” Adjacent to Jersey was a larger rectangle of land, filling perhaps a sixth of the page and representing the remainder of the United States. Across the Pacific lay small specks of land marking China, Japan, and Russia.

In Chapter 4 of


‘What Is College For,’ Third Discussion: Does Consumerism Conflict With Civic Virtue?

In Chapter 3 of What Is College For? Elaine Tuttle Hansen proposes that the public purpose of higher education is to “emancipate students from the shackles of consumerist society,” to produce “liberated consumers.”

It’s a bold statement. And the phrase is contradictory at first blush. How can one be liberated from consumerist society and still be a consumer? How is consumerism related to the civic virtues that are the focus of the book?

It’s unavoidable that people consume, Ms. Hansen writes, …