Long Hiatus Over – Return to Current Events & Interesting Topics

Hello, readers!

I have been on a long hiatus from this blog and I have recently felt the itch to get back in. There are always interesting articles that have popped up sparking reactions or just topics that I find myself passionate about that I continue to explore. I would like to be more realistic about engaging in this blog at the same time. Because I actually manage an additional 2 socially-oriented blogs (which you can connect to as well), I was overwhelmed trying to find the right balance in posting. That said, you, as the readers, should be able to expect a minimum of 2 blog posts per week. I will try to hold myself accountable and hope that you as the readers feel like this effort is worthwhile.

If you have any reactions or ideas for posts, do not hesitate dropping a comment or sharing an article. Thanks!

By Dan Hairfield Posted in General

The National Housing Training Institute

A few months ago, I learned that I was accepted to attend this year’s NHTI gathering at the University of Georgia. I am excited to attend and hope to truly explore my career goals and make some new professional contacts. If I get a chance to reflect, I will post during my time in Athens, but I will return with a few posts to highlight some of the significant learning moments of the next 5 days.

By Dan Hairfield Posted in General

The Five Under-appreciated Benefits of College

Though I have never left the college environment, my role has evolved over time. Four years in undergrad, one year in transition, two years in graduate school, three years in a new professional position and now back at my original university in a new role. Each experience brought a change in my interaction with the college environment. While there is much I appreciated while seeking that initial bachelor’s degree, the next step brought new realizations about what undergraduates take for granted. Here are my top five elements easily under-appreciated in the college environment:

#5: The Bell Tower (aka Overall Environment and Unity)

While there are organizations that foster a great campus-like feel (such as Google), nothing truly beats the college campus. At the top of the hour, the bell tower chimes the school alma mater, instilling that little bit of pride in the institution in each of the students, faculty and administrators traversing the campus. Young minds are hard at work in the library, lounges of the residence halls, empty classrooms and even on the lawn in the campus mall. On a Friday afternoon, you may catch the marching band practicing their routine for the upcoming home football game. There are truly thousands of little elements that can be easily overlooked until a student moves on to the next stage of adulthood and looks back on their collegiate pass.

#4: The College as a Mini City

You are never far from a necessary resource when you are on a college campus. The Student Union is host to multiple stores, restaurants and attractions (like a campus theater, comedy shows and musical performances). Many of them have elements like post offices, copy centers, barbers and bowling alleys. Individual academic buildings may even have their own snack bars or cafeteria’s. When you feel like there is nothing to do, resident assistants are available in the residence halls to provide programmatic opportunities, such as movie nights and game competitions. When you want to tap into that athletic side, there are gyms, athletic fields and even stadiums to either play in the big game or watch one.

#3: Fostering of the Mind

Between classes and special lectures/guests, there are a number of educational moments to be had. Classes provide a structure to learning that truly helps drive retention of material. Alumni of certain programs commonly come back to interact with the new classes of students. Representatives of special projects or publishing are more than interested in meeting young people. And besides the directly academic resources, most schools are open to educational student group experiences through the Student Activities offices or specific academic departments. In election years, you can commonly find national debates occurring right on your local campus.

#2: Ability to Make an Impact

Recently, the National Mall in DC hosted an energy conservation activity where students and faculty from 20 colleges across the globe competed to develop the most energy-efficient and natural homes. My school actually won the competition and the students could not be happier. Experiencing like these are happening all of the time in all sorts of fields. Students can enter into research assistantships/internships, taking a significant role in the process of analyzing and interpreting data. Protesting, though contentious at times, is also more of an accepted norm on college campuses and generally sees more of an impact than in the general public. Even with the number of protests that occur around the nation, there are also more channels willing to listen.

#1: Structure & Time

Students generally do not understand the balance of freedom and structure they have during their academic years. While the focus is on academics, most students are either able to balance extracurricular activities or employment (or potentially both) while taking classes. Grade school provided a much more directed schedule. Students select their classes to take place during whatever part of the day they can get (unless few options exist for a core/required course) and the rest of the time can be devoted to coursework, extracurricular activities, socializing and sleep. Another aspect about the structure is actually in the ability to make mistakes. Since schools operate with their own guidelines and rules, public safety offices and judiciary organizations do not traditionally get involved in minor offenses. This means an alcohol situation that may get cited with a fine and court proceedings in the real world only initiates a warning or probation in the college system and no real threat to one’s academic record for the first few incidents (at most schools). Most poor choices during one’s college years do not even transition into life after college unless they were either severe issues or they mistakenly got posted on Facebook.

While I certainly could expand on each of these categories at great length from my own experiences, it is interesting to even just interpret these themes based on one’s own time in college and reflect on the moments passed by with new stages of life. My hope is that I can still make a small impact to encourage current students to value these elements before they become overwhelmed with life after the ivy tower.

By Dan Hairfield Posted in General

Changing History: Messing Around in Texas

On Friday, representatives from the state of Texas gathered to discuss and vote on changes to the social studies curricula and textbooks to adopt a more conservative view of our nation’s history. Cynthia Dunbar opened the proceedings with the following statement: “I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses.” Dunbar is a Republican board member from Richmond. Overall, it was a swift process, debating a few points and moving on to the vote. In the end, the state approved the conservative push to change the terminology and focus of what Texas’s youth will learn, but this could have much larger ramifications for the rest of the country.

Texas accounts for the largest single influence to the textbook industry. They are the largest market and changes to the Texas curricula affect the production of books and the revamping of curricula across the country. Although the state of California has already publicly exclaimed they will not take on the Texas terminology or content, most other states could start seeing the conservative wave wash over their texts and lessons plans.

So what are the changes? Many of them are still being determined and a collection of them were getting rushed in at the Friday vote. It is difficult to say that one of these is greater than the others, but there is a theme of softening the negative view of our nation’s past. “Capitalism” was deemed too negative of a word, so it will be changed to “free enterprise system.” Thomas Jefferson’s separation of church and state was deemed less important by the board and will result in a diminished focus on his contribution to government. In order to raise more light about the confederacy, Jefferson Davis will get stronger attention alongside Abraham Lincoln and the reasons for the war will focus less on slavery and more on fighting for individual state rights and reduced federal power. Major events like the Alamo and other battles against other peoples will be diminished, which also includes a reduction of the discussion of the Hispanic/Latin@ population. Social security and Medicare will be discussed as entitlements. The slave trade will also be reduced to the discussion of the “Triangle Trade Pattern,” which will lump slavery and indentured servitude into other commodity trading.

There was plenty of outcry over these changes. Even two of the board members started talking about how disgusted they were with the changes and how we should just throw away all discussion of Latin@ impact on American history. One student rose to proclaim the changes to be detrimental to a multicultural society. Multiple professors stood up and called this an abomination and distortion of history. Laura Munoz, an assistant professor from Texas A&M Corpus Christi said that these changes were going to wipe out Latinos from the history of the past 150 years. The emotions ran high, but the decision still passed.

One might say that these are just textbooks and have little affect on our nation. All of this information is in the past, right? Well, the problem here is that our nation’s youth will not encounter the separation of church and state, which could also diminish respect for a society that can identify under religious pluralism. They will not understand the dark side of American history. And when it comes to higher education, they will not be prepared to learn the truth about their country. I doubt we will see any true changes at a higher education level, except for a more unprepared population of students in regard to American and world history.

We will have to continue to watch the fallout from this decision and only time will tell its actual impact on our education system.

And so it begins…

As a way to stay current and be informative on all things related to student affairs and higher education, I have decided to start this blog. Browse through at your leisure and leave some comments if the mood strikes you. Enjoy!!

By Dan Hairfield Posted in General