Monday, June 08, 2009


Monday Musings

Monday Musings

- In discussing a nearby park, TG asked me “why did they put a hill there when they designed the world?”

- We saw Up on Saturday, and I have to admit, it's one of the best movies I've ever seen. Pixar has a high batting average anyway – Cars and Finding Nemo were nifty, and The Incredibles was flat-out great – but this one had a sweetness to it that the others lacked. There's a short almost-silent mini-movie in the beginning that traces a couple's lifetime together that almost stands as a movie in itself. At the end of that set piece, an entire theater full of kids and candy wrappers was silent. But the movie also had plenty of jokes for the various age levels, wonderful voice acting, and a perfect ending. Very, very impressed.

- Vacation hopscotch has started. Although we admin types have 12-month calendars, we need breaks too, and we can't really take them during regular semesters. So when summer hits, people take their days. It makes sense, but it also means that scheduling meetings when you can get a full complement of attendees becomes much more challenging. I've already had several conversations along the lines of “I'm out that week, and she's out the next week, and then we're all here for a day, but then so-and-so will be out for a week, and then...” Things still get done, but it's slower and much more catch-as-catch-can.

- In a nod to web 2.0, and inspired mostly by Clancy Ratliff (culturecat), I've started a twitter feed ( The first few tweets were more conceptual than event-based (“continued balding”), but that's hard to sustain, so it's defaulting to events. As with blogging, there's a rhythm that takes a little time to learn. From following a few other feeds, I'm noticing that the major difference from blogging is in the contours of storytelling. In a blog, each post is largely self-contained, either telling its own story or starting a discussion in the comments. On Twitter, each post is like a single musical note; the melody comes in the sequence of notes over time. It's a different style, but it's fun to try. (Documenting the quotidian while maintaining pseudonymity is a unique challenge; I'm not entirely sure how that will work.) I'll admit also enjoying the theme-of-the-day contests they have in the sidebar. Last week they did “three words after sex.” Somebody submitted “that cost what?”

- Last week on our library run, TB sat in the kids' section reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid and laughing to himself. I noticed two girls who looked a year or two older than TB watching him and whispering to each other. It didn't seem to be mockery; it looked more like goading. Eight years old, and he's already got it. Where he got it from is mysterious, but good for him. He has no idea, which I think is why it works.

- A contact at a private university mentioned to me that the students there are postponing graduation specifically so they won't have to start repaying their student loans while unemployed. Locally, our retention rate is climbing, even with students who just graduated sticking around to take a few more credits before transferring. (Some of the local destination colleges for transfers are willing to take the degree plus fifteen credits; we're having unprecedented numbers of students actually take them up on it.) The Great Recession is playing out in unanticipated ways.

A contact at a private university mentioned to me that the students there are postponing graduation specifically so they won't have to start repaying their student loans while unemployed.

I remember graduating into the recession in the 1980s. Quite a few classmates went into grad school to postpone loans coming due. I'd expect enrollment in post-grad programs to increase. Likewise enrollment at teachers' colleges.
On dragging things out:

I'm seen this at Research U....I have a few dissertation students who are "slowing down" on finishing their dissertations. They're quite open about this. They're up to the eyeballs in student loan debt (although they are working full-time), meanwhile the top dollar professional jobs have evaporated, at least for the upcoming fiscal year (starting July 1st). So, lacking any hope of "cashing in" on the new doctorate, they're opting to drag out things for a year.

THe danger to this is easy: They never finish or their "clock" on finishing runs out. That said, the "drag things out to avoid that nasty student loan payment schedule" makes sense to me.

The problem from a programmatic standpoint is folks deliberately slowing down means we can't accept new doc students (limited faculty resources). So, potential NEW students get turned away since my colleagues and I are up to our eyeballs in current dissertation students.

Anyway, I'm seeing some true "weirdness" thanks to the economic downturn.
Yep here at Big State (Compass Heading) U we are seeing two phenomena (even for the socially valuable programs):

- Had to make some phone calls this time to get some of the international students placed. H1B visas have been choked off by the new administration (they are after all "taking jobs Americans don't want!")

- Domestic students down to maybe 1.3-1.5 offers each from the more typical 3-5 job ofers each.

For the less-socially-redeeming-value programs yes we are seeing an influx into MBA programs straight after graduation.

Will have an intersting mix in the Fall cohort: about 50% business professionals and 30% PoliSci/English majors; off from a more typical 75%/10% ratio.

Not sure how this will play out in my classroom . . .


. . . it will make for some great "sport!"

("The role of government is to prevent mutually agreeable trade" oughta go over well!)
Who, me? Wow. Glad to inspire you!
I figured I would take a minute here to invite any in this community that are on twitter to follow me there as well.

No secret here, I am @SCMProfessor
As an aside, perhaps we are not properly educating our students (should be graduates) on the actual economic numbers.

Yes, the "aggregate" numbers are bad, but they are really only bad for those with less than a 4 year degree.

The quote? "Unemployment #s: high school dropout: 15.5 pct; high school degree only: 10 pct; 4-year college degree: 4.8 pct."

So interestingly, the unemployment rate for college graduates is at what economists for years had held was the "noise" level of unemployment. Of course, that noise level also included all the other categories (caveat, caveat, caveat) but still--the 8, 9 or 15 % numbers are only scary when you don't dig deeper, and realize that education truly can, and will, pay off.

To follow up from the WSJ reporter, go find @gordondeal on Twitter.
"Nobody's hiring" still means "nobody's hiring," even if you have a degree. There are two aspects of unemployment, separation rate and job-finding rate. Job-finding can still be terribly low for new graduates but support a reasonable unemployment rate, if folks aren't being let go of either.

Also, unemployment is generally poorly measured these days anyways. Labor Force Participation is a good counterpoint.
PM you are correct so let me add anecdote to statistics. All my graduates this spring were hired. My daughter who graduated in December was hired.

That makes for a 100% success rate, with none of the success being attributed to McDonald's style service jobs.

Then again, these are business and science majors. English and other evergreen mileage may vary.
This thread has become eerily complementary to the "Perceived Value of the Degree" thread . . .

. . . or maybe the word "obviously" could be substituted for "eerily."

Also explains why a lot of non-business/engineering grads are slipping right into MBA (or other business related) graduate degrees.


(On a related note, the amount of "The College of Business is merely a trade school" snarkisms from colleagues has gone way, way down recently!)
Yeah, business and science undergrads do well. And there's still always money in computers.
At Big State (Compass Heading) U we have a tussle between who "owns" Computer Science: Engineering or Business?

Electrical Engineering dept sez "Computer Science is all about Hardware; Hardware is Engineering"

Information Technology & Decision Sciences dept sez "Computers are a tool for making better business decisions, both hardware and software are a gestalt of "information."

Interesting stuff actually. The actual classes the students would take are not substantively in dispute; both camps agree materially on the program itself.

But they vehemently disagree on who should "own" the program.
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