Parents and Families
‘More Than a Major’: How Employers Prioritize Communication, Problem-Solving Skills (Inside Higher Ed)
According to a survey just released by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, business executives care less about the undergraduate majors of potential employees than they do about thinking, communication and problem-solving skills. The economic downturn has “put a premium on college graduates who are really multifaceted … people who have both broad knowledge and skills as well as field-specific skills,” says AAC&U Vice President for Policy and Public Engagement Debra Humphreys.
L.S. Asekoff ’61, a professor of English at Brooklyn College, has been awarded a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry. Asekoff’s poems have appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Ninth Letter, and Slate, among many others.
He is the author of four books of poetry: Dreams of a Work (Orchises Press, 1993); North Star (Orchises, 1997); The Gate of Horn (TriQuarterly/Northwestern University Press, 2010); and the verse-novella Freedom Hill (TriQuarterly/Northwestern, 2011). Read more.
Students recently wrapped up months of work to award grants to seven local nonprofits from an initial pool of 21 applicants. The winners of this year’s Bowdoin’s Common Good grants included a range of organizations with diverse missions, from a Brunswick food pantry and soup kitchen to a therapeutic riding program in Windham.
When students handed Sweetser a grant for $1,780, it marked the 100th Common Good award made since the program was formed in 2001.
Michael Kolster, associate professor of art at Bowdoin, has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to support his photographic project “Take Me to the River,” a collection of unique glass plate photographs that depict American rivers as amalgams of human and natural forces. The award was announced today in The New York Times.
Neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and expert on sleep and consciousness, Guilio Tononi, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been experimenting with a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) that delivers single bursts of high-speed magnetic energy to his subjects’ brains.
The varying electrical activity in the brain of subjects that are in a deep sleep or awake reveals patterns that indicate their disparate levels of consciousness. Further assessing these trends could help medical professionals better understand and treat patients in comas, vegetative states or even those under anesthesia.
You know at the end of the job interviewer, when you’re asked, “Do you have any questions for us?” — that’s your cue to show them you’re prepared, educated and inquisitive, yes? Well, it is. Consider these tips from Business Insider a quick prep course; it comprises six questions to help you knock it out of the park.
Writer Jeff Haden argues that defining success is only possible on an individual level with the simple question “How happy am I?” If you’re complaining about the demands of work, you have obviously devoted too much time to being financially successful and not enough time on your personal and family life. ”If you aren’t happy it’s time to rethink how you define success, and start making changes,” Haden writes.
Bowdoin President Barry Mills responds to a report about Bowdoin by the National Association of Scholars.
Our College came under attack last week. It was an attack on our students, our alumni, our faculty, and our values. It is an attack that continues today on the blogs, in the comment streams, and on Twitter.
It’s time to respond.
Why has it taken us a week to answer the charges contained in a 359-page document (plus another 119 pages or so of background material) financed at a cost of “well over $100,000” by an individual who has not spent more than a few hours on our campus and produced by a 25-year-old organization whose investigators have no first-hand experience with what we teach or how we teach it?
The answer might well be found in “The Offer of the College,” which urges us “to gain a standard for the appreciation of others’ work and the criticism of your own.” When the report was made public last Wednesday, the College issued a statement promising to review it, “because we encourage open discourse on the effectiveness of American higher education and because we support academic freedom, which is the essence of a liberal arts institution.” A week later, that review is complete.
Let me be clear and direct: the report by the National Association of Scholars is mean-spirited and personal. It exaggerates its claims and misrepresents both what we do at Bowdoin and what we stand for. This is not just my reaction. It is the considered opinion of many members of our community, including those who ought to know best—our current students and their parents, and alumni who have spent many, many hours in our classrooms and labs, and who describe an experience very different from the one contained in this report.
Let me be clear and direct: the report by the National Association of Scholars is mean-spirited and personal. It exaggerates its claims and misrepresents both what we do at Bowdoin and what we stand for.
I will not attempt to address every misrepresentation or factual error in the NAS report. There will be time in future weeks to take these on. Today, I will simply focus on the most egregious among them—the inaccurate statements getting the most “air time” on blogs and through social media.
Among these is Bowdoin is somehow un-American—that our “worldview” and what we teach here are “antithetical to the American experiment” or that “Bowdoin on the whole shows little interest in the West.” Frankly, it’s hard to know where to begin with such nonsense. The American flag flies high over our campus atop a flagpole dedicated to our graduates who died in defense of America in World War I. This memorial abuts another granite structure—dedicated not long ago—honoring those who served our country in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. On the other end of the Quad stands Memorial Hall, built and preserved in memory of Bowdoin students and alumni who fought in the Civil War. We are proud of these memorials and eternally grateful to the people whose names are etched on their panels. We are also proud of the Bowdoin graduates currently serving in our nation’s armed forces and of the young men and women who are inducted into the military each year during public campus ceremonies that immediately follow Commencement. Beyond the armed forces, Bowdoin graduates serve our nation in government and in the law. They are teachers, doctors, artists, non-profit leaders, and entrepreneurs. They are the backbone of our country, and to suggest otherwise is to insult their accomplishments and to demean their significant contributions. We are told by the NAS that “American Exceptionalism” is “a term of derision” on the Bowdoin campus. Yet, this is the same campus that just this year hosted a public performance of the United States Marine Band in Farley Field House and where each year at Convocation, we open the ceremonies by singing “America the Beautiful.”
It’s important that we honor America through memorials and music, but most important is what we teach our students about this nation and its traditions. Perhaps the most repeated criticism by the NAS is that “history majors at Bowdoin are not required to take a single course in American history;” that we do not offer and do not require a general survey course in American history; and that “there are no courses devoted to political, military, diplomatic, or intellectual history except those that deal with some group aspect of America.” Let’s take these one at a time:
It is true that history majors are not required to take a single course in American history, but why is that? Requirements are generally put into place to guide students to courses that they are otherwise disinclined to take. At Bowdoin, we know students interested in history have already studied American history in high school and that they will naturally gravitate to these courses here. Last year, 100% of our graduating history majors took AT LEAST one course in U.S. history. Many took more than one such course. This year, that number stands at 98%. With this level of participation, a requirement is…well, not required.
Last year, 100% of our graduating history majors took AT LEAST one course in U.S. history. Many took more than one such course. This year, that number stands at 98%.
Quickly on the other two points: we do not offer a survey course in American history because our students come to Bowdoin well-grounded in American history and seek more in-depth analysis. As for the charge that we don’t offer history courses dealing with political, intellectual, diplomatic or military history, a look at our course catalogue would set things straight. It is a charge that is obviously incorrect, since among the courses offered this year alone are:
History 140: War and Society
History 139: The Civil War Era
History 231: Colonial America and the Atlantic World
History 232: History of the American West
History 233: American Society in the New Nation, 1763-1840
History 226: The City as American History
History 238: Reconstruction
Beyond these, our government and legal studies department offers important courses on the American presidency, Congress, the U.S. Constitution, and other areas in the fields of American government and political theory. As our community knows, government is currently—and has long been—the most popular major at Bowdoin, and it is nearly impossible for these students to graduate from Bowdoin without having read the Federalist Papers at least once.
Speaking of courses, a whole lot has been made of another point driven home by the NAS Report. Yes, there are some courses offered at Bowdoin that come with provocative titles. We are not alone in teaching these subjects, which are offered at every elite college and university in America. The one cherry-picked by our critics to make a point is “Queer Gardens,” a first-year seminar proposed (but ultimately never offered) by our English department. Since lots of people have asked, here’s what that course was all about:
Explores how the garden in Western literature and art serves as a space for desire. Pays special attention to the link between gardens and transgression. Also considers how gardens become eccentric spaces and call into question distinctions between nature and culture. Examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces.
…it is nearly impossible for these students to graduate from Bowdoin without having read the Federalist Papers at least once.
Okay, admittedly, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea because it is viewed by some as scholarship that isn’t serious, and there are other courses in our catalogue with attention-grabbing titles and descriptions that may not appeal to every student. But consider for a moment what the students would have actually DONE in this class. They would have read works by Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett, and several other notable authors. In my view, the title and course description are what get you in the door (or not, in this case). What happens next is education. The point is that our students are reading and discussing great literature. That’s one of the important things we do here. Oh, and by the way, the folks at the NAS can exhale—we regularly teach courses that include the works of Spenser!
There are many, many more questionable assertions about Bowdoin contained in the NAS document, but these are the ones seen and heard most frequently in recent days. They are also the points promoted most widely—without investigation or corroboration—by columnists and correspondents using the Internet and social media who have no first-hand knowledge of the College.
So, this is a start. Will we take the time to respond to, challenge, or debunk everything contained in this report and promoted by its authors? Probably not. Time is precious these days, as we prepare to graduate an exceptionally-prepared Class of 2013 in just under six weeks. That said, we have the right and the inclination to fight back when we believe it is necessary to do so. We are not a fragile or insecure institution, and we will not abide personal attacks and unsubstantiated tirades by those with deep pockets and a personal or political axe to grind.
In closing, let me restate as forcefully as I can what we stand for at Bowdoin:
We are committed to building and supporting a student body that is representative of America and the world.
We are committed to providing opportunity to those previously excluded.
We are also committed to preparing our students to become global citizens in a global economy and for careers that call for critical thinking, judgment, and principled leadership.
As “The Offer of the College” reminds us, there is nothing wrong with well-reasoned, objective, and constructive criticism. Bowdoin as an institution—and all of us as individuals—can always improve what we’re doing and how we approach learning and education. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to take seriously a vindictive effort such as this intended to harm and discredit this historic college in order to satisfy a personal agenda and retrieve a bygone era.
During this past week, as we have endured “our turn in the barrel,” I have never been more proud of and grateful to our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Bowdoin is a great college, and we choose to move forward, confident in our values and reinforced by our record.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Comments on this post are now closed. While we welcome reader responses, we have now received 150 comments for this post. As indicated in the “About Us” section of the Bowdoin Daily Sun, we “reserve the right to limit comments based on volume,” due to the staff time necessary to moderate these reader contributions. Thank you for offering your views on this subject.
Gary M. Pendy Sr. Professor of Social Sciences and Professor of Government and Legal Studies at Bowdoin College Jean Yarbrough speaks with Professor of Government Paul Franco about her new book, “Theodore Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition.” In the book, Yarbrough “provides a searching examination of TR’s political thought, especially in relation to the ideas of Washington, Hamilton, and Lincoln—the statesmen TR claimed most to admire,” according to the University Press of Kansas.
Yarbrough teaches political philosophy and American Political Thought, and has twice received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is the author of “American Virtues: Thomas Jefferson on the Character of a Free People” and has edited “The Essential Jefferson.”
When one of New York City’s strongest advocates for change within the public school system announced that her youngest child would be attending private school, it created quite a stir, begging the question — does that diminish her standing?
In his latest column, John Cross ’76 explains small-world theory and, by way of six degrees of separation, connects the reader through the College back to George Washington.
We live our lives in a world of seeming contradictions, with an ever-expanding human population and at the same time a sense that the world is becoming a smaller place when it comes to communications and the reach of social networks. The Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy explored this theme in “Chain-Links,” a 1929 short story: “One of us suggested performing the following experiment to prove that the population of the Earth is closer together now than they have ever been before. We should select any one person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth—anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.”
The mathematical framework for Karinthy’s “small-world problem” was tackled in the early 1950s. Apparently each individual has a personal network of from 500 to 2,500 people, and each one of those people has, in turn, a network of comparable size. From a purely mathematical perspective, it doesn’t take too many links in a chain to get to a very big number, even accounting for overlaps in networks. Social psychologist Stanley Milgram at Harvard undertook an empirical test of Karinthy’s model in the late 1960s by asking volunteers in Nebraska to mail a package to someone that they knew personally who might be able to get it to a target individual in Boston. Many of the chains were not completed, but for those that were, the average number of links was between five and six. Despite methodological shortcomings (small sample size, a high rate of uncompleted chains, and non-randomness in the selection of participants), Milgram’s summary of his research in Psychology Today fired the popular imagination. “Six degrees of separation” became a part of the cultural lexicon.
Thus, an offhand remark by actor Kevin Bacon in 1994 that he had worked with (or had worked with someone else who had worked with) everyone in the film industry prompted four Albright College students to invent a movie trivia game called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” A person’s “Bacon number” indicates the number of links necessary to connect them to the actor. Initially Bacon was irked by the attention, but he has since created “The Kevin Bacon Game for Good,” a charitable giving website.
Milgram’s summary of his research in Psychology Today fired the popular imagination. “Six degrees of separation” became a part of the cultural lexicon.
“Small-World Theory” continues to attract attention as way to model neural networks, social media interactions, and marketing strategies. Within the past month newspapers reported that archaeologists were applying “small world theory” to ceramic styles to understand the growth and collapse of social networks in the American Southwest between 1200 A.D. and 1450 A.D. “Small-world” methods are also being employed in the interests of national security as a way to sift through financial and communications data. Within a few degrees of separation it may be as easy to connect me to a suspected terrorist as it is to connect me to one of the great figures in world history. Sharing a class back in college, having a casual conversation at a business conference, or living in the same neighborhood with someone may put us only a few degrees of separation from either the people we most admire or those we hold in utter contempt. It may not be such a small world after all.
Let me focus on one of the positive examples that will give you a personal and Bowdoin-connected tie to George Washington. I first met antiquarian bookseller Francis O’Brien in 1991 when I drove my grandfather to Portland so that he could visit with his longstanding friend. In 1914, when Francis was a young boy playing in the snow outside his Portland home, a man asked him if he would deliver a letter to General Joshua Chamberlain. According to Chamberlain biographer John Pullen, when Francis knocked on the door of the house on Ocean Avenue (#499), “…a lady came to the door and invited him in. He explained that he had a letter for General Chamberlain. She suggested that Francis deliver it himself and conducted him into a room where he saw—lying in bed and propped up by pillows—an old man with white hair and a sweeping moustache. Francis approached the bed and handed over the envelope. Chamberlain glanced at it, looked at him, and said to the woman, ‘Now there’s a good boy. Give him a nickel.’” Chamberlain died shortly after Francis’s visit.
From Chamberlain there are a number of figures of historical importance (e.g., Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ulysses S. Grant), but I’ll follow the link to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who stayed at President Chamberlain’s house in 1875 when he returned to the campus to deliver his “Morituri Salutamus” oration at his 50th Reunion. In Chamberlain’s house, Longfellow slept in the very same bed chamber that he and his young bride had occupied from 1829-1832, when he was a Bowdoin faculty member.
Longfellow, in turn, had met the Marquis de Lafayette in 1825 when the Revolutionary War hero was in Portland to receive an honorary degree from Bowdoin. He also visited Lafayette in France in 1826. The Marquis was often described as being as close to George Washington as a son might have been. George Washington died in 1799, while Massachusetts Hall was still under construction. However, James Bowdoin II, for whom the College was named, knew Washington well, and in 1778 he presented General Washington with a gold-headed cane (now in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society). While it may not be the shortest possible connection to our first President, the Cross-O’Brien-Chamberlain-Longfellow-Lafayette-Washington route is my small gift to each of you, with our friendship forming the sixth degree of separation.
With best wishes,
John R. Cross ’76
Secretary of Development and College Relations
Cindy Cammarn ’14′s Jeopardy!-watching habit started when she was just five or six years old. “I’ve always been a trivia buff,” she admitted. Her middle- and high school years, in Charlotte, N.C, were filled with trivia bowls, and her school team of fact mavens regularly competed and did well in national championships.
Now, she’s taken her passion to the highest level — she’s a competitor on Jeopardy!’s College Championship. “I have a good brain for facts,” she said, “and what I’m good at is what Jeopardy loves to cover — history and literature.” Cammarn is a history and English major, and a theater minor.
Cammarn will be Bowdoin’s first student contestant on Jeopardy!, at least as far back as 1984, which is when Alex Trebek started hosting the game show.
Journalists and interviewers alike succeed at squeezing the most value and information out of people with one simple tool: asking questions. Fast Company explains how you can tailor your questions to make the most out of any business meeting, elevator pitch or conversation.
Six faculty members, plus College Treasurer Katy Longley, recently took turns addressing student-posed questions about what Bowdoin students can do about climate change and what different fields can contribute to a possible solution.
The presenters were limited to three-minute remarks, and their advice ranged from changing small habits, such as reducing waste, to more radical counsel, such as to stop flying on airplanes and to have no children.
Sophomores Anna Hall, Courtney Payne and Margaret Lindeman organized the panel, “Reaching Day Zero: Living Sustainably at Bowdoin and Beyond,” which was sponsored by the Green Bowdoin Alliance. President Barry Mills, who moderated the event, praised the three organizers for having the enterprising spirit to bring the group of experts together. “These folks are sophomores, which is good news because they’ll be here for two more years to continue the enthusiasm and rigor they’re bringing to this conversation,” he said.
Managing conflict in the workplace is perhaps the ugliest part of any job. It is, however, unavoidable, so developing skills around that is crucial in the progression of your career. Forbes writer Victor Lipman shares seven tips to keep in mind when dealing with the dirty work.
This March, Sara Cawthon and her student helpers tapped sugar maples around campus to fill metal buckets with translucent watery sap. Bowdoin’s video intern, Sean Martin, recently caught campus reactions to the sweet stuff as Cawthon demonstrated on Coe Quad how to boil the sap down into maple syrup for the dining halls.
As the world remembers the life and contributions of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, we feature a recent infographic by Visual.ly, which included the “Iron Lady” among leaders who emerged from humble beginnings.
Baseball: Behind stellar pitching performances from Henry Van Zant and Christian Martin, the Bowdoin College baseball team completed a three-game sweep of Bates on Saturday afternoon. The Polar Bears took game one, 6-2, before earning a 10-1 win in the nightcap. Bowdoin improves 12-9 (4-2 NESCAC) with the wins while Bates drops to 8-8 (2-4 NESCAC).
Men’s Lacrosse: Trinity’s Matt Cohen scored the game-winning goal with just four seconds remaining to give the Bantams men’s lacrosse team a 10-9 win over Bowdoin on Saturday afternoon. The Polar Bears (6-3, 3-3 NESCAC) see their six-game win streak come to an end and lose for the first time since March 16. Trinity (3-7, 1-4 NESCAC) earns their first league win of the season.
Softball: The Tufts softball team swept Bowdoin in their weekend series with 5-2 and 7-1 victories Saturday afternoon. The Polar Bears drop to 13-9 (2-4 NESCAC) as the sixth-ranked Jumbos improve to 20-2 (6-0 NESCAC) on the season.
Track and Field: The Bowdoin track and field teams returned to the east coast to continue their outdoor season with at a tri-meet against Middlebury and Springfield. On the men’s side, Bowdoin trailed Middlebury 181-143.5, but topped host Springfield by 50 points. For the women, Middlebury ended the day with 143, Springfield with 134, while Bowdoin collected 108 points.
Women’s Lacrosse: The top-ranked Trinity College women’s lacrosse team used a seven-goal run in the first half to take command on their way to a 13-5 win over Bowdoin on Saturday afternoon. The Bantams remain unbeaten at 8-0 (4-0 NESCAC) while the ninth-ranked Polar Bears fall for just the second time this season and stand at 6-2 (5-2 NESCAC).
Women’s Rugby (USA Rugby Div II, First Round): L, 36-21
Women’s Tennis (at Williams): Emory 8, Bowdoin 1