Feature

Rising Stars: A Southern GENTLEMAN

G. David Pollick, Birmingham-Southern College

Rising Stars: Leading a College with a conscience

Laura Skandera Trombley, Pitzer College

What does it mean to be recognized as a "college with a conscience"?

The phrase denotes an institution with "an administration committed to social responsibility and a student body actively engaged in serving society," says Robert Franek of The Princeton Review. "Education at these schools isn't only about private gain; it's about the public good."

At Pitzer College (Calif.), one of The Claremont Colleges, the label is a validation of the ideals and principles followed by President Laura Skandera Trombley, her staff, and her students. "Our students really try and practice what it means to be socially responsible on a daily basis," she says. "But the faculty, in their curriculum and in our various centers, really use that as an important academic component in what they do."

Pitzer prides itself on linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community connectivity, a trait that even carries over to the school's alumni.


"Are we there yet? No, there are always things that you want to strive for that will make the institution stronger."

Skandera Trombley says the school received a generous monetary gift from alumni and parents last year, with a condition that most presidents could only hope for. "The funds came with the expectation that the college would know how to use this money in the appropriate way," she recalls.

A week after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast region, a first-year student told Skandera Trombley he wanted to assemble a group of Pitzer students to spend their fall break helping people in the affected areas, but he needed financial support. Because of the gift, the school was able to provide financial support to send the students to help with rebuilding efforts.

"This is why our community is so strong," Skandera Trombley says. "I have funding that's come from people who have a great deal of trust in our institutional integrity."

Skandera Trombley is known for her close connection to students and faculty at Pitzer, sharing regular meals with them in the cafeteria. "I consider myself at heart always a faculty member. I just have enormous respect for faculty, and I find our students to be incredibly inspiring, and really interesting, intelligent young people."

It's no secret that college presidents lead demanding lives, and it's certainly not uncommon for a president to get home at 10 or 11 p.m., after a day of meetings and events that began at 5:30 a.m. Skandera Trombley tries to make the most of her day, whether it is at Pitzer or on the road on a fundraising trip or speaking engagement.

"I absolutely pack in as much as I can, so what for most people might be a three- or four-day trip, I do in two," she says. "I don't want one minute where I'm not meeting somebody or engaged in business. I try and maximize my efficiency away from home, so I can maximize the time that I'm at home."

For her it's not a question of balance but of priorities-first of which is her family. She and her husband, artist Nelson Trombley, have a 10-year-old son, named for his father but known to all as Sparkey.

"Fortunately, Pitzer is an institution that appreciates working mothers, so I don't have to try and fit into an environment that would not be as accepting. My family is very much integrated into the life of the college, so in some ways there's a kind of seamlessness that exists at present."

With more college and university presidents assuming the role at a younger age, Skandera Trombley says the work-family issue is one that they need to be very vocal about. "You need to remain a human being and a family person," she says. "I've worked for two presidents and I've seen the toll that the position can take on them. I've seen how families can sometimes be pushed to the margin, but that's not something that I want in my life."

Between official duties and family life, most people would have a full day, but Skandera Trombley says she has a lot of energy, and "between the hours of 5 and 6 in the morning, and 10 and 11 at night" she can usually be found working on her other passion: the life of Mark Twain. She's nearly completed her third book on the author, and says the information she has uncovered is so compelling that it keeps her trudging back to the desk at 5 a.m. "I wouldn't recommend writing a biography this way, but it's the only way I can squeeze it in," she says.

Over the years, Skandera Trombley has become a leading Twain scholar, even appearing as a commentator in Ken Burns' 2002 documentary on the author. "I had all the sad parts," she jokes. "Whenever somebody died, I was on screen talking about it."

Her fascination with Twain began while she was at the University of Southern California, working toward her Ph.D. "I had fully intended to do my dissertation on the neo-platonic progression of William Wordsworth's The Prelude," she says, but a chance discovery set her on a very different path.

A professor asked her to check out a report that someone had a hundred letters supposedly written by Samuel Clemens. She traveled to Sacramento to meet with a philatelist who purchased the letters from a dealer for $50, hoping the stamps would be of value.

"The stamps were worthless and he was going to throw the letters away," Skandera Trombley says. "But his wife started to read them and said, 'I don't know who this guy is but he's funny. He tells a good story.'"

It wasn't long before they connected "S.L. Clemens" the letter writer to Mark Twain. What Skandera Trombley saw was a perspective on Clemens's life largely ignored by other biographers.

"These letters were written primarily to his daughters," she says. "I didn't even know he had daughters. I had this kind of classic American, solitary man image-for no particular reason other than that is what popular culture had given me. And here is Twain writing to his daughters saying, 'This is my best anecdote and I'm sending it to you because I know you won't lose it.' He was really treating them as intellectual equals." To date, Skandera Trombley is the only person to have read the entire collection of letters.

Intrigued by the find, she read through existing Twain biographies, and found them lacking in what she believes was a key ingredient in what shaped him as a writer and person.

"The daughters weren't really mentioned, they were just seen as totally extraneous. And when his wife was mentioned, it was either as a nullity or as someone who actually had a detrimental effect on his career," she says. "That seemed kind of odd considering that at the time Twain was the most famous man in the world. I thought this popular view doesn't really reconcile with the primary documents."

Her research showed that his wife, Olivia, who came from a well-educated, independent, and iconoclastic family, shaped many of Twain's political beliefs. "My argument is you wouldn't have The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn without his association with this very social reform-minded family."

Dropping Wordsworth, Skandera Trombley wrote her dissertation instead on Twain and the women in his life, culminating in the 1994 book Mark Twain in the Company of Women.

Her latest book focuses on Isabel Lyon, the controversial secretary that worked for Clemens in the last years of his life, and kept copious notes on everything he did. "A lot of questions about Twain's supposed melancholy and bitterness near the end of his life can be answered as a result of what this woman reveals."

That Skandera Trombley had recognized the influence of women in Twain's life isn't surprising, considering her own upbringing.

"In many ways, my principle guide was the example set by my parents," she says. "My mother was an elementary school principal in Los Angeles at a time when there was just one other woman in her district. My father elected to stay in the classroom; he spent 30 years as a second-grade teacher. So seeing a woman in a position of leadership was normal, and I thought the rest of the world worked that way. It wasn't until I grew up that I learned differently."

Today, she seeks counsel and guidance from fellow presidents and administrators she has known for many years. "I'm very fortunate to have people that I can trust to be honest with me and tell me when I'm doing something wrong," she says. "I also work with a top group of administrators here at Pitzer who have been in place since I arrived. We work together in a very cooperative fashion and we trust each other and seek each other's advice."

One piece of advice they shared with her was about handling the stresses of the job.

"The one thing you learn when you become a college president is how much you worry about everything: What's the stock market going to do? What are my students going to do Friday night?" she says. "You have to learn how to manage that stress and be more comfortable with it; otherwise you can have real difficulties working in this environment. My worries are not atypical, but when I walk in the door at the end of the day, I'm home and I try to leave work where it needs to be."

Skandera Trombley initiated Pitzer's first strategic planning process when she took office in 2002, and is pleased with the progress that has been made. Applications to the school have increased by 50 percent and annual giving has increased by 20 percent. The school also achieved a record 18 Fulbright Fellowships for the 2006-07 academic year.

Several building projects are under way, designed to enhance the community and reinforce Pitzer culture and identity. One of those projects, to be completed by the spring, is the Residential Life Project being constructed in the northeast part of the campus. The RLP will include student living space, visiting faculty apartments, art and music galleries, a writing center, and the school's admissions office. It will also be the first building of its kind to achieve Gold LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

"We are going to demonstrate to the world of higher education that you can build socially responsible, LEED-certified residence halls for students, and they will be beautiful, they will be affordable, and they will be educational," Skandera Trombley says. "For our institution, which really tries to practice sustainability, it is a huge deal. And it has not proven to be of huge additional cost. There are ways that you can build green that are quite affordable."

She notes with pride that effecting positive change is not easy, and often takes much longer. "Are we there yet? No, there are always things that you want to strive for that will make the institution stronger and allow us to afford an even better educational environment institution for our students," Skandera Trombley says. "I think we've done a great amount of work in a very short period of time. But that success only comes when everyone is working together and wants to move ahead."

Rising Stars: Right Person, Right Time

Shirley Reed, South Texas College

Twelve years ago, Shirley Reed traveled deep into the heart of Texas. Arriving in a region of the Rio Grande Valley beset by poverty, unemployment, and some of the lowest education rates in the country, she set about building a community college.

Rising Stars: Reclaiming a Community

John Fry, Franklin & Marshall College

Rising Stars: Spark of Transformation

Roy Nirschel, Roger Williams University

Look up the word "growth" in the dictionary, and you will be hard-pressed to find a much better definition than what's happened at Roger Williams University.

Since 2001, the school-which enrolls nearly 5,000 students in 36 majors and five professional schools-has seen a 100 percent increase in applications, a 50 percent increase in enrollment, a 50 percent improvement in the graduation rate, and $58 million in new endowment funds.

All without steroids.

RWU, which hugs a stretch of water along Rhode Island's squiggly coastline, was created as a junior college in 1956. While it started out using space in various public buildings in Providence, it moved to Bristol in the 1960s as Roger Williams College, a four-year institution, and then became a full-fledged university in 1992. The university developed several programs with respectable reputations, including those in architecture, business, law, construction management, and marine science.

Yet it grappled with a perception problem. People didn't know of the school, and if they did they didn't always think much of it. In the late 1990s, the university showed an applicant acceptance rate of more than 90 percent. The graduation rate was 34 percent. Some folks referred to RWU as "Rich White Underachiever."

"I have watched Roger Williams over the years evolve from a community college with a very tenuous foothold on the educational community to become a full-fledged college, and then a university," says Chas. Freeman Jr., former U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who now sits on RWU's Board of Overseers.

Freeman is one of many people who believe that under Roy Nirschel, the president of RWU since 2001, the university has been like a teenager growing into adulthood. Its strong points and potential have come into clearer focus. Its mission has become more fine-tuned and purposeful.

"What's happened under Nirschel is that this frankly third-rate educational establishment has moved very rapidly up the ranks," says Freeman, who also served as an assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration. "He's got a gift for innovation, for finding the niches that others have overlooked."

Call it a gift, a drive, or learned behavior-whatever the mechanics of Roy Nirschel's inner workings, this president is making things happen and moving up in the world of higher education. Many leaders can learn from his moves.

Nirschel crouched atop Mount Kilimanjaro, face raw from the wind and cold, mouth covered by material protecting skin from frigid air. He had climbed workplace ladders and faced challenges before, but this was among his most hard-won triumphs.

He posed for a picture adjacent to a sign etched with yellow lettering marking the top of the African continent. As the camera snapped, Nirschel held "Little Roger," a small cutout of the mascot of Roger Williams University. The moment embodied what Nirschel wanted for RWU, its faculty, its staff, and its students: to reach new heights with a wide view of the world.

The Kilimanjaro crest was just 11 months ago and Nirschel has now been president of Roger Williams for nearly six years. (As for Little Roger, he's made trips to such high-profile destinations as the White House since his Kilimanjaro climb.)

In his time at RWU, Nirschel has managed to change the essence of the school, the way it is perceived by others, and its outlook on the world. He has overseen so many initiatives that the university seems just back from a much-needed vacation-focused, energized, invigorated.

A number of qualities make Nirschel an up-and-comer in higher education. Here are insights into just a few.

Nirschel has a way with people. Just follow him around campus and this quality surfaces quickly. Students sometimes look bewildered when they receive a smile and a "hello" from the president (it's like he knows them or something).

Nirschel credits this trait in part to having grown up in a working class family-Dad was a firefighter, Mom was a homemaker-in Stamford, Conn. He feels comfortable around all kinds of individuals and appreciates the value of their work.

Nirschel also has a strong internal compass. Unlike some leaders who boast the same trait but can't seem to deal with discord, he believes in collaboration. When he first joined RWU, he launched a strategic planning process and formed committees to examine seven key areas of concern on campus. The committees included more than 125 individuals and were purposefully cross-pollinated, so as to remove members from their comfort zones. Someone from Admissions, for example, was assigned to look at graduation rates.

"It took many people here a little bit by surprise," says Anthony Hollingsworth, chair of the department of Foreign Languages and an associate professor of classical and Germanic languages. "He came in here bringing with him almost a business plan or a corporate feel, and he really compelled faculty to start working more with staff and administration." Hollingsworth adds, "There had definitely been a desire to break down silos, and I think that was happening, but he put a lot of impetus into it and at the same time expected results."

While still a newbie on the job, Nirschel navigated his way through what could have been a horrendous process: negotiating a contract with the university's faculty union.

"Roy's presidency began right in the middle of some very contentious faculty contract negotiations. To make matters worse, the outgoing administration had suspended faculty pay," says Kathy Micken, associate professor of Marketing at RWU. "A new president could have made himself scarce, choosing to be ensconced in the office surrounded by other administrators. Instead, Roy made a point of walking around campus, including the campus center where he was sure to encounter both faculty and students-and was sure to hear what faculty were thinking. If he did not hear, he made it a point to ask."

Nirschel helped shepherd a new faculty contract to approval by a 4-to-1 margin. While it had some controversial aspects, the contract also cleared the way for faculty gains. "It is a contract that expects results," says Hollingsworth. "It rewards people for doing good work and for publishing, and it sends a very clear message that we want our faculty to be not only pedagogically active but also in scholarship. ... If people do good research and good teaching, they can receive merit. We see that there is more pay in it, and there is more pay when people get promoted."

The relationship between faculty members and Nirschel is still strengthening. "His 'management by walking around' style continues," says Micken. "He has judiciously joined in faculty e-mail discussions, issues presidential missives on hot topics, and seeks the advice and counsel of faculty both formally and informally. As one faculty colleague e-mailed to the rest of us recently, when a topic of importance needs a good hearing, 'coffee with President Nirschel is a very attractive alternative. And the coffee in the Administration Building is very good.' "

Roger Williams University boasts myriad indicators of transformation under Nirschel. Its endowment hovers around $95 million (compared to $37 million five years ago) and the school is running an approximately $10 million surplus. The business school recently received accreditation from the International Association for Management Education (AACSB), putting it in an elite group.

Yet the university's clarification of core values and mission may well be the school's greatest recent advance. This is a process that Nirschel believes in deeply. Namely, the university's institutional values are: a love of learning as an intrinsic value; preparation for a career and future study; development of undergraduate research opportunities; service to the community; adoption of a global perspective; and nurturing of a caring and respectful community.

Nirschel ensures that decisions made on campus, whether about budgets, programs, or faculty projects, relate directly to the above values. "You set the values, you define the mission," says Nirschel. "Those values may mean something different in the business school or the law school, but if you talk to the deans and say 'love of learning, research, service, global perspective, respectful and caring environment'-those are the core values-you buy into it and how it is operationalized in your school."

Funding ties into how those values are articulated, he adds. "I say to people all the time, a lack of resources is not the biggest problem. A lack of a mission-driven, well-defined plan is the problem. You give me a terrific plan that ties into our core values, that adds value to students' experience, we'll give you the money. If you give me an idea that doesn't really resonate with the mission of the university, the odds of getting funding are in the zero to zero category."

A fall 2002 survey of faculty and staff, which asked what people outside of RWU said to them about the institution, indicated that RWU wasn't even on many folks' radar screens. "If it was, high-profile programs such as architecture or marine biology were all people knew about, except for perhaps the beautiful waterfront campus," says Micken, who was involved with the survey.

"If we asked the same question today," she says, "my guess is that the responses would be much different."

That's largely because Nirschel believes in making one's strengths known. One of the president's most notable accomplishments has been engineering a shift in public perception of Roger Williams.

When Nirschel first joined RWU's administration, he involved campus and community constituencies in creating a branding campaign, complete with a slogan, "Learning to Bridge the World." The university purchased billboard space for ads, not necessarily in Rhode Island but beyond. In the campaign's second year, a freshman approached Nirschel on campus. The new student remarked on the university's visibility, noting that he had seen a billboard down in Florida. "The one near Orlando, near Sea World?" Nirschel asked. "Yeah, great billboard," the student said.


"If you give me an idea that doesn't really resonate with the mission of the university, the odds of getting funding are in the zero to zero category."

But there wasn't a billboard in Florida. "People were saying they saw us in places where we weren't," Nirschel says. "Some people say billboards are tacky, advertising's tacky. I don't agree. We don't do billboards now, but people saw us everywhere. People would see a billboard in Westchester County (N.Y.), and a week later they would open U.S. News & World Report and think we were everywhere."

An ad campaign and public relations push mean little, however, without good stories to tell. Since taking on his role, Nirschel has set about helping RWU build its brag book.

This past spring alone, the university gathered a thick stack of news clips. RWU broke ground on a new marine science center, the Luther Blount Shellfish Hatchery and Oyster Restoration Center. First Lady Laura Bush spoke at graduation. And three young women who had witnessed horrors growing up in Afghanistan graduated from Roger Williams, thanks to the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, a scholarship program founded by Paula Nirschel, the president's wife. (The initiative provides Afghan women with four-year scholarships to RWU and other U.S. colleges and universities, bringing the students together at events and supporting them as they return to their home country to create lasting change.)

"We've got great projects going on," says President Nirschel, "and we're telling people the story."

International relations and a global perspective lie high on Nirschel's list of priorities. His work is "projecting us far beyond the campus and region, so that we'll improve qualitatively by being connected both locally and globally, which matches the 'Learning to Bridge the World' identity that he's created," says Stephen White, dean of RWU's School of Architecture, Art, and Historic Preservation.

Exhibit A of that global mindset: The Center for Macro Projects and Diplomacy, created in 2003. Working with Nirschel, White and RWU Overseer and MIT Professor Frank Davidson (who helped develop the English Channel Tunnel) created the center to produce broad proposals to meet challenges around the world.

Rather than just ponder issues like a think tank, the center acts as a "do tank," as Nirschel likes to say. It teams researchers, policy experts, and academics from various disciplines to create real proposals. For example, the center has overseen development of a strategy for the infrastructure of an independent Palestinian state. High-ranking United Nations officials, engineers, architects, and international relations experts, among others, have joined in planning Palestinian ports, an offshore island, and linkages between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The center has secured $250,000 for feasibility studies.

"The president has been centrally involved in that," says White. "We work out the agenda for the work together. He really sees it as one of the key elements of the globalization of the university."

Study abroad and admissions of international students have also blossomed under Nirschel's guidance. In 2005, 39 percent of juniors at RWU participated in study-abroad programs. Five years ago, students had five sites to choose from. Now there are 39, including RWU campuses in Florence and Ho Chi Minh City. The newest destinations include Jordan, India, Costa Rica, South Africa, Germany, and Argentina.

In April, sophomores with 3.0 GPAs or higher got invited to hear Wolfgang Vorwerk, the consul general of Germany in Boston, speak; had their passport pictures taken free of charge; and completed passport forms. Eighteen-year-old Hilary Wehner had never had her own passport until that day. "I feel like he's trying to get us to be more international," she says of Nirschel. Indeed, the event was his idea.

In 2004, the Roger Williams University College Republicans attempted to make a point about race-based preferences by advertising a "Whites Only" scholarship. The move, while intended somewhat as a joke, brought tensions to the surface. Nirschel issued a statement on the university's commitment to diversity and to free, but civil, speech. "He did more than admonish the students," says Micken. "He used the incident to initiate a program of 'civil discourse.' "

Through the initiative, a variety of speakers have been brought to RWU's campus, from Salman Rushdie to Professor David Wilkins of Harvard Law School to the civil rights attorney Morris Dees. A new journal, Reason & Respect: A Journal of Civil Discourse, has been established as well. "This initiative really compels people to think and to speak with some reason and some respect, so that their arguments are made in a kind of manner that does not make people uncomfortable, and that we create an environment on campus that allows people to think and speak in a variety of ways," says Robert Engvall, an associate professor of Justice Studies who co-edits Reason & Respect.

"It is a vindication of the name of the school," notes Freeman, adding that Roger Williams stood for tolerance of differences and civil discourse.

Freeman actually first met Nirschel when he was asked to speak on campus about the invasion of Iraq. Freeman believed the U.S. government was taking the country into an ambush in Iraq, yet he spoke to a largely Republican RWU student body. "[Nirschel] always seems to recognize the need to cause people to reflect about their own beliefs," Freeman says. "I think that is the mark of a great educator."

Coming Back from Katrina

More than a year later, New Orleans' institutions of higher ed-and their leaders-are recovering, adapting, and reinventing themselves.

Rising Stars

You may not have heard of these five college leaders before, but we suspect you'll be hearing a lot from them.

Wireless:The 'n' is Near

Savvy colleges and universities anticipate a new wireless standard.

Paul Lipsky's students have an endless appetite for broadband-especially wireless broadband.

As an assistant professor at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), Lipsky teaches students how to master 3D animation and multimedia production tools. His students have designed rich full-motion graphics for CBS Sports, ESPN, and Nickelodeon.

Of course, sharing massive 3D files between servers, desktops, and notebooks on NYIT's Old Westbury, N.Y., campus requires very high-speed connections. The college's current network-which includes a mix of fiber optics, Ethernet, and WiFi-has plenty of horsepower for the near term.

But Silicon Valley engineers (across dozens of networking companies) want to provide institutions with an even better option. It's a major WiFi standard upgrade known as 802.11n. Compared to today's WiFi gear, 802.11n offers 10 times the speed and far better signal coverage (see "Know Your Options," pg. 40). In theory, students will be able to use 802.11n wireless connections to share 3D graphics, movies, and other big files as quickly as if they were on a wired network.

With 802.11n, students and professors will more easily graduate from wireless e-mail, text, and voice to full-blown videoconferencing. Already, many of today's students use popular free applications like Skype to trade instant messages and make zero-cost phone calls over the internet. In a year or two, it's highly likely that students and professors will increasingly use free videoconferencing features built into Skype and other applications. "You can't ignore the student trends," says Lipsky. "They're always looking for faster, richer communications systems. Especially wireless systems. Students are all about freedom and mobility."

Videoconferencing, of course, requires bandwidth-lots of it. And as more and more students embrace video chats and lectures, universities will be forced to regularly evaluate, adjust, and enhance their wireless network designs.

That could be challenging. Most universities currently use wireless gear based on the 802.11g, 802.11b, or 802.11a standards. Without going into the technical nitty gritty, those standards are fine for most wireless applications. But for truly intense multimedia applications, universities will need to stick with high-speed wired connections (like gigabit Ethernet) or eventually switch to 802.11n wireless, according Ed Golod, president of Revenue Accelerators, a technology consulting firm in New York.

Now, for the twist. The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), an organization that oversees WiFi standards, had expected to complete and ratify the 802.11n specification sometime this year. But due to lingering technical hurdles, the final standard won't be completed until early 2008, the IEEE estimates.

In some ways, the delay has left vendors and institutions of higher ed in a lurch. Confident that the 802.11n standard was nearing completion, many vendors in mid-2006 jumped the gun and introduced wireless gear based on a draft of the standard. The pre-802.11n networking gear is widely available from Belkin, Buffalo Technology, D-link, Linksys, and Netgear. Similarly, Dell supports the draft standard in some of its latest wireless laptops.

But since the standard isn't fully baked, IHEs that mix and match today's pre-802.11n gear could wind up with a recipe for disaster. "Without certified testing using a completed standard, there's no guarantee all this hardware will interoperate," says Golod.

"With any prestandard products, there will be tons of interoperability issues," agrees Tom Chomicz, a network security engineer at CDW-G, a division of CDW that focuses on government, higher education, and K-12. "I think 95 percent of customers will continue doing 802.11g for the time being."

Still, nobody predicts a wireless meltdown. Most of the initial pre-802.11n gear targets homes and small offices, where customers typically use a single-vendor solution, avoiding interoperability issues.

"The popularity of the 802.11n draft-compatible hardware will remain restricted to consumers and the small office/home office space," affirms Amit Sinha, chief technology officer of Atlanta-based wireless security company AirDefense. "Large enterprises will wait for WiFi-certified and standards-compliant hardware. Enterprise adoption will definitely be delayed because of the standard delay."

To be sure, college and university IT leaders continue to monitor 802.11n's maturation closely. Most expect to use 802.11n within a few years but are deploying established WiFi hardware with vendor-specific enhancements in the meantime.

"We are watching the developing standard to see how it will affect our institution," says Keith Nelson, director of telecommunications and networking information technology services for The University of Texas at Austin. "User demands and what the industry supplies will drive adoption of the technology."

Technology managers should determine which departments or campus settings-if any-have demanding applications that require pre-802.11n's enhanced bandwidth and wireless signal range.

Nelson says it's too early to predict all of 802.11n's benefits, but he expects it to provide more bandwidth, better spectrum allocation and sharing, and a better overall user experience. But for 802.11n to truly succeed, he says, it needs to interoperate with existing standards such as 802.11g. "We have more than 1,700 wireless access ports already installed," says Nelson. "If 802.11n does not provide good backwards compatibility, its deployment will be delayed."

The situation is similar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is taking a wait-and-see approach to 802.11n. At least for the short term, UI officials doubt laptops will have enough power to maintain high-speed connections with 802.11n networks, says Mike Smeltzer, director of network communications for Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services.

Smeltzer expects to give it a closer look in the future. "Where we think it might provide some serious gain is for point-to-point and outdoor mesh backhaul links," he says. "Either way, we'll most likely wait until the standard is finalized before buying into the technology. The big challenge will be getting power to the multiple transmitters in a way that works with points of entry and laptop batteries."

Meanwhile, a group of wireless vendors, working within an umbrella group known as the Wi-Fi Alliance, is striving to stamp out 802.11n interoperability concerns. The organization plans to evaluate and certify WiFi products with baseline 802.11n capabilities in the first half of 2007-about a year before the draft standard is finalized.

Technology managers should check in with their networking partners for a complete 802.11n product road map. At the same time, they should determine which departments or campus settings-if any-have demanding applications that require pre-802.11n's enhanced bandwidth and wireless signal range. In most cases, IHEs will discover that today's mainstream 802.11g equipment meets the vast majority of customer needs, according to John DiGiovanni, director of marketing at Xirrus, a WiFi startup in West Lake Village, Calif.

Industry giants such as Cisco Systems and Symbol Technologies (recently acquired by Motorola) dominate the WiFi sector. But WiFi startups also continue to deliver innovative technologies.

Xirrus, for one, has received a patent for its WiFi array systems, which deliver 2.5 times the range and 13 times the throughput of typical WiFi systems, according to The Tolly Group, a network testing firm in Boca Raton, Fla.

Xirrus, Meru Networks, and other fledgling companies are evangelizing about all-wireless campuses that require little, if any, network wiring. Meru's true believers include U of I, which began deploying Meru controllers and about 800 wireless access points across its 1,458-acre campus earlier this year, with the network's completion projected for early 2008. Additionally, Meru's "dual-speed" wireless technology vastly improves the performance of newer laptops, which come equipped with 802.11g technology, according to The Tolly Group.

Still, Urbana-Champaign can't go completely wireless. "We have users with actual needs for gigabit connectivity," says Smeltzer. "WiFi is a way off from being able to meet their needs. So we are continuing to deploy wired connections with a Meru wireless overlay for mobility, but not primary connectivity."

In the future, Urbana-Champaign officials expect wireless to be able to support more of the institution's primary connectivity needs and reduce the need for wired connections, "but we are not at that point yet," he says.

The university is two years into a five-year plan to provide all interior public spaces on campus with WiFi coverage. By the end of 2006, some 61 percent of all classrooms on campus will have WiFi. Complete WiFi coverage is expected by 2009, says Smeltzer.

Meanwhile, Cedarville University (Ohio) uses Meru's wireless technology for current applications and as a potential bridge to future 802.11n technologies. With Meru's WLAN System, administrators there expanded wireless coverage to include all residence halls, classrooms, open-seating areas of major academic buildings on campus, and conference centers.

Asserts David Rotman, associate vice president for technology and CIO at Cedarville: "Key objectives for our campus included improved mobility, ubiquitous access to the numerous applications offered on our network, and lower costs." The Meru Networks WLAN System addresses all of those requirements.

As of mid-September, 1,500 student-owned wireless devices were already registered on Cedarville's wireless LAN. The university plans to deploy Voice over WLAN in the near future.

As voice and video move onto wireless networks, IT leaders should familiarize themselves with 802.11e, another wireless standard that ensures quality of service (QoS) for delay-sensitive applications like wireless Voice over IP and streaming multimedia.

Still, vendors continue to blur the lines between standards and their own innovations. "Many of the services that 802.11e provides are already available from Meru," notes Smeltzer. "We expect them to implement the formal standards based versions available in 802.11e over time."

Colleges and universities will certainly take their time as they evaluate the evolution of 802.11n. But don't wait too long. Students don't stand still. Skype, Google, Microsoft Live, MySpace, and other multimedia applications will demand next-generation WiFi networks.

Will you be prepared?

Joseph C. Panettieri (joe_pan5@yahoo.com) is VP of editorial content at Microsoft Communications (www.microcast.biz). He has covered Silicon Valley since 1992. Read his daily blog, The VAR Guy, at www.techiqmag.com.

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Made in America

IHEs strive to ensure academic quality as they expand globally.

In theory, if you walk into a McDonald's anywhere in the world a Big Mac is the same. But does that theory hold true for degrees from institutions of higher education and, more importantly, should it?

American institutions with branch campuses overseas are saying yes.

"Many host (and source) countries seem to be increasingly concerned with the quality of transnational education."
-Line Verbik, Observatory on Borderless Higher Education

"They want us to do what we do best," says Andy Nazarechuk, dean of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas-Singapore campus. Charles Bowman of Texas A&M University at Qatar echoes the sentiment. TAMU's agreement with the Qatar Foundation specifies that the overseas program will be "substantially equal" to the program on the main campus, notes Bowman, the interim dean.

These leaders aren't talking about student and faculty exchange programs or a semester abroad. Their operations are full-blown, brick-and-mortar establishments, often with their own support staff, that offer full degrees. "It looks just like mine," Bowman says of the diploma certificate.

Overseas education, these institutions recognize, is a billion-dollar business. According to the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, a U.K.-based initiative that tracks activities and developments crossing the traditional borders of higher education, there are an estimated 80 "branch" campuses operating in the world, with 50 percent being run by U.S. institutions. Institutions in Australia, the U.K., and Ireland are also pursuing these efforts.

As programs expand to overseas locations, concerns about maintaining quality standards grow. "Following few, but high-profile, cases of substandard provision, many host (and source) countries seem to be increasingly concerned with the quality of transnational education," says Line Verbik, deputy director of the observatory.

According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, 29 of 53 accrediting organizations that responded to a 2001 survey indicated they were operating internationally. Nearly one-third of responding organizations said they were accrediting U.S. institutions or programs operating outside of the United States. In other words, there is an interest in international quality review.

How are these reviews done? "We treat each type [of campus] the same way as we do U.S. campuses," explains Jean Avnet Morse, executive director of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, one accrediting organization. "We expect all to be included in the institution's self-study report." Whether the commission is reviewing a U.S. institution (in the states or abroad) or a non-U.S. institution seeking American accreditation, Morse says, all of them "are held to the same standards. However, we review every institution, including U.S. institutions, in the context of its own mission and we apply our standards appropriately."

Obtaining accreditation is one more item on the checklist for IHEs opening branch campuses. It both protects the institution's reputation and makes the degree worthwhile for the students. Often the host country requires it.

TAMU, for instance, committed to seeking accreditation when it was invited to join Education City in Qatar, Bowman says. Established by The Qatar Foundation, Education City is a 2,500-acre campus on the outskirts of Doha that hosts branch campuses for five of the world's leading universities, as well as many other educational and research institutions. TAMU officials are finalizing their first report to the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting body, and are waiting for their first class to graduate in 2008, so they can apply to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

UNLV leaders submitted the school's Singapore program to the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities in February 2006 and received approval in March 2006. The Singapore program is included under the accreditation of the main campus and will be included in the comprehensive evaluation scheduled for 2010. Singapore does not have an accreditation program, Nazarechuk notes, but the school is one of six that has been accepted as an "institute of higher education" there, which gives it the right to grant degrees. Educational institutions that have not received that ranking are limited to granting diplomas and certificates.

Having the host government's support often plays an important role in ensuring a program is successful. With Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) operations in Qatar, Australia, Korea, Japan, and Greece, Senior Vice President and Provost Mark Kamlet knows firsthand about government regulations. His Qatar campus is subject to the same requirements as Texas A&M. In Australia, a law that used to restrict the right to grant degrees to Australian institutions was changed, allowing Carnegie Mellon to set up shop. According to Kamlet, Australian officials have adopted becoming an education magnet for the Pacific Rim as part of the country's strategic goals. But in Greece, which still has a homegrown degree law, Carnegie Mellon gets a little rebellious. Although there is no chance for Carnegie Mellon to get local accreditation, the program is accredited by the Middle States Commission, which is fine with Kamlet, who adds that the name Carnegie Mellon is all students need.

Troy University (Ala.) officials are not quite so cavalier. "We would be reluctant to go in unless the degree is recognized by the host country," says Curtis Porter, associate vice chancellor for international affairs. As a cautionary tale, he offered that a British university once opened a program in Turkey that wasn't recognized by the government and the graduates couldn't get jobs. "You have to be sensitive to the local climate," Porter says. It's important to be recognized by the local government and any ministry of education in case the host country decides to start reviewing programs.

Jack Hawkins Jr., chancellor of Troy, explains that he and his colleagues assess the market in a potential country to make sure the degrees they offer will be used, but they are careful not to go beyond the standards of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' accrediting program. "The degree has to be quality," he says.

To achieve that goal, Troy has established one curriculum that's used worldwide. Troy has had an international presence since 1974, when it established programs on military bases in 10 countries. Although it still maintains some of those programs, it has expanded its civilian operations to various countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates. In addition to using a single curriculum, they involve their U.S. faculty in the overseas programs as much as possible. "We've been doing things at a distance for 40 years," Hawkins says. "It's part of the culture."

Using the same curriculum and faculty from the main campus are the two primary ways schools seem to maintain their standards overseas. Any changes to the programs offered are very minor tweaks. Quality control starts when a program is first suggested.

When Carnegie Mellon officials initially discussed a program in Australia, Don Marinelli, director of the Entertainment Technology Center (covering CMU's Pittsburgh and Australia campuses), says he "was adamant in stating that ETC-Adelaide had to be a genuine extension of ETC-Pittsburgh and not a lesser 'foreign campus,' per se."

"We don't cut them any breaks," Kamlet says of Carnegie Mellon's Qatar students. As a quality control check, the Qatar campus uses the same exams as the Pittsburgh campus. The curriculum is "exactly the same," but the students have fewer electives from which to chose because of the smaller staff. Although classes aren't modified, the Qatar students receive more attention from faculty than their main campus counterparts, partly because of the difference in learning styles between the two countries and partly because "they aren't used to how much work it is," Kamlet adds.

The admissions process is more involved in Qatar because the staff is less knowledgeable about the students' background and what aspects of their academic and extracurricular lives will make them successful in college. However, Kamlet says the Qatar Foundation has been insistent that no students are admitted because of family connections; Carnegie Mellon officials are happy to comply, as that practice could be bad for the school's reputation.

Bowman calls TAMUQ a "boutique operation." His faculty members give students more one-on-one time, which they can do because of a lighter teaching load compared to faculty at the main Texas campus. The admissions process is also different, requiring a personal interview and an English proficiency exam for every applicant. Although students sometimes need help with the language, he says their math and science preparation is "very good."

Texas law establishes a core curriculum every student must satisfy to graduate. They have had to modify parts of the health program to accommodate cultural mores, Bowman says. "We're trying to teach people good health habits, but there are some things you don't talk about in Islamic culture"-sexually transmitted diseases, for one.

The faculty is split between people from the main campus and direct hires. "We hire the same quality as the main campus," Bowman stresses. TAMU, like all the Education City schools, has academic freedom, as well as full control over faculty, admissions, and granting degrees. The Qatar Foundation reviews deans before they are appointed, and then reviews student performance, as well.

The Singapore Ministry of Education does review the qualifications of professors in its Global Schoolhouse-Singapore's initiative to draw world-class educational institutions and 150,000 international students to the country by 2015 in order to educate workers, boost the economy, and create jobs-as a way of ensuring quality. "It's a formality for them because the full-time faculty is qualified," says Nazarechuk. But the practice "protects UNLV's reputation too." They will be using a mix of U.S. and locally hired faculty.

Although the curriculum in Singapore is the same as that offered on the main campus, students can take a wider variety of general classes (i.e., humanities, fine arts, and natural sciences) not normally taken by local students. Nazarechuk explains that the Singapore education system is based on the British model, so student's studies are "more field specific." Admissions standards are the same for GPA, English proficiency, and years of education, putting local students at a disadvantage. "We increased the number of courses to provide them with access to these required classes; this way students can transfer in the courses that meet our requirements and take the classes that they need to obtain the bachelors of science degree here in Singapore," he says.

"Schools here are starting to adjust," Nazarechuk notes, with local students having the opportunity to take general courses at their local school, as well as realizing they should take them if they want to attend a U.S. institution.

So far, Carnegie Mellon has not had a problem with the differences in early education between America and Australia. "Since all ETC students in Adelaide are currently either from America or Canada, we are not confronting that issue at the moment," explains Marinelli.

Kean University (N.J.), which won't open its new campus in China until 2007, has already laid the quality ground rules. President Dawood Farahi says a signed agreement "contains a clear understanding that the university's curriculum is totally in the domain of Kean." All courses will be identical to those taught in the states, and newly hired faculty members will be properly credentialed and provided with cultural training. China will not be reviewing the professors' credentials. Although Kean officials worked with the government to establish performance measures for students, they are not adjusting the programs. But some course offerings may be different, such as the addition of Chinese history in place of a Western Civilization class. "It took a long time to explain why general education classes are important to a Western education," Farahi says.

"We're going to do it in an American way," Farahi says. From admissions and curriculum to guidance counselor access, Chinese students will have the same experience as their American counterparts.

Since 9/11, there has been a slowdown in students coming to study in America. Reasons range from travel safety concerns, to visa restrictions, to a desire to stay close to home where the economy is booming and there are job opportunities.

Although students may not want to travel to America, they can still get an American degree. UNLV's Nazarechuk points out that degrees from American institutions are well respected around the world. "Times are changing," he says. "We have to go to them."

Carnegie Mellon's Kamlet agrees. "A lot of other countries are growing good universities," he says. "For Carnegie Mellon to be involved in the future, we have to be a player now." And to remain players, IHEs have to continue to deliver the quality American programs students expect.

"I believe that we have received inquiries from all continents except the poles," says Jean Avnet Morse, executive director of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, regarding U.S. institutions getting involved in overseas activities.

According to Line Verbik, deputy director of the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, "the United Arab Emirates accounts for close to 20 percent of international branch campuses, almost completely due to the number of foreign institutions (currently 15) established in the educational free-zone Knowledge Village." Qatar comes in second, with approximately 9 percent, followed by Singapore, Canada, Malaysia, and China.

So, what are desirable qualities for a host country to have? Here's how a handful of U.S. institutions have approached their search for a place to set up shop:

Troy University (Ala.) looks for good local infrastructure, government support with clear regulations, locations that place a high value on American degrees, and qualified students who are able to afford the program. "We're a people university. We won't price ourselves out of the market-here or abroad," says Chancellor Jack Hawkins.

Kean University (N.J.) officials had affordability in mind as well when they decided to open a campus in China. Education is a commodity in China, President Dawood Fahari explains. "The value of higher education in China is different. The families start to save for higher education almost at birth." Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, where Kean's campus will be located, graduates 350,000 high school students, so there will be plenty of candidates. China requires foreign institutions to partner with a local university. "A lot of things in China are based on personal relationships and how people interact," Fahari says.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas leaders recognized that "any program overseas includes a certain degree of measured risk," says Andy Nazarechuk, dean of its Singapore campus. A number of hotel chains have corporate headquarters in Singapore, so the university knew there would be demand for its hospitality degrees. He says Singapore views education as an industry, so there is a large support structure. The support of the university's leaders in Nevada is as important as the support of the host government. "Parents want to send their students to a safe place for a good education," Nazarechuk says. Trust in the government, clear regulations, good infrastructure, cultural diversity, and a high percentage of English speakers won UNLV over. "And the food is great," he adds.

Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) recognized the great degree of economic growth in the Pacific Rim, says Provost Mark Kamlet. "It's part strategy, part opportunity." Demand for the degree, enthusiasm of the university departments that will be running the programs, and having a local champion, government support, and clear regulations make launching an overseas campus go more smoothly. "The most complicated [regulations] have been from New York state," he notes.

Everybody's Going Global ... Or So It Seems

Eckel says there are three models IHEs use when offering courses overseas:

distance education

"going it alone" with a branch campus or program

partnerships with local institutions

"The definition of a branch campus is still less than straightforward and lacks global consensus," says Line Verbik of the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education. Her organization defines it as an offshore operation of a higher education institution that fulfills the following criteria:

The unit should be an independent establishment operated by the institution or by a joint venture in which the institution is a partner (some countries require foreign providers to partner with a local organization) in the name of the foreign institution.

Upon successful completion of the study program, students are awarded a degree from the foreign institution.

Or, as Carnegie Mellon Provost Mark Kamlet puts it, they can get a degree from "little free-standing mini-Carnegie Mellons."

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