Jennifer Stayton

Higher Ed: Surviving And Succeeding During Freshman Year In College (Or Through Any Big Life Change)

First-year college student students often encounter tougher classes in a new environment without the familiar supports of home. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton explore strategies for staying on course when so much is changing.

“You’re going to be homesick. You’re going to be miserable. You’re going to be alone…. You’re going to feel like there’s no one on the planet that gets you.”

That’s how Ed describes those first few days or weeks or months of freshman year in college. While it may not be quite that extreme for everyone, heading off to college is a significant transition. Ed believes successfully navigating those changes starts with acknowledging them.

“We are fragile creatures….we are not accustomed to change,” says Ed, ” and I think that our basic modus operandi is we like things to be the same. So, any kind of dramatic change will cause angst and anxiety.”

Ed says being open to new connections and experiences can ease some of that angst and anxiety.

“You will make new relationships and you will make new friendships,” says Ed. ” And they might not look the same as your old friends and your old friendships. Be open to the fact that you might be drawn to someone who you might not have been drawn to in high school.”

Ed also suggests exercising some restraint in getting involved with multiple activities right away.

“There’s a temptation to join everything,” Ed warns. “So, [be] mindful of your time and [make] sure you have down time.”

Listen to the entire episode to hear more of Ed’s suggestions for navigating the major changes that come along with the first year of college (or any major change, really) including what he considers his most important advice for all students of every grade level.

No change with the puzzler; it’s back and ready to challenge with a Roman numeral riddle.

This episode was recorded on Aug. 7, 2019.

Note: After this episode was recorded, Dr. Ed Burger announced that he is leaving Southwestern University in Jan. 2020 to become President and Chief Executive Officer of St. David’s Foundation.

Best of “Higher Ed:” The Biases We Bring To Information And Learning (They’re Complicated)

This episode was originally posted on Jan. 13, 2019.

Many external factors can impact the quality and effectiveness of a learning experience: the teacher; the other students in a class; the school’s resources; even the student’s surroundings and home. But what about the internal factors? In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the biases learners themselves bring to the information and process.

This episode was inspired by an experience Ed had in the classroom not too long ago. He had given the students a quote with some pretty declarative and forceful language and asked the students to discuss it and try to figure out who said it. As the students puzzled through who the speaker might be, Ed noticed something interesting.

He had given them a quote from Helen Keller, and Ed describes it as a “very strong quote, it was a very forceful quote; it was a quote that was about positivity, but it was strong…..While the conversation was going on, they [the students] themselves gave a gender to the individual,” says Ed. “My students kept saying ‘well, he meant this and he meant that.'”

Ed says gender was not the only metric students used to process and evaluate the quote.

“People thought this must be coming from an individual who is not a force of good in their mind’s eye,” says Ed, referring to the strong language of the quote, “and so therefore said ‘I don’t like the quote that much.’ The moment that some of them discovered that Helen Keller said this, then all of a sudden they looked at it again and said ‘ Oh, well, now I actually get it and I like it.'”

Bias based on perceptions of gender or authorship are just some of what learners bring to the table in and outside of the classroom.  Listen to the full episode to hear more about bias and context and Ed’s provocative question “Is it possible that we can find interesting or good elements in people that maybe we don’t completely agree with, and how does that complicate the discussion or the conversation?”

It is also time for the solution to a puzzler about slicing and dicing. Don’t worry –  it’s a piece of cake!

This episode was recorded on Dec. 4, 2018.

Best of “Higher Ed:” The Well-Read Grown-Up

This episode was originally posted on Nov. 18, 2018.

In school, our reading choices are mostly dictated by what is assigned for classes or from reading lists. But once we are out of school, the decisions are up to us.  In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the joys and impacts of lifelong reading.

Ed believes that there are a couple of keys to staying well read beyond our school years.

One: expand the canon of what is considered “must reads” in school and beyond.

“Those canons traditionally are Western, usually written by white dead men,” says Ed. “What about the voices of individuals who are out there, in history and beyond, who were creative beings, or even not, but just having their story told….And so now, the question is, how do we find a balance where we can get a diversity of voices and perspectives?”

Two: read books that will push us in reading and in other arenas.

“Reading can transport you to a world where you might not be comfortable but you can actually find your way,” Ed believes. “That’s really the exciting world of ideas which can be reflected through reading.” Ed says exploring new ideas in our reading can lead us to exploring new ideas in other aspects of our lives.

What are on Ed’s and Jennifer’s bookshelves? Ed says he prefers non-fiction and likes reading about the art of comedy. But he also was completely mesmerized by the “Harry Potter”series. Jennifer also favors non-fiction but cites “The Thorn Birds” and “The World According to Garp” as favorite reads from the past.

What is the one classic series that Jennifer has never touched? And what is the one book that Ed suggests everyone read?

Listen to the full episode to find out, and to get the answers to the riddles about veggies and witches!

This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2018.

Best of “Higher Ed:” Why The College Major May Matter Less Than We’ve Always Thought

This episode was originally published on Oct. 12, 2018.

Choosing a major is a rite of passage for higher education students, and it can feel like a – dare we say it –major decision with lifelong implications. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss what could – and sometimes should –go into choosing a major plan of study.

Sometime in a student’s higher education career, a decision has to be made about a major, that set of courses a student chooses to study a subject more deeply. The decision can feel like a significant, irrevocable one that can impact the rest of their lives. But Ed suggests dialing back the stress to make that one, perfect decision.

“The major itself is not as important as the experience and the growth opportunities that come from that major,” he says. “That’s why you hear so many people, especially in the liberal arts and science, talk about how it doesn’t even matter what your major is. As long as you’re involved and interested and engaged, you will have that growth experience that will allow you to become better and to figure out the next thing you do, and that leads you to the next thing … because you’re constantly going toward your passion.”

Ed also believes timelines that require students to declare a major at a specific point in time during their college career can discourage academic exploration and excitement about discovering new fields of interest.

“I’d like to see people declaring majors when they really are intellectually fired up about the thing, rather than it’s time to do it.”

Listen to the full episode for more about the process of academic discovery that can lead to declaring a major. It is also time for the solution to the puzzler about escaping a room while avoiding scorching heat and a fire-breathing dragon. Think it can’t be done? Wait til you hear the oh so simple solution!

This episode was recorded on Sept. 28, 2018.


Best of “Higher Ed:” Effective Correction

This episode was originally posted on Sept. 30, 2018.

Most people do not necessarily enjoy being told when they are wrong. The formal education experience can at times seem like it is full of those moments – between corrections, grades, comments and evaluations.  In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss ways to correct without rejecting.

Those big, red X’s splashed all over a Math test or those comments scribbled in the margins of papers can lead students to focus on the fact that they got an answer wrong, instead of the fact that they have a learning opportunity to master some material. And nasty comments from a student on a teacher or course evaluation may not motivate teachers to do better.

“If someone just says too much work, or, you know, Burger was so mean I can’t stand him, that’s not particularly helpful” says Ed referring to student evaluations of teachers. ” And even if that’s followed by an actual interesting idea, I might dismiss it a little bit because I see the context.”

So how can students and teachers – and anybody, really – effectively convey ideas for improvements?

Ed has some ideas:

  • Keep it about the question, paper, assignment, or class at hand. Don’t elevate the criticism into something of broader scope.
  • Keep the situation focused on thoughtful – rather than purely emotion – inputs and responses.
  • Focus on what can be learned from the situation.

Listen to the full episode for more thoughts about both giving and receiving constructive corrections and to hear the solution to the puzzler about the digits of our left hand. Still trying to multiply the number of left hand digits of everyone on the planet? Turns out there is a quick and easy way to figure it out.

This episode was recorded on Aug. 9, 2018.

Best of “Higher Ed:” How Much Is Too Much On A College Application?

This episode was originally published on Sept. 23, 2018.

High school seniors have something extra added to their workload in the fall semester. Those who are going on to college have to navigate the college application process. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton dissect that annual dash to compile transcripts, test scores, essays and teacher recommendations.

In an effort to set themselves apart from other applicants, students may be tempted to show breadth and depth in everything they have tackled in high school.

“I think if you’re just vomiting out a long list of activities and successes and awards and things, I think that then gets blurred over,” says Ed. ” I think the thing that an individual should be doing here is telling a story. They should be telling a story about their recent history – the highs and the lows and how they see themselves as having changed through their education up to that point.”

Ed says he believes that story should also include students’ assertions about why they think they are a good fit for the schools where they apply. He encourages specificity about what has attracted a student to a particular institution ( think “the soft serve ice cream in the dining hall”!) rather than generic platitudes about a school.

Listen to the full episode for more suggestions about navigating the college application process (are interviews still recommended or not?) as well as the new puzzler. Lefties unite! This puzzler is all about the digits on our left hand.

This episode was recorded on Aug. 9, 2018.

Higher Ed: Yes, Extra Credit Can Enhance Learning – But Don’t Overestimate Its Value

Academia is divided over the wisdom of offering students extra credit on tests or projects. In this episode of the KUT podcast “Higher Ed,” KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss the utility and merit of offering extra points for extra effort.

Ed says for the most part he supports extra credit and has used it in his own teaching as long as it provides a meaningful learning experience.

“I have been guilty of offering extra credit for all sorts of things, ” admits Ed, “including bribing students to go to lectures or to events that I think would enhance their own education or would amplify the work they are doing in the class, all the way down to just giving questions.”

Ed believes extra credit allows for the exploration and assessment of deeper levels of learning.

“There’s always more. You never understand everything. You never understand it at 100 percent,” says Ed. “So the truth is, there is always a deeper level. So why not offer a window into that deeper level?”

Some critics say offering extra credit places more emphasis on the grade rather than on that learning experience. Ed believes that emphasis already exists with or without extra credit.

“We do that as a culture and a nation and a society and this is just a reality,” says Ed. “Extra credit is not doing that.”

Listen to the full episode (sorry, no extra credit for making it to the end) to hear how extra credit in school relates to extra credit in life outside the classroom.  But you will be rewarded with the solution to last episode’s puzzler about the man who switched off a light and caused a catastrophe.

This episode was recorded on April 23, 2019.

Higher Ed: Resiliency Of The System Tested in 2018-2019 School Year

The 2018-2019 school year saw allegations of cheating in college admissions in the “Operation Varsity Blues” case. Rising tuition costs and student debt levels have the attention of several 2020 presidential hopefuls. In this episode of the KUT podcast “Higher Ed,” KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss the state of higher education in 2019.

Ed acknowledges in many ways 2018-2019 was a difficult school year. He says cost is always a concern and has more recently called into question the viability of the higher education business model.

“Is this industry as it is currently crafted a sustainable and viable thing?” Ed asks. “We know through the news over the past year the answer is no because we have seen many schools, some of them with high profile names, that have announced that they’re not going to be taking any more students and they’re going to close up.”

Ed says that business model has always seemed like a scary investment for many families because the costs are high and the results are not immediate.

“We’re talking about future value. We’re talking about future opportunities which I can’t tell you right now,” says Ed. “If you say ‘Oh, Ed I’m going to enroll in Southwestern University. Tell me exactly what’s going to happen to me.’ I can’t.”

But Ed says despite ups and downs over time, liberal arts has just about always delivered on its promise to help students become their best selves if they make that investment.

“Most importantly, you have to trust yourself,” Ed suggests. “You have to say ‘I have the confidence to realize that I am going to evolve over time’ and to be open to that growth and to be open to that change and to be open for that evolution.”

Ed says, though, despite the scandals and concerns of the past year, he has seen some bright spots. He points to inreasing support on campuses around the country for students after the admission process once they have arrived. Ed also sees more efforts to bring equity to campus programs such as internships.

Listen to the episode for Ed’s take on the health of higher education in 2019. It is also time for a new puzzler. No math is needed for this one; it is pure story and some sleuthing.

This episode was recorded on April 23, 2019.

Higher Ed: How Practices For A Healthy Mind Could Promote A Healthy Body Too

There is more talk in education these days about wellness and more attention to stress, anxiety and other factors that can impede learning. But there is less talk about the ways that good learning practices might improve health. In this episode of the KUT podcast “Higher Ed,” KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss the role of learning and education in wellness.

There are plenty of other subjects we learn to master, so why not health and wellness?

Ed believes that health and wellness information could – and should – be offered at a micro level outside of school. A lot of that kind of information is certainly available already. The challenge is to make it accessible and impactful.

“It’s gotta be bite-sized. You can’t have a full lecture or something,” says Ed. “And it’s got to be meaningful and thought-provoking…. it has to get you.”

For instance, Ed suggests reinforcing a message delivered by a doctor or health care provider with a short video or other educational element; that model is not unlike lessons from a teacher reinforced by text or other materials.

“One two-minute video is not going to do anything,” Ed admits. “But if it kind of is a continuation that keeps moving maybe it stays in your head a little bit, and we become more mindful and maybe we can change.”

Listen to the full episode to hear more about how Ed believes learning and mindfulness can be brought to bear on health issues. It is also time for the solution to last episode’s sneaky arithmetic puzzler.

This episode was recorded on April 23, 2019.

Higher Ed: Need For Global Connections Prompts Campuses To Examine Role In Local Community Too

A “Higher Ed” listener who teaches English in Osaka, Japan wrote in requesting a discussion of what the listener characterizes as “the tension between servicing the local community near an institution and appealing to international elements (students, partnerships, etc.).” In this episode of the KUT podcast “Higher Ed,” KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss how campuses view their role in the local community and how that is balanced with farther flung connections.

You might have heard about “town-gown” relations, meaning the way a college or university interacts with the community where it is housed. Maybe this listener is curious about “globe-gown” relations?

Ed says he believes the focus of any higher education institution should, of course, be on the students, and any other relationships evolve from there.

“I believe that institutions of higher learning are designed for one purpose,” says Ed, “which is to inspire individuals to become better versions of themselves. And while the focus is on the students, obviously, I think that should spill out into the community at large.”

Ed believes international relationships do give both parties – both the institution and the country where connections are being made – an opportunity to grow.

“The idea of going out of one’s comfort zone and exploring a world and exploring people,” Ed says,” I think is a powerful way of learning for everybody, including those who are being visited.”

Listen to the full episode to hear more about how institutions balance “town-gown” and “globe-gown” relationships. It is also time for a new puzzler. Listen closely; this one contains a subtle arithmetic twist.

This episode was recorded on April 23, 2019.

Higher Ed: The Community-Building Power Of Ritual In Education

The pomp and circumstance of graduation brings students, teachers, staff and family together to celebrate achievement and usher students onto their next steps in learning and life. That ritual not only honors students but also creates a shared opportunity for a campus community to strengthen bonds. In this episode of the KUT podcast “Higher Ed,” KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss the importance of ritual in education.

Graduation is probably the first ceremony that comes to mind when thinking about the rituals associated with education. Commencement certainly exists to celebrate achievements and bestow accolades. But Ed believes that ceremony also speaks to a deeper human truth.

“As human beings, we believe in community,” says Ed. “So the idea of having the community come together, which includes your family and your friends and your teachers and your colleagues who are students…. it’s a shared moment.”

Certainly the basic business of graduation could be done with no pomp and circumstance simply by mailing out diplomas at the end of the school year. Ed believes though that the entire community – not just the graduates – benefits from sharing in students’ triumphs.

“In today’s world, where everything moves so fast and everyone’s on their electronic devices,” says Ed, “to take a moment to come together as a community – whatever that definition means for that context of community, live in the same space – and celebrate that triumphant moment…it just uplifts the spirit. And so we want those moments of uplifting memories to hold onto.”

Most, if not all, of the rituals in education involve celebrating positive achievements. Left to his own devices to invent a new ritual in education, Ed would turn the focus to elevating something that is normally not celebrated – what he calls “effective failure” from which we learn lessons.

“I think the idea of having a big pomp and circumstance and genuine celebration when things don’t go right,” Ed believes, “as long as we have come to a place where we had an epiphany and we’re going to move forward in a way that will make us better – I think we should be celebrating that.”

Listen to the full episode for more on the role of ritual in education and what title Ed would give to his new ceremony. It is also time for the solution to last episode’s anagram puzzler. Listen closely, though, as it may not be as complicated as it first sounded.

This episode was recorded on April 2, 2019.

Higher Ed: A Mindset Shift Can Elicit Satisfaction And Even Joy From Intellectual Struggle

Learning is not always easy. Some subjects, concepts and teachers are just plain tough. Mastering that material can be frustrating and even discouraging. In this episode of the KUT podcast “Higher Ed,” KUT’s Jennifer Stayton talks with Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger about how a shift in mindset can help learners at any age harness lessons, power and even joy from those struggles.

Challenges and frustrations that we encounter in and out of the classroom can elicit a variety of emotions including anger and frustration. Not wanting to wallow in negativity, we attempt to move on from that sensation as quickly as we can.

“We look upon those things, and those emotions, as negative,” Ed notes. “People are saying that they want to avoid and we want to get past it.”

But what if those negative feelings were framed differently – perhaps as fuel instead of foil?

“Imagine a mindset where the idea of struggle generates a positive emotion. The feeling of frustration generates something that helps you move you forward, ” says Ed. “Imagine a world inside one’s mind where those feelings … enhance our learning and drive us to go further and inspire us to reach new levels rather than squelch our interest or enthusiasm.”

Ed encourages students struggling with a difficult subject or concept to harness the power of that conflict to assist their learning.

“What if we looked upon those emotions and tried to use them as empowering tools to continue the struggle and to move beyond the frustration” Ed wonders “by using the frustration as a catapult to push us and throw us into a new place?”

Ed believes applying mindfulness to this endeavor can actually propel learners beyond simply converting their frustration into fuel.

“If we intentionally acknowledge and then try to make those moments of frustration or struggle joyful, we can,” Ed asserts.

Joyful? Listen to the full episode for more on extracting joy from the struggles of learning. And prepare for a new puzzler – anagram-style – that might test that idea of power and joy born from struggle!

This episode was recorded on April 2, 2019.

Higher Ed: Enjoying And Embracing Conflict (And Other Leadership Lessons Learned)

A “Higher Ed” podcast listener recently wrote in with an intriguing question for Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger: as a university president, does Ed “see himself as more of a leader or manager? How does he differentiate the two concepts and does he place more emphasis on one area or another?” In this episode, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton talks with Ed about what it means to lead and manage on and off campus.

Ed has clear points of differentiation between how he sees the duties of a leader and those of a manager.

A leader: “It’s about thinking about the mission, thinking about what the direction of the instution or the project – whatever it is – is, and making sure that within a univese of distraction that we do our best not to be distracted by the noise and the bells and the ringing and the lights trying to take away that which we’re supposed to be doing. In this proposition [education], it’s about changing people’s lives and making them better versions of themselves.”

A manager: “Being a manager is the art … of making sure an organization is running smoothly, fairly, safely, efficiently and within all the budgetary constraints that come along with any organization.”

Given those definitions, Ed believes the role of a university president encompasses both leader and manager.

As per the listener’s question, which one does Ed tend toward?

Ed says he does the work he does “for the innovation and education that we can accomplish.”

So, more on the “leader” side, for sure, though Ed does concede a lot of “imagination and idea energy” is required to manage successfully.

Ed says he often turned to the late political scientist and leadership studies innovator James MacGregor Burns for insight about leading successfully. Burns’ primary pieces of advice:

1). Focus on mission and goals

2). Choose good colleagues and associates

3). Expect, enjoy and embrace conflict

Ed says he understands the first two but still struggles with confronting confict rather than avoiding it. Listen to the full episode for more on leading and managing in and out of the classroom. The solution to last week’s “guest puzzler” submission about digits will also be revealed.

This episode was recorded on April 2, 2019.

Higher Ed: Ethics, Authenticity and Education – Takeaways From The College Admissions Scandal

Allegations of cheating and bribery in connection with college admissions have brought renewed scrutiny to just how that process works. In this episode of the KUT podcast “Higher Ed,” KUT’s Jennifer Stayton talks with Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger to get his response to the story and his take on maintaining integrity in the process.

Ed says the accusations made in connection with alleged cheating at some universities in the United States raise several concerns for him.

“First, there’s just an ethical question,” says Ed, “about boy, what are we teaching young people today about doing the right thing and living good lives?”

Ed says secondly, the situation sends a disturbing message about using shortcuts to get ahead.

“There’s an issue about the value of hard work,” Ed adds, “and setting goals and realizing those goals when that’s possible. And when it’s not possible, to learn from that and realize other goals.”

Ed also has a very visceral response to the allegations from the point of view of an educator.

“My emotional reaction is one of offense,” says Ed. “It’s because, how do these families who are accused of these things, of this behavior – how do they define what formal education means? By their alleged actions, they’re defining formal education as a piece of paper.”

Ed strongly believes what formal education delivers to students does not depend on the “name” of the school.

“Education should be an individualized experience,” Ed says. “Even when you look at some of these generic rankings, they have certain metrics but they’re not measuring for an individual human being. And that’s why there are so many schools out there and that’s why there are so many people at those variety of schools. It’s important to pick the best fit.”

Listen to the full episode for more on how students can discern that best fit. Also, the puzzler is back after an extended Spring Break. Who is our guest puzzle provider for the next few episodes? Listen on to find out!

This episode was recorded on April 2, 2019.

Higher Ed: Learning To Discern Your True Calling

Many people may regard “vocation” as a job, employment, or occupation. But the word’s Latin root (vocare meaning “to call”) speaks to a deeper definition related to a passion or true calling. In this episode of the KUT podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton explore the concept of a “calling” in life, and how we can learn to be attuned to that message within us.

When Jennifer was an undergraduate student in college, she was certain she was going to become a psychologist. When Ed was an undergraduate student, he was certain he was going to become a lawyer.

Well, neither one of them followed the path they thought they were going to pursue. What happened along the way? Did something go wrong for both of them?

Quite the contrary, Ed would argue. He says one of the ways to discern a true “calling” in life is to remain open to opportunities when they present themselves.

“We can’t be so intellectually stubborn as to think that the thought we had when we were eight years old is also going to be the exact same thought we’re going to have when we’re forty-five. That’s just not right,” says Ed. “The point of a high-impact educational experience that’s all about intellectual and personal growth is about challenging those basic assumptions.”

If this exercise of discernment feels like a struggle, Ed is quick to point out there is not necessarily only one path for each of us waiting to be discovered.

“You might pick the right one that generates enormous happiness. You might pick another one that generates a lot of happiness, and maybe there’s another thing you could have done that would have made you more happy or more satisfied,” Ed says. “You have to come to peace with all of that and realize there are there multiple pathways.”

At the heart of determining one’s true calling?

“Optimize your own personal satisfaction,” Ed believes.

That may sounds good in theory, but what about the reality of earning a living and paying bills? Listen to the full episode for further discussion on the tension between pursuing a passion and the realities of life.

No puzzler this week! It is still on an extended Spring Break but will return next week.

This episode was recorded on Feb. 23, 2019.

Higher Ed: Trust And Communication Can Help “Helicopter” Parents Land Safely

The idea of “helicopter” parenting may not have a formal definition. But we all have a pretty good sense of it when we encounter it – those parents who seem to control and hover too closely over many aspects of their children’s lives, often to the detriment (and sometimes embarrassment) of those children. In this episode of the KUT podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton take a discussion about helicopter parenting to a live audience of – yes – parents and students at Southwestern.

First of all, Ed believes a couple of things about “helicopter” parenting: it has always been around, perhaps exacerbated in more recent times by the abundance and reach of personal technology. And, it can come from a place of wanting what is best for children. But that concept of what is best for children, and how to achieve it, can be a sticking point.

“I think the question is: ‘what’s the definition of what’s best?’,” says Ed. “And if you take away all the independence and agency, are you really helping, or in some sense are you manufacturing a problem for the future?”

So how can parents back off from such close monitoring but still help their children learn and develop skills to maneuver through life? Ed believes setting an environment of trust and open communication will go a long way.

So will helping children establish realistic expectations about life before they head out on their own.

“Life is really a roller coaster, but certainly one’s undergraduate formal career is honestly a roller coaster of that sort,” says Ed. “You get to these peaks which are really exciting and you’re really happy and you want to stay there forever…. And then all of a sudden, you go way down and something awful happens… Instead of thinking about that as a down moment, I think we need to realize that life…. is a roller coaster. So those peaks and valleys are going to happen. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when…. It’s the  downturns where the real learning can happen.”

Listen to the full episode to hear more of the discussion with some college parents about easing off of helicopter parenting. And hear some answers to a provocative question for the future: what might happen when a generation of children with hovering parents become parents themselves?

No puzzler this week. It took off early for Spring Break but will be back in a few weeks!

This episode was recorded on Feb. 23, 2019.

Higher Ed: The Issues Brought Up By Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings And Controversial Campus Speakers

Safe spaces. Trigger warnings. Disinvited speakers. These campus issues got the attention of a “Higher Ed” podcast listener who wrote in asking about what he has observed to be the proliferation of them. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton address a listener’s question about campus controversies.

A “Higher Ed” listener wrote in asking for Ed’s take on what the listener described as “the proliferation of so-called trigger warnings, safe spaces, and demonstrations that aim to force administrators to cancel an invitation to a speaker because their ideas are controversial.”

First of all, a few definitions.

Trigger warning” is definied by Merriam-Webster as “a statement cautioning that content (as in a text, video, or class) may be disturbing or upsetting.”

Safe space” is definied by Merriam-Webster as “a place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.”

In answering the listener, Ed acknowledges that these are complicated issues and a generic response does not suffice to cover all of them. But he does explain some factors that can come into play surrounding these and other occurances such as whether a certain speaker is invited to campus or not:

*Public vs. private institutions: Public institutions may have to adhere to certain rules about allowing anyone to speak on campus. Private institutions may have more freedom to exercise discretion about inviting or disinviting speakers.

* Class vs. event: Compelling a student to experience a certain speaker in a required classroom setting differs from a campus event which students, faculty, staff and others can choose to attend or not.

* Taking sides: Ed says he believes we are living in an “age of extremism” when people are less likely to engage thoughtfully with those who have differing views. He believes we are quick to label others without at least trying to understand their thoughts. (Ed notes he is not referring to hate speech and other obviously extreme, offensive examples).

Listen to the full episode to hear more of the discussion. What happens when a speaker is invited to a campus and then distressing news emerges about that speaker on social media? Listen on for thoughts on that as well as the solution to the latest puzzler. The best way to get the solution? Slow down and listen very carefully – which Ed suggests might serve us well in many arenas outside the puzzler!

This episode was recorded on Jan. 25, 2019.

Higher Ed: Learning To Map “Baby” Steps To Reach Bigger Goals

For many people, goal-setting is an annual ritual perhaps fueled by the New Year and a commitment to make personal or professional improvements. But creating truly meaningful and achievable goals is a more complicated undertaking than simply tossing together a life “to-do” list. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton answer a listener’s question about learning to craft and meet relevant goals.

A Higher Ed listener wrote in as she was struggling to fill out her new planner for 2019. “I am very good at completing tasks that are given to me,” she wrote. “But here I am thinking about setting goals for myself and I am unsure of what that means , or what are the steps to take. I actually feel kind of dumb for asking this.”

Not at all! Setting and reaching goals is something that can be learned; it may not necessarily be an intuitive process.

Ed says a goal is really the envisioning of a “future potential place” where someone wants to be. That may be easy to imagine, but it not necessarily as easy to think about how to get there. Where to start? Ed says first, to think big, you might actually want to think small.

“To move yourself, you have to create the intermediate steps that are required… that are not that taxing and dramatic, like a resolution,” says Ed. “But rather, little things that I can do and then have that become the standard and the norm and then incrementally change.”

Other tips for leaning to set and actually achieve goals:

* Think of goals as moving toward something rather than away from something. “I want to feel better physically” is a different framework than “I need to lose weight and exercise more.”

* Understand that goals change over time. As one goal is reached, the next goals on the list may need to be altered. Be open to flexible goals.

* Keep a meta-goal in mind as you move through the smaller steps to reach a goal.

Listen to the full episode to hear more about goals and to get the latest puzzler. It may sound easy at first, but be ready for a twist along the way!

This episode was recorded on Jan. 25, 2019.

Higher Ed: Have We Entered A Geological “Age Of Humans?”

Earth’s millions of years of existence are divided into different time periods that chronicle its geological development. You may remember studying those in school (Cenozoic era, anyone?). But what is impacting earth right now? In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the call for an “Age of Humans” designation to acknowledge the impact of people – and how to study that.

Southwestern University is getting ready to host its biannual Brown Symposium later in February. The topic this time around is “The Anthropocene.”


The idea is to discuss the profound changes the Earth is undergoing right now at, for the first time say some scientists and historians, the hands of humans. Because of that, there is a push to call our current times the “Age of Humans” (a.k.a the Anthropocene).

Ed says the main idea of the symposium is to look at the impacts humans are having on the planet and to take an  interdisciplinary approach to exploring questions and looking at solutions. Some of the disciplines represented in the symposium include Environmental Studies, Religion and Art.

Does the very word “symposium” bring about a wave of yawns?

Ed encourages people to resist that antiquated thought about academic gatherings. He says they are a time to congregate, share ideas and learn about points of view different from our own.

Listen to the entire episode for more on an interdisciplinary approach to studying the “Age of Humans” and the impacts on learning when people gather to share thoughts and ideas outside the classroom.

This episode was recorded on Jan. 25, 2019.

Higher Ed: “Teacher’s Pet.” “Know-It-All.” “Brown-Noser.” How Labels Impact Learning

“Teacher’s pet.” “Know-it-all.” “Brown-noser.” These are just some of the terms students lob at each other in (and out) of school – especially at students who demonstrate strong mastery of a subject or are enthusiastic in class. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton  explore how and why those labels are used and why they might not pack the punch they used to.

One of the assumptions underlying the use of labels such as those is that it is not cool to be smart or active in class discussion. Ed remembers that was certainly the case when he was in school.

“It was definitely…. ‘you’re teacher’s pet, you’re a brown-noser,'” says Ed. “And therefore you’re now ostracized because you’re not cool.”

Ed says labels – either positive or negative – cannot help but impact students’ learning and experiences in the classroom.

“If someone is looked at as ‘wow – that person is so cool, that person knows everything’ then I think it actually amplifies that and encourages them to go on,” says Ed. “And when you have a student who is called ‘oh, that person is dumb and doesn’t know any of the answers’ or that person is just trying to impress the teacher – and is a ‘teacher’s pet’ – then it actually I think stifles that creativity and that potential intellectual growth, which is really, really sad.”

Those labels may be losing some of their impact, though, as Ed sees a trend toward more appreciation of participation and engagement in the classroom.

“At all grade levels now, knowing the answer; raising your hand; engaging with the teacher or professor or instructor; is actually kind of a cool thing,” says Ed. “I think this is one of the few directions where I think we have actually evolved and made forward progress in how we view…. being engaged and trying and being open to learning.”

Listen to the full episode to hear more about the evolution of labels and attitudes about learning and classroom engagement. There is also a new puzzler that will require your active participation to solve.

This episode was recorded on Jan. 25, 2019.