Thursday, December 2, 2010

Individuals, Collectives, and the Harlem Zone

In chapter 11 of Whatever It Takes, the author Paul Tough mentions a family with little resources who have just become the parents of a baby boy. The father "had the bad fortune of being short on marketable cognitive skills at a moment in economic history when the premium on those skills was higher than ever."

But the father's infant son "was an eleven-pound bundle of pure possibility." Later, Tough goes further pointing out that there "were plenty of signs of hope out there" for a new baby born, especially a baby affiliated with the Harlem Zone. However, "every individual success only highlighted a collective failure." In other words, the few, lucky ones who succeeded were in part notable because so many others from similar backgrounds had seemingly failed.

We regularly hear versions of the individual success vs. collective failure in discussions with Haley Scholars. You'll hear some tell their individual narrative of achievement, and at the same time, there are implicit perhaps veiled narratives about collective failures.

What would it take for us to get more collective success narratives here at SIUE? That is, what would the university need to do in order to ensure that programs or activities produced entire cohorts of highly capable graduates or participants as opposed to only one or two or three at a time? Maybe that's a big question. So what steps should we first take in order to make sure we are designing programs and projects at the university that are more ambitious in their goals to assist collective, rather than individual, successes?


Douglas Timm said...

I would say that SIUE could have a more detailed appraoch on how they run the university. It is quite diffucult though since no everyone at SIUE comes in with the same "intellect". WHat i mean is that, there are some people that attend this unviersity that dont really struggle and achieve great gardes. There are people in this univeristy that try really hard but still seem to not be able to acheieve the grades that they desire. The only reall thing siue could really do is to provide extra help to these kinds of students to try and get them back on the same level as the students that have no problem with learning at all. furthermore, it would be quite hard to accomplish this, but if siue and the students needing the help would put in maxiamum effort, i truly believe that it would work and would be a great reason why to attend siue.

TaNeal Walls said...

The idea of success can be very complex. There's success in academics, success in athletics, success in overall happiness, and so forth. However, I think the main focus here at SIUE is academic success. Yet not ALL people attending SIUE strive for academic success because that is not THEIR visualization or idea of success. Many freshman only come because that is what was expected or required of them. But since we're here excelling in academics should essentially be the number 1 goal of 100% of students I think encouragement is key.

Alot of students are unaware of the advantages of an education. Especially the ones who haven't grown up in a family who has attended, let alone graduated, college. Therefore they aren't able to witness the benefits that a good academic background can provide. I think it would be great to have alumni who have began their profession to come and speak to undergraduate students. To actually see that this school stuff pays off would be powerful motivation. Because afterall, everyone needs a roll model... or two. Especially in a society like today where the media emphasizes specifically on fame- not knowledge.

Daniel Shields said...

I believe that SIUE needs to higher expectations. This school is great and a good place to further education, but I believe that in the registration and acceptance process SIUE is too easy. I have seen everyone from someone receiving a 34 on their ACT to someone receiving a 15 on their ACT be admitted.

My freshman year Living on campus, I saw several students who were unmotivated and did not have a passion for learning or education.

Like Walls said, its hard to convince someone that education is important when they have not heard it in the home. SIUE needs to be a little more strict when it comes to academics and the importance of getting good grades

Clifford Rush III said...

The complexity of the question about what we need to do to have more of a collective success in our graduates is vast.

Is this question suggesting that if we all graduate, what could we do to make them more successful? I mean I know plenty of graduates who don't have jobs, or have the same job they had when going to school. We could build into our programs more area representatives. They could be tell us of opportunities in their industry or offer internships.

Or is the question suggesting how to make more people graduate then just a few of the people we came here with? I would have to say better teachers being employed. I am by no means a lazy student but I have been in a lot of classes where the professor is lazy, doesn't test over lecture material, just plain boring, etc. i understand that we have a shortage in teachers but these teachers need to learn to be teachers.

What is the first step? I am going to piggy back on my first statment, we need to bring people in. Employers in the region, or just successful people from our university to come back and speak. I mean we have several programs here and clubs etc. Bring in former students from all these areas to speak to certain groups. For example, former graduates in chemistry, biology, education, math, english, art, engineering. Also graduates within clubs such as frat, sororities, basketball team, soccer team. Have them speak!

Wesley Sloan said...

There are a couple things that could possibly make a collective success work. The first would definitely have to involve a change in expectations for students. Students who just can't grasp certain subjects should be required to involve themselves in some type of tutoring. Why fail a class over and over again when you can complete it the second time? I feel like a lot of students are left out to dry because of a class they can't pass. For tutoring we could have the individual successes talk to their peers and teach them how they became successful. Another factor holding back a lot of students is money. Students who have to work all the time to pay bills won't have as much time to study as those who are financially secure. If there were a way to bridge the gap, (more scholarships, free housing, etc), then I believe there would be more of a collective success.

Catalina Trevino said...

I think SIUE could leave less students behind if they do some kind of mandated tutoring if you fail too many classes of have such a low GPA. I also think that some SIUE classes aren't nearly as challenging as they should be. I have yet to have a class where I really had to completely buckle down to pass. I don't want to go through college without learning lots of new material. I expect a challenge from college, especially at a University like SIUE (you know, since tuition recently went up).

I do not completely agree that people growing up in families with parents that didn't go to college stop them from striving in their education. It's probably more of a struggle not having financial support, but I grew up in a family with no college educations and all it did was make me want to succeed. I've always thought that I don't ever want to struggle like my parents and live pay check to pay check.

Anonymous said...

I believe the university is already taking the initiative to do this, by having fame, game, tutoring at the sour, career development center etc., I think it just depends on who takes advantage of all the things SIUE is doing. There is always room for improvement, but first more students should take advantage of the helping hand that's already out there. In the end, it's the individuals responsibility to strive for success, and realize there are so many aspects of this university that can help you along the way. - Cassaundra Sampson

Chris Stewart said...

Success is defined differently by everyone. Some students think you succeed if you just manage to not fail and others think it is only if you are in the top percent. SIUE should encourage everyone that your success should be measured by doing you best and never giving up. You are here for an education and should strive to get the most out of it to make the best possible future for your self.

Christine V said...

To be realistic, we would have to limit admission to those who have more motivation and certain aptitudes for education than others. Those who support themselves, for example, have to work long hours, and so the motivation may not be high. For SIUE, our educational programs are good, but I think that to create university projects that focuses on collective successes has to first begin with taking care of these problems. Like the above comment, it is hard to create programs that most students can attend. So, addressing issues to create collective projects might be harder than it may seems.

J. Tanulanond said...

I think that the greater success would come from higher expectations from the students. If you accept low, you must expect low. I think that many students go to college and are content with making it that far. They take it as a small success and let go of the other part that is necessary in true success. Also, more group events. Things that would bring different levels of students together and collaborate on different things like decision making and just discussion as well. Personally, one of the biggest eye openers for me has been inspiration from other students. I see how they think through things differently than I do and I see how successful or unsuccessful they are. Based on this, I try to emulate or avoid that same reasoning. Students will see how other level students interact and communicate and will be inspired as well.

Tia Spiller said...

Some students here know what they want to do and are here to make it happen. They're working hard and making the grades. For other students there isn't so much push. They're not as motivated to do the work or they may not have as strong a desire for education. They may end up failing or just barely passing by.
SIUE could improve by putting more focus on these students and helping them succeed. Students who are struggling should be required to get tutoring. In some cases it could just be lack of interest. Having someone talk to them and getting them in a degree they actually enjoy could make the difference. Also, some students are distracted by all the work they have to do to pay for their studies. Providing more scholarships and grants would let them focus on their studies more. Instead of just paying attention to the model students, giving extra attention to those who need it will lead to a more collective success.

Hayoung Yu said...

As a biology major, I utilize the chemistry tutoring room in the Science building A LOT! I feel that this place is a great place to get help with homework and get help to better understand the material covered in class. However, there are usually only 1 or 2 tutors in there at a time compared to 5 or 6 students wanting help. There is quite a bit of waiting that one has to do to get help from the tutor. I feel that if SIUE provided more tutors, students can get individual help and I can say that it has helped me significantly and I am succeeding in that class.

Alaina Waters said...

As we all know, success is hard work but well worth the reward in the end. I think higher standards in terms of admission to the university would definitely enable more collective success. SIUE is definitely on the come-up but I feel as though because admission into the University isn't all that competitive, that there is a guarantee that there will be lots of students admitted that have the "well at least I'm in college" mindset. Graduating high school and coming to college is definitely an accomplishment but I feel as though to many students put having fun before their studies. Perhaps the University could offer more incentives for students who are working hard and achieving good grades. Maybe this could be used as encouragement for other students to want to be success and get rewarded at the same time.

Abagail Thompson said...

Success is not only a physical thing, but a mental thing as well. It is up for the person creating the achievment to determine if they were successful or not. I believe the first step to achieving success in a collective fashion is to set the standard for what is considered successful here at SIUE. Once a bar is set, people can then have a goal to collectively reach.
The second step is to focus more on students as a collected mass, rather than individuals. Focus on the weaknesses and strengths of the entire group, rather than the weaknesses and strengths of only some individuals. A group is as its weakest link.
The third step is to promote encouragment amongst SIUE students, as well as constructive criticism. If everyone encourages everyone, as well as helps everyone to improve, then we shall have no straggles, or anyone left behind.
To succeed in a collective fashion, we must act as a collective group, and as a family, rather than opponents or competitors. Instead of competing with one another to be on the top, we should encourage everyone to reach the top!!

Anonymous said...

Oh wow! I feel as though everyone has some good points so far! I definately agree with Douglas and Daniel and I feel as though The school should offer extra help to thouse who are struggling more than others and I guess that's where tutoring comes in. Other than tutoring I'm not sure how people that are behind can get caught up outside of tutoring. I suppose have some type of all day/night study sessions in the library where you go to a certain section of the library where everyone in that section is studying for the same subject or major on all levels, that way students are sourrounded by people of the same interest and can get help that way. If that makes sense.
And as far as being more selective when it comes to prospective students being let in with low scores and gpa's, I wish there were stricter requirements that way the competition to get into programs would become more fierce and people would hopefully become more motivated that way and stay on top of things!
Oh and bring back the mentoring program, that could possibly help..just saying.!. =)
-Nia Williams

Tyann Senaldi said...

This question is so broad that it can not be answered by doing one thing differently because each student is different. Maybe that statement within itself is the answer. I know that most upperclassmen have a mentor to help him/her with his/her studies, but maybe we need to start that process much earlier. Our academic advisors see so many students in a day that it is very difficult to get the one on one attention that sometimes is deserved.

Anonymous said...

According to an article published in our schools newspaper (Alestle) a couple months ago,students attending SIUe 4-6 years ago felt they had a better academic experience compared to current students.

Perhaps SIUe should do what has worked for them in the past.

In addition, students should also be responsible for their own education by using tutorial services etc.

But from my honest opinion, I believe that SIUe could use more staff and a more diverse staff. Everyone has their own learning styles. Often times, students receive a bad grade-not because they did not study or ask for help- but in some cases the learning and teaching styles are mismatched.
There are a lot of coursed that only offer one instructor and I think this may hinder some of SIUe students.

Cassandra Smith