October 26, 2015

Humble Service to UVA, Others – and a Beatles Song – Highlight Fall Convocation in October

OCTOBER 23, 2015

The ideals of dedication to the University of Virginia and service to others shone brightly Friday during Fall Convocation, the annual ceremony that honors two members of the faculty, recognizes high-achieving third-year students and marks the beginning of the annual Family Weekend.

The two outstanding faculty members – J. Milton Adams and Timothy D. Wilson – received the Thomas Jefferson Awards for their service and scholarship, respectively. Between them, they have spent more than 70 years on Grounds.

Also part of the event, the keynote speaker, Darden School of Business professor Gregory Fairchild, gave heartfelt and challenging advice – at one point breaking into song – to the 436 undergraduates who received Intermediate Honors for their academic achievement, being in the top 20 percent of their class after two years of study.

In his remarks, Fairchild, known for his research on entrepreneurship and emerging markets, challenged the recent trend that regards the value of education as an investment that primarily yields the external rewards of a prestigious job and high salary.

“Even though I work in a business school, I have some concerns about the education-to-get-a-job-and-salary mindset,” said Fairchild, the academic director of the Institute for Business in Society, which helps corporations, policymakers and business students generate positive social impact through business roles.

The federal government’s College Scorecard that compares colleges and universities, not only in terms of tuition and scholarships, but also by post-graduation salaries “is explicitly an investment mindset at play,” he said.

Fairchild mentioned the many people in students’ lives, especially parents and teachers, who invested their time and attention in enabling their academic success. He stressed the important things that job-and-salary measurements leave out about the distinctive experience of being part of the UVA community in its beautiful locale.

“When we focus on salary after graduation, we don’t account for the Lawn, or the beauty of the view from O-Hill. We forget about the importance of honor, or the professor who spent 45 minutes with you outside of class,” he said.

Fairchild also talked about the Darden Prison Program, in which he leads a group of M.B.A. students each year into local prisons to teach inmates entrepreneurship and prepare them to rejoin the business world. The effort is part of Resilience Education, an organization he founded with his wife and fellow Darden graduate, Tierney Temple Fairchild.

Prison inmates may not seem like a good example of individuals who are worth investing in, but despite the odds, they strive to better their lives, he said. Teaching offenders might not seem like a good investment either, but participating in the program has benefitted the student-teachers in their subsequent jobs, he added.

Fairchild encouraged the students not to wait until later in their lives to contribute to the improvement of society or philanthropy – those efforts are public goods, he said, and public goods are funded by many and enjoyed by many.

“In Old Cabell Hall hangs an inscription,” he continued, “‘You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.’ Woodrow Wilson, a UVA law alumnus, said those words in 1913.”

Another quality left out of the education-as-investment mindset is none other than love, he claimed. As he recited some of the lyrics of the Beatles song, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” he ended up singing:

“What would you think if I sang out of tune/ Would you stand up and walk out on me? …/ Oh I get by with a little help from my friends … / Do you need anybody?/ I need somebody to love.”

Riffing on those lines, he concluded, “We get by with a little help from our friends. Find somebody to love.”

The two Thomas Jefferson Award recipients certainly have invested a wealth of time, support and love to the University and to students.

Wilson, Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology, was recognized with the Jefferson Award for excellence in scholarship. His nominators at UVA and elsewhere say he is “a giant in the field of behavioral sciences,” but after receiving his award, he said he shared it with his colleagues. “I celebrate this with them,” he said.

In presenting the award to Wilson, UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan said, “His years at the University have been marked not only by significant scholarly accomplishments, but also by an unstinting devotion to all of his students and by a remarkable commitment to service of the academic community, at the University and beyond.”

An All-University Outstanding Teaching Award winner in 2001, Wilson teaches “Introduction to Social Psychology,” which enrolls 350 students and typically has a waitlist of 150 students. He has been known to ride his bicycle through a snowstorm to visit a colleague’s class to discuss his research.

Three of his mentees wrote in their nomination letter, “He has gone well above and beyond the call of duty to support the careers of countless young scholars, including graduate students and junior faculty.”

A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Wilson has published several ground-breaking studies, including the book, “Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious,” which was cited by the New York Times Magazine as one of the 100 best ideas of 2002.

That research explored the nature and limits of self-knowledge, showing that people can be remarkably blind to cues that have affected their judgments and behavior.

In his January book, “Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change,” he describes the idea that people generally have personal stories about who they are and what the world is like, but aren’t conscious of them or how they tend to guide the way people live their lives. These stories can be optimistic and positive or pessimistic and self-defeating. Wilson suggests several simple, well-researched techniques for helping people revise those narratives that are self-defeating.

Colleagues and former mentees who nominated him remarked on his sincerity and humility. One remembered hearing someone call Wilson “the Jimmy Stewart of social psychology,” saying that “in addition to being remarkably tall and talented, he is also unfailingly decent, generous, fair-minded and beloved.”

Those who nominated Adams for the Jefferson Award for Service also repeatedly mentioned his humility, despite his many accomplishments on Grounds. Over the years, he has held various administrative roles, from serving as associate dean for academic programs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science to his current role as senior vice provost, leading UVA’s strategic planning process.

He has been part of every major planning effort in recent times and helped launch many of the University’s signature programs for students, from the January Term to the Jefferson Public Citizens Program, the academic service program in which students learn about effective service practices, research design and implementation of research service projects.

“Adams has served the University as a superb teacher, researcher and administrator,” Sullivan said. “In all of this activity, he has continually shown that students and the broader University come first in his mind. He has led or been instrumental in creating numerous University programs, with collegial leadership and without seeking personal recognition.”

Adams, who earned his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from UVA in 1976 and returned to join the faculty in 1978, was the driving force behind the Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program, a partnership among Virginia’s leading universities that began in 1983 to offer Master of Engineering degrees to qualified engineers throughout the state, and in developing the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree-completion program in UVA’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, which graduated its first non-traditional students in 2002.

In 2007, he was responsible for carrying out the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan, which he titled “Enhancing Student Faculty Engagement,” a plan required by UVA’s accreditation body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

“Milton made improving the student experience at UVA a priority,” one nominator wrote. “As vice provost for academic programs, he oversaw the [University Seminar] program and carefully solicited applications and selected instructors to teach the first-year courses.”

Over the years while behind the scenes, Adams has continued to put himself in front of the classroom, continuing to teach. His “Physiology” class in the Department of Biomedical Engineering has a reputation of being one of the best courses in the Engineering School. In addition, he still accepts a full load of academic advisees annually.

He called receiving the Thomas Jefferson Award “an honor of unimaginable proportion,” but stressed that none of the countless projects he’s worked on could’ve happened without the many other people involved. “I’m grateful on behalf of all of them,” he said.

About the Author
Anne E. Bromley
UVA Today Associate
Office of University Communications

(434) 924-6861

June 4, 2015

Nominated for Emmy Award - UVa Professor of Politics Larry Sabato

UVa MOOC Nominated for Emmy Award to Professor of Politics 
Larry Sabato was born and raised in Norfolk

"Analyst, electoral forecaster and University of Virginia's Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics Larry J. Sabato looks to continue his streak at the Emmy Awards this year, as his massive open online course (MOOC),  "The Kennedy Half Century," has been nominated in the Best Instructional Programming category.” —INSIDE HIGHER ED.

Over the years since his graduation from UVa and his appointment to the University’s faculty, Larry Sabato has become a stalwart on the UVa faculty and Director of its Center for Politics. He is editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an online, non-partisan newsletter that reaches thousands of readers every week. As a teacher, he is noted nationwide for teaching his students that “politics is a good thing,” and he tells them why. The Center for Politics takes that message to students and to the surrounding community every day. That community, with the advent of MOOCs, now numbers in the millions of participants and hundreds of countries.

There were occasions on which Larry Sabato could easily have chosen to take his talents to another state — or country, such as England — but he has chosen to keep his focus and gifts at the University and in the state that Thomas Jefferson loved the most: Virginia. He has taken the tide at its ebb, and we in Virginia and Norfolk are better for his decision to serve in our midst.

U.Va. MOOC Nominated for Emmy Award
Inside Higher Ed
Analyst, electoral forecaster and U.Va. politics professor Larry J. Sabato looks to continue his streak at the Emmy Awards this year, as his massive open online course “The Kennedy Half Century” has been nominated in the Best Instructional Programming category.


Larry Sabato was born and raised in Norfolk and graduated from Norfolk Catholic High School in 1970:

Sabato became involved in student government in high school. He had watched massive resistance — the effort by the Virginia state government to resist federally ordered desegregation of the public schools — play out in Norfolk in the 1950s and '60s. [The Virginian-Pilot and Editor Lenoir Chambers won a Pulitzer prize for denouncing massive resistance; the only newspaper in Virginia to take that stand and to be so honored.]
"My family was strongly opposed to massive resistance," Sabato said. "It was still going on in Virginia when I was in high school. That was one of the most shameful episodes in American history — not just in Virginia history, but in American history — to close the public schools so as not to admit a handful of African-American students to high school."
The 1960s were also a time when the United States was engaged in an unpopular war overseas. "When I was president of the Student Council, I invited Henry Howell to speak to our school," Sabato said. "He was critical of the war in Vietnam. He was pro-civil rights."
Sabato was so impressed with Henry E. Howell Jr., then a Democratic state senator, that he worked for several of his campaigns. Howell's 1971 campaign for lieutenant governor came after the passage of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave 18-year-olds the right to vote. 
"No voters thought he would win the election," Sabato said. "But we got out the vote. Young people made the difference."
After graduating from Norfolk Catholic High School in 1970, Sabato attended U.Va., graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor's degree in government in 1974. He studied for a year at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs before winning a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University's Queen's College. After earning a doctorate in politics there, he taught in Oxford's Politics, Philosophy and Economics program and in early 1978 was elected a lecturer in politics at New College, Oxford.

March 20, 2015

Under Baker Duncan, Woodberry Forest School began to be managed as a modern business

Under the leadership of its fourth headmaster, A. Baker Duncan, Woodberry Forest School came to be managed as a modern business, beginning in the mid-1960s. Innovations included investing short-term surplus funds (from tuitions and fundraising) in higher-yielding, safe investments through the Common Fund and other safe sources; setting up lines of credit (for capital projects) favorable to the School based on its historic balances and fundraising ability; and generally leveraging the School's strong financial position — to the benefit of Woodberry Forest, rather than to the profit of small, local banks, where short-term surplus funds had formerly languished.

It was enlightened moves and policies such as these which changed the financial outlook at Woodberry Forest, and led to future prosperity. If change had not occurred, the school would not have (a) protected and expanded the value of its existing assets, especially by retaining professional investment counsel; (b) gained the confidence of its wealthier constituents by using such counsel and other wise business management practices, and (c) created a climate and performance history to attract endowment gifts and grants that would eventually exceed $250 million by 2012.

Many nonprofit organizations pay lip service to such cliches as frugal spending, long-range planning, and wise investment. At Woodberry Forest School, beginning in the mid 1960s, the trustees and administration began to give measurable emphasis to the school's motto: "A posse ad esse" - From potential into fulfillment. Substantial change was evident, both in the academic areas and in the financial management of the school. 

Woodberry's administration began to measure and compare its performance statistics with schools of similar student enrollments, size of faculty, endowments, financial aid and operating budgets. These friendly-competitor comparable schools were located primarily in New England, though Woodberry's oldest rival, Episcopal High School in Alexandria, was always in the mix.

Baker Duncan had brought to Woodberry's headmaster position the unique qualities of business experience (in his native Texas), his high-level formal education (from Woodberry, Yale and U. of Texas-Austin), his indomitable personal drive, and a full commitment to Woodberry's leadership among national independent schools. 

It was my privilege to be hired by Baker in 1966, and to serve with the Woodberry Forest faculty and administration, as well as to be secretary of its board of trustees, 1967-77. These opportunities provided remarkable experiences for me and constituted a high-point of my career in education. I have attempted to capture some of these experiences in my book,  On Scholarship – From An Empty Room at Princeton, which I published in 2008. 

Thanks to Baker Duncan, Woodberry Forest was — and still is — a tremendous learning place for hundreds of students, and for many faculty members who come to teach and are open to learn, as well.

 Gerry Cooper 

Gerald L. Cooper

Above is a photo of former Headmaster, A. Baker Duncan, taken in August 2014 near Boulder, Colorado, where the Duncan family have created a summer camp for young people, operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Texas, of San Antonio.

The Sweet Briar Dilemma: Will Predatory Lending Take Down More Colleges?

Author Alan Smith is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Associate Director of Networked Initiatives.
After 114 years of educating young women in rural Virginia, Sweet Briar College recently announced that the 2015 academic year would be its last. It’s closing its doors, administrators say, because its model is no longer sustainable.
There are plenty of people coming out of the woodwork to explain Sweet Briar's problems. Dr. James F. Jones, the school’s president, claims that there are simply not enough people who want to attend an all-women's rural liberal arts school (though application numbers and some pundits disagree); he blames the discount that the school was giving to low-income students for the institutional budget shortfall. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban says that Sweet Briar has fallen victim to the student loan bubble and that students are unwilling to commit the money to attend, which sounds a lot like the blame-the-homeowner narrative that came out of the 2008 financial crisis.  Others are wringing their hands that small colleges in general are doomed.   
These takes are varied and complex, but they are all missing an important point: that predatory banking practices and bad financial deals played an important and nearly invisible role in precipitating the school’s budget crisis.  
A quick look at Sweet Briar’s audited financial reports (easily available in public records) reveals enough confusing and obfuscating financial-speak to last a lifetime, but a few days of digging did manage to unearth a series of troubling things.  
A single swap on a bond issued in June 2008 cost Sweet Briar more then a million dollars in payments to Wachovia before the school exited the swap in September 2011. While it is unclear exactly why they chose 2011 to pay off the remainder of the bond early, they paid a $730,119 termination fee. For a school that was sorely strapped for cash, these fines and the fees that accrued around this deal (which are hard to definitively pick out from financial documents) couldn't have come at a worse time.  
Just how big a deal are these numbers? The school has a relatively small endowment even among small liberal arts colleges: currently valued at about $88 million, with less then a quarter of that total completely unrestricted and free to spend. But in 2014, the financial year that appears to have been the final straw for Sweet Briar, total operating revenues were $34.8 million and total operating expenditures were $35.4 million, which means that the deficit the school is running is actually smaller than the cost of any of the bad deals it’s gotten itself into with banks. 
All of this puts in a very stark light the fact that the early retirement of debt (in other words, the losses the school suffered on the overall value of the bonds it had taken out because it decided to pay them back early) cost the school over $9 million in 2011 and more than $13 million in 2012. Why did the school accrue these costs? We have no way of knowing if it was bad advice from bankers, negligent trustee members covering a mistake, or a well-intentioned plan that hit at the wrong time.  
What we can say, though, is that a million dollars here and a million dollars there adds up to real money that was desperately needed as Sweet Briar fought to stay afloat.  
We know that Wall Street collects higher fees on risky and complicated deals involving variable rate debt and hedging instruments, like the ones found in Sweet Briar's last few decades of financials, than from fixed rate debt deals. We know that they add on things like credit enhancements, further driving up the costs. We know that those higher fees mean that there is a clear financial incentive to sell schools, municipalities, and pension funds on these risky deals. And we know that it works in Wall Street's favor that someone like me can spend days digging into this stuff and still not be totally sure what the exact costs of these deals are.  
What we don't know is how all these things were allowed to happen at this particular school in this particular timeframe.  
Sweet Briar appears slated to close because it is a small organization without the resources to counter the huge information imbalance that has helped precipitate the financialization crisis. It is closing because it signed some terrible deals to get what must have felt like "needed" money at the time. You can see the reasons: a $14 million bond (with swaps) in 2001 for campus improvements. A $10 million bond in 2006 to pay off other bonds that had revealed their ugly side and were costing the school too much to be allowed to fully mature. But, as has so often been the case in everything from municipal finance to personal home loans, there was a problem in the small print. Like many other colleges, what appeared to be vital and even beneficial deals turned out to be nothing of the sort. Unlike many others, Sweet Briar was already close enough to the financial brink that these ongoing debts made the difference between staying open and closing its doors.  
There are, of course, other very real pressures on Sweet Briar. Lower enrollment numbers do really hurt a school, and there are real questions about how to keep small, rural liberal arts institutions competitive in a higher education economy. None of these issues, however, compare to the fees, fines, penalties, and other losses that are all over Sweet Briar’s books.
Is Sweet Briar the canary in the coalmine? Banks are certainly making obscene profits on the backs of the swap deals in the UC system, at the University of Michigan, and at American University — and those are the places that we’ve found in our first month of looking. While those schools are solvent enough that these swaps are not pushing them to the brink of closing, they are exacerbating budget shortfalls and passing debt on to students through increased costs. These deals are also clearly making money for many school trustees whose day jobs happen to be with the giant banks. Here I find myself agreeing with Mark Cuban, at least in part: these trends are a part of a vicious cycle of borrowing that is wholly unsustainable, and will eventually lead to a crisis.  
This is why the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network is working to track the ways in which financial institutions are extracting wealth from our colleges and universities, and make a clear case for demanding our money back. I hope that the storied institution of Sweet Briar can find a way to keep it's doors open in 2016, but even if it fails, that failure should wake us up to predatory practices at colleges and universities around the country.   
Questions? Concerns? Interested in my math? Drop me a line.
Alan Smith is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Associate Director of Networked Initiatives.
Once you read above, please share your thoughts. Sweet Briar and Woodberry Forest School have at least two things in common: each is located on a huge parcel of land in rural Virginia, and each operated dairy farms that sold products on the open market and were successful for many years.