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Archive for the ‘Kilns College’ Category




Welcome Chelsie Frank to Kilns College

Guest Post by Melissa McCreery

I’m excited to announce the appointment of Chelsie Frank as Director of Partnerships and Engagement at Kilns College. Chelsie recently earned her Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Eastern University and brings years of experience in project and service learning. She spent the last four years in Eastern DR Congo acting as a liaison between church communities in the Twin Cities and indigenous-led Christian NPOs. She most recently established the Service-Learning Program at Universite Chretienne Bilingue du Congo creating an institutional structure for service-learning, training Congolese professors to use service-learning as a teaching methodology, and fostering partnerships between the community and university.

In addition to her work in Eastern DR Congo, Chelsie’s professional experience spans numerous continents – America, South Africa, Kenya, Brazil—and numerous sectors. She led professional learning communities for language teachers at the university level; conducted academic research in sustainable agriculture; and designed holistic business development programs for women.

Chelsie truly has a heart for justice, for education, and marrying the two.  Chelsie will be implementing and overseeing the service-learning component at Kilns College, as well as creating and maintaining important partnerships –locally, nationally and internationally—for Kilns students and faculty.

Please help me in welcoming Chelsie to Bend and to Kilns College!

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Guest Post :: Do Grades Hinder the Learning Process?

Guest Bloggers: Melissa McCreery, VP of Development at Kilns College

Do Grades Hinder the Learning Process?

According to the story “Secret World of Student Cheaters” featured on the Today Show earlier this week, a new survey reports that 63 percent of college students admit to cheating. It seems a majority of students are looking for the A, yet trying their very best to avoid learning in the process. Grades have become the primary focus; unfortunately at the cost of learning.

The segment on the Today Show reminded me of a post I’d previously written for this site, and more recently, a letter I sent to Kilns College donors. I thought I’d share a segment of that letter with you.

Dear Kilns Donor,

The faculty and staff at Kilns College continuously strive to keep an eternal perspective at the forefront of learning. As this semester’s finals came and went, our faculty could be heard telling students, “Don’t get an ‘A’ at the expense of truly learning.” It’s true that grades, tests, and memorization are all an important part of pursuing a college education, but at Kilns College we encourage students to set their sights on why they are pursuing an education and how they can use what they learn to change the world.

This semester, in addition to touring the Grotto of St Paul in Ephesus and reading all 27 books of the New Testament, students met with the owners of Croutons, Goody’s, Brian’s Cabinets and Bratton Appraisal Group to witness Christian professionals working in their “sweet spot,” as the Personal Calling & Mission class fondly referred to individuals living out God’s calling.

It’s exciting to see students already beginning to find their own “sweet spots.” This semester a number of students attended The Justice Conference in Philadelphia, giving them the opportunity to hear from world-renowned speakers in the area of social justice and ministry (Nicholas Wolterstorff, Eugene Cho, Dr. John Perkins), as well as meet with representatives from more than 200 nonprofit organizations. Our students prepared breakfasts together at the Shepherd’s House—a nonprofit organization serving the homeless in Central Oregon. They secured internships with local churches (everything from children’s ministry to worship to high school internships coordination). They traveled to Brazil and South Africa with various missions organizations.

At Kilns, we encourage students make learning—not letter grades—their priority. If you’re passionate about your education, the grade will reflect that. Care about learning and the rest will fall into place.

The idea of a grading system goes as far back as America’s earliest colleges. It was designed to reflect what students learned, never intended for use as a stand-alone symbol. Yet, if you’re an educator (or recall your own time as a student) I’m sure you can recall the infamous “will that be on the test?” question, or students debating who the “easiest” teacher was. That is, which class was going to be the easy A. These types of questions reflect an emphasis on the grading system and an almost flippant disregard for learning.

Grades will pass (how many of us remember our college GPA??). Knowledge is something we carry with us throughout our lives.

Let learning be your priority.

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Kilns College: Defying the Numbers

Guest Blog by Melissa McCreery

A week ago, I wrote a post [Education by the Numbers] highlighting some (slightly alarming) statistics about higher education in America. Through those numbers we saw an education system with some serious issues to address. Issues that Kilns College is tackling head on.

While student loan debt is hovering frighteningly near the one trillion dollar mark, at Kilns College not a single student has graduated with debt from Kilns.

On a national scale, only 11% of students from the bottom income quartile hold a college degree. Fifty-six percent of our students admit they did not plan to go to college due to financial hardship… until they discovered Kilns College. With undergraduate tuition at only $85 per credit, students can afford to attend without taking out loans or placing a financial burden on family.

Currently in Oregon, only 28% of residents hold a 4-year college degree. Kilns College is a progressive start-up institution offering an innovative academic model and a great option for students who didn’t think college fit into their lives.

While we exist largely to serve the Central Oregon community, three distinct countries are represented in our student population—showing a need for a reformed college system not only in Oregon, but around the world.

 

For more information on Kilns College, visit http://www.kilnscollege.org!

 

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Education by the Numbers

Guest Blog by Melissa McCreery

Working in the higher education arena, I come across a lot of shocking statistical information—I mean truly shocking. For example, did you know student loan debt is currently hovering near the one trillion dollar mark? One trillion dollars. For the record, that’s a 1 followed by twelve zeros. That’s not only a shocking number, but a number that says something significant about higher education in our country.

Numbers and statistics are important to understanding the conversation on educationtoday. They can often tell a story – through their matter-of-factness – that words cannot adequately express. When we look at numbers as they relate to higher education, there is much we can learn.

  • Currently, twenty percent of all first- time undergrads take at least one remedial class.
  • Most college students (58.2%) under 30 attend school on a part time basis
  • In the United States today, only 11% of students from the bottom income quartile hold a college degree; compared with 79% of students from the upper income quartile who hold a college degree
  • In Oregon, for every 100 students that enter public 2- and 4-year colleges, only 38 graduate within an 8-year timeframe.
  • In Oregon, 28% of residents hold a 4-year college degree, compared with 38% nationally.
  • On a global scale, only 6.7% of the world’s population holds a 4-year college degree
  • In most states – and countries – the younger generation of adults is more educated than their elders. In Oregon, adults aged 25–34 are less educated than their parents’ generation, with fewer earning certificates or degrees beyond high school.

* Sources: USA Today (2012), NBC News Education Report, Complete College America, Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac (2012), Oregon Blue Book

 

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NEW: Master of Arts in Social Justice at Kilns College

So, this is one of the best press releases of the year!

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Kilns College is excited to announce the launch of its first graduate program! Beginning Fall 2013 we will be offering a Master of Arts Degree in Social Justice. This one-year program is designed for individuals seeking careers in the nonprofit sector, ministry, or simply seeking a better understanding of justice in their careers and day-to-day living. The program is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a community of entrepreneurs, theologians, social activists, advocates and leading thinkers in biblical and social justice.*

Admission Information

Application: The application deadline is May 1st. Application requirements include successful completion of an undergraduate program, letters of recommendation, personal statement, completion of the application form. Please note, we do not require the GRE for admission. For a full list of application materials and requirements please email Melissa McCreery.

Tuition: $237 per credit ($7,584 total)

(Scholarships and Financial Assistance: Multiple scholarship opportunities are available for entering students. Please e-mail Kilns College for more information.)

Listed below are a few course highlights. The full one-year curriculum will be posted online soon.

SJ 501a – Systematic Theology for Christian Social Justice: Part 1 (3 Credits)
The first module in a two-part course which is designed to introduce the classical topics in systematic theology as they provide the proper context in which to understand a uniquely Christian account of social justice. In the first part attention will be give to theological sources of knowledge, the development of Christology in the early Christological controversies, and the subsequent emergence of the doctrine of the Trinity. These doctrines will be related to the doctrine of reconciliation, forming the context in which to discuss the Christian mission of reconciliation as it relates to issues of social justice.

SJ 511 – A People’s History of Justice in the Modern Era (3 Credits)
The course will look at the topics of justice, injustice, human rights, politics and society from historical, theological and philosophical perspectives. This course will also pay special attention to developments in the modern era and the viewpoint of disenfranchised or oppressed peoples.

SJ 612 –Christian Ethics: Dietrich Bonheoffer and Soren Kierkegaard (3 credits)
This is a reading course in the ethics of two theologians. Close readings of primary sources will help to develop important interpretative reading skills in the subject area as well as give students a solid introduction to the thinkers that are featured. A short sequence of lectures will introduce methods and background information with the remaining majority of class meetings focused on discussions of the weekly reading assignments.

SJ 617 – Slavery: A History (3 credits)
The History of Slavery course at Kilns College is designed to expose students to the topic of slavery as it has existed in different periods: early, Roman, Christian, Middle Ages, Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Modern and Sex Trafficking. Students will learn the both the differing and similar features to slavery, the advocacy movements against slavery, the psychological effects of slavery and how that interfaces with the concept of social death. Students will also develop a stance with regard to modern slavery.

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Martin Luther King Jr. on Education

Guest Blogger: Melissa McCreery

When I began my typical social media ritual this past Monday morning, I found my Facebook and Twitter feeds overflowing with some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most popular quotes, in observation of the MLK holiday.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Even President Obama alluded to Dr. King throughout the inauguration ceremony and during his speech on Monday, saying,

“We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still… just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth” (as transcribed in the Washington Post).

While King is remembered by most for being a voice, leader and symbol of equality in a time in history when equality was largely absent, his life was a symbol of more than the mark he left on the civil rights movement. He cared passionately about injustices of all kinds—be they global or domestic—issues of healthcare, malnutrition, violence, war, or transportation. It is his methodically astute voice on the purpose of education that has me writing this post today.

Nearly two decades before King led the March on Washington and delivered his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech, he was but a humble undergraduate student at Morehouse College in Atlanta. There, King was an ardent and articulate advocate for what he believed to be the true purpose of education. He championed the important dual role education plays in society.

True education, King said, is more than memorization, grades, writing and acquiring information. Yes, education must teach its students to think critically and with reason, but it is responsible for so much more than that.  Education must also teach a set of morals and speak to the development of students’ character. Education should challenge students to think critically and with moral reason; to live life by a set of ideals and moral standards; to decipher right from wrong and truth from untruth. Teaching the next generation to be men and women of compassion and integrity.

Below is an excerpt from a 1947 article King wrote in the Morehouse campus newspaper, The Maroon Tiger, when he was a junior there.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals… Education without morals is like a ship without a compass, merely wandering nowhere. It is not enough to have the power of concentration, but we must have worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. It is not enough to know truth, but we must love truth and sacrifice for it.”

I admire Dr. King for an abundance of reasons, certainly for his bravery and fortitude in the face of racism and hatred. Yet, as an educator, what has always stood out to me is King’s intensely pronounced belief that education is the gateway to creating a just, equal and free society. In essence, education is the single entity from which truth, compassion, courage and justice are born. Perhaps if the world had taken Dr. King’s educational views to heart, he would not have been known as America’s greatest voice of freedom, for it would not have been necessary.

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Are Liberal Arts Colleges Facing Extinction?

By Guest Blogger: Melissa McCreery

I recently read an article about the decline of Liberal Arts colleges in America. It appears that administrators at many liberal arts schools may be bailing on their mission statement—to provide a classical approach to education that teaches students to question, analyze, and think critically—in favor of adding vocational and professional programs to attract students who are interested in gaining  more “practical skills.”

Victor E. Ferrall Jr., president emeritus of Beloit College and author of Liberal Arts at the Brink, states that the largest problem (and reason many schools are moving in the direction of career preparation) is because Americans fail to see the true value of a liberal arts education.

In my opinion (and you’re certainly welcome to disagree with me… many people do) liberal arts colleges are critical to the future of education, as the knowledge gained at such institutions speak into students’ character development and education as a whole. Such an education provides a valuable college experience and can certainly be applied to any profession or career path upon graduation.

I invite you to read Scott Jaschik’s article— Disappearing Liberal Arts Collegein its entirety and weigh in on the debate surrounding the liberal arts today. Share your thoughts in the comments section. How do you fee about a liberal arts education vs. career/professional preparation? Do liberal arts colleges still play a crucial role in American society? Or are they antiquated?

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The Third Baptism

I was just thinking back on the church history trip I lead through Kilns College. I remember being in Zurich getting ready to head to Geneva the next morning, then the next day to Pisa, then to Florence and then a few days in Rome before flying back.

There’s nothing like actually standing in places to learn the nuances of history – a lesson I first remember learning when walking the field where the Confederate attack known as “Pickett’s Charge” took place during the battle of Gettysburg. The “high ground” really comes to mean something when you understand what it’s like to cover almost a mile heading up toward entrenchments where cannon and rifle fire rained down.

I had the same experience in Zurich that day. As far as church history goes, it’s not even close to being the most important city. It only registers because it is where Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, taught and ultimately ushered in the Swiss Reformation before being killed during the second war with neighboring Catholic states over religion.

What jumped out at me is the spot, now commemorated with a plaque honoring those who lost their lives, where the town leaders in Zurich gave the “third baptism” to Anabaptists during the Reformation. Anabaptists (only somewhat related to Baptists in America) were seen as radicals and trouble-makers. They wanted religious reform to go even further than Zwingli and the other reformers wanted – separation of church and state, pacifism, abolishment of tithes and taxes and more.

The symbol of their difference was their belief in adult baptism or “believers’ baptism.” Most of the reformers still baptized infants – much like their Catholic counterparts – but the Anabaptists (literally “another” or “re-baptizers”) wanted for adults to get baptized after making a religious decision to follow Jesus Christ.

Many Anabaptist leaders were eventually given a third baptism (they had been baptized as infants and then as adults as was their custom) when the town leaders took them out to a fishing platform in the middle of the river below, tied their hands and feet and then pushed them into the river as crowds of people looked on.

Religious persecution – even from one sect to the next – really feels different when looking at the river, the plaque and coming to understand the nature of church and state collaboration as was the case in Europe. In the shadow of all this, the reasons for separation of church and state at the founding of America become all the more clear.

It also explains a lot about the way many Europeans perceive American when watching on CNN International or the BBC when our leaders pray on TV, talk about their faith publicly and read political placards in the crowds during election cycles that speak of taking America back for God.

I guess all this is what I love about history… it is a lot more nuanced than we ever give it credit for. The Reformation is a historical story for us with about a half dozen players and a few key dates. The reality is it involved all of Europe, two diverging Christianities, rulers, property rights, business, literature, art — everything.

If reductionism blurs the complexity of past events like the Reformation, then it seems logical that generalizations and reductionism in the midst of the complexities of today likewise obscures depth, truth, logic, cause-effect, meaning, lessons and the reality of our own finitude in the midst of it all.

Learning, reading, trips, studying history, seeing from outside our paradigms all allow things like the third baptism to become more real and for us to become more mature – whatever our faith may be.

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Guest Post: College Students Defy Stereotype

Guest Bloggers: Melissa McCreery, VP of Development at Kilns College

 

College students tend to get a bad rap. The prevalent stereotype is that students are self- serving party animals that care little about the future or consequences of their actions. Additionally, they’re usually labeled as cheap (for example, often failing to scrounge up a decent tip at the local burger joint). Most of us know that – generally speaking—stereotypes exist for a reason. That is, there is usually at least some element of truth to them. Want to know the truly awesome thing about this? If the majority of a certain segment of the population falls into a pre-conceived stereotype, then there’s bound to be a group of people who resoundingly defy it.

I’m going to feel a bit like a bragging mom here, but Kilns students defy the self-centered, cheap, partying student stereotype every single day.

I’ve seen our students put the needs of their classmates above their own. I’ve witnessed them giving their time and resources to those in more desperate need than themselves. I’ve seen them deeply involved in the Central Oregon community. It’s honestly one of the more inspiring (and often convicting) things I’ve witnessed in the world of higher education.

Currently, a handful of Kilns students are raising money to attend the Justice Conference in Philadelphia this February. And here’s the kicker… they’re not even planning to sit in on the sessions. They’re actually raising money and traveling across the country to VOLUNTEER!

Recently, our students hosted a Small Town Poets concert to raise money for their travel to the conference. They organized, advertised, emceed, and hosted the event entirely on their own. It was an awesome night and 100 percent of money raised went directly to the students.

 

As an administrator at the college, nothing makes me more proud than seeing our students raise money to fly across the country to work 15-hour days so that conference attendees can have an amazing weekend learning about biblical and social justice issues.

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Melissa’s Bio: Melissa grew up in Southern California and attended the University of Southern California where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. After working as a First Year Advisor at USC, Melissa moved to Boston to pursue graduate studies. She earned her Ed.M in Higher Education from Harvard University and moved to Bend, Oregon following graduation. Prior to working at Kilns College, Melissa worked at several college and higher education organizations such as USC, the New England Board of Higher Education, Emerson College, and Central Oregon Community College.

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Guest Post :: What Would Lincoln Say?

Guest Bloggers: Melissa McCreery, VP of Development at Kilns College

 

My husband and I—along with a multitude of other people across the country—went to see Lincoln on it’s opening weekend. The movie brought in $21 million that weekend—quite a sizable income considering it was up against Twilight’s Breaking Dawn and Skyfall, the latest James Bond film.

I don’t know if viewers were drawn to the historic figure, portrayed by actor Daniel Day-Lewis, because the country is coming off a messy presidential election, because Abraham Lincoln has always been something of an American icon, or simply because the winter weather is beginning to settle in and people are flocking to the theaters.

If I asked the one thing Abraham Lincoln is best known for, I’d probably receive a range of responses. The Gettysburg address, the 13th amendment, the leader who held the union together at all costs, a strategic politician. Whether you think he was the greatest leader this country has ever seen, or simply another politician, it’s hard to argue against the fact that he possessed tremendous character and resolve when the country needed it most.

I wonder if he were alive today, what Abraham Lincoln would say about the overall lack of honesty and integrity that seems to be plaguing an increasingly large numbers of high school and college students.

One of our students at Kilns College recently sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal— “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” by HollyFinn, which addresses the rise in cheating among students today. The 5-second summary goes something like this: 125 Harvard students cheat on an exam and plead it as necessary for their academic success.

To be clear, this isn’t just an epidemic at Harvard, nor specific to the United States. No, I’m sad to say if you open almost any college newspaper today you’re bound to see an article about some cheating scandal or other. Additionally, according to Finn’s article, a 2010 study found a high rate of cheating on college admission applications in China and the UK.

Have the schools failed us? The churches? Have parents neglected their duty to raise morally responsible children? Has society failed to produce a present-day role model who lives with integrity? In all honesty, we probably have all played a role in our moral decline, which means we all have a responsibility to help restore integrity into the world.

One of Lincoln’s less well-known speeches, given during a law lecture states,

“Let no young man choosing the law for a calling, for a moment yield to the popular belief — resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer.”

Don’t put your career aspirations before your commitment to live an honest life. Live with integrity and the rest will fall into place.

Don’t aspire to succeed academically at all cost—as the Harvard students did. Aspire to succeed to become a better person in the process. Aspire to find success in helping the less fortunate. In using your career to bring about positive change.

I like to think people were drawn to Lincoln (the movie and the man) because of the leader he was and what he represents in American history.  Maybe today,we’re all just grasping for a role model to inspire us.

Melissa’s Bio: Melissa grew up in Southern California and attended the University of Southern California where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. After working as a First Year Advisor at USC, Melissa moved to Boston to pursue graduate studies. She earned her Ed.M in Higher Education from Harvard University and moved to Bend, Oregon following graduation. Prior to working at Kilns College, Melissa worked at several college and higher education organizations such as USC, the New England Board of Higher Education, Emerson College, and Central Oregon Community College.

 

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Eleonore Stump and Human Suffering

One of the Philosophers who has had an impact on my thinking is Dr. Eleonore Stump from St. Louis University.

Dr. Stump is not only one of the leader Christian Philosophers in the world, but also arguably one of the leading thinkers on the Problem of Evil and Suffering.

Therefore, when we started thinking about the Fall Kickoff for Kilns College about six months ago, I suggested to the team that it would be fun to bring Dr. Eleonore Stump out to speak.  Dr. Stump graciously agreed to come and lecture.

I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with Dr. Stump and hearing her at Antioch on Sunday morning and Kilns College on Sunday night.  She is not only a first rate scholar, but an amazing woman as well.

Below is her lecture from Sunday morning on “The Desires of Our Heart and the Problem of Suffering.”

Dr. Eleonore Stump :: The Problem of Suffering & the Desires of the Heart from Antioch Church on Vimeo.

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Guest Post: Discover Kilns College

Below is a short guest post by Melissa McCreery, Vice President of Development at Kilns College, along with a short trailer video on Kilns College put together by some students this summer.

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This is my favorite time of year.  The days are still warm, yet the evenings have slowly begun to cool. The air is crisp and the leaves are slowly turning yellow, which means it’s time to head back to school!

I always loved starting a new school year—first as a student and now as an administrator at Kilns College.

Kilns is a true gem in the world of education. A college committed to educating the entire student—heart, mind and soul—and preparing them for a life of purpose and compassion. And isn’t that the whole point of an education? (If you want to hear more about my thoughts on true education, you can watch my pre-conference session from the 2012 Justice Conference!)

Students have traveled to Kilns from across the country (and even the globe!) recognizing that we have something incredibly unique and worthwhile to offer.

If you live in the Central Oregon area, there’s still time to register for classes before they begin on September 10th.  As an educator, I’d encourage you to run—not walk—to grab a seat in class! Of course I may be biased, but of all the colleges and institutions I’ve worked for, not a single one has impacted me the way Kilns has, and I think many of you will have a similar experience.

If I can’t convince you, check out this video and hear from President Ken Wytsma, current students, and other Kilns administrators (yep, that’s me!) on the vision and heart behind Kilns College.

-Melissa McCreery

Discover Kilns College from Kilns College on Vimeo.

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Future Generations Burdened by Excessive Student Debt

Editor’s Note: Melissa is the Vice President of Development at Kilns College.

By Guest Blogger: Melissa McCreery

I came across this video while researching an entirely different topic for a different assignment. The New York Times video—coupled with an email I received from a prominent higher education journal inviting me to attend a seminar on Student Loan Default Aversion: Forum on Research and Best Practices—caused be to stop and think about how the high cost of earning a college degree may cause financial hardship rather than socioeconomic advantages for future generations.  According to the department of education, in the U.S. today there is more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.

Click here to view the NY Times video and article: College Costs Weighing Down a Generation with Student Debt. 

The video also addresses the larger question of why we attend college. Is it to land a job with a big paycheck and signing bonus? Or, to further our knowledge and learn for the pure joy of learning? If you fall into the former category, I highly recommend you watch this video.

To be clear, my intent in posting this is not to condemn colleges that charge high tuition rates. Many institutions increase tuition as a last resort, when faced with decreased state and federal funding and dried up donor pools. No, at the end of the day it’s not entirely the school’s fault.

My purpose in addressing this issue is merely to begin a dialogue about it. Since my own graduation (in practicing full disclosure, I myself attended a school which would fall into the “high tuition” category), I’ve wondered what exactly my tuition paid for, and would I have been able to receive the same education elsewhere? My Alma Mater would argue I paid for my education and my collegiate experience (football games, world renowned guest lecturers, state-of-the-art technology, etc).

Would I have received the same experience and quality education at another, more affordable school? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is it’s a question incoming college students and their families should at least be asking.

 

Melissa grew up in Southern California and attended the University of Southern California where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. After working as a First Year Advisor at USC, Melissa moved to Boston to pursue graduate studies. She earned her Ed.M in Higher Education from Harvard University and moved to Bend, Oregon following graduation. Prior to working at Kilns College, Melissa worked at several college and higher education organizations such as USC, the New England Board of Higher Education, Emerson College, and Central Oregon Community College

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Higher Education: A Victim or Catalyst of Consumer Culture?

Editor’s Note: Melissa is the Vice President of Development at Kilns College.

By Guest Blogger: Melissa McCreery

“How can a writing class possibly help me land a job as a aerospace engineer?”

“Which class looks better on my resume—Biochemistry or Spanish?”

“Do employers look favorably on applicants who study abroad?”

Over the course of my career in higher education— particularly in my role as an academic advisor in the engineering department at a prominent California university —I’ve been asked these questions more times than I care to count. After just a few months as an advisor, my answers came automatically.

“Engineering firms are looking for employees with strong communication skills, and a college level writing course will give you those skills.”

“In an ever-shrinking world, employers like to hire bilingual students so I’d recommend adding a minor in Spanish.”

“Studying abroad shows potential employers that you’re a ‘go-getter’ and not afraid of taking on a challenge or new experience.”

While these answers rolled off my tongue without pause, they weren’t without thought. I cared deeply for my advisees and for their post-college success. Success —in my mind and theirs (and their tuition-paying parents)—defined by their employment status upon graduation. Were they at a reputable firm? Was their paycheck significant? Did they receive a signing bonus?

These were my goals. If I could help Johnny excel in his academics and complete his degree program, which in turn landed him a reputable job, then I successfully served Johnny, his parents and the university.

In my eyes—albeit heavily guarded by a pair of impenetrable (and highly fashionable) rose-colored glasses—a more altruistic industry could not be found.

Then, one day as I was settling into a new job, at a new college, serving a new population of students, I found myself answering the same familiar questions. Was it just me or did students fail to see the big picture about their education? Their questions revolved increasingly around job security and had very little to do with true learning. (I actually met with one prospective student who wanted to enroll in a degree program, but – on this point he was explicitly clear—he did not want to learn anything). That’s when the rose-colored glasses fell off.

Students never asked which classes would aid in shaping them into better human beings; or, how their study abroad opportunity would expose them to injustices taking place around the world. It seems if there was no practical purpose for their education, it was deemed invaluable. Had it always been this way? Had I really just been blind to this?

In that moment, I saw the higher education system for what it truly was. Noble? Yes. Well-intentioned? Yes. Imperfect? Most definitely.

Somewhere in its pursuit to save the world, higher education had become misguided. Colleges and universities across the country lost sight of their mission, which has never been to help students land big paychecks or large corner offices, but to graduate students with integrity and a broad worldview—who will positively impact the planet and contribute to society. (You can google almost any U.S. college or university to read their mission statement).

Had higher education fallen victim to today’s consumer culture? Or had it played a crucial role in creating it?

After researching numerous college websites and marketing materials, and speaking with administrators around the country, I discovered that a scant few colleges herald their graduates’ character development and worldview upon completion of their college experience.

Instead colleges’ praise students for their employment status—often based on inflated data—upon graduation. If it’s what colleges emphasize as important, their students will follow suit. And don’t be fooled, it is exactly what colleges are valuing. A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article outlines how, in recent years, institutions of higher education have, with alarming frequency, inflated the employment rates for their graduates. Schools advertise high job placement rates—some as high as 98-percent – based largely on bogus numbers.

How much pressure must theses institutions feel, if they have lowered themselves to inflating graduation rates? One thing is for sure, pressure that intense it palpable and students easily pick up on this.

The mission of higher education – in theory if not on paper—has shifted from truly educating its students to ensuring their employment. Parents, students, college admission counselors, academic advisors, and high school counselors have placed growing emphasis on education as a means to employment and financial security.

A quick perusal of any bookstore will reveal an absurdly high quantity of books devoted to the topic.

Yes, providing employment and financial stability is part of a college’s purpose, but just a part (and a rather small part at that).

Higher education provides a number of benefits; most notably to the nation’s economic stability and job creation, civic engagement, and pulling students from low socioeconomic situations and landing them securely in middle class America. These are all pieces that make up the whole higher education pie, which, in the end, should speak to students’ education as a whole individual—mind and soul.

Today, when students ask what classes look better on their resume my response doesn’t come quite as quickly. Instead, I challenge each student I advise to look at the ‘big picture’ of his/her education. Why are you pursuing a college degree? How does God use each class to show you how to live a life of purpose and compassion? How are your relationships—with friends, classmates, professors and mentors – developing and shaping you into a person of character?

In the wave of clarity that came with the removal of my tightly fitted rose-colored glasses, my passion for higher education seems only to have intensified. In fact, it’s possible I am even more passionate today about the importance of higher education than I was under the guise of oblivion. I still believe higher education serves an irreplaceable role in society, and that—deep down—its intentions are noble. It merely needs to be guided back to its original mission.

Melissa grew up in Southern California and attended the University of Southern California where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. After working as a First Year Advisor at USC, Melissa moved to Boston to pursue graduate studies. She earned her Ed.M in Higher Education from Harvard University and moved to Bend, Oregon following graduation. Prior to working at Kilns College, Melissa worked at several college and higher education organizations such as USC, the New England Board of Higher Education, Emerson College, and Central Oregon Community College

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What’s Unique About Kilns College?

What’s unique about Kilns College? from :redux on Vimeo.

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Istanbul – Aphrodisias

I’ve been traveling on a reduced rate faculty history trip in Turkey through the connections at Kilns College.  (more…)

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Kilns College Spring Registration

Here are my top 5 reasons why you should check out Kilns College right now if you are in Central Oregon:

1. There are two new first time ever classes – Business as Mission and Introductory Greek

2. Dr. Darell Bock, one of the leading New Testament scholars in the world, is giving the Spring Kickoff Lecture this upcoming Sunday night!

3. One of the most engaging ways to study the bible is through archaeology – take Archaeology and the Bible from Mike Caba

4. Kilns College now has a 15 Plex Apartment Complex for students… there’s never been a better time to jump in

5. Because we should all “learn to change the world.”

Visit kilnscollege.org to find out more info or to see how you can be involved this Spring!

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You’re Invited!

E-mail Melissa at the address below to sponsor a table for the Fall Fundraiser Dinner for Kilns College.

Tart Bistro is hosting us and pulling out all the stops with 5 courses and wine pairings… the dinner alone will be worth it.

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