Higher Ed In their lively and entertaining weekly discussion of issues related to higher education, KUT's Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger explore the topics of higher education, lifelong learning, and exercising the brain. Ed and Jennifer practice what they preach, too, by introducing math puzzlers and brain teasers to keep listeners on their toes.
Higher Ed
KUT

Higher Ed

From KUT 90.5

In their lively and entertaining weekly discussion of issues related to higher education, KUT's Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger explore the topics of higher education, lifelong learning, and exercising the brain. Ed and Jennifer practice what they preach, too, by introducing math puzzlers and brain teasers to keep listeners on their toes.More from Higher Ed »

Most Recent Episodes

Higher Ed: Does It Really Matter Where You Go To College?

In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss a provocative question: does it really matter where you go to college? The short answer to that question is "no." Ed says he believes students can get a good education – even a great or superior education – at many accredited institutions of higher learning. But Ed says when it comes to students finding their way and growing, he believes the right fit with the right institution is more important. "If you're in an environment where you do not feel that it resonates with you," says Ed," then I don't think you're going to have that experience of growth....I think there is a difference between thriving and learning." Ed says a high profile school might have a name that is easily recognizable. But he says that brand awareness is not a guarantee of a good experience for every student. "How meaningful is that name? It's about what does that institution do for you." says Ed. "You meet a lot of people that constantly are name-dropping their school.... they're living in the past. I want individuals that are looking ever forward and trying to make things better." So who then bears the responsibility of making the higher education experience as effective as it can be – the institution, or the student? "I think that both parties have to bring something to the table, and I think that maybe there are people that will find that is a little bit controversial," Ed says. "And that there are students that appear on a campus and just now feel entitled to feel great and feel good and to have a nice ride. And that's not what it's about." Listen to the episode to hear more of Ed's thoughts on having as expansive a college experience as possible beyond just classroom learning. It is also time to reveal the answers to the last round of riddles and pave the way for the return of the puzzler. This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2018.

Higher Ed: Agree To Disagree (Respectfully) In The Classroom

There has been a lot of talk in recent months about creating and maintaining healthy and respectful environments – especially in the workplace. But what about in the classroom? In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss the keys to keeping the classroom an open and respectful place. Ed believes everyone in the classroom should have a role in keeping the discussion civil and the tone respectful even if there are passionate disagreements about what is being taught or discussed. But he believes the conduct of the teacher goes a long way in laying the foundation for a respectful culture. For example, Ed says he used to be more vocal and open with his instant comments and assessments about students' answers. But he started to understand that could unintentionally stifle students' input if they fear differing opinions might be met with lower grades. "Allowing everyone to share their reflection or their thinking or their feelings or their interpretation, their analysis, and then let the other members of the class pick it up, to me is a more powerful way that opens the conversation. I'm trying to get people to put themselves out there in my class." What about when things get disrespectful, heated, or downright ugly in the classroom? Ed says getting students to agree at the beginning of the semester to some "rules of the road" for handling classroom discussions can help ensure a healthy, respectful environment. "At the very beginning of the course, to basically have the entire class, with ownership of the students themselves, create in some sense rules of engagement and ways that we're going to proceed.... And some instructors actually write these things down. They become 'here are our guiding principles'" about how people in the classroom will treat each other – and specifically when they disagree. What is the one practice Ed believes everyone should embrace to help keep the classroom civil? Listen to the episode to hear more (that is a big hint right there!) and to get a new round of riddles. The more serious puzzler is still taking a break for the holidays but will be back in January. This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2018.

Higher Ed: Good Reading In And Out Of School

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.

Higher Ed: Taking Skills Learned In The Classroom To The Voting Booth

One reason often cited by non-voters for their lack of participation goes something like this: "my vote doesn't really count" or "how can my one vote make any difference?" Voter turnout among college-aged students is traditionally low in midterm election years. But this year is shaping up to be different. In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss how to sustain that interest even when national politics are not so charged. Ed believes that getting voting-aged students to the polls is half the battle. The other half? Making sure they are informed voters. "You just don't want to have voters going in there and taking out a die and rolling it and then whatever it lands on that's how you feel on the issue or who you decide to vote for," says Ed. He hopes that voters will not make their voting decisions only influenced by "sound bites or 160 characters or generic Facebook posts where we don't even know exactly where they're actually emanating from." Ed believes that student can and should take the "best practices" of learning they have acquired in classrooms over the years and apply that to the act of voting. "Articulate what are the issues that matter to you, that are important to you," says Ed. "And then for each one of them, try to explain why. Is it an emotional response? Is it a logical response? Am I responding because I don't like the other side, or because I like this side?" Ed believes that student can making voting a practice – part of the way they live their lives – by getting interested and engaged early. Listen to the full episode to hear more about using skills honed in the classroom to make decisions in the voting booth. The puzzler is taking a break for a little while to make way for some lighter riddles. These first two are pretty easy; see if you can get them right away. This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2018.

Higher Ed: Better Problem Solving Through Puzzles

Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger calls his "Effective Thinking and Creative Puzzle-Solving" class at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, the "Seinfeld" of classes. Why? Burger claims the class is about nothing. In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss why that kind of class is actually about something pretty profound. Ed has a new book out called "Making Up Your Own Mind: Thinking Effectively through Creative Puzzle Solving." The book is based on that class that Ed teaches at Southwestern University. And yeah, he says the class is about nothing. Ed calls the class "the Seinfeld of the curriculum because it's about nothing and tries to teach everything. There's no short term content," Ed says. "It is all based on long-term practices of thinking and living. The puzzles themselves are irrelevant. They're not important; they're just a playground to practice these ways of thinking." Ed maintains that working through puzzlers and riddles practices our brains for handling bigger-ticket questions in the real world. "There are puzzles in our everyday lives. There are puzzles in our professional lives, in our personal lives," says Ed. "A lot of times, people cast them in a negative light and call them problems. But the truth is, life is just one puzzle after another, and the more we practice puzzle-solving on these whimsical ones, the more we can apply those exact same practices to the more serious and important ones." Listen to the full episode to hear more about Ed's journey in writing the book, and to get the solution to the puzzler about time pieces and moving parts. Did you figure it out? If not, you are in good company; Ed and Jennifer did not get it, either! This episode was recorded on Sept. 28, 2018.

Higher Ed: Speaking Up And Speaking Out In The Classroom (And Elsewhere)

Remember the character on the 1970's tv sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter" – Arnold Horshack – who enthusiastically waved his hand in the air and bounced up and down in his seat because he always wanted to answer questions in class? For many students, speaking up in school is actually something they try to avoid. In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss the dynamics of classroom dialogue. Believe it or not, Ed says that he did not enjoy answering questions in class, especially when he got to graduate school. He says he felt self-conscious, intimidated and insecure in a classroom full of math scholars. Ed says one strategy that can work for some instructors to bring students out of their shells is "cold calling" on students to answer, whether they have raised their hands or not. "I know how I want [students] to feel" in the classroom, Ed says. "Some instructors might want people to feel very comfortable and very safe and so forth. I want them to be on their toes and never to know what is going to come next so they have to be ready." What about the opposite situation: students who answer constantly in class at the expense of others? Ed says that can be a disruption so he developed a strategy for handling it. Ed says he would praise those students for their participation but tell them they no longer needed to raise their hands, since Ed knew that the students knew the answer. He promised those students that he would still call on them from time to time, but was letting them in on the "inside" of how the classroom works. Ed says the students felt appreciated and included, and the strategy allowed other students in the class to find their voices. Listen to the full episode to hear more about what can be a delicate balance of classroom dialogue, and to hear a new puzzler. This one is really more of a riddle, and you will need to take your time on it. This episode was recorded on Sept. 28, 2018.

Higher Ed: Speaking Up And Speaking Out In The Classroom (And Elsewhere)

Higher Ed: Why The College Major May Matter Less Than We've Always Thought

Choosing a major. It 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 that a student chooses in order to study a subject more deeply. For students, 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," says Ed. "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.

Higher Ed: Why The College Major May Matter Less Than We've Always Thought

Higher Ed: Self Promotion In Academia

A provocative column this year in The Chronicle of Higher Education laments the rise of what the author calls the "promotional intellectual." Dr. Jeffrey J. Williams of Carnegie Mellon University believes the old adage in academia of "publish or perish" has evolved into "promote or perish." In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss promoting one's academic work. Ed is quick to distinguish between what he acknowledges is probably uncomfortable for many academics – self promotion – and the enthusiastic sharing of an academic subject or idea. "It should be about: I am passionate about this particular suite of ideas or this set of human knowledge and I believe there is power and there is import to have other people embrace it, too ," says Ed. "And if it happens to not be in fashion today, then I've got to go out and I've got to promote the thing that I'm passionate about." But Ed believes "it's one thing to say, in my case, I love Math and I want everyone to appreciate Math, even if you don't love it versus I want everyone to love Ed Burger." He says he's "less interested in that, which I don't think serves the kind of greater good, as much as saying look, here's a suite of ideas I've spent a lifetime learning. Let me share the joy of it with you and the power of it with you versus hey, here I am. Let me tell you how awesome I am." Listen to the entire episode for a further discussion about promotion in academia and to hear a new puzzler. Ready to escape from a fire-breathing dragon? This episode was recorded on Sept. 28, 2018.

Higher Ed: Effective Correction

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.

Higher Ed: How Much Is Too Much On A College Application?

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.

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