Diversity in American Art Museums

July 29, 2015

Over the past  year, Liam Sweeney, Deanna Marcum, and I have been working on a project with Mariët Westermann of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to examine the diversity of the staff of America's art museums. Today, Mellon has published an introduction and overview of the diversity findings of the members of the Association of Art Museum Directors.  

 

In this project, we worked closely with the Association and its members to develop a questionnaire about staff diversity. Because the project is based on data that museums are likely already to have been gathering themselves, typically through their human resources office, the project affords strong opportunities for comparison and benchmarking.

 

It is our hope that the findings from this project will help art museums grapple with the complex ways that diversity manifests itself in their organizations. Aggregate diversity figures indicate challenges in themselves, but when patterns are analyzed by discrete job categories it is clear that there are substantial divides by race, ethnicity, and gender. In addition to the overall reporting being released today, we expect to deliver comparative reports to participating museums individually, which we hope will contribute to their understanding of their own patterns set in an appropriate context. 

 

Ithaka S+R has been building a capacity for gathering institutional data from proprietary systems for comparison and analysis. Among other projects currently underway, we are expanding our examinations of staff diversity in a study of New York City cultural organizations. We are currently conducting this project in partnership with the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and with support from The Mertz Gilmore Foundation and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, with findings to be released later this year. My colleagues and I are proud to be contributing to the study of these vital issues for cultural and memory organizations at this particular moment in time. 

 

The Introduction to the Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey and the report are both available on The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation website.

 

The Importance of Social Factors in Student-College Match

July 27, 2015

In a new NBER working paper released this month, economists from the University of Texas and Texas A&M scrutinize some of the factors motivating racial and ethnic differences in college application choices, using data from the entire population of high school graduates in Texas over the past two years. In disaggregating rather than lumping together minorities (as some other studies do), the authors find that Hispanic students are in particular less likely to apply to any college, even after controlling for college readiness and high school quality.  

 

Three of the factors that seem to be most important when it comes to predicting where a student decides to apply are: 

 

  • Distance between home and college
  • Presence of same-race/ethnicity students on college campus
  • Successful degree completion of same-race/ethnicity students from high school

 

 

The latter two are especially strong predictors for Hispanic students with low incomes. They are also factors about which students are likely to have highly uncertain information (which previous studies have cited as a basis for low-income, high-achieving students “undermatching” to colleges). To tease out informational asymmetries between students, the authors compare students automatically accepted to an in-state institution under the Texas Ten Percent plan (who face no information constraints about their admission to the state’s top schools) and those who barely miss the academic qualifications (and thus face the typical uncertainty of the college admissions process). 

 

While perhaps not surprising, this paper’s finding – that certain types of traditionally underserved students prioritize racial and ethnic “familiarity” in their college application decisions – is an important addition to the recent literature examining the factors behind the student-college matching process. In a 2013 paper, Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery analyzed data on every student who took the SAT or ACT in 2008 and showed that low-income, high-achieving students tend to “undermatch” (i.e., not apply to colleges they are academically qualified for) as a result of being isolated from other high-achieving students. In another paper, Amanda Pallais found through a quasi-experiment that low-income students do apply to more selective universities when exposed to decreases in application costs. 

 

So when it comes to optimizing the academic match between students and colleges, previous studies suggest that colleges and universities would be well advised to broaden their recruiting efforts (to reach students in more isolated schools) and decrease or even waive the application and testing costs for underserved students. But the Texas study also indicates that the social match for students may be even more important. 

 

Both colleges and the high schools have a role to play in enhancing social match. Colleges such as the University of Texas at Austin have designed various student success programs targeted towards increasing the comfort level – and ultimately the academic success – of lower-income and minority students. And, as the Texas study shows, minority students who are still in high school and deciding on where to apply are often heavily influenced by where their older same-race/ethnicity classmates have enrolled – and succeeded. In short, efforts to strengthen the student-college match process, which tend to focus on the logistical barriers to access, can’t ignore the social barriers.

 

Roger Schonfeld at STM's Frankfurt Conference

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Roger Schonfeld will present on "Meeting Researchers Where They Start: Streamlining Access to Scholarly Resources" at STM's Frankfurt Conference on Tuesday, October 13. Registration for the conference is now open.

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Dismantling the Stumbling Blocks that Impede Researchers’ Access to E-Resources: A Workshop at the Charleston Conference

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Roger Schonfeld is offering the workshop "Dismantling the Stumbling Blocks that Impede Researchers’ Access to E-Resources" at the Charleston Conference on November 4, from 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm. Registration is now open through the Charleston Conference. Please note that participants in the local surveys program and Ithaka S+R's consulting clients receive a discounted rate to attend.

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Workshop at the Charleston Conference: Defining a Discovery Role for Your Library

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Roger Schonfeld is offering the workshop "Defining a Discovery Role for Your Library" at the Charleston Conference on November 4, from 9:00 am - noon. Registration is now open through the Charleston Conference. Please note that participants in the local surveys program and Ithaka S+R's consulting clients receive a discounted rate to attend. Please email Kimberly Lutz at kimberly.lutz@ithaka.org to receive the code.

 

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Roger Schonfeld at the ALPSP Conference in London

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Roger Schonfeld is chairing a plenary session on "Researching Researchers: Developing Evidence-Based Strategy for Improved Discovery and Access" at the ALPSP Conference on Wednesday, September 9.

 

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What Does the Future of Higher Education Look Like? It Depends Where You Sit

July 15, 2015

As part of a panel organized for the recent annual conference of the American Library Association in San Francisco, I was invited to talk about future trends in higher education. This was something of a fool’s errand, I realize, since we are bombarded every day by the media with higher education’s most pressing challenges and opportunities: 

 

  • Low completion rates
  • New pedagogies that meet more of today’s students’ needs—online learning, competency-based education, etc.
  • Need for a higher education ecosystem that allows students to carry with them all of the credits they earn, regardless of where or how they earn them
  • Special needs of socioeconomically disadvantaged students

 

There was also the question, from whose perspective should I describe the trends in higher education? The elite institutions with large endowments look forward to a future that is hard for other types of institutions to imagine. Looking at two other types of higher education institutions—the public flagship universities and independent liberal arts colleges—it is apparent that both their outlook and the challenges they face are quite different. 

 

Public research universities have a historical mandate to serve as engines of opportunity for first-generation and lower socioeconomic and non-white populations. They also have a research mandate. And balancing the two creates interesting tensions. 

 

The independent liberal arts colleges are nearly unique as an American phenomenon, and they serve as an ideal for many faculty who place a high value on teaching—small class size, a lot of personal attention for every student, and an emphasis on critical thinking. 

 

In the end, I decided that I could only draw on research data we have gathered in Ithaka S+R’s own projects. The projects themselves are described in detail on Ithaka S+R’s web site (see Technology-Enhanced Education at Public Flagship Universities and Does Online Learning Have a Role in Liberal Arts Colleges?); but here I highlight what the representatives of these two types of organizations told us about how they see the trends in higher education. 

 

From the Public Flagship Universities, we heard:

 

  • State support has been severely eroded.

 

  • Financial officers believe that the current business models for public flagship universities are broken. They have made all of the cuts they can make in the infrastructure and services, so the cuts now affect faculty and curricular programs. We already see this happening at the University of North Carolina. 

 

  • Administrators see online degrees, especially in professional schools and at the master’s level, to be a promising source of new revenue.

 

  • Faculty are absolutely focused on research— the single most important factor for promotion and tenure, recognition, and financial reward—despite the prevalence of teaching initiatives on these campuses aimed at improving undergraduate education.

 

  • The many innovative and exciting curricular programs underway on all of these campuses are mainly driven by individual faculty. Very few department-wide programs were in evidence.

 

  • The number of humanities majors has fallen in the past few years by as much as 50%. State legislatures have emphasized STEM programs as most promising for economic growth, and much of the new funding has gone to STEM initiatives.

 

  • Most faculty are concerned about the time required to learn new teaching methods and to develop digital materials for their courses. They don’t know where help can be found, even though most of the universities have invested quite a lot in Centers for Teaching and Learning. We found that the centers that are led by members of the faculty are more likely to be known and appreciated by faculty

 

By contrast, we hear from the small, independent colleges that:

 

  • Survival is top of mind for most liberal arts college presidents. The Sweet Briar news sent a shock wave through that community.

 

  • There is still a strong interest in maintaining the small, intimate class settings for students in these institutions. 

 

  • Faculty are deeply concerned that they could be replaced by online courses.

 

  • Still, there is a great interest in finding the best way to teach undergraduates, and many faculty recognize that the lecture is one of the poorest ways to inspire and engage students.

 

  • Some of these colleges, in a project coordinated by the Council of Independent Colleges, are willing to experiment with online and hybrid learning as a way to increase the number of upper level online courses that could be offered to undergraduates in their institutions as a way to add to the course offerings for their students and to reduce costs.

 

  • In all of these colleges, there are at least a number of faculty who are eager to experiment with technology to see if learning outcomes can be improved.

 

  • Most faculty are interested in making the course materials they have developed available to other institutions. 

 

  • Faculty are less interested  in using the courses or modules that other faculty have created  in their classrooms.

 

  • College administrators see this project as a way to reduce (or more likely, contain) costs. Faculty do not want to have the cost conversation, for it means, they believe, a reduction in the number of humanities faculty.

 

In both projects, we saw a significant amount of disruption on the campus, and questions about faculty governance during periods of transition loom large. 

 

Institutions other than the highly selective elite institutions are hearing a clear message from the public that tuition rates are too high, but lacking big endowments, many of these institutions have no way to covering costs except increasing tuition. 

 

Collaboration is seen as the answer for several of the big questions, but governance structures of individual institutions do not always facilitate collaboration. 

 

Technology provides promising avenues for new ways of teaching and engaging students, but faculty are not always comfortable with technology coming into their classrooms. Even so, most faculty are painfully aware that the old model of autonomy in the classroom is over. 

Designing and Governing Library Collaborations

July 13, 2015

I was recently recalling a fantastic study by Ralph Wagner on The History of the Farmington Plan. It reviewed some of the most important efforts at collaboration among the US research libraries, especially in the post-war period, and analyzed their successes and eventual demise. I thought of this book as I was wondering if anyone has done a serious examination of collaboration in research university libraries. 

 

Cultures of collaboration, and their reflection in organizational design and governance, were on my mind when I was writing the talk that Bernie Reilly of CRL asked me to give in closing the recent Preserving America’s Print Resources summit. In my talk, on Sharing Responsibility for Print Preservation, I considered some of the characteristics that might be associated with a sustainable model for preserving print materials after the print format is superseded as a result of digitization. 

 

The problem is fairly straightforward. For the preservation of a superseded format, among many other matters, it is often preferable to have more collaborators involved, when the marginal costs of including additional collaborators is low and each can contribute additional funding to the effort. In such a case, greater scale ultimately making the whole enterprise more sustainable. 

 

At the same time, scale yields an enormous tension. On the one hand, greater scale yields these efficiencies. But on the other hand, the library community feels discomfort when scale yields what is perceived to be corporate or bureaucratic practices. We express derision for the disappointment our collaborative initiatives have caused, lump them into the same category as other vendors, and force them to compete.

 

When our collaboration vehicles are forced to compete for market share, it poses very different incentives than if we can treat them as shared resources. For example, if the library community had been able to rely on OCLC as the exclusive collaboration for a variety of discovery services,  I suspect that libraries’ position with respect to discovery could have been stronger than it is today. This type of backwards-looking reflection is probably of little use in itself, but perhaps can serve to guide us forward in other matters. 

 

At least among American academic libraries, there appears to be a tendency to scale up successful collaborations only to tear them down as being too remote and corporate. On the other hand, largely distributed models such as the Farmington Plan have their own limits, especially when boom turns to bust. 

 

The recently announced HathiTrust shared print initiative suggests another model that merits careful consideration, if HathiTrust membership can continue to grow without it becoming distant from the community. 

 

Whether our topic is print preservation, discovery and digital infrastructure, or license negotiations, the organizational structure and governance of our collaborations is vital to their long-term success. This has implications for consortia, university systems, and a variety of other types of collaborations. If such a study exists, I would love to learn about it. Otherwise, I believe there is a great topic here for a study or PhD dissertation. 

 

The Student Swirl Becoming More of a Norm in Higher Ed

July 13, 2015

The concept of the “student swirl” was conceived in the 1980s to describe undergraduates who moved among institutions before earning a bachelor’s degree. Students who transferred often did so because they made a poor initial match with an institution, or encountered academic or financial problems along the way.   

 

But now there is a growing body of evidence that students might be making a deliberate choice to transfer institutions as part of their pathway to a bachelor’s degree. 

 

First there is the report released last week from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which found that more than one-third of students transfer at least once before earning a bachelor’s degree. Of those who switched colleges, almost half transferred more than once.

 

Second there is research from Sallie Mae’s annual survey, How Americans Pay for College. According to that report, students who have a wide variety of choices about where to go to college are beginning their studies at a community college. Twenty-five percent of students from households earning $100,000 or more now attend community colleges, up from 12 percent just five years ago, the survey found. In the past, many of those students likely started and finished at a four-year college.

 

As the price of four-year colleges continue to rise and family incomes stagnate, parents and students are taking another look at community colleges as a good place to start. Two-year colleges offer a variety of advantages including lower tuition rates, sometimes smaller classes, and the chance to explore majors before committing to a specific one.

 

But the problem is that most two- and four-year colleges fail to recognize that students want more structured 2+2 pathways to a four-year degree. With the exception of a handful of partnerships in a few states, articulation agreements between two- and four-year colleges are hit or miss. The gold standard remains the Direct Connect program in Orlando, which guarantees admission to the University of Central Florida for graduates of nearby two-year institutions, such as Valencia College. Community college students who have transferred to UCF now make up 48 percent of those who are awarded bachelor’s degrees.

 

Without a strong agreement like the one in Orlando, there are too many hurdles for ensuring a smooth pathway for students who want to set out on their college career by attending two institutions to earn their bachelor’s degree. As a result, too many students give up. Although some 80 percent of community-college students say they plan to transfer to earn a four-year degree, only about 40 percent do, and only 17 percent actually earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.  

 

Many of those students end up with a bunch of credits and no degree. Across the country, there are nearly 45 million Americans 25-years-old and above who have some college but no degree. That’s more than one in five adults. In many ways, those people are no better off financially than high-school graduates who never attempted college at all. 

 

What’s worrisome is that some 2.2 million people under the age of 30 have earned at least half the credits they need for a bachelor’s degree, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Twenty-somethings represent the biggest slice of the population by far who have that many credits but no degree. 

 

Leaders of four-year colleges maintain that students need to spend four years on their campuses in order to receive the full benefits of the bachelor’s degree. But many institutions have little proof that four years leads to better student engagement and outcomes than the final two years of a degree. Four-year colleges, of course, have an enormous financial incentive to persuade students to spend four years of tuition on their campus rather than transfer in half of their credits.  

 

But as students of all kinds see the route to a bachelor’s degree running through a community college, four-year colleges that provide an easy pathway for students on that road will increasingly have a competitive advantage in the admissions market for high-school graduates in the future.

Jeffrey J. Selingo

Resources for Reinvestment in Academic Libraries

July 10, 2015

At ALA Annual in San Francisco last month, one of the interesting panels that I attended featured the executive leadership of six library technology companies. The moderator, Marshall Breeding, started things off with a question about how each company’s business model helped it serve library needs. OCLC’s Skip Prichard spoke about his organization’s governance as a partnership of libraries, while ProQuest’s Kurt Sanford emphasized that because it is family-owned his organization can take a long-term perspective. I found it especially interesting that both Ex Libris’s Matti Shem-Tov and Innovative’s Kim Massana emphasized the importance of having access to the capital needed for research and development and platform reinvestment.

 

Capital and reinvestment are in no way arcane issues for the academic library community. They are essential if we are to understand the sustainability of the resources on which libraries rely. I don’t mean to suggest that certain organizations reinvest more than other library systems providers, only that libraries (and publishers alike) should concern themselves with this issue, and not just for systems providers. Deferred maintenance shows faster than ever for digital systems and services.  

 

Last year saw the sale of HighWire Press from Stanford University to a group of private investors, apparently driven in no small part by a need for capital investment. This is one of several factors leading to meaningful shifts in the scholarly content platform business, of which HighWire is one of just a few providers. ACRL publications including College & Research Libraries and Sage Journals are but two of many familiar platforms that are powered by HighWire. 

 

Software development is sometimes capitalized just like major construction projects. While a building may have a thirty year expected life against which expenditures are amortized, software might have a three to five year expected life. Even so, choices about how to sustain the investments required can have significance. Thinking about major projects not as one-time but rather as capital investments can sometimes bring clarity both from funding and assessment perspectives.

 

Both libraries and learned societies do not typically manage reinvestment systematically. Among libraries, some manage a fund for innovation and reinvestment, although rarely as a true capital fund. Others find support for major projects as part of a year-end spend-down process, although this approach does not always lead libraries to invest strategically.  Some libraries "borrow" from the provost to support a major initiative, which funds are paid back over several years like a loan.

 

While not a library, HathiTrust and its librarian leaders developed a mechanism to secure the operating surpluses necessary to generate “funds to develop new services and functionality.” The transparency of this approach is one of its notable strengths.

 

The ability to fund ongoing investment, and to assess its adequacy, is a key imperative for libraries themselves and as they look to their collaborations and their vendors.

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