What If Higher Ed Worked Like Disney World

We recently took our kids to Disney World.  They had a great time meeting Mickey, riding every ride, and watching parades.  Although I’ve been to Disney several times before, there is always so much going on that you feel like a first timer each time.  During our visit, I thought about the parallels to higher education.  Specifically, I wondered what it would be like if higher ed worked like Disney World.

Credit: My wife for making two beautiful kids.

There is a joke one could make about the cost of Disney World and higher education.  Yet, I truly believe there are some lessons for colleges and universities in how Disney World operates.  At a time when many want to question how and what we do in higher ed, we should think about borrowing great ideas from other industries that help us fulfill our key missions of teaching, research, and service.

What I Like Most About Using a Standing Desk

As I discussed in my last post, there are many benefits to using a standing desk. I’ve been using my standing desk for the past six weeks. Honestly, I was skeptical about the standing desk fad (at least I thought it was a fad). I was eventually persuaded by the variety of benefits that I kept reading about standing desk. Although I’m quick to jump in on the latest tech idea (can’t wait for my Apple Watch), no one would mistake me as New Age or hip. I don’t meditate and I don’t do yoga. In my mind, that’s the category I put a standing desk. Having taken the plunge, I’m a convert now. In today’s post, I want to describe my personal setup and what I like most about using a standing desk.

The image above is of my standing desk in my campus office.

The Benefits of a Standing Desk

Is sitting and staring at a computer all day killing us? There are many studies that suggest that this is the case. In response, standing desks have become all the rage. I honestly never thought much about the idea. However, after getting a Jawbone Up band and realizing how much I’m sitting still along with off and on back problems, I decided to look into this more. Although the research isn’t perfect, there’s a decent body of evidence on the benefits of a standing desk. In today’s post, I detail the primary benefits of a standing desk. On Thursday, I’ll describe my experience over the past six weeks using a standing desk.

Photo credit: Ash Kyd

Many of us in higher ed sit for long periods of time working at a computer or in meetings. The latest ergonomic chairs only make it easier for us to do this.

I found that after sitting too long my neck and back get sore. I suspect you may have felt the same thing.

Research has found that people who sit longer are at a higher risk of early death than those that stand more.

It sounds slightly hyperbolic, but sitting too much may actually be killing us.

Beyond the benefits of, you know, actually living longer, what are the specific benefits of a standing desk?

1. Burn more calories.

Standing uses more muscles and burns more calories. Overall, the extra effort of standing (although in moderation) leads to improved cardiovascular health.

2. More energy.

The additional cardiovascular activity of standing also gives you more energy. Standing makes you more aware of your body and keeps the blood flowing. The afternoon lull is often mitigated by the extra activity involved with standing.

3. Better posture.

Standing helps develop your core and posture. Rather than hunching over a keyboard and staring awkwardly at a monitor, standing desks help you stand straight. This efforts helps break habits of slouching shoulders and necks replacing them with better form.

4. Better focus.

Many users of standing desks report being able to focus better and for a longer period of time. The act of standing up alone seems to help bring attention to the work at hand.

5. Lower risk of cancer and diabetes.

Although researchers don’t quite understand why yet, people who stand more have lower risks for many diseases including cancer and diabetes. This alone justifies at least trying a standing desk.

I thought of standings desks as a fad. It was simply a case of office counter-culture. Yet, these benefits and the evidence behind them caused me to give the idea a second look.

I was convinced to at least give it a try. So six weeks ago, following an IKEA hack I found online, I build a standing desk.

In Thursday’s post, I’ll detail my own experiences over this time and what benefits I’ve personally experienced.

Hey For-Profit Higher Education, This is Why Good People Hate You

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this week sued for-profit Corinthian Colleges for predatory loan practices and illegal collection strategies. The lawsuit accuses Corinthian of a variety of illegal and misleading actions against its students. As longtime readers will know, I’m a big fan of the West Wing television show and the Corinthian case reminds me of a quote from the show, “This is why good people hate us.” A Republican member of Congress is trying a surprise line of questioning to embarrass a witness and “win” the hearings. The quote is from the majority counsel who is disgusted by the strategy. To me, the allegations against Corinthian are precisely why good people hate for-profit higher education.

The for-profit sector has made strides in reaching students—particularly adult students—that traditional colleges can’t or won’t serve.

Yet, the continued excesses and misleading actions of bad actors in the sector undermine the potential positive role that for-profits could play in improving college access and attainment.

Goucher College Video Application: Forget Transcripts, Just Send a Selfie

Goucher College, a small liberal arts college in Towson, Maryland, recently made headlines touting their move to allow short videos instead of transcripts and other traditional college application materials. The college argues that tests and transcripts reduce a student to a number. By removing these obstacles, Goucher hopes to broaden its applicant pool especially with creative students that dislike the high-stakes testing environment. While there are some potential pitfalls here, what are the arguments in favor of Goucher’s use of a video instead of traditional application materials?

Goucher’s move is not without critics. Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, wrote in an essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education that, “The notion that an applicant’s entire set of academic and personal accomplishments can be replaced by a two-minute video ‘selfie’ is both absurd and dangerous.” Furthermore, he suggests that if Goucher really believes this argument that they should get rid of their own grades and transcripts as well.