Student Leader Responsibilities to Hazing on College Campuses

hazing thumbs downAs a student leader, do you see yourself in a position in your club, group, organization, or athletic team?  Or do you recognize the role and responsibilities you have to your fellow students you lead?  The view of a position can hinder student leaders from taking ownership for the responsibilities you have for your fellow members or teammates.  You may think or assume that hazing does not happen on our college campus.

The term hazing generally draws society’s attention to fraternities and sororities.  However, institutions also experience hazing incidents within athletic teams, marching bands, and campus organizations.  Although specific to each university, campus clubs and organizations may cover areas from academics, club sports, co-curricular activities, intramurals, and social groups on campus.  For institutions in Texas, the State Legislature defines hazing as:  any intentional knowing, or reckless act, occurring on or off campus of an educational institution, by one person alone or acting with others, directed against a student that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization whose members are students at an educational institution (§ 37.151.6).

Research from the indicates that over half of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing.  The study Hazing in View: College Students At Risk: National Study of Student Hazing by Allen & Madden reveals the vast array of areas across the campus where hazing occurs.  Although the percent of students experiencing hazing in an honor society is far less than those who experience it with an athletic team or fraternity and sorority, the fact remains that it is still happening.  Hazing rituals date back to the 1800’s.  The punishment for hazing incidents in more recent court cases appear more frequent and at times with higher consequences and penalties than hazing cases in the 1970’s.  Nuwer with the Hazing Clearinghouse shares that hazing incidents have “claimed at least one life a year on college campuses from 1970 to 2014” (p. 1).  In a 40-year comparison, Bauer-Wolf (2017) in a recent article contrasts how Chuck Stenzel’s death in 1978 saw no criminal charges brought forward whereas Timothy Piazza’s case in 2017 prosecuted 18 people and eight received charges of involuntary manslaughter.  Bauer-Wolf (2017) describes the Piazza case and convictions as “one of the biggest prosecutions of hazing in history” (p. 1).

Longstanding traditions requiring campus administrators’ purview may or may not directly involve hazing, but rather impact the safety of their students.  Van Jura declares, traditions “have the potential to teach students about the history of their institution, provide a means of building community, instill common values that span generations of students, and generate pride and enthusiasm” (p. 107).  The Student Affairs professionals need to educate current members, pledges, and alumni governing boards to ensure accountability for the risk management of hazing.   Dr. Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University, identifies a solution to hazing may not be in the punishment rendered rather than a focus on justice for the process to abate hazing (Bauer-Wolf, 2018).

An educational model must include current students, club and organization advisors, coaches, and alumni of the institution involved in the various groups.  A focus on ethical and moral leadership development provides the educational approach to impact social change.  Debora Liddell and Diane Cooper in their study of moral development acknowledge that “moral” and “ethical” development are synonymous terms (p. 14).  Linda Trevino and colleagues, in the article Inspiring and Equipping Students to be Ethical Leaders, identify five essential behaviors of an ethical leader from their years of research.  The essential behaviors consist of “integrity, fairness, communicates ethical standards, care and concern for others, and shares power” (p. 6).

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) established five core commitments to “foster personal and social responsibility on campus”.  The AACU’s 5 core commitments are “striving for excellence; cultivating personal and academic integrity; contributing to a larger community; taking seriously the perspectives of others; and developing moral competence in thought and deed”.  These core commitments provide structure for developing student leaders to serve in roles not positions and take responsibility for the students they lead.  As student leaders, if you lead by example – in giving others respect you in turn will receive the respect of others.  This will allow students, faculty, staff, and alumni to partner in the efforts to abate hazing on their campus.

Stacey Martin, M.Ed.

Doctoral Student, Doctorate of Leadership, Hardin-Simmons University

Dean of Students, Hardin-Simmons University 

TEDTalk on this blog


Allen, E. & Madden, M. (2018).  National hazing study: Hazing in view.  Retrieved from:

Bauer-Wolf, J. (2017).  College hazing becoming easier to punish.  Inside Higher Ed, May 24.  Retrieved from:

Liddell, D. & Cooper, D. (2012).  Moral development in higher education.  New Directions for Student Services, 139(Fall), 5-15.

Nuwer, H. (2014).  Stopping hazing in college and high school athletics.  Athletic Business, July.  Retrieved from:

Schwartz, A. (Summer, 2015).  Inspiring and equipping students to be ethical leaders.  New Directions for Student Leadership, 146, 5-16.  DOI:  10.1002/yd.20131.

Texas Hazing Law (1995), TX State Legislature, Education Code § 37.151, Subchapter F.

Van Jura, M. (2010).  Tradition today: How student affairs professionals can strengthen and preserve campus traditions.  The Vermont Connection, 31, 107-116.

Food Insecurity Among College Students

Student Alone on Path (2)Hunger.  The mention of the word conjures up images in the collective minds of society.  Everyone has various mental images of hunger, depending upon their perspectives.  Perhaps some think of starving children living in a dusty, desolate Sub-Saharan village, stricken by drought and famine.  Others may think of urban inner-cities, haunted by the heavy atmosphere of poverty, producing a hungry and homeless population.  Thinking of hunger probably does not elicit thoughts of college students strolling through a tree-lined quad or opening the creaky doors of an ivy-walled library, stepping into the distinctive, musty scent of knowledge that can only be produced by books.  Yet, here the nation stands, surrounded by the advancements of the 21st Century, and plunging deeper into a crisis of hunger on college and university campuses.  Hunger?  Hunger seems to be a concept incongruent with mental images of healthy, happy college students.  Unfortunately, that mental image of a carefree college student remains elusive, as hunger shapes reality for too many postsecondary students today.

The United States Department of Agriculture (2017) defines food insecurity as the economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.  Consequently, food insecurity produces the physiological condition of hunger (“USDA Economic Research Service,” 2017).  Across the nation, college students bear food insecurity at rates higher than the general population (Goldrick-Rab, Richardson, Schneider, Hernandez, & Cady, 2018).  When students face what seems like an endless list of expenses, including food, tuition, fees, books, housing, transportation, and possibly childcare and medication, food falls toward the bottom of the list and becomes a luxury more than a necessity.  However, the reality remains that the physiological needs satisfied by food allows students to advance to the self-actualization needs satisfied through higher education (Maslow, 1943).  Helping college students break out of the barriers of physiological needs caused by food insecurity will benefit all of society, not only the directly impacted students and their immediate families.

Since 2008, food insecurity quietly and steadily established a firm grip on college campuses throughout America, with broad and deep effects impacting the marginalized at disproportionately higher rates than the mainstream majority population.  When the tentacles of hunger harm specific demographic populations, the result produces social justice and human rights issues, and not exclusively a higher education issue (Jason, Beasley, & Hunter, 2015).  Students at community colleges report higher rates of food insecurity than students at 4-year colleges and universities.  Food insecurity affects Black, Native American, and Hispanic populations, as well as women (particularly single mothers), students with disabilities, and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, at higher rates than the population in general.  First-generation students also report higher rates of food insecurity than students who had at least one parent attend college (Goldrick-Rab et al., 2018).  These marginalized students become even more marginalized, leading them down a lonely road of isolation and shame.

A recent study revealed equal levels of academic effort across all student populations, whether they experience food insecurity or not; however, academic success declines for food insecure students.  Additionally, many food insecure students find themselves unable to purchase required textbooks, skipping classes, dropping classes, earning lower grade point averages (GPAs), and frequently withdrawing from their postsecondary institution altogether (Dubick, Mathews, & Cady, 2016).  In addition to lower academic outcomes, the detrimental effects of food insecurity become apparent in the physical, mental, emotional and social health of students.  Stress, depression, and anxiety occur at rates three times higher among food insecure versus food secure students.  As well, greater alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating negatively impact students in and out of the classroom (Dubick et al., 2016).

Campus-level support of food insecure students includes food pantries, food recovery and reuse programs, and donations of unused meal plan points or account balances.  Ten years ago, less than 10 food pantries existed on campuses across the country; by 2016, that number grew to more than 350.  According to the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) (2018), over 600 colleges and universities provide on-campus food pantries as of April, 2018 (“Food Pantry Members,” 2018).  Faculty, staff, and students forge partnerships to fortify support services for food insecure students on individual campuses.  Additionally, some colleges and universities adopt financial policies, including short-term, interest-free loans for students anticipating financial aid who have not yet received the payment.  Adjustments in tuition and fee due dates, book loan programs, and social benefits programs provide financial relief for food insecure students (Dubick et al., 2016).  Resources located through this food insecurity site provide additional information.

This critical social, cultural, and educational crisis presents a complex issue requiring complex solutions.  Too many causes of food insecurity produce too many effects for college students across the nation.  Higher education professionals and society cannot only open campus food pantries, pat each other on their communal backs, and then move on.  The issue of hunger and food insecurity requires immediate, long-term, and systemic attention.

To whom much is given, much is required.  Rooted in Scripture and often-quoted, this mandate remains relevant and applicable to solving this social justice issue of food insecurity and campus hunger.  Strong leaders equipped with empathy, compassion, and vision need to step forward to help college students break out of the cycle and side effects of food insecurity.  Strong leaders armed with the skill and insight to tackle this issue must join forces to ensure accessibility for students who desire a greater quality of life through postsecondary education.

Gina Shipley, M.Ed.

Doctoral Student, Doctorate in Leadership Program, Hardin-Simmons University

Instructor, Curriculum & Instruction, Angelo State University

TEDTalk on this blog


College and University Food Bank Alliance Membership. (2018). Retrieved from

Definitions of food security. (2017). Retrieved from

Dubick, J., Mathews, B., & Cady, C. (2016). Hunger on campus: The challenge of food insecurity for college students. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Author.

Goldrick-Rab, S., Richardson, J., Schneider, J., Hernandez, A., & Cady, C. (2018). Still hungry and homeless in college. Madison, WI: Wisconsin HOPE Lab.

Jason, L. A., Beasley, C. R., & Hunter, B. A. (2015). Advocacy and social justice. In Community psychology: Foundations for practice (pp. 262-288). San Francisco, CA: SAGE Publications.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396.

Prevention Planning: Sexual Assault in Higher Education

Schow Blog picture- consentIn a perfect world, students would attend college and not once worry about their risk for sexual assault.  Unfortunately, this is not the case for students in higher education.  In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released a Dear Colleague Letter, which stated that one in five women will experience sexual assault while in college (Ali, 2011).  In fall 2017, approximately 20 million students enrolled for the fall semester, 11.5 million of which were female (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018).  Going by that one in five prediction, 2.3 million of these women will experience a sexual assault while in college, which does not take into account men or students in the LGBT community.  One rape is already one rape too many.  But millions?  Higher education institutions need to take action.

Over the past several decades, policies and law continues to adapt to help address the issue of sexual assault on college campuses.  Title IX of the Education of Amendments Act (1972) in particular drives institutions to take immediate action to address and eliminate any instance of sexual assault that the institution knows of or reasonably should know of and sets up requirements for reporting and responding to sexual assault.  While such Title IX procedures do assist victims of sexual assault on campus, this process does little to assist those who fail to report.  The Association of American Universities’ climate survey found that only 28% of students reported their sexual assault to an organization or agency (Cantor, Fisher, Chibnall, Lee, Bruce, & Thomas, 2017).  Students provided reasons such as the assault not being serious enough to report, feeling embarrassed, or that they though the institution would not help them.  If institutions really want to help victims of sexual assault, they need to start thinking proactively.

In order to combat sexual assault, some higher education institutions are starting to implement violence prevention programs on their campuses that focus on the bystander intervention approach (Moynihan, Banyard, Cares, Potter, Williams, & Stapleton, 2015).  Bystander intervention emphasizes teaching people how to intervene safely in situations involving sexual assault and violence.  Programs frequently focus on providing a variety of intervention methods, which include directly getting involved, delegating the issue to someone more capable to intervene, or creating a distraction in order to de-escalate the situation.  Training also focuses on educating people about the targeting strategies used by motivated offenders and helps educate individuals on how to protect themselves from predatory behavior.

Prevention programming comes in a variety of forms.  Rutgers University (2018) implemented SCREAM Theater at their institution, which stands for Students Challenging Realities and Education Against Myths Theater.  Running 75 minutes, the program shows a sexual assault based on real-life scenarios, acts out various bystander perspectives to avoid the assault, and then allows time for the actors to answer audience questions.  Another option colleges can utilize is Green Dot.  Developed by the non-profit organization Alertistic (2018), Green Dot works to establish a campus culture that does not tolerate acts of power based personal violence, specifically targeting sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence.  The Green Dot training program includes a 50-minute motivational speech and then an intensive training course that takes four to six hours to complete.  The University of Arizona’s Commitment to an Athletes Total Success life skills program paired with the National Collegiate Athletic Association to develop Step UP!  (Step Up! Program, 2018).  Within the program, students learn about five decision-making steps and how to apply them to any crisis situation, including sexual assault.  These steps include noticing the event, interpreting if the event constitutes a problem or emergency, assuming personal responsibility, identifying necessary skills or knowledge to intervene, and then implementing help in either a direct or indirect capacity.

When planning a program, keep in mind that research shows that the strongest prevention programs provide comprehensive change strategies that utilize more than one outreach option (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).  Such options include utilizing and combining media campaigns, small group programming, and educational presentations in order to make the biggest impact on students.  In addition, look for grant opportunities while planning.  The Office on Violence Against Women (2018) offers grant opportunities specifically for higher education institutions attempting to reduce sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking.  In addition, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2018) offers grants specifically targeting rape prevention and education.  Raliance (2018) is a national collaboration that provides grants to support ending sexual violence, awarding $1.2 million between July 2016 and June 2017.  Many funding opportunities exist for institutions that wish to make a difference.

            Attending college should not be a dangerous time for students.  Policies on how to handle reporting and investigating sexual assaults help, but do little to prevent the problem from occurring.  A violence prevention program can make the difference in a young freshmen’s life, teaching them early on what targeting behaviors look like.  These programs can teach students how to support their community by becoming an active bystander in ways that protect others yet also promote their own personal safety.  Prevention training helps campuses become safer and encourages students to become stronger community leaders.  With benefits like these, higher education holds a responsibility to take action against sexual assault prevention.

Kimberly Schow, HSU Doctorate in Leadership Student

Coordinator for Access Services, Dick Smith Library, Tarleton State University

TEDTalk on this blog


Ali, R. (2011). Dear colleague letter. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.  Retrieved from

Alteristic. (2018). Green Dot for colleges.  Retrieved from

Cantor, D., Fisher, W. B., Chibnall, S. , Lee, H., Bruce, C., & Thomas, G. (2017). Report on the AAU campus climate survey on sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Washington, DC: Association of American Universities.  Retrieved from

Casey, E. A., & Lindhorst, T. P. (2009). Toward a multi-level, ecological approach to the primary prevention of sexual assault prevention in peer and community contexts. Trauma Violence & Abuse, 10(2), 91-114.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Rape prevention and education: Transforming communities to prevent sexual violence.  Retrieved from

Moynihan, M. M., Banyard, V. L., Cares, A. C., Potter, S. J., Williams, L. M., & Stapleton, J. G. (2015). Encouraging responses in sexual and relationship violence prevention: What program effects remain 1 year later? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30(1), 110-132.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Fast facts.  Retrieved from

Raliance. (2018). Selected first-round Raliance grants.  Retrieved from

Rutgers University. (2018). What is SCREAM Theater?  Retrieved from

Step Up! Program. (2018). About. Retrieved from

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §1681-1688 (1972)

U.S. Department of Justice. (2018). Grant programs. Retrieved from

Dual Credit, Bad Credit?

DualCreditPolicy makers and K-20 educators attempt a range of structural and programmatic solutions for combating the issue of academically underprepared students entering colleges and universities.  Options exist in high schools to increase academic rigor including programs such as Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB); however, the focus primarily remains on dual credit (DC) as the primary strategy to address these challenges.

“Dual credit programs offer high school students the option of taking college-level courses that award both college and high school credit at the same time.  Courses range from either academically oriented to career and technical education (CTE)” (Miller, Kosiewicz, Wang, Marwah, Delhommer, & Daugherty, 2017).  Dual credit, also referred to as dual enrollment (DE), program delivery extends through partnerships between high schools, colleges and universities.  Instructional delivery may either reside on the high school campus or the college/university campus. Unlike AP and IB courses, DC students do not take a standardized exam to receive course credit.  College credit hours for dual enrollment remain based on grades and course completion rather than an end of course test. Students taking dual enrollment courses receive credits to fulfill both high school and college graduation requirements (Thomas, Marken, Gray & Lewis, 2013).

Since 2000, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (2011), dual credit in the State of Texas witnesses a 650 percent growth in high school student enrollment.  The growth exists in part as a result of legislative action and a concerted effort among Texas high schools and colleges to offer opportunities to earn college credits prior to students graduating high school (Miller, et al., 2017).  However, stakeholders remain divided on the effectiveness of dual credit programs.  Arguments suggest dual credit courses lack rigor setting students up for failure upon entering college or the workforce. Programmatic variations exist including teacher eligibility, institutional type and content and course quality—particularly dual credit courses offered in a traditional high school setting taught by high school instructors (Tobolowsky, 2016).  To support the State’s strategic plan to reach goals of 60x30TX, programmatic reforms remain necessary.

Dual credit holds a lack of extensive literature and empirical research.  Dual enrollment programs are decentralized by institution or system and one single repository of data does not exist for large scaled, controlled studies (Wyatt, Patterson & Di Giacomo, 2015).  State statute establishes minimum quality standards for the administration of DC courses with substantial freedom and discretion, allowing universities to adopt additional standards of their own to ensure high school students benefit from DC courses (Miller, et al., 2017). Ironically, dual credit, swarmed with legislative attention, action and focus, continues to remain inconsistent, sparking debate.  The College Board’s AP Course Audit, governing the Advanced Placement program, maintains strict standards for ensuring quality instructors and rigorous course content linked to higher education course standards.  Advanced Placement continues to follow added structure and consistency with proven, desirable college outcomes for students (Wyatt, Patterson & Di Giacomo, 2015).  No single governing body exists for dual credit oversight and regulation.

A primary concern from critics of dual credit programs remains a lack of rigor and often an absence of college preparation.  This stems from varying instructional strategies and content delivery between school districts, colleges and universities. High schools located in a city with a university may opt to send dual enrollment students to the campus under the instruction of full-time doctorate faculty. Rural high schools; however, often employee secondary teachers with a master’s degree to adjunct for a local community college in a neighboring town. In other cases, students take on-line dual credit courses, often proctored by a paraprofessional, and the rate of student academic dishonesty escalates. Therefore, inconsistencies in dual credit content and delivery develops.  DC instructors, while held to a syllabus approved by the college, may veer from required course content due to inconsistent monitoring and supervision by the higher education institution.  Often, no on-site monitoring occurs, even though the SACSCOC requires departmental and institutional policies on supervision and evaluation.  No instrument or evaluation tool for dual credit instructors exists.

The delivery of dual credit courses varies and changes over time. According to (Miller, et al., 2017), faculty teaching DC courses remain significantly less likely to hold doctoral degrees and significantly more likely to serve as adjunct professors.  An estimated 41 percent of DC course seats remain taught by a faculty member of a K-12 school, while half of dual credit courses continue instruction on a high school campus with 15 percent of DC classes taught online (Miller, et al., 2017).

“Partnership agreements between higher education institutions and one or more school districts or private secondary schools to deliver DC education are developed independent of government oversight that remain required by state rule to define how they will administer DC instruction and support services” (Miller, et al., 2017, p. 15).  Memorandum of Understanding approval between partnering institutions remains a requirement prior to course delivery. Because the state does not mandate uniformity across dual credit partnership agreements, college and school district collaborations may customize arrangements according to specific needs and circumstances (Miller, et al., 2017).  Dual credit course content lacks standardization; therefore, students taking the same content may not cover similar material (Tobolowsky & Allen, 2016).  Additionally, dual credit curriculum does not offer a standardized measure of knowledge or accountability such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or the Texas STAAR or End-of-Course Exams in K-12 schools. Advanced Placement establishes a level of rigor and the courses stand identified with a reputation exemplifying excellence.  The quality of dual credit courses remains difficult to measure; however, AP courses, in contrast, stay judged on a more consistent standard—the national exam. Tobolowsky and Allen (2016), posit students who take dual credit coursework in the same subject enter into college classrooms unequally prepared.

How can consistency be regulated with no single entity monitoring and regulating dual credit programs?  With no set standards established or monitored, allowing colleges significant leeway in determining course structures, content delivery and instruction programmatic inconsistencies result. No wonder dual credit draws critics and scrutiny. The states must inspect what they expect; yet, a governing body for dual credit programs remains obsolete, at both the state and federal level.  Has the consideration for a dual credit governing board not remained a consideration? Why?  Improvements cannot occur without set, consistent expectations and accountability. Why do we not inspect what we expect?

Einstein states, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” Dual credit programs, in theory, remain the bridge to college and career readiness; yet, fall short of reaching the goal—college and career readiness. Legislation, enacted in Texas, defines dual credit, offers funding options, and removes restrictions on the number of dual credit hours high school students may take.  However, nowhere in statute do specific guidelines exist requiring a governing board to oversee consistent dual credit delivery across the state or country. While regulation remains stated, the enforcement and implementation of accountability measures stays lacking.  The goals that led to the rise in popularity of dual credit—access, cost and college completion—will continue to spur growth.  However, the lack of uniform standards complicates dual credit delivery raising concern that dual credit exists as bad credit.

Pam Hailey, M. Ed.

Doctoral Student, Doctorate in Leadership Program, Hardin-Simmons University

Secondary Principal, TLCA Midland

TEDTalk on blog


Miller, T., Kosiewicz, H., Wang, E., Marwah, E., Delhommer, S., & Daugherty, L. (2017).  Dual credit education in Texas:  Interim report. Santa Monica, CA:  RAND Corporation.  Retrieved from

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (2011).  Dual credit report.  Austin, TX.

Tobolowsky, B., & Allen, T. (2016).  On the fast track:  Understanding the opportunities and challenges of dual credit.  ASHE Higher Education Report, 42(3), p.7-106.

Wyatt, J., Patterson, B., & Di Giacomo, T. (2015).  A comparison of the college outcomes of AP and dual enrollment students.  The College Board Research Report (2015-3).  Retrieved from

Visit America’s Greatest University Without Walls

DawsonThe United States’ national parks are known as “America’s greatest university without walls,” yet the Interior Department reports that the number of college-age visitors fell from 27% to 19% (Blaszak, 2006).  Interest from college students normally sparks when they visit the parks as a child, but the annual number of visitors under the age of 15 has fallen by half in recent years (Bergeron, 2015).  Two scientific studies show why educators need to get their students out to America’s most beautiful places.

John Muir, known as the “Father of our National Parks”, earned a living growing and selling fruit in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Like many people, he battled with all the stresses and fatigues of work and life, but Muir found the mountains and forest to be the best cure for the daily grind.  As he collected his thoughts near the end of his life, in 1912, Muir wrote , “everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike“ (Muir, 1912).   Researchers now find evidence that backs Muir’s idea that going to the mountains can do amazing things like boosting your immune system, lowering your blood pressure, and accelerating recovery time from surgery or illness (Li, 2010).  It turns out that the trees give off an active substance called phytoncides that prevents the tree from rotting or being eaten by insects.  Just three days exposure to these plant compounds prove to boost the tumor and virus-killing cells in our bodies, and the effect lasts for up to 30 days (Li, 2010).

As a Dean of Students, I experienced first-hand the rise of mental illness on our college campuses.  Suicide rates rose 200 percent and one-third of college students today report that they felt so depressed that it was difficult to function (Henriques, 2015).  Science proves that time spent outdoors and in our forests reduces stress and improves mood, energy level, and sleep.  Studies also show that students with ADHD can improve attention fatigue just by being in nature.  I have witnessed first-hand how my students who battle with ADHD and depression come back refreshed and renewed after being in the national parks.

A series of recent university studies found that those who experience awe of the natural world are kinder and more ethical (Piff, 2015).  Part of the study put them in a grove of towering trees and observed how they became better helpers and less entitled compared to control groups.  The study shows those who experience awe turn out to also be the most generous.  People have a better compassion for all around them when they understand how they are just a small part of larger eco-system.  I think we all would enjoy living in this type of kinder and more generous world, and our national parks represent the best place I know to find this sense of awe and wonder.

An old Chinese proverb explains the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the second-best time is now.  Just like the growth of trees, I find learning happens slowly over a lifetime and savored best when revisited time and time again.  If you are feeling weary or uninspired, follow Muir’s call for renewal by bathing yourself in nature.  Travel is better with friends and family, and I hope you can use our national parks as a natural classroom to teach and pass down our nation’s history, culture, and appreciation for beauty.  Discover our heritage as well as human traits like awe, generosity, and kindness inside America’s greatest university without walls.

Brian Dawson, M.S. History

Doctoral Student, Doctorate in Leadership, Hardin-Simmons University

CEO, Semester by the Sea

See more on this at my Ted Talk at:


Bergeron, R., & Redlitz, S. (2015, March 20). Does National Park Service have a youth problem? Retrieved May 3, 2018, from

Blaszak, M. (2006, April 6). National Park System Visitation Trends. Retrieved May 3, 2018, from

Henriques, G. (2015, February 15). The College Student Mental Health Crisis. Retrieved May 3, 2018, from

Li, Q. (2010). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine15(1), 9–17, from

Muir, J. (1912). The Yosemite. New York, NY: The Century Company.

Piff, P. K., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D. M., & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(6), 883-899.

Concussion Protocol in the Classroom

If a professor saw two students walking together across campus, one student carrying textbooks while the other was using crutches, the assumption would be that one of the students suffered an injury. The need for assistance would be obvious. Today though many students suffer an “invisible injury”, which has different characteristics than a leg injury.  Numerous students, especially athletes, deal with the results of a concussion from a practice or competition. In some cases of a concussion, there are no outward signs, which makes it difficult for the athlete to funcconcussiontion in the classroom.  The lack of direct input from students with concussions means professionals have limited insight into perceptions about students’ challenges and successes associated with college experiences (Childers, 2016).

As students with concussions enter the classroom, do the majority of faculty know strategies for helping students return to learn? How can those responsible for the care of the athlete communicate information across campus in a timely and effective manner? Providing answers to these questions will help provide a guideline for those responsible for care and education of the student-athlete.

A paucity of research exists on the educational outcomes of students who sustain concussions because much of the current literature is based on adults and/or athletes (Klug, 2015.) Research on concussions provides insight on what a college student-athlete will deal with in the classroom after suffering a concussion. Cognitive symptoms are common in the first week after a concussion and may include impairments in concentration, processing, and working memory (Lundin, de Boussard, Edman, & Borg, 2006.) Anticipated problems that a concussed student will face include sensitivity to light, which will cause difficulty in following a power point presentation or video content. The student will also experience issues with reduced attention span, which will affect his/her ability to engage in classroom discussion. Both coaches and classroom instructors will also recognize that a key concept in concussion recovery is rest, which means that students will miss practice, games and potentially class so that they can allow their brain to recover from the concussion. For most college students, cognitive rest following concussion means avoiding the classroom for at least one day. The student can expect to be in concussion protocol for seven to ten days, which means the student may miss several days of class.

Because of these issues, the care of the student-athlete extends beyond the training room. Given the impact concussion has on students’ social, physical, behavioral, and emotional functioning, numerous stakeholders (e.g., school nurse, medical doctor, school psychologist, teacher) are likely to be involved (Klug, 2015.) A successful transition from this injury requires communication between the student, staff and faculty. Athletic trainers will need to work with the student to provide them the information they need to share with the instructors in the classroom. As each individual deals with concussions in a different way, the student must understand the need to inform their professors what they are specifically dealing with. Trinity College in Connecticut distributed a six-page document to their faculty, which details the many issues a concussed student will encounter in the classroom. What opportunities exist at your campus for dissemination of a concussion document? The National Athletic Trainers Association also provides a template for concussion protocol at for universities looking to make that first step.

The character Phaedrus in Plato’s dialogical approach reminds us “things are not always what they seem.”  While a student recovering from a concussion may appear to be normal on the outside, we must be aware of the challenges that they face mentally. The lack of crutches or a cast does not mean that the athlete is fully functional. Each area of university life will need to recognize the signs of a concussed student-athlete. In addition, they will need to be aware of the necessary steps that are required to help the student continue with their academic progress.

John Neese, HSU Doctorate in Leadership Student

Director of Athletics, Hardin-Simmons University

TEDTalk on this blog


Childers, C. (2016). Invisible injuries. The experiences of college students with mild traumatic brain injury. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 29 (4), 389-405.

Klug, K., Garafano, J., & Courtney, L. (2015). Returning to school after a concussion. Facilitating problem solving through effective communication. School Psychology Forum. 9 (3), 184-195.

Lundin, A., de Boussard, C., Edman, G., & Borg, J. (2006). Symptoms and disability until 3 months after mild TBI. Brain Injury, 20, 799–806.



The Changing Face of the Professoriate

Think of a college professor. Does this thought invoke an image of the stereotypical tweed jacket and horn-rimmed glasses? Perhaps it invokes the image of an older man with an office full of books that he accumulated over his many years of teaching at the university? Hollywood would like people to think of the old Ivy League tenured professor but those days are gone. Only 30% of faculty employed by higher education institutions are tenure-track faculty. The majority of faculty in the workforce today fall into the contingent or adjunct faculty category, which means they work on a contractual or part-time basis (Kezar, 2016; Kezar & Gehrke, 2014; Kezar, Maxey, & Holcombe, 2016).

From an increasing reliance on contingent faculty to dwindling state funds, the traditional faculty model of tenure is disappearing (Blumenstyk, 2015; Kezar & Gehrke, 2014; Kezar & Maxey, 2016).  Another compounding issue involves the aging faculty workfBlog Post Image_C.Tabors (1)orce. Tenure allows many faculty members to work past the age of 70, which influences the availability of tenure positions (Kaskie, 2017). To complicate matters even further, politicians are turning their focus to addressing tenure (Craft, Baker, & Finn, 2016). In 2015, Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker, asked the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents to consider revision to the institution’s tenure policies, with the ultimate goal of removing tenure from state law. In 2017, Missouri and Iowa legislators introduced legislation to end tenure for new faculty hires at public colleges and universities beginning in 2018 (Kivak, 2017).

To address these issues, higher education professionals proposed new faculty models to serve as a replacement for the normative model (Kezar & Maxey, 2016; Kezar et al., 2016). Faculty models provide “…a set of elements that make up faculty career/work that includes contracts, roles, values, training, responsibilities, and priorities” (Kezar et al., 2016, p. 65). The current proposed models consist of the following:

  • an alternative or differentiated tracks model
  • a multi-year contracts model
  • an industrial or “unbundling” model
  • a student-focused model
  • a model with a tenure exit mechanism
  • a simple alteration of the current tenure system

(Blumenstyk, 2015; Bok, 2013; Earle & Kulow, 2015; Kaskie, 2017; Kezar et al., 2016).

Some institutions already utilize one or more of these models (Kezar & Maxey, 2016). Higher education professionals will need to decide which model fits their institution’s mission, vision, and values when choosing between the proposed models or creating their own.

Kezar and Maxey (2016) described many of the current efforts to address the changing professoriate as reactive approaches to the rapidly changing higher education environment. Institutions must take a proactive stance to address the issues instead of scrambling to make hiring decisions based on the budget. By adopting one of the proposed faculty models, institutions can proactively say “no” to perpetuating a reliance on contingent and adjunct faculty.

An analysis of the current state of the professoriate emphasizes the fact that something must change concerning the traditional faculty model. The established system cannot operate effectively within the modern, volatile environment of higher education. Contingent faculty members continue to grow in numbers. Tenured faculty positions continue to disappear. Institutions will no longer “get by” with offering low wages and denying benefits to non-tenure track faculty. Leaders in higher education must take a proactive approach in addressing these issues before higher education becomes disastrous for students, faculty, and the institution as a whole. Higher education professionals must ask themselves, “What does higher education look like in the 21st century?” and take action accordingly.

Christy Tabors, MLS

HSU Doctorate in Leadership Student

Coordinator for Reference Services, Tarleton State University

TEDTalk on this blog


Blumenstyk, G. (2015). American higher education in crisis? What everyone needs to know. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Bok, D. (2013). Higher education in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Craft, R. K., Baker, J. G., & Finn, M. G. (2016). The value of tenure in higher education. Journal of Business Inquiry: Research, Education & Application, 15(2), 100-115.

Earle, B., & Kulow, M. D. (2015). The “deeply toxic” damage caused by the abolition of mandatory retirement and its collision with tenure in higher education: A proposal for statutory repair. Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, 24(2), 369-418.

Kaskie, B. (2017). The academy is aging in place: Assessing alternatives for modifying institutions of higher education. The Gerontologist, 57(5), 816-823.

Kezar, A. (2016). Rethinking faculty models/roles: An emerging consensus about future directions for the professoriate. Retrieved from

Kezar, A., & Gehrke, S. (2014). Why are we hiring so many non-tenure-track faculty?. Liberal Education, 100(1), 44-51.

Kezar, A., & Maxey, D. (2016). Envisioning the faculty for the 21st century: Moving to a mission-oriented and learner-centered model. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Kezar, A., Maxey, D., & Holcombe, E. (2016). The professoriate reconsidered: A study of new faculty models. Thought & Action, 32(1), 65-88.

Kivak, R. (2017). Academic tenure. In Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2017. (Online ed.). Available from