Tag Archive for Michael Roth

Roth Participates in Panel on the Value of College

President Michael S. Roth joined other educators on KCRW’s “To The Point” to discuss the spiraling cost of higher education, and answer the question: Is college worth it?

He discussed steps Wesleyan has taken to make a degree more affordable. “Wesleyan is one of those schools with a very high sticker price…but in our case, almost half of our students are on financial aid, and the average grant is almost $40,000 for students. I think that schools like Wesleyan and other highly selective institutions around the country have to find ways to contain costs” by cutting back on amenities that are not key to an education, Roth said. Wesleyan is also using innovation, including technologies like MOOCs, to save money.

Roth also discussed the message of his book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters“Whenever there are economic anxieties in the United States, these are expressed in anxieties about higher education, from the beginning of the 1800s until our own day. At each juncture, the United States has found ways to develop a liberal education that is pragmatic and isn’t just about learning things that you can recite at cocktail parties or enjoy in the privacy in your own home. We have shown in America that liberal education serves innovation, serves creativity, provides our graduates with the capacity for meaningful work and for effective citizenship.”

Discussion on college begins around 8 min. Roth comes in around 20 min.

Roth Comments on STEM vs. Humanities

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

Inside Higher Ed turned to President Michael S. Roth, author of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Mattersto comment on a new study finding that “College students, on the whole, earn more credits in the humanities than in STEM, even though science majors outnumber humanities majors.” The researchers found that at many colleges and universities, general education requirements draw many non-majors to humanities courses. But at Wesleyan, which has no such requirements, officials have found that “people in STEM fulfill the expectation to take courses across the curriculum more regularly than the humanities people do,” Roth said.

He defended Wesleyan’s open curriculum: “You shouldn’t have to require people to expand their intellectual horizons,” he said. “You should be able to entice them to do so. Show them why it’s worth their while. When you have to require it, it demeans the enterprise.”

Read more here.

President Roth Defends Liberal Arts

As the price of a college education soars, some are wondering: is the price of college worth it? And in an economy that places a premium on high-tech skills, is a liberal education even relevant? President Michael Roth ’78 argues that a liberal arts education is actually more important than ever. He makes that case in his new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Mattters, and told NPR’s Eric Westervelt that the debate over the value of higher education is hardly a new one.

On All Things Considered, August 3, Roth said:  “There are people who just think, ‘Some of us just don’t need a lot of education. Most people need something more specialized because the economy has shifted.’ … Throughout American history people have said, ‘Yes, it’s because the economy has shifted.’ They said that in 1918, they said that in 1948, and now they’re saying it again. Today the shifts in the economy mean technological change will only produce accelerated pace of innovation, of changing relations to audiences. A broad, wide-ranging education is the best way to be able to shape that change rather than just be victimized by it.”

Roth went on to address the value of  education as a driver of equity and inclusion in America, warning that broad, liberal arts education must continue to be made available to all students, not just those who can afford it:

“Higher education in the United States has traditionally functioned as a vehicle for social mobility,” he said. ” And as costs have escalated and financial aid has not kept up with those costs, elite education has become a way of cementing privilege rather than opening up elite [education] to more voices and more talents”

Trustees, Roth Discussing the Future of Wesleyan Fraternities

The Board of Trustees has asked President Michael Roth to propose a plan for the future of fraternities at Wesleyan, following a discussion at their spring meeting May 22-23.

On his blog, Roth said he would deliver a plan to the board soon, ideally before the start of the next semester but at the latest before the next board meeting in November. His thinking has changed since his first year at Wesleyan, when he wrote about his support for Greek life, Roth said.

“Six years of hearing about high-risk drinking at fraternities and dealing with fallout from highly publicized incidents of sexual violence have had an effect,” he wrote in a blog post this week. “ Of course, the larger world has changed too. Today there’s more emphasis upon Title IX and a much greater awareness of sexual assault. The U.S. Department of Education says that under Title IX, schools must “take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the sexual violence, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects.”

Roth cited a WSA survey showing that 47 percent of Wesleyan students feel less safe in fraternity houses than in other party spaces; the great majority of those think that making the fraternities co-educational would be helpful in making those spaces safer.

“Are fraternities at Wesleyan hostile environments?

President Roth’s “Beyond the University” Reviewed

President Michael S. Roth’s new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Mattersis reviewed in The Washington Post by Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis. Nelson begins with the remark: “Michael Roth’s new book may finally answer a question I have often asked myself: Why do the leaders of our nation’s liberal arts colleges find it so difficult to define liberal education clearly and so challenging to communicate its benefits?”

He continues, “After reading Roth’s economical and nearly jargon-free historical account of liberal education in America, I think the answer may be this: There are many distinct threads of liberal education in America that have been woven and rewoven over time in many different ways. As a result, nearly every college now existing can legitimately lay claim to a distinctive sort of liberal education. Generic descriptions simply cannot convey the variegated vitality of liberal education as it is lived on our many college campuses.”

In presenting the ideas of prominent Americans who historically have shaped educational thought–from Thomas Jefferson to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Booker T. Washington–Roth provides a “substantial and lively discussion that allows the reader to maintain an open mind while examining the strengths and weaknesses of the several threads, each in its own turn,” writes Nelson.

Read more about Beyond the University in Roth’s op-eds in The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and in this interview in The Atlantic magazine.

President Roth Addresses Graduates at Commencement

Wesleyan President Michael Roth '78 speaks during the 2014 Commencement ceremony. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 speaks during the 2014 Commencement ceremony. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 made the following remarks at the 182nd Commencement Ceremony on May 25:

Members of the board of trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees and the class of 2014, I am honored to present some brief remarks on the occasion of this commencement.

Although American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has been winding down ever since you arrived on campus, the scars of those conflicts will continue to be painful for years to come. On this Memorial Day Weekend, I begin by asking us all to take a moment to remember that these wars have cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers and scores of thousands of civilians in those countries.

President Roth Charts the Development of Pragmatic Liberal Education in His New Book

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

The broad contextual education that Wesleyan and peer institutions offer is frequently critiqued, sometimes excoriated, by those who accuse it of not preparing graduates for success in today’s world. But that accusation, says President Michael S. Roth in his sixth and latest book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters (Yale University Press, 2014), is as old as liberal education itself – and never less convincing than now.

A historian whose previous scholarship has focused on making sense of the past, Roth charts the development of pragmatic liberal education through a succession of important American thinkers. Liberal education has deep roots in American culture and society, he says, as does the tension between liberal education and vocational education.

“The commitment to liberal learning that Jefferson described has been attacked for its potential elitism and irrelevance for more than two hundred years,” he writes. Jefferson saw education as both a key preparation for citizenship, essential for the health of the republic, and a means for fighting abuses of wealth and privilege. As the founder of the University of Virginia, he stressed that students would have the freedom there to pursue study that they found meaningful, not prescribed coursework.

“In the last few years,” Roth continues, “commentators (who usually themselves have had a liberal education) have again questioned whether we should encourage so many people to have the opportunity to make this discovery.

“If higher education is conceived only as a job-placement program for positions with which we are already familiar, then liberal learning does not make much sense. But if higher education is to be an intellectual and experiential adventure and not a bureaucratic assignment of skill capacity, if it is to prize free inquiry rather than training for ‘the specific vocations to which [students] are destined,’ then we must resist the call to limit access to it or to diminish its scope.”

Roth Authors Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth is the author of the book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, published by Yale University Press in May 2014.

From Yale University University Press:

“Contentious debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education are as old as America itself. From Benjamin Franklin to the Internet pundits, critics of higher education have attacked its irrelevance and elitism—often calling for more vocational instruction. Thomas Jefferson, by contrast, believed that nurturing a student’s capacity for lifelong learning was useful for science and commerce while also being essential for democracy. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.

Conflicting streams of thought flow through American intellectual history: W. E. B. DuBois’s humanistic principles of pedagogy for newly emancipated slaves developed in opposition to Booker T. Washington’s educational utilitarianism, for example. Jane Addams’s emphasis on the cultivation of empathy and John Dewey’s calls for education as civic engagement were rejected as impractical by those who aimed to train students for particular economic tasks. Roth explores these arguments (and more), considers the state of higher education today, and concludes with a stirring plea for the kind of education that has, since the founding of the nation, cultivated individual freedom, promulgated civic virtue, and instilled hope for the future.”

Read more about Beyond the University in this Wesleyan Connection article.

Roth to be Honored for His Commitment to Diversifying Higher Education

In recognition of Wesleyan’s commitment to equity and inclusion, A Better Chance Foundation will present President Michael Roth with its 2014 Benjamin E. Mays Award.

Named for the famed civil rights pioneer, the Mays award is presented annually to a leader in education who individually and with their institution demonstrate a clear commitment to diversifying higher education.

“I’m deeply honored to be recognized by A Better Chance,” Roth said. “The Wesleyan community has been enriched by the students who come to us through the foundation.”

The foundation’s mission is to increase substantially the number of well-educated young people of color capable of assuming positions of responsibility and leadership in American society. The oldest national organization of its kind, ABC annually recruits, refers and supports about 500 scholars in grades 6-12 at more than 300 member schools in 27 states. Many of these scholars go on to elite universities.

Every year, A Better Chance recognizes its top Scholars and honors leaders in the community who are committed to promoting education and diversity.

Every year, A Better Chance honors leaders in the community who are committed to promoting education and diversity.

Wesleyan has been one of A Better Chance’s strongest college partners, with more than 250 A Better Chance Alumni matriculated over the past 50 years, more than nearly any other American university.

“Our work continues toward greater diversity and a more inclusive and equitable residential college experience,” Roth said. “And I know that with the help of A Better Chance and other partner groups, we’ll get closer to our goal every year.”

Roth will accept the award in New York on June 20.

President Roth Discusses Higher-Ed Access at White House

White House (1)

President Barack Obama addresses higher education leaders, including President Michael Roth, at the White House.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth joined  leaders from 100 universities and colleges and 40 nonprofit groups at the White House on Jan. 16, to discuss how to promote greater access to higher education.

The event is part of an Obama administration initiative to help more students afford and graduate from college. The institutions represented at the event have all made commitments to programs that would increase access to students from historically underserved communities.

“At the summit,  I learned that ninety percent of low-income people who get their BA will move out of poverty,” Roth said. “Access to education truly has an effect on inequality.”
He said that several discussions at the education summit revolved around college readiness, which he described as a critical piece of access.
“That means better K-12 systems,” Roth said. “But also, how can universities help with readiness? Universities should work closely with their local school districts.
“We do a lot (at Wesleyan), working with McDonough, with Green Street. Wesleyan has  lots and lots of people, faculty, students and staff, working with local schools, ” he said. “I’m wondering whether we couldn’t better coordinate our efforts to really have an impact on college readiness right in this area.”
To support the initiative,  Wesleyan has:
  • Committed to increasing the number of QuestBridge scholars on campus. QuestBridge recruits low-income and first-generation college students, who receive full scholarships.
  • Committed to expand efforts to retain students from under-represented groups in STEM fields. These efforts include a new summer bridge program that would increase students’ success in STEM fields.
  • *Partnered with the Posse Foundation to admit 10 military veterans each year. On Jan. 14, President Roth celebrated with the first “posse” admitted; they’ll join the Class of 2018 in September.

Read the White House document on the event, which includes sections on each participating institution, here


Roth Speaks at Whitehouse

Wesleyan President Michael Roth joined leaders from 100 universities and colleges and 40 nonprofit groups at the White House on Jan. 16, to discuss how to promote greater access to higher education.

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