Behind the Headlines – February 9, 2018

Behind the Headlines – February 9, 2018


– (female announcer)
Production funding for Behind the Headlines is made possible in part by the WKNO Production Fund. The WKNO Endowment Fund. And by viewers like you.
Thank you. – The new president
of Rhodes College, tonight on Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes, publisher
of the Memphis Daily News. Thanks for joining us. I am joined tonight
by Dr. Marjorie Hass, President of Rhodes College. Thanks for being here. – Oh, it’s my pleasure,
thank you for having me. – Along with Bill Dries, senior reporter with
the Memphis Daily News. So we’ll talk a bunch
about your background, about your vision for Rhodes. You’re one of, we were
talking about before, you’re only the third president in the last 30-something years. Also the first female president. Let’s start with Rhodes,
and for this show, why is Rhodes
important to Memphis? What is Memphis, besides
to the students itself, besides behind the
walls of Rhodes. We know why it’s important
to the students and faculty, but Rhodes is an
institution in this city. It’s important, why? – It’s one of the most important
questions you could ask, and it’s a significant
question that I asked myself as I was thinking
about whether Rhodes would be a place that I would
want to come to and to lead. I think you can certainly
start by thinking about the ways we have just been
good friends and neighbors to the city, our college
is regularly named as one of the most
service-minded, if not the service-minded,
colleges in the country. So our students, our
faculty, our staff are out in the community,
see themselves as members of the Memphis community. But we also make a significant
economic impact on the city, and we’ve recently done
some studies of this. I wanted to know firsthand
what that impact looked like, I wanted to be able to
set some benchmarks, and it’s pretty surprising. We’re a small college,
2,000 students, but we make an impact of
over $350 million a year on the city of Memphis. And we do that through our
spending that we do here, through the jobs that we create, but also because so many of
our students stay in Memphis. 40% of our recent
graduating classes have been making
Memphis their homes. They’re staying
here after college, building families and careers. And they are, each
class that does that, that’s about $555 million into
the local economy over time. – And there are
about how many kids, how many young people graduate
from Rhodes every year? – (Dr. Hass)
Approximately 500. – Okay, and you talked about, a faculty member recently,
a friend of mine said that, was talking about you,
and how excited he was that you had come. – Oh, that’s, let’s just
say that’s very good news. – That’s good news, yeah. But he said for his take,
he’s been there quite a while. He went back three presidents,
so President Daughdrill, who was before President Troutt. Troutt was the previous
president, about 17 years, and then Daughdrill. And he said part of what
Troutt had done was, President Troutt, is
opened the doors of Rhodes. Rhodes, for people who
are older, and I think when I first moved to
Memphis, Rhodes was known for being a bit of an
island, for being kind of a city over there in Midtown. Kids didn’t really come out,
they didn’t really interact. And that changed under
President Troutt. How important was
that to you to know that you were going to
a school, to a college, that was engaged
with this community? ’cause many, we talked
about it before, the college I went
to when I was there was a small liberal arts
school up in Connecticut, was very much isolated
from, at that time, from its surrounding community. – And I do think that
isolation is the norm. It certainly has been
the norm historically. Liberal arts colleges in
particular were founded to be spaces of isolation,
in their original model. They were founded, usually,
by religious groups. The goal was to create,
ultimately, ministers, in that tradition, and
they had a kind of sense that the way you
learned best was to be in a contemplative, away
from the world model. Almost like a cloister. That has significantly
shifted nationally, obviously, in the ensuing, you know,
several hundred years, and colleges, I think,
across the country, do see themselves now as
part of their communities. But Rhodes is very
unique in being immersed in such a vibrant
metropolitan area. Many colleges still are in
rural areas, small towns, suburban areas, and to
me, this is one of Rhodes’ significant strategic drivers. It is part of the success
of Rhodes College, is that we are part of
a major American city. So it’s essential. – (Eric)
Bill? – Dr. Hass, at your
installation ceremony, your speech talked a good
bit about liberal arts in the country in
general, and these are changing times for
liberal arts colleges. And you said that there
are some people who are really questioning the role
of liberal arts colleges. Tell me what you mean by that. – Well, you certainly hear
a lot of this rhetoric, and you hear this on
the political scene and you, I have to say,
occasionally hear it even from your colleagues
in the news business, the sort of offhand
comment about, well, philosophy majors can’t find
jobs, or the liberal arts being a sort of
old-fashioned luxury, and that is just
simply not true. And the data bears that out. You can certainly see that
students who are graduating from liberal arts colleges
are finding employment. When you talk to hiring
managers and you say what is it you look for
in those young people right out of school, they
will give you the list of liberal arts skills
and commitments. Critical thinking, a capacity
for lifelong learning, and ongoing learning
and training. The ability to communicate,
the ability to work in teams, the ability to work
across difference, the ability to grapple
with hard problems, that is the curriculum of the
liberal arts institutions. And a recent study was
just released, actually, showing that when you
look at lifetime learning and when you look at
lifetime satisfaction, there is really no difference
between STEM majors and majors in the
humanities, so. – So here in Tennessee,
with all of the emphasis on two-year degrees,
associate degrees, certification in a specific
trade like welding, like the craft
trades, so to speak. Where does a four-year
liberal arts college fit into that emphasis that
we’re seeing right now? Is there a pushback
against that move to, okay, start earning your
certification, actually, while you’re in high school? – These are very good questions, and there’s a few different
things that sort of are connected there that
I would want to address. In the first place, I would
only speak highly of people who want to and do earn
a trade certificate. I think that’s an
important part of the fabric of our country,
I think we wanna make sure that people for whom
that is their life path can earn a decent wage and an
ongoing wage in those trades. So I’m a firm supporter of that. But I think we can all
agree that we do not and cannot foresee an
economy in which the trades are the only drivers. So when we are looking at
the kinds of higher order, complexities, the kinds of
problems that we need to solve, the kinds of educated young
people that businesses want to hire to be
their future leaders, we are looking at
students who have studied these kinds
of things in college. So we don’t see this as opposed, we see them as in partnership. We certainly want
to provide access, and the state of Tennessee
does a pretty good job of providing access. The HOPE scholarships
really help close the gap for many students,
many Rhodes students and students across Memphis. So I don’t see Tennessee
as having stepped back from its commitment
to four-year education or even to graduate education. I see each of those
pieces of the pie as having an important role. – Is a student who gets two
years under Tennessee Promise in a community college
or a Tennessee college of applied technology, is
that student, in your view, and in your experience
in higher education, likely to go for a
four-year degree? – Well, this is an
interesting question, and I think sometimes
there is, particularly in some of the so-called
college courses that are being offered in
high schools, the dual credit. I think there is
sometimes over-promising. It is not the case that
many of those courses that you have, you know, degrees
and credits you’ve earned at a technical college
or while in high school will actually prepare you to
take the next level course at a college like
Rhodes College. So I’ve seen this
throughout my career, that a student might
have taken, say, pre-calculus or even calculus
under that situation, but they’re not truly
prepared to succeed in the second level calculus at
a college like Rhodes College. So when we work with
students and they’re bringing in transfer credits,
we certainly are happy and willing to award the
credits they’ve earned, but we really try to use
advising to make sure that they understand
that they need to take the courses that will
best prepare them to complete their degree. – And you’ve talked about the
image of the liberal arts, and I know from being present
when the new science building and facilities there
were dedicated, that you talked a lot about
crossing disciplinary lines. That students are doing
that at your college and at other liberal arts
colleges increasingly, that it’s not about
one narrow pursuit, you have students
working collaboratively. – It’s really become the norm. Most of our students
double major or they have a major or
minor, and increasingly, those majors themselves
are interdisciplinary. You may have heard me
speak before about my sense that we need to prepare
students to really be ready to grapple with the
issues of the day. I referred in my
inauguration speech to Joseph Aoun’s
book, Robot Proof, and we need to be able
to prepare students to be problem-solvers
at a very deep and sophisticated level. And the problems we face
today, whether they are issues of climate change,
whether they’re issues of how our economy will
thrive with the rise of artificial intelligence, any
of those difficult problems, there’s no single
discipline that will have the answer to those. You need to be able
to think very broadly. I sometimes say that what
a liberal arts education provides you with is a set
of tools, methodologies, to find the truth. It doesn’t provide
you with an ideology or a simple answer. – What, so many questions. What percentage of your
students, give or take, go on to get graduate degrees? – I don’t know that I can
quote you the exact number off the top of my
head, but it’s roughly, and some of them
go immediately and some of them go over time. So I would say
roughly about 40%, is sort of in that first
wave, and then later on probably another 20 or 30%. – Do you see that number
going, I know people, that’s probably because
my age and my kids’ age who are in high school,
one’s a senior in high school and one’s in college, it’s
very much the conversation that I hear, people more
and more sort of anecdotally say, oh, you gotta get
a graduate degree now. Do you see the number of
kids getting graduate degrees coming out of Rhodes, and
all colleges, increasing? – I do, and part
of that is, again, because of the nature
of work, right? As more rote and routine
work, and even what used to be considered higher-level
heuristic work, becomes automated, the skills that students
need in order to become competitive on
the job market just ratchet up one more notch. We’ve also done a great
job in this country, or a better job, of providing
access to higher education, and so a college degree doesn’t
necessarily set you apart the way that it once did. So graduate school is
definitely on the rise, and I think, for our students,
that that’s a great match. That broad-based, undergraduate
degree that really prepares them for entry level
jobs and for that next step and then a graduate
degree that perhaps gives them some deeper depth
in a particular technical area. – For Rhodes, for all
colleges, I mean, right now, cost, affordability
is a huge issue. You talked about it
at your inauguration. And we should back up a
little bit, just time-wise, you started the
job in the summer. – Yes, on July 1st, which
is typical for a college, when we usually do
those changeovers. – Yes, but the inauguration
ceremony was in, what, early January. – Yes, and that also is
typical, we typically, we want to have time
to sort of build up some excitement and enthusiasm,
and because one does not campaign for the
college presidency you do need some time to
craft a sense of vision and mission for the institution. – Yeah, so, just because,
we talked about your recent inauguration, but
you’ve been on the job since the summer, so just so
people can keep track of time. College affordability,
it’s a huge issue, it’s, you know, some years
college across the country tuition was going up 5%. You’ve got state schools
that are seeing less funding from their legislatures,
they’re charging more for out of states,
where Rhodes, what is, tuition, room and board, if I
looked at the Rhodes website, the sticker price
is what right now? – The sticker price is gonna
be something close to $60,000. And obviously, there are
very few families that can simply write
a check for that. And so we do have some, and
they are willing and able to afford that
kind of education, that cost of education. But for
students who can’t, the large, one of the largest chunks of
the college presidency role is raising the money
for scholarships to help close that gap. And the vast majority
of our students receive some kind
of financial aid. It’s a combination
of institutional aid, money that we provide. It’s a combination of perhaps
aid they bring with me, bring with them, if
they’re Pell grant eligible or the HOPE scholarship. And then some of our
students do borrow. The students who borrow
graduate with an average, at Rhodes, with an
average of $25,000 worth of college loan debt, which is
more than I would like to see but it to me is a
reasonable number, particularly given
what we know data wise about their potential
earnings and the kinds of careers
that they will have as a result of that education. – And that, you addressed it,
but we’ll follow up on debt. There’s been a big
spotlight on that over the last few years,
the Obama administration put a lot of pressure
on some colleges about the amount of debt that
they were racking up. I think some of that
was more about, maybe, online schools and schools
that were almost mills of, almost using students’
ability to borrow to line their coffers. – Yes, there are some
very, very bad actors. And it’s dangerous
when we set policy based on a few bad actors. We should be able to find
ways to deal with those. I just returned from Washington
D.C. yesterday, last night, where I was meeting with
the National Association of Independent Colleges
and Universities. I’m on the board of
that organization, and that’s our major policy arm. And of course affordability
is the top issue on the minds of college
presidents across the country and on our policy-makers. As you no doubt know,
Congress is considering a rewriting of the Higher
Education Authorization Act, and a big piece of what
they’re thinking about is certainly this
question of affordability. So the House has put
forward, I think their act is called the Prosper Act. There are some pieces in
it that we were meeting with our legislators to
talk about that we think will not be helpful, but
we were pleased to see that there is a commitment
to increasing Pell and to looking for ways, again, to make access to
college possible. My dream for Rhodes is that
talent is the only determiner of whether you get
to come to Rhodes. That’s, we can’t
afford to meet the need of every talented student. We wish we could. – Back to Bill, only
about nine minutes left. – Oh, great. You set some goals
at the inauguration, the education department
at Rhodes has been working for quite a
while, the campus is, used to be known as
a Peace Corps hotbed. Now it’s known for
Teach For America. So tell us what your plans are in terms of turning out
teachers from Rhodes. – This really returns to the
question we were asking earlier about our relationship
with the city of Memphis. We are launching a new master’s
degree in urban education. We think that if we want to
make a significant impact on the city, being able
to produce teachers with a passion for teaching
in our city schools and with the skills
to not only teach but to lead eventually
is one of the most significant
things we can do. So this program will
launch, we’ll start small, but once we ramp up, our
hope is to be producing a hundred well-trained
teachers a year, and really to become
a national model for how to do teacher
certification and education in collaboration with
the liberal arts. – And you also have
a new center that is the Lynne and Henry
Turley Center. Tell me what that’s about. – The Lynne and Henry
Turley Memphis Center is, I think, the
culmination of a long dream, certainly for the college
and also, I believe, for the Turleys. And it will become
a focal point for our interaction with Memphis. So all of the many
programs that we have now that help our students
engage with the city and also that bring
the city into our, onto our campus, those
will all be housed within the center, and
it really will allow us to double our
commitment to that. So stay tuned, it’s going
to be very, very exciting. – Henry Turley, who has
been on the show, actually, the local developer downtown,
involved with Memphis Magazine and so on, it is Henry
and his wife Lynne. So back to you, Bill. – So is that center,
will for instance, the Mike Curb program. Will that be a part of that,
come under that umbrella? – Yes, that’s
ultimately our goal. it will take a little bit
of time for us to organize, we need to hire some
of the right folks in. So as you know, on
a college campus, we do things collaboratively, not just by fiat
of the president. So we are working very closely
with the faculty involved in those programs to figure
out the best structure, but yes, that is, that
will ultimately be how we administer these things. – So much of the discussion
about what is next for Memphis, when it gets down to specifics, talks about higher-paying jobs, better jobs for Memphians. And a lot of times, higher
pay is a relative thing in a city that has such a low
median wage here in Memphis. What do you think
is the best pursuit of those higher-paying
jobs, those better jobs, that improve the quality
of life for all Memphians? – Well, I think,
you know, at Rhodes, we talk, we certainly want
students to be successful in their careers, and we think
that’s very, very important. But we firmly believe,
and I deeply believe, that education is not a private
good, it’s a public good. And I think we have
really lost sight of that in our narrative around higher
education in this country, and it’s a tragedy. I tell our students that we
want them to be successful but that’s not how we
measure the success of a Rhodes education. It’s not about what this
education does for you as an individual, it’s about
what it allows you to do to heal the world. And so we need to make
sure that our students are equipped on a
wide range of ways, in a wide range of ways,
to translate that education into the common good. Yes, we certainly know
that a college education sets you up for a life
of greater wealth. We know that a Rhodes
education in particular sets you up for that. Our graduates are among the
highest-paid wage earners in the state of Tennessee. But that is not the end,
the be-all and end-all, and while we’re proud of that,
what we’re most proud about is what they use those
skills for, as you say, to raise the boat for all
Memphians, for all Tennesseeans, and for all in the world. – With just four or
five minutes left, how do you interact with,
it might be compete with or collaborate with,
the other higher-ed institutions in town? U of M, CBU, LeMoyne-Owen,
and I’m forgetting, but just, do you know all
those presidents? Do you all go get
coffee, do you fight over some of the honor students? How does that all work? – I think there’s some real
room for growth in this area. Certainly, the relationships
are very positive, and supportive, and we really
don’t compete with each other. The beauty and genius of
American higher education is the wide range of missions, as you were alluding to before. And so there is room for,
every student in Memphis could find a home and a
place in higher education within Memphis, because
of the diversity. But I do think that gives us
some really good opportunities to collaborate, both
programmatically, but also even in the
ways that we help frame the narrative around higher
education in Memphis. We’re excited about the new
city branding initiative, and we’re looking forward
to working to talk about the ways that Memphis
is a great college town, a great place to come. Rhodes, as you know,
draws nationally, so while some of our
students come from Memphis, the vast majority do not. And part of what we’re
helping them understand when we help them
understand that Rhodes might be a good home
for them academically is that Memphis will be
a great home for them to live in and work
in for four years, and then again we hope
for even longer than that. – And Dr. Troutt
talked about this, continually more Rhodes
graduates are staying here in Memphis
after they graduate. – Yes, 40%. And we talked about the
economic impact that that makes. I refer to Rhodes
as a brain faucet instead of a brain drain. Many cities experience
a brain drain, where the most talented, well-educated students
leave the city. We like to see that
what we’re doing is bringing
outsiders to Memphis, and then they help
find a home here and become part of the
fabric of the city. – With just a couple minutes
left, we mentioned earlier, only the third president in
the last 30-something years. First female president. How important is that? Is it, some part of me wants
to say is that still important, but obviously it is,
given everything that’s going on nationally,
the conversation about women and glass
ceilings and so on. Is it still significant? – And even some of the
more difficult issues around MeToo, and
around Title IX and sexual assault issues. I do think it is
still a big deal. And it’s easy for me,
sometimes, to forget that it is a big deal because
I’m just here doing my work. Always been a
woman, so, you know, don’t know any other
way to do my work. But I’m very aware of
how important it is for our students in particular
to serve as a role model, and I do think that I can
bring and shed light on some of the ways that we do
need to be more inclusive, not only for women, but on
a whole host of vectors. So that focus on inclusion
and on making sure that we build a community
where every single person in it feels like they’re at the
center of the experience is very, very important to me. – Just a bit more bio,
we have a minute left here. You were where before Rhodes? – Before I cam to Rhodes, I
was president of Austin College in Sherman, Texas, another
very fine liberal arts college. Before that I was provost
at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, also a fine liberal
arts college. And before that I was a
faculty member at Muhlenberg, spent my career as a
faculty member there, and that was my first job,
professor of philosophy at Muhlenberg College. – And you’ve been in Memphis
now eight, nine months. Separate from your
experience of the school, what’s been most surprising
about being in Memphis? – Well, it’s been an
incredibly welcoming city. People have been warm and
welcoming, they have fed us, they have loved us, they have
invited us into their homes, they’ve taken us to their
favorite restaurant. We love the diversity
in this city, we love that there is
this deep, complex history to be mined and to be addressed, and we love that
this is a place where every single member of
Memphis can and should be committed to
making a difference. – Dr. Hass, thank
you for being here. We really appreciate it. – Thank you so
much for having me. I look forward to future
conversations, thank you. – Absolutely, absolutely. And thank you for joining us. Join us again next
week, goodnight. [dramatic orchestral music] [acoustic guitar chords]

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