Behind the Headlines – September 27, 2019

Behind the Headlines – September 27, 2019


– (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 challenges and
opportunites of higher education in Memphis, tonight,
on Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes with
The Daily Memphian, thanks for joining us. I am joined tonight
by Marjorie Hass, President, Rhodes College,
thanks for being here again. – My pleasure, it’s
wonderful to see you. – And Jack Shannon is
the new President of CBU, Christian Brothers University,
thanks for being here. – Thank you.
– Along with Bill Dries, reporter with
The Daily Memphian. I’ll go to you first Marjorie, we were just talking, you were
on the show two years ago– – Yes. – Right after you
had taken the job, that summer you had done it. What have you,
all kinds of things about the landscape of higher ed,
both locally and nationally and where Rhodes fits in,
where CBU fits in and so on, but just in the two
years you’ve been there, what are the biggest
changes you’ve seen at Rhodes, or been a part of making at
Rhodes in those two years. – It’s been a
very busy two years, it’s amazing how quickly–
– Yes it is. – it has gone. I think some of the things
that I’m very proud that we’ve accomplished, we, I think have
begun to really think harder about the residential
experience and what we want that to be like for this
generation of students. Our students are
increasingly diverse, they’re increasingly engaged,
and they’re increasingly part of a generation in which
living and learning together is somewhat novel. And so thinking about how we
extend the classroom experience into the broader student
experience has been a big piece of what we’ve done. we’ve also been able to double
the size of our Memphis Center through a generous gift
from Lynn & Henry Turley. – The Memphis Center,
explain what that is. – The Memphis Center is our
umbrella organization that sort of guides and navigates our
interactions with the city, so we’ve been excited to
see the increasing impact and capacity that we have in
areas such as public health, in areas such as education. That’s been very exciting. – Yeah, I want to come
back to that Memphis Center, and that whole notion of the
students out in the community, but I’ll bring Jack in. You are two months? into–
– Two months into the job, yes. – So what have you gotten done?
[Eric chuckles] – Well first thing,
is I was fortunate to follow John Smarrelli.
[Eric and Marjorie agree] – Dr. Smarrelli did a great job
in putting CBU not only in a firm financial footing, but also having us much
more engaged in the Memphis community which has
been fantastic for us. So moving forward, we are
really focused on things such as community engagement,
building upon his legacy. One of the areas that we’ve
launched is the AutoZone Center for Community Engagement. This month, of September,
is our September of Service, 30 days of good
deeds effort at CBU, we’ve been doing
that since 2012. And right now throughout
the community we have over 600 volunteers who are working
at varous organizations, community development,
educational, social services, and other
areas throughout Memphis. So like Marjorie,
we view Memphis as part of our
classroom experience and that’s very important
for our students. – In terms of, jump from,
Dr. Smarrelli was on the show a number of times over the years,
and was a big figure in the community, and all kinds
of things related to CBU always, but in some
ways sort of beyond, for you coming in and,
the Board of Trustees, and the search
committee and all that, did they just say
hey, stay the course, or did they want to say
that this great foundation, we now want to do
X, Y and Z more, or beyond what we’ve
done in the last ten years? – So, yeah I think number one
was to build up what John had already done, and
that’s very important, that sense of continuity,
as Marjorie knows is very important with universities. You don’t just take and go
off on your own direction. At the same time,
we’re committed to growth. We are about 2,000
students currently, we’re on a trajectory now to
be at least 3,000 students. That’s important for
our sustainability, it’s important for our
students to have that type of environment, but it’s also
important for Memphis that we grow and that we continue to
engage and offer new programs. – About 3,000
over what timeline? – So we’re looking at that over
a five to seven year timeline. So we for example, have a
brand new nursing program, which we envision as growing. We have an absolutely fantastic
school of engineering that has about 400 students. That can be sowewhere
between 600 and 700 students. Computer Science
is an area we’re very strong under Dr. Pascal Bedrossian,
and Dr. Cathy Grilli. We envision doubling
the size of that program. And at the same time offering
other new opportunities in graduate and maybe
even doctoral programs. – We’ll dig into this more, but
let me get Bill Dries involved. – A couple of shows ago
David Rudd from The University of Memphis
was here, and he talked about preparing for, or adjusting for
a drop in the number of high school graduates
in the southeast United States. Is that as much of a factor
for your campuses as it is for The University of Memphis? – It certainly is for Rhodes. The demographic picture is very
substantive and very important I think for every institution
of higher education. At Rhodes we are
preparing for that by making sure that
we are recruiting nationally. There are pockets of the
country where we see increases in students coming up
as well as decreases. We also are making sure that
we’re really prepared for a much more economically and
culturally diverse student body so that we can be a destination
of choice for bright talented students from a variety
of parts of the country, and a variety of backgrounds. About 12% of our students
currently are international students, and we anticipate
that that may grow as well. – Mm-hmm. Jack, what’s your
outlook on this at CBU? – So I think we’re all facing
these national headwinds right, that are very, very
challenging for us, but at the same time for us,
we’ve always attracted our students from the Memphis area,
so we have an opportunity as Marjorie indicated to look
at a more national footprint, so later on in November, I’m
going to be up the east coast, we’re going to be working
that northeast corridor, we have a number of
LaSallian Christian Brothers schools in that area, I want
them to know about Memphis, I think they’ll send
their students there. I’ll be back in
Chicago, St. Louis, Little Rock for
the same reason. And at the
suggestion of Marjorie, we’re going to be in places
like Dallas because we have a strong science and
engineering program. We think that’s very
attractive to students there, particularly from faith-based
schools to send their students to Memphis, be in a
very strong environment, academically, but also with the
supports that we need to have that they’ll be here
and that will be a great growth for us over time. But without growing and without
maintaining that focus we have challanges, but I think we both
have unique positions where we’re going to be
able to overcome that. – I agree, and you and I have
already talked together about the importance of working
together to talk about Memphis as a wonderful college town. It’s a really unique
destination for college-age students, and it gives both
of us I think a strategic advantage as we think about
recruiting students in an ever-more
competitive landscape. And working, not only together,
but with other higher education institutions in town to
really build on some of the initiatives, Choose 901, and
the Bring Your Soul campaign, to really expand that to make
it clear to people beyond the borders of our city and
our state why Memphis is a wonderful place to
come for college, and then as you and
I have talked about, to stay to build
your career and family, which for both of us,
many of our graduates do. – Right, and college town, is
kind of a different place for Memphis, because so much of
the college experience here has been defined by this idea
that we’re a commuter-type experience here. The other point is that we
hear so much talk civically about talent retention
and from your comments, I mean, this is
where it really starts. – It is. It is, and you may have heard
me say that I think Rhodes, and no doubt CBU as well are
brain faucets for Memphis, as opposed to brain drains. Ten percent approximately of
our students come from this region, and 40% of our
graduates stay here after they graduate, so we’re
bringing talent, we’re holding them here, they
stay because of the incredible career opportunities, and they
stay because of the incredible and civic opportunities. So one of my goals
is to make sure that we’re continuing to build
bridges between the campus and the community so that we
can retain even more of our students here. – How much of, and actually
I think when we originally thought of this show we were
going to try and get Dr. Rudd of The University of
Memphis on as well, and we couldn’t do
it, schedule-wise, which was fine, but we had
him on a couple weeks ago, which is online, and
on the podcast I think, but how much,
I mean they’ve had a lot of change over
the last few years. His goal, the goal of th
U of M for decades was to get its own Board of Regents,
and he talked about how important that’s been
and all this expansion, and they’ve opened up their
geographic region of who could get in-state tuition, and
they’ve upped their scores. Does that make them
more a competitor to you, or is it a
rising-tide situation? – I think it’s definitely
a rising tide– – (Marjorie) Me too.
– From, I used to work at a university much like Memphis,
at Montclair State in New Jersey, and the
more that we did it benefitted our neighboring institutions,
whether they were public institutions or
local privates as well. The reality is is that the
better we all do collectively, is it’s going to be better for
Memphis and our future here as a community. And he has offerings
that are fantastic, David does at Memphis, but we
have our unique strengths here as well, and we can continue to
collaborate as we already are doing between Rhodes and CBU
in a way that builds upon those strengths and allows us
to leverage each other. – (Marjorie)
Exactly. – For example, we’ve
recently launched a center for entrepreneurship
and innovation. Marjorie and I are already
pulling our two campuses together to leverage that
for the benefit of not just students on our
campus, but also at Rhodes, and most importantly for the
local entrepreneurs that are here, either on our campuses,
or already in Midtown and other areas that would benefit from
that type of collaboration. – Bill talked about the
notion of commuter schools, and so when I moved to
Memphis 25 years ago, there was a sense that U of M
was a commuter school, that Christian Brothers was
more of a commuter school, Rhodes was not, but
it was an island, both figuratively and literally, the walls, and the ages, and
you sort of went in there, and you stayed in
there, you came out, and you may or may not
have stayed in Memphis. That shifted under
your predecessor, and it sounds like with this
Memphis Center– – (Marjorie)
Yes. – You all are doing more
and more to leverage Memphis, not stay away from Memphis. – No, you’re exactly right, and
it’s an important project for us because we do find that
our students crave a sense of belonging and
community on campus as well. It’s a very important
experience we think for students to be in a kind of
civic-laboratory on campus where they learn how to
work out problems together, they learn the skills for
democratic citizenship in terms of living with, in a
diverse community, they are able to see the impact
of their classroom experience in their
communal life together, and then to take those skills
out into the community and sort of in concentric
circles expand outward, so we don’t see the on-campus
experience and the community experience as in tension, we
see those as in collaboration and in connection, and we’re
working hard to articulate that in ever stronger ways. – Memphis is one of
those places too, I hear it all the time,
not just with college kids, but people my
age, professionals, where you, if you’re willing
to try to make a difference or have an impact, you can. – (Marjorie) Absolutely.
– (Jack) Mm-hmm. – That
organizations will let you in, whether it’s a
non-profit organization, it’s a cultural organization,
they will let you in. So you find that with
the students as well. – Oh absolutely, but we also
know that we want to help our students enter into that
space in a spirit of humility, in a spirit of learning,
in a spirit of respect and appreciation for what
the city offers them. – So for us with the center for
community engagement building upon that point it’s
been really fantastic, we’re focused now on
Binghampton as well as Orange Mound which
are local communities for us, but we’re going in with the
spirit that we don’t have all of the answers, matter of fact
we may have none of the answers but we need to work together
to adjust to challenges that we have to work together. So our students are going to be
involved with those community leaders and working on
solutions that will be sustainable over time, that
will provide that type of learning experience that’s
important for our students to have, and at the same time
build long-term bridges between CBU, and those very important,
historic communities. – Bill. – Jack, John Smarrelli, who is
still working in the community here, we should point out,
we’ve been talking about him the past tense–
– (Jack) Yes he is. – (Eric)
Yeah, right. [all chuckle]
– Very active on other fronts. But, he was especially
active in immigration issues, on the CBU campus. And admitted there was a lot
of discussion going both ways whether the university
should be involved in that. What is the future of those
programs and those efforts that he undertook? – John did that because that
type of initiative is very much part of our LaSallian identity,
since we were founded, the Christian Brothers as
an order over 300 years ago, they have always reached out to
those who may not have the most in terms of resources, or may
not have the most fortunate of circumstances, so John’s
committment to the Dreamers and DACA eligible students is
something that we are going to continue with. We recently had Don Graham,
the former publisher of the Washington Post, the Chairman
of the Dream US organization, they have
re-committed to supporting us, you’ll be hearing news shortly
that another anonymous donor is going to continue
to not only support, but increase the
support for those students. And for us, to
Marjorie’s point earlier, that diversity, that richness
is very important to us, those students are graduating
at a higher rate than the rest of our students, they are doing
academically just as well, and in many cases even better
than our general students are. And, most importantly, they
are very appreciative of the opportunity that’s
being afforded them. So we’re excited about that,
we’re also learning a lot of things from them that we’re
going to be able to apply across our university to
improve our retention and graduation rates,
which I think is very, very important for all
of us, because at CBU, I’ve talked about this,
when we admit a student, we, I believe, have a moral
obligation to ensure that she or he graduates
within four years. If we don’t do that, we’re
putting those students into a very, very difficult
financial situation, and quite honestly we’re taking
what’s the American Dream of a college degree and turning
it into a dead end that can quickly become a nightmare if
you haven’t achieved that goal within that period of time. – It’s, Rhodes too
has been involved, both nationally and
regionally in these issues, and we have signed onto some
amicus briefs in support of pathways to citizenship and
education for undocumented students, and DACA students. You were talking about that
committment to graduation, that committment to seeing a
pathway for our students to success and
flourishing in the future, that’s really part of the
mission of private higher education in the
state of Tennessee. Across the state private
institutions enroll just over 25% of all of the students, but
we graduate and are responsible for more than 33% of
the state’s degrees. So the completion and the sense
that we see admission as a committment to the
student for the future, I think that
our mission centered institutions share that. – Marjorie, these days my life
is all about politics– [group chuckles]
– (Eric) Why’s that Bill? – (Marjorie)
Yes. – Yes, let me ask you about
the two very vibrant and active campus Democrats and campus
Republicans organizations you have on campus there
at Rhodes College. What is the environment like on
your campus as we head into the national elections next year,
because these two groups have really made an effort to
communicate with each other and kind of set a new kind
of atmosphere for this. – You in fact wrote a lovely
article talking with both of those groups, I think about a
year ago– – (Bill)
Mm-hmm. [affirmative] – and this is an
example of what I was talking about, about the importance
of a campus community, where students can learn skills
that are harder to learn at this point in our nation’s
history from the broader world. And because we are a
relationship driven campus, and because our students come
to know each other beyond just those political
ideologies and labels, we really have an opportunity
for a kind of richer dialogue than we’re seeing
nationally now. And our students
have risen to that. They both are very
strong in their own beliefs, and we have multiple student
organizations beyond just College Democrats
and Republicans, but our College Republicans
recently were honored as a sort of wonderful
organization by the state, and our College Democrats have
been very active at a number of levels and very successful. But those groups are able to
carry on a kind of dialogue. I’ll give you just
a quick example. Our students held a
debate last year, they canvassed all of the
student body and asked for issues driven questions. Students from each group
researched the answers from their party platforms, they got
up and gave those positions, and responded to
questions from the audience. The place was packed,
it was extremely civil, it was issue oriented, and
it was extremely moving. If the rest of the community
and the world could learn from the ways our students are
engaging in dialogue around very difficult issues, I think
it would be a better place. – The Memphis Center has
done so much work in better definining Memphis
culture as well, I think one of the programs
that I was most interested in is digitizing the
papers of Robertson Topp, who incorporated South Memphis, and started the
Gayoso Hotel here. You’ve also got one of
the best collections, one of the two
definitive collections, of Richard Haliburton’s journals
and diaries as well. So what are some of the goals
in terms of the Memphis Center moving forward with
those kind of pursuits? – It’s very important for us to
use our center as a place where all of Memphis can be
seen and understood. And we, the projects that get
taken up are driven both by faculty and student
passion and interest, and they range, everything from
culture and history and music, to race and politics, and some
of the more challenging aspects of what our city
has to grapple with, to some of the kinds of
historical pieces that you’re talking about. And we really want
the needs of our city, and the needs of our students
to come together there. And for our center to be a
place where learning happens, not just for our students, but
for everyone in Memphis who’s interested in
learning and celebrating, and in using that knowledge
to make a better Memphis. – Talk about these
issues, kind of national, so I’m going to stay with
you for a second Marjorie, you recently, you all
recently re-named a building. – (Marjorie)
Yes. – Talk… on the outside,
and I’ve forgotten the name– – We moved from a building that
was named Palmer Hall to now the building’s name is
Southwestern Hall. – And why was that? – That was a really
interesting project, and an interesting
set of questions. So the namesake of the building
had been Benjamin Palmer, a very well-known,
southern theologian, not largely active in
Memphis, but important to many Presbyterians
throughout the South. But his legacy had been to
offer a very impassioned and difficult, so-called biblical
justification first for slavery, and then later
in his life for Jim Crow. And as our community began
to wrestle with that legacy, we recognized we needed to
go through a process to think about how we wanted
that to be remembered, how we wanted to commemorate
that and grapple with that in the present. So it was a very
inclusive process, we had opportunities for
learning about his history over a two-year period that
included our students, our faculty, our community,
our extended alumni body. We knew from the beginning that
there would not be a unanimity, but we were very concerned that
the process be a model of the Liberal Arts, and a model
of Liberal Art learning, and how we, how we wrestle
with difficult questions. We ultimately as you mentioned
did re-name the building. We also have a class this year
that is working on creating a plaque to put in the
building that will give a more realiistic and historically
accurate picture of who Benjamin Palmer
was, and his legacy, and we also are in the process of establishing a
Rhodes History Day so that annually we have
an opportunity to think about aspects
of our own institutional history and learn from that. – Jack, quick question, this
is a much bigger question, but as you look, where is CBU,
there is this kind of tuition inflation and this concern
about where private college tuition is going, we talked
about that with Dr. Rudd last week, and that in some ways
they are really well-positioned as tuition at schools, you were
talking about the northeast, NYU, where my daughter
goes, it’s an exorbitant, I mean it’s just an insane
amount of money that some of these places are charging. Where does CBU sit
in that landscape, and does it concern you,
this rate of inflation and cost inflation that’s happening? – So as someone who’s still
paying off student loans for my daughter, absolutely. I think that if you take a
look at what the cost of an education for me when I
went to LaSalle University in Philadelphia, another
Christian Brothers School, back in the early
1980s, it was $3,000. Now that is in
the $40,000 range. And there should not be
that type of inflation, looking at everything else in
terms of the cost of living. At the same time we
face a challange. We need to provide more
supports for our students, we need to comply with a host
of governmental mandates at both the Federal
and the State level. And then last, but not least,
we have to pay our faculty, our staff, and administrators
wages that are competitive. They come for the mission, so
they’re not looking for the same levels as in
private industry, but they do need to be able
to sustain their families, and also pay in many cases, for
their own children’s education. We’re going to be taking
a look at that this year, as to what is the
right pricing for CBU. We’re looking at it in terms of
what is the value proposition, and as I talked earlier,
and the point that you made, we are very price competitive,
relative to the northeast and other parts of the country, and
I think that will offer us an advantage, along with the fact
that we’re here in Memphis, attracting students
from those areas. – With just a
minute left, actually, I want to shift
gears a little bit, and we taliked
about this before, and you recently,
I read recently, I’m not sure when it went up,
the essay you wrote about your fight, your struggle, your
conquering of breast cancer. Talk a little bit about that,
and we’l find some time to talk more another time. – Sure, thank you
for bringing that up, but I do want to just
factually for your point, Tennessee’s private higher
education is on average 26% less than comprable
schools throughout the country, so we all are doing our best. You know, I appreciate
your bringing that up. It was very challenging to
begin my presidency here in Memphis in the midst of
treatment for breast cancer. I’m very happy to be
sitting here cancer-free, and healthy and
grateful for that experience. But I, I really have written
and spoken publicly about it because I want women and other
affected by cancer to feel confident in
sharing their stories. It’s very healing to be able
to find your own meaning in an experience like that, and I was
grateful that my community has received that, and as you know
I just published an article recently on Medium
about my experience. – What we talked about it,
we’ve started an extra podcast on The Daily Memphian, and as
we go into Breast Cancer Month, and the real
complications, it’s an amazing, people can look up
Medium, it’s Marjorie Hass, if you just search
they’ll find it. Thank you for sharing–
– (Marjorie) Yes. Sure. – And we’ll talk more
about that on a podcast. – I’ll look forward
to that, thank you. – It is election season, we’ve
done a bunch of shows that are online with mayoral candidates,
the sales tax referendum, you can get the podcast, or
you can look at the past shows. We will be back next week
to talk about the election results, thank
you for joining us, have a good week. [dramatic orchestral music] [acoustic guitar chords]

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