Media Mentions

Online Internships Fail to Meet Expectations

May 19, 2021   |   By Lindsay McKenzie

From: Inside Higher Ed

College students who participated in online internships during the COVID-19 pandemic did not get as much out of the experience as peers who participated in in-person internships, a new study found.

Academics at the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, which is housed within the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research, published the findings of their research into online internships yesterday.

The study, which included survey data from nearly 10,000 students at 11 colleges and universities, found just 22 percent of respondents participated in an internship in the past year. Of these internships, half were in person and the remainder online. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Rapid Response Research program, known as RAPID.

When the pandemic hit the U.S. in spring 2020, interest in online internships grew, said Matthew T. Hora, co-author of the report and director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at UW Madison. Many people naturally assumed that most in-person positions would be shifted online, he said, but that does not appear to have been the case.

Key Findings

Researchers came away with several key findings:
A Need to Work With Employers

  • Internship participation during the COVID-19 pandemic was low, with 22.1 percent of students taking an internship. Of these, roughly 50 percent took online positions, and 50 percent in person.
  • Online internship networking programs are pivotal to connecting students and employers, but there were many more students registering for these platforms than open positions, with demand far outstripping supply.
  • Students who participated in online internships tended to have high grade point averages and come from upper-income families, suggesting that online interns represent a narrow slice of the student population.
  • A higher percentage of online internships were unpaid versus in-person internships—42 percent unpaid online versus 34.9 percent unpaid in person.
  • Online interns report lower satisfaction with their experience than in-person interns. Online interns also reported lower scores for both academic and developmental value, as well as networking opportunities.
  • Online internships need to be designed with greater attention to task design, supervision and communication.
  • Employers and postsecondary institutions will require training to improve how online internships are designed and implemented.

Internships can vary widely by their organization, their objectives and their usefulness to students and employers. Many of the challenges with online internships highlighted in the report are consistent with the challenges experienced by employees who switched to remote work during the pandemic. They include navigating new communication channels.

“Without in-person opportunities, it’s extremely difficult for students to establish strong connections within a work environment, namely through networking or casual water-cooler talk,” said Kevin Davis, the founder and executive director of First Workings, a nonprofit organization that connects high school students in New York City with paid summer internships.

Losing out on in-person networking opportunities is particularly detrimental for students coming from first-generation or low-income households “who may not have social capital in the student’s aspiring career or industry,” Davis said.

When the pandemic hit, First Workings made the difficult decision to shift from in-person internships to one-on-one virtual mentorships instead.

“Our main priority was providing opportunities for students to build social capital, while mitigating the disengagement seen in a virtual environment,” Davis said.

The mentorship program included frequent meetings between students and First Meetings staff, mental health check-ins and a stipend to help mitigate the lack of in-person work opportunities available, he said.

“Creating an environment that encourages mentorship is a vital step to ensure your online internship is a successful one,” Davis said. “If an internship does not include set mentorship programs, students should reach out to professionals at the company and ask for advice on how to find an appropriate mentor.”

In addition to employers thinking about how to build connections between supervisors and students, Hora, the report’s co-author, recommends that colleges start engaging more with companies to discuss how to design meaningful learning experiences. Problem-based learning, where students are given a real-world problem to solve, works particularly well for internships and benefits both the employer and the intern, Hora said.

The study highlights an employer called TreeHouse Foods that offers an online internship program that Hora and his colleagues feel is particularly well designed. Unlike some other employers, TreeHouse Foods treats its online internships as an important recruitment pipeline—not something they are doing as a service or to find cheap labor, according to Hora.

Before the pandemic, the number of online internships was growing, Hora said. He expects online internships to continue to grow as companies gain experience operating remotely. That said, there are some professions that are unlikely to transition to fully online internships.

“I don’t think we’ll see many welding internships move online, for example—or at least I hope we don’t,” Hora said. There are some experiences that will remain important to have in person, particularly for hands-on and STEM-based professions.

Over the past five years, online recruitment platform Handshake has also seen the number of remote internships available to college students increase, said Christine Cruzvergara, chief education strategy officer at the company. She said that employers appear to now be engaging in a more deliberate “remote-first internship strategy.”

“Between 2019 and 2020, the number of remote learning internship postings on Handshake increased almost 500 percent,” Cruzvergara said. “Looking into the future, it is clear that COVID-19 has made a lasting impact on the way employers and students conduct internships, prompting employers to build the infrastructure and systems to support remote arrangements.”

Employers are realizing that online internships and online recruiting more broadly can help them expand their candidate pool and diversify their teams, said Cruzvergara. Employers can now “truly include those qualified and not just those who have the means to travel and live somewhere different for three months,” she said.

Though Hora acknowledges that online internships could help to plug equity and opportunity gaps for students from lower-income backgrounds or who are unable to travel, he says there is little evidence so far that online internships are particularly beneficial to students, nor that they are leveling the playing field.

Students who completed online internships in the past year tended to be from wealthier families and have higher grade point averages than their peers. They also tended not to be first-generation students or students who are studying STEM subjects. Hora and his colleagues plan to look further at these demographics and examine more data on online internships as part of the upcoming National Survey of College Internships, which is due to launch in October.

“While remote work and online internships will remain a reality for many professions and sectors, it is clear that colleges and universities need to work with employers to ensure they are as effective learning experiences as an in-person position,” Hora said in a statement accompanying the release of the study.

“Until then,” Hora continued, “the online internship should be viewed with caution as a form of experiential learning—one with great potential to reach thousands of students unable to take an in-person position, but something that is clearly a work in progress.”

Wisconsin schools look to continue, expand future virtual options

April 22, 2021   |   By Amanda St. Hilaire, Fox 6 Milwaukee

From Fox 6 Milwaukee

Students across Wisconsin had no choice when school buildings shut down one year ago. Now, even as school districts point to the rapid shift to virtual learning as a factor in declining academic performance, administrators are exploring the idea of expanding future online learning.

“Districts that are able to get on top of that more quickly will be much better positioned to meet families’ needs,” Wisconsin Center for Education Research scientist Dr. Bradley Carl said. “And conversely, districts that don’t get going with that are going to lose enrollment.”

The demand for virtual

Public records from the ten largest school districts in southeast Wisconsin show grades took a hit across the board during the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year, even in the districts among the first to offer fully in-person options.

Interactive map

While there are several reasons, with unique factors in each districts, administrators say the sudden shift to at-home and virtual learning in March 2020 played a role.

“I don’t think it’s so much that there’s something inherently awed about virtual learning,” Carl said. “We had large numbers of teachers that, with very little preparation, suddenly had to take everything that they had done for a period of years in an in-person environment were told, ‘Now you have to deliver this with very little preparation.’”

“It’s harder to engage students meaningfully in virtual environments,” Carl continued. “And the speed at which we were asked collectively, K-12 in particular, to ramp this up and scale this up was not conducive to delivering the most engaging kind of content.”

Carl cites research showing before the pandemic, demand for virtual learning was steadily increasing. However, he points out those were courses designed for online with teachers who were used to the platform. In other words, pre-pandemic virtual learning was a far cry from what most Wisconsin students got when buildings shut down. Some students saw noticeable declines in their grades; some, like West AllisWest Milwaukee freshman Izabella Barrera, did well academically but still found it more challenging to stay on top of her grades.

“While I was in virtual, my motivation really went down,” Izabella said. “It plummeted. And that was one of the reasons why I went to in-person once I had the choice.”

But some students say they like the freedom of learning virtually. For other families, virtual allows them to mitigate the risks of health concerns.

Racine Unified School District senior Hailey Mattek says virtual learning took a toll on her mental health, but she chose to remain virtual once the school district gave her the choice to go back to in-person learning. “I have two parents that are both high-risk, and I took it very seriously,” Mattek said. “I made a decision to keep my family safe.”

“We had several family members who suffered from this disease and several family members that died from this disease,” Adija Greer Smith, whose sons attended Milwaukee Public Schools and Mequon-Thiensville this year. “So the emotions of the decision, with the risk of him going to a place where he could bring it home and having an elderly grandmother who is already extremely ill having to make those hard decisions was something that we had to do and we had to look at it from a safety perspective, with the hopes and the prayers that his academics would not completely fail.”

Carl says going forward, the key will be whether districts can offer quality virtual options so they don’t lose families like Greer Smith’s; she says she moved out of MPS school district because she was dissatisfied with the resources available to her son during online learning. “A parent should not have to go to going to the extreme of trying to move into an area just so that their children can have a quality education,” Greer Smith said.

What does the future look like?

In interviews with FOX6, Kenosha, West Allis-West Milwaukee, West Bend, and Sheboygan school district administrators all brought up continuing, and in some cases expanding, virtual options for students next year.

“Throughout everything, we’ve tried to preserve and protect choice for our families and our students,” West Bend superintendent Jennifer Wimmer said.

“Our superintendent and leadership is not operating with the notion of getting back to what it was,” Kenosha Unified School District Chief Information Officer Kris Keckler said. “We don’t think it will ever be that way again.”

Keckler provided FOX6 with additional student performance data, including numbers showing a higher amount of virtual students failing classes than students who chose the hybrid option.

“I think a lot of parents are going, ’Well, then why even continue with the virtual option when the pandemic is over?’” FOX6 reporter Amanda St. Hilaire asked.

Keckler, who previously served as a virtual school principal, said the current data reects a quick switch to online learning; the goal is to provide a more stable, planned virtual option that could benefit students who learn well in that format down the road. “Knowing that it’s not for everybody, I’m not going to make a blanket statement to say virtual education failed everybody,” Keckler said. “That’s not it.”

“I’d be hard-pressed to say that if a student was failing virtually right now, that we banish them to never operate virtually again,” Keckler added. “In the same sense that we’ve had students that fail horribly in person but we don’t tell them that they can’t come in person anymore.”

Classroom stability

As school districts plan future virtual options, one challenge will be ensuring they choose a model that is sustainable for both families and educators.

“My concern is these teachers are going to get burned out,” Oak Creek-Franklin parent Jennifer Heiges said.

For the last year, teachers have been rapidly shifting platforms while trying to keep students engaged. They’re already tasked with revamping curriculum next year to catch up struggling learners, all while trying to help students manage increasing mental health issues.

As districts started to give families choices of virtual or in-person learning, the result was often teaching students face-to-face and behind screens simultaneously. “It felt like the work hours became longer than just that eight-hour day, where kids were able to access you late into the night and early in the morning, whenever they needed,” Waukesha South High School instructional coach Alyssa Behrendt said. “And the managing of both students at home and students in front of you was a big learning curve for everyone.”

“Teachers are having to do so much more work this year,” Behrendt added. “And it’s good work in that they would do it for the kids and we are always keeping the kids at the front. But it’s a lot, yeah. You have the re-teaching the current curriculum, you have the students who are always virtual, you have the kids that are coming face to face and it is definitely a lot to manage.”

“How do you avoid burnout?” FOX6 reporter Amanda St. Hilaire asked.

Behrendt paused, then laughed.

“It’s been impossible this year,” she said. “Honestly, I think that everybody has hit the wall at some point and needed to take a step away…this has been the longest school year of my life. It’s also been a very powerful school year in seeing the resilience of students and sta. It’s one of those situations where we only come out of this stronger.”

Administrators like Keckler say they recognize the challenges of simultaneously teaching in multiple formats, and hope to iron out solutions as they figure out how to expand virtual options.

“This will ripple for years to come,” Keckler said.

New projects study root causes of inequalities and how to reduce their effects

April 15, 2021   |   By Natasha Kassulke, UW-Madison News

​From UW-Madison News

Fifteen projects — from improving doctor-patient communications for high-risk patients, to using data to understand racial differences in how Americans handle civil legal problems, to better understanding the factors that influence success and well-being of Hmong-American students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison — have been chosen for the Understanding and Reducing Inequalities Initiative.

The projects were selected from 73 proposals. The initiative is funded by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

“The proposals we received are evidence of the exceptionally wide breadth of research on our campus targeting inequalities based on factors such as race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation and geography,” says Lonnie Berger, associate vice chancellor for research in the social sciences. “The projects will help build a body of evidence that can contribute to addressing these varied and complex inequalities with implications for reducing both them and their ill effects. They stand to produce real-world, actionable knowledge about how programs, policies and practices can be leveraged to reduce inequalities in U.S. society.”

The initiative is designed to support research that moves beyond scholarship that just describes the causes and consequences of inequalities; the emphasis is also on producing real-word, evidence-based solutions for reducing a host of inequalities on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, economic standing, language, minority status, country of origin and immigration status.

The chosen projects rely on a variety of methods ranging from surveys, field experiments and in-depth interviews to collect new data and on analyzing existing data, evaluating training programs and assessing case studies.

“Although inequality is pervasive, these projects provide innovative ideas about how to meet some of society’s greatest challenges. The research portfolio supported by this initiative is broadly interdisciplinary, drawing on ideas and tools from sociology, psychology, pharmacy, education, law and beyond,” says Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “These projects will greatly enhance the UW­–Madison research landscape in an area of critical societal need and engage with our broader communities in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea.”

For example, one project — Doctor-Patient Communication and Shared Decision Making with High-Risk Patients — examines how to improve communication between white doctors and patients of color and how to build patients’ trust in their doctor.

A second project — Race, Class and Gender Inequality and Access to Civil Justice — launches a pilot designed to understand racial differences in how Americans handle civil legal problems, why they do and do not turn to law, and with what outcomes. The project speaks to the growing effort to stimulate a movement to reform American civil justice, potentially mirroring on the civil side the robust and influential movement to reform America’s criminal justice system.

Another project — Essential Immigrant Workers, Inequality and COVID-19 —

builds on a partnership with the Milwaukee-based community organization Voces de la Frontera to examine occupational health and safety issues and housing insecurity by training research assistants and members of the communities most directly affected to document problems and generate knowledge that can contribute to solutions. The project further addresses threats to health and safety that essential immigrant workers have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the home and in the workplace.

A fourth project — Amplifying Marginalized Voices in Public Deliberation: Inclusive Community Conversations About Inequities in Partnership with Journalists and J-School — partners with the national nonprofit Local Voices Network to assess whether training journalists and journalism students in reaching out and facilitating discussions with marginalized groups can amplify these groups’ voices in public dialogues about the inequities to which they are disproportionately subjected.

Research grants were supported in two categories: projects less than $100,000, and those up to a maximum of $250,000.

The projects and their principal investigators and co-PIs are:

Amplifying Marginalized Voices in Public Deliberation: Inclusive Community Conversations About Inequities in Partnership with Journalists and J-Schools
Susan Robinson, professor of journalism and mass communications

Doctor-Patient Communication and Shared Decision Making with High-Risk Patients
Markus Brauer, professor of psychology

Understanding and Reducing Inequalities During the COVID-19 Crisis
Christine Durrance, associate professor in the La Follette School of Public Affairs
Jessica Pac, assistant professor of social work
Deborah Ehrenthal, professor of population health sciences and obstetrics/gynecology

Psychedelic Outcomes: Interaction of Environment, Self-Identity and Success
Cody Wenthur, assistant professor of pharmacy

Transgender, Two-Spirit, and Nonbinary Populations
Stephanie Budge, associate professor of counseling psychology

Essential Immigrant Workers, Inequality and COVID-19
Armando Ibarra, associate professor with the School for Workers
Carolina Sarmiento, assistant professor of civil society and community studies
Revel Sims, assistant professor of planning and landscape architecture

Reducing STEMM Inequality Via Culturally Aware Mentoring
Angela Byars-Winston, professor of medicine
Christine Pfund, senior scientist for the Wisconsin Center for Education Research

The Foundational Inequality — Race Differences in Equal Opportunity in the United States
Jason Fletcher, professor in the La Follette School of Public Affairs
Eric Grodsky, professor of sociology

Impacts of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Intergenerational Health Mobility
Yang Wang, associate professor in the La Follette School of Public Affairs
Katie Jajtner, assistant scientist for the Center for Demography of Health and Aging

Teaching Local Socio-Scientific Issues to Latinx English Learners
Diego Roman, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction

Understanding and Reducing Inequalities in Higher Education: Lessons from Hmong American College Student-Engaged Participatory Action Research
Matthew Hora, assistant professor of liberal arts and applied studies
Stacey J. Lee, professor of educational policy studies
Bailey Smolarek, associate researcher for the Wisconsin Center for Education Research
Matthew Wolfgram, associate researcher for the Wisconsin Center for Education Research

Using Social Policy to Promote Financial Inclusion: Minimum Wage Policies and Families’ Access to Financial Services
Megan Bea, assistant professor of human ecology

A Parent-Led Intervention to Reduce Children’s Racial Biases
Patricia Devine, professor of psychology
Kristin Shutts, professor of psychology
Colleen Halliday, professor at the Medical University of South Carolina

Race, Class, and Gender Inequality and Access to Civil Justice
Tonya Brito, professor of law

Understanding and Preventing the Reproduction of Gender and Racial Inequalities in the Big Data Era
Kangwook Lee, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering
Eunsil Oh, assistant professor of sociology

Report: Outcomes-Based Funding Models Need to be Made More Equitable

April 7, 2021   |   By Sara Weissman, Diverse Issues in Higher Education

​From Diverse Issues in Higher Education

More than 30 states have outcomes-based funding models, which allocate money to colleges and universities at least partly based on various metrics for student success. But a new report by The Education Trust – examining outcomes-based funding formulas across the country from 2017 to 2020 – argues that these models perpetuate inequities in the ways they’re currently designed.

For one thing, these formulas often penalize underresourced institutions, creating a cyclical “self-fulfilling prophecy,” noted co-author Dr. Kalya C. Elliott, the Education Trust’s interim director for higher education policy.

“…Institutions that do the lion’s share of serving students of color and low-income students – and already have fewer resources – continue to receive fewer resources and smaller allocations through the outcomes-based funding model, giving them less and forcing them to do more with less,” Elliott said.

In particular, research shows minority serving institutions, like historically Black colleges and universities, “tended to lose more money” in states using these models, compared to their predominantly White counterparts, said Dr. Nicholas Hillman, associate professor of educational leadership and policy analysis and director of the Student Success Through Applied Research Lab at University of Wisconsin. He co-authored a 2018 study called “The Equity Implications of Paying for Performance in Higher Education.”

In Tennessee, for example, he found that Tennessee State University, the state’s only HBCU, gained virtually no new funding since a performance-based funding model was put in place, while other campuses made significant gains.

“That was, I guess, on some level, not at all surprising because a lot of these formulas at the time didn’t try to make any adjustments for students’ race or ethnicity or the profile of students served by colleges,” Hillman said.

The Education Trust report suggests that, overall, performance-based funding models still neglect to sufficiently measure and incentivize positive outcomes for low-income students and students of color.

It found that 26 states base funding partly on whether institutions are increasing success for students from low-income families. But only 19 states include success metrics for students of color. A mere six states incorporate minority student enrollment as a part of their formula, and only four states include or allow a measure for campus racial climate.

To Elliott, that’s a significant omission.

“Entry and exit, enrollment and completion, are the bookends of a students’ experience,” she said. “What happens in between is incredibly important, and what happens in between captures their lived, day-to-day experience. We think it’s important that institutions provide campuses that are safe, that are welcoming, that are inclusive and that prepare students to engage with their peers and in their careers in ways that are based in equity and justice.”

In the absence of an equity focus in these formulas, the report points to cases where universities actually became more selective, decreasing their low-income student and minority student enrollment, or pushed students toward associate and certificate degrees, rather than bachelor’s degrees, to keep success metrics up.

To avoid this, Elliott recommends states bake equity into their success measures, but that’s just a start.

“A state has to have the right metrics, it has to have the right funding and it has to have the right implementation,” she said. “There are states that have equity metrics for race but are assigning so little funding through the system that it’s not enough to actually incentivize changes in institutional behavior and it’s not enough to actually give institutions enough resources to invest in the type of student success models that would improve completion.”

The report lays out a detailed step-by-step guide to designing – and implementing – more equitable and stable outcomes-based funding models. It advocates for mandatory equity metrics that include race and socioeconomic status, giving extra weight for enrollment of low-income students and students of color and incentivizing a positive racial climate.

It also calls on states to reward schools making incremental progress toward larger student success goals and to give them a grace period to adjust to new requirements, so underresourced institutions can build up their capacity.

The report asserts that, to do this, state-level officers need to be diverse, seek input from the schools disproportionately serving underrepresented students and invest in their student supports, among other strategies.

Outcomes-based funding formulas can be a powerful tool for change, Elliott said, if crafted correctly.

Discussions about outcomes-based funding “can be narrowly focused on graduation or completion as success, and this report was an opportunity to broaden that …” she said. “Outcomes-based funding can broaden the definition of student success to make sure the institutions that are serving low-income students and students of color have the resources they need to do so.”

For Hillman, looking at performance-based funding through an equity lens, as this report does, feels like a “natural evolution” for policymakers and an opportunity to jumpstart a “growth process.”

“I’m so excited that the field is warming up to these conversations and having these conversations,” he said. “I don’t think a few years ago we would be talking about this … Metrics are socially constructed. They’re politically constructed. Metrics by themselves are not fair. There are people making choices about what metrics go into these models. [And] these models should be reflecting on the distribution of who benefits and who’s burdened by the formula.”

The School of Education Sponsors Lecture Promoting Ideals of Antiracism

March 25, 2021   |   By St. John's University

​From St. John’s University

Our society faces many concurrent challenges in addition to the COVID-19 outbreak. Anti-Black racism, the threat of financial collapse, and the frequency of environmental disasters often co-exist. Taken together, these four crises have a devastating effect on the nation’s young people of color who confront a variety of daily fears, including eviction, poor air and water quality, racism, and food insecurity.

That was the message conveyed by Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D., during her virtual lecture, “Developing Asset-Based Approaches to Address Racial Trauma in K–12 Schools.” The lecture, sponsored by The School of Education, primarily sought to define how institutions and individuals can adopt the tenets of antiracism. Dr. Ladson-Billings is the former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and faculty affiliate in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

She noted that diversity is celebrated in nature, yet it is something with which humanity has always had a problematic relationship. “Systemic racism and implicit bias continue to help deny African Americans the same opportunities as their white peers,” she said.

Dr. Ladson-Billings added that the concept of race is to rank, or create, hierarchy. “It’s an organizing principle for distributing benefits.” She noted that more African American and Latinx individuals have succumbed to COVID-19 because of less access to adequate medical care.

Dr. Ladson-Billings added that the concept of race is to rank, or create, hierarchy. “It’s an organizing principle for distributing benefits.” She noted that more African American and Latinx individuals have succumbed to COVID-19 because of less access to adequate medical care.
Schools play directly into the racial narrative, Dr. Ladson-Billings stressed, through the use of tracking and ability grouping, special education referral, suspension and expulsion rates, and lack of access to enrichment programs. In order for this to change, teachers, administrators, and policy makers have to take deliberate and affirmative actions.

“We have to get in front of this problem,” she said.

Race does not biologically exist, Dr. Ladson-Billings emphasized. “Yet, how we identify with race is so powerful that it influences our experiences and shapes our lives.” She added that in a society that privileges whiteness, racist ideas are considered normal throughout our culture, and racist views justify the unfair treatment of people of color.

Dr. Ladson-Billings said that racism is not only about individual mindsets and actions; racist policies contribute to our polarization and threaten the equity in our systems and the fairness of our institutions. “To create an equal society, we must commit to making unbiased choices and being antiracist in all aspects of our lives.”

Dr. Ladson-Billings noted that people who do not speak up for Black and Latinx people, do not socialize with them, and do not advocate on their behalf, cannot attest to being antiracist.
Dr. Ladson-Billings promotes the notion of culturally relevant pedagogy, which is comprised of three important elements: student learning, cultural competence, and socio-political or critical consciousness. “At its heart, it’s about social transformation, not about getting more aid or more services,” she stressed.

“No one is born racist or antiracist,” she explained. “These result from the choices we make. Being antiracist results from making a conscious decision to make frequent, consistent, and equitable choices daily. These choices require ongoing self-awareness and self-reflection as we move through life.” In the absence of making these choices, people perpetuate white supremacism.

After the lecture, David L. Bell, Ed.D., Dean, The School of Education, stressed the need for these ongoing conversations. “It is about more than just K–12. Higher education also needs to look at trauma and the challenges with the curriculum. We need to ask, ‘how do we see teaching and learning through the eyes of students?’”

Newly funded research will use biomarkers from blood to understand how childhood shapes risks of Alzheimer’s and other dementias

March 3, 2021   |   By University of Minnesota News and Events

From University of Minnesota News and Events

The University of Minnesota announced today it will begin collecting blood samples from a diverse sample of 25,520 people around the country to better understand how early-life conditions and experiences shape later-life risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The research, supported by $14.2 million in new funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), adds a new component to the ongoing $28.4 million High School & Beyond (HS&B) cohort study and builds upon a $500,000 pilot study funded by the Alzheimer’s Association in 2020.

The project, based at the University’s Minnesota Population Center (MPC), brings together an interdisciplinary team of leading neurologists, sociologists, education scientists, neuropathologists, and survey methodologists from around the country. A goal of the newly-funded component of the project is to understand the biological pathways through which health inequities in cognitive impairment form.

“There is growing evidence that racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in rates of late-life dementia have roots in inequalities in educational opportunities and experiences, childhood economic circumstances, and other early-life conditions,” said grant principal investigator John Robert Warren, professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts, HS&B project co-director, and MPC director. “This new component of the project will help us better understand the ways in which these early life inequalities ‘get under the skin’ to impact cognition down the road.”

The research team will collect blood samples from over 25,000 surviving members of the HS&B cohort—a nationally representative group of people who have been interviewed on several occasions since they were high school students in 1980—to look for markers of neuropathology that are evident in blood years before people show signs of dementia. While HS&B panelists will be in their late 50s when samples are collected, and Alzheimer’s disease is rare at this age, milder forms of cognitive impairment are likely to be more common among the cohort and may foreshadow the later development of more serious impairments. Some scientists believe there are markers in the blood that indicate Alzheimer’s disease years before people become symptomatic. The samples themselves will also be stored for future analysis and research. The blood samples will be assayed and stored at the University’s Advanced Research and Diagnostics Laboratory. The assay work will be led by U of M Associate Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology Bharat Thyagarajan.

The biomarker data is just one part of the larger picture. Using a combination of surveys, cognitive tests, blood- and saliva-based biomarkers, and administrative data, the team will examine how social and educational disparities in adolescence lead to racial and ethnic differences in cognitive impairment at midlife. The team wants to examine how these effects manifest over the course of a person’s life and how educational and social advantages may help people genetically predisposed toward dementia delay or avoid its onset. Ultimately, the researchers aim to inform efforts to develop proactive strategies that reduce cognitive impairments among older people.

The HS&B project is led by Professor Warren (University of Minnesota), Chandra Muller (University of Texas at Austin), Eric Grodsky (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Jennifer Manly (Columbia University). Ryan Demmer (University of Minnesota School of Public Health) is leading the microbiome portion of the study.

Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible brain disorder that slowly inhibits memory and thinking skills, is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer’s Association. About 5.8 million Americans are currently living with the disease, and that number is projected to grow to nearly 14 million by 2050. Worldwide, approximately 50 million people live with some form of dementia.

Population health research is a primary focus of MPC, a University-wide center that supports interdisciplinary population dynamics research. MPC provides an intellectual home and a high level of research support to roughly 200 faculty, staff, and graduate students at the University.

To learn more about the Minnesota Population Center, which is part of the University’s Institute for Social Research and Data Innovation, visit

This research is supported by the National Institute On Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01AG058719.

A year after deadly shooting, Molson Coors has set a course for more inclusive culture — but cultivating real change will take time

March 3, 2021   |   By Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

After an electrician at Molson Coors shot and killed five of his coworkers and himself last February, several employees at Milwaukee’s iconic brewery spoke up.

They told news outlets about racism they’d experienced on the job, and supervisors who didn’t seem to take meaningful action against it.

The Milwaukee Police Department said its investigation found racism likely was not the main motive of the gunman Anthony Ferrill, who was Black. He had been exhibiting paranoia and erratic behavior for about three years before the shooting.

But as reports of a racist workplace climate surfaced — including that a noose was placed on or in Ferrill’s locker five years prior — Molson Coors leadership acknowledged they had “more work to do.”

“We aren’t going to shy away from our responsibility to take a deep look at our own culture following this event,” Adam Collins, chief communications and corporate affairs officer, said shortly after the Feb. 26 shooting.

That Wednesday afternoon, close to shift-change, Ferrill shot and killed Dale Hudson, 60, of Waukesha; Gennady “Gene” Levshetz, 61, of Mequon; Dana Walk, 57, of Delafield; Trevor Wetselaar, 33, of Milwaukee and Jesus “Jesse” Valle Jr., also 33 and from Milwaukee.

On Friday, the one-year anniversary, brewery workers planned to hold a moment of silence at the start of each shift to remember the victims of the tragedy that shook Milwaukee.

In the 12 months since the shooting, Molson Coors says it has hired a consulting firm to review its policies, pledged to hire more people of color and given employees more opportunities to share criticism and feedback — work executives say they know must continue.

But efforts to speak to current employees about their experience were unsuccessful.

An expert in workplace discrimination and diversity said lasting change requires a hard look at a company’s values and sustained effort from supervisors up and down the chain of command on every part of an employee’s experience: from hiring and promotions to the way their complaints are handled.

Repeated, daily acts of racism at work — like those some employees described last year — can wear people down, said Jerlando Jackson, director and chief research scientist at Wisconsin’s Equity & Inclusion Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In workplaces where employees of color see that harassment is not handled well by supervisors, they might not speak up about their experiences, Jackson said.

Workers who face discrimination need support, assurance change will occur

The issue is two-fold, he said: most workers face both organizational and internal barriers to success. So even if companies work to address some of the structural hurdles, employees might be struggling silently if they aren’t given a chance to be heard.

Each person carries their burden differently. Many people in hostile work environments eventually quit or are fired, he said. “Usually there’s no good end to it, for those people,” Jackson said. “Individuals leave opportunities they spent their whole lives trying to get.”

To create a workplace where people feel comfortable, company leaders must set the standard for behavior, Jackson said.

CEOs and other top executives might not be able to prevent discrimination from happening on, say, the brewery floor, Jackson said, but “you can surely make it known that it’s not welcome.”

Senior leadership needs to put up “strong guardrails” that define what is unacceptable, and, crucially, they must take action when they hear about it, he said.

Those who reported racism at Molson Coors last year said they didn’t feel like any meaningful change happened when they did raise concerns with higher-ups.

One former employee, a practicing Muslim, told the Washington Post after the shooting that he endured taunts for years about his name and his religion. Some coworkers joked that he would plant a bomb in the building.

He didn’t report the harassment because he said some of it had taken place in front of supervisors, and nothing was done. Overcome with stress and anxiety, the man quit after four years, he told the Washington Post.

Molson Coors confirmed last year that a noose had been placed on or in Ferrill’s locker, prompting a company investigation. But no camera footage was available to show who put the noose there, on a day when Ferrill was not working.

A coworker also told police that Ferrill had been called the n-word and a “dumb ape or monkey” by another electrician several years earlier, prompting him to file a complaint with human resources. Ferrill’s report could not be proven and the company closed the complaint, said the coworker, who was not identified in a police report.

The coworker, who considered Ferrill a friend, also said the racism Ferrill experienced on the job was “likely always in the forefront of (his) mind,” but he didn’t think it was Ferrill’s motivation for the shooting, according to the police report.

That coworker had himself reported a racial slur to human resources in the past, he told police. HR’s solution was to keep the two employees apart, and the complaint was closed, he said.

He also said that 18 months before the shooting, several employees of color banded together and went to human resources, citing racial remarks or harassment and “nothing really came of that,” he said.

For its part, the state’s Equal Rights Division said no complaints from Molson Coors employees were filed within the last year. It also said last year that Ferrill had never filed a complaint with the brewery.

Citing federal privacy laws, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year told the Journal Sentinel it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of employment discrimination charges. But Molson Coors last year said there were no active race-based discrimination or harassment complaints with the EEOC.

Molson Coors says it is working to reform its culture and address the discrimination issues.

Leaders must listen to workers, look at core values, expert says

“We’ve started doing, frankly, a lot of listening to our own employees,” Collins told the Journal Sentinel this month.

The company has held focus groups and employee town halls on diversity and inclusion, and staff are sent quarterly surveys about the efforts.
Jackson said listening is a key first step. It’s important for leaders to hear and understand the experiences of those who have faced discrimination at the company.

But an organization also must look at its core values, Jackson said. What a company values will drive its decision-making going forward.

If the organization doesn’t truly value creating an inclusive workplace, “the values will limit possibility, and that’s where we stall, mostly, in our society,” he said.

Collins, from Molson Coors, said the company is committed to diversity and inclusion for the long run.

“What counts at the end of the day is that people wake up and come into work feeling good that they can bring their whole self to work, that they’re not just welcomed but they’re included as part of our culture and part of our workplace,” he said.

Molson Coors’ value of putting people first “can’t just be words on a poster in a hallway,” Collins said. The company has instituted training programs and has created leadership development and internship programs for people of color, among other initiatives, a spokesman said.

After the shooting, Molson Coors hired a consulting firm, Korn Ferry, to conduct a review of its policies and practices. Collins said the company has already implemented some of the recommendations, such as giving all employees diversity and inclusion education and placing a greater emphasis on the skills needed to be inclusive leaders.

Molson Coors’ executives, Collins said, are working to make sure “people know that they can raise any questions or concerns, that they’ll be investigated, they’ll be acted upon.”

Within the last year, Molson Coors also pledged to increase the number of people of color in salaried roles by 25% by the end of 2023.

The company has also touted its goal to spend $1 billion with diverse suppliers over the next three years.

If the supplier goal is achieved, it could be “huge,” Jackson said.

Businesses owned by women and people of color often don’t get opportunities to be part of supply chains of major companies like Molson Coors, he said.

Collins said he is confident the work underway now will continue.

“It’s a commitment that we’ve made. I believe that people will hold us accountable for following through on that,” he said.

As pandemic endures, La Follette staffers focus on personal connections, community

February 15, 2021   |   By Lily Gray and Lauren Laib, The Cap Times


Weekly check-ins have become a staple for La Follette High School’s Minority Services Coordinator John Milton. With students learning virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Milton serves as a mentor, video calling up to 40 students per week.

“Basically my job was created a while back to help students of color stay focused on high school graduation and going into college,” Milton said, “by building self-esteem and building community and motivating them.”

Like many educators in Madison, Milton’s job has shifted since the pandemic began. In addition to helping students of color remain focused on academics, Milton now works to ensure his students’ overall well-being. This comes in various ways — regular check-ins, virtual Black Student Union meetings and being available for his students whenever they need him.

“The need is so great right now that I can’t even tell you the depths of our work at La Follette… especially dealing with mental health,” Milton said. “Zoom has been helpful, but it cannot replace the interpersonal interaction.”

A chief concern for the Madison Metropolitan School District during the pandemic is preventing the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers from widening. Keeping students involved with school through such personal outreach and social-emotional support is critical, educators say.

One of Milton’s mentees, sophomore Yoanna Hoskins, describes Milton as a second counselor.

“He is really passionate about all the kids he sees and he tries to make school a better place,” Yoanna said.

Yoanna is a member of the Black Student Union and the PEOPLE Program, which helps low income and first generation students prepare for college academically, financially and culturally. After graduation, Yoanna hopes to attend Yale, and has been working with Milton to look at scholarship opportunities.

Targeting the achievement gap

La Follette High School is home to 1,580 students in grades nine through 12, sixty-three percent of whom are students of color. The two largest demographics are students who identify as Hispanic/Latino and Black, at 25 percent and 21 percent of the student body, respectively.

Evidence of La Follette’s achievement gap can be found in students’ college readiness scores. Just 10% of students of color are ready for college math, compared to 29% of students overall. Scores are similar for college readiness for reading, with 10% of students of color ready and 28% of the overall student body ready.

These numbers are from 2018-2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Educators believe the pandemic has worsened the achievement gap.

“The achievement gap is very real,” Milton said. “It’s really prevalent right now in regards to those who have and don’t have… WiFi.”

Madeline Hafner, executive director of the Minority Student Achievement Network at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, works with MMSD and 25 other school districts to eliminate the educational achievement gap that exists in schools.

According to Hafner, internet access, home support, the quality of teaching, and degree of engagement all have a great effect on the success of remote learning.

La Follette, and other schools in MMSD, provide free ChromeBooks for all students. Additionally, schools are providing hotspots for students without internet access.

Providing social-emotional support

La Follette’s efforts to mitigate COVID-19’s effects on the achievement gap are not all academic or technology based. La Follette is also putting a strong focus on the social-emotional aspect of student life.

One way in which they are achieving this is through their mentorship program, where students are paired with a La Follette teacher or administrator.

“This virtual mentor, it’s helping us build relationships and (students) can vent to us,” said La Follette Principal Devon LaRosa. “I think that makes us as in-person and real as we can be in this virtual world.”

LaRosa also called the program a “huge connection point” for students and mentors, who are also positively affected by the program.

“We have teachers that have a good relationship with students, but now it’s more important to build that relationship than, they might not be getting that A+,” Milton said. “How can they get that student to survive in these crazy times?”

Valeria Moreno-Lopez, a freshman at La Follette, notices the focus on social aspects of school through the difference between remote learning from March (2020) to now. Lopez said virtual face-to-face interaction through Zoom classes is more prevalent this year compared to pre-recorded classes or discussion forums, allowing for more social interaction.

Yoanna agreed.

“I find it better now because we have Zoom classes, so we can actually ask the teacher in person. We can hear their voice,” she said.

LaRosa said that part of the holistic approach is being creative in how to interact with students.

Teachers and administrators also have been reaching students through their “Lancer of the Month” program.

The Lancer of the Month is a student who is recognized for “taking care of business and getting their work done, or doing notable things, so then they get mailed a gift card to their house,” LaRosa said.

The reason for this program? LaRosa said they’re “trying to come up with different ways to get kids to know that we are here for them and still celebrate them in this COVID world.”

Milton hopes that this holistic approach continues even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

“During this time,” Milton said, “the things that I’ve found to be very valuable is the interpersonal, for teachers, students and parents.”

Using those interpersonal skills are vital for students and adults alike, he said — to not shy away, rather, embrace tough conversations about the issues that matter, such as the achievement gap.

“We have to have more honest conversations,” Milton said. “If we all can sit down at the table, break some bread together and just have those conversations and say, ‘Here is how I feel in that situation,’ and have a better understanding, I think slowly but surely we can change things.”

Celebrating innovators who shaped workforce development

February 12, 2021   |   By Carrie Rosingana, Lansing State Journal

From Lansing State Journal

As we celebrate Black History Month, I would like to celebrate the work of Black innovators and professionals who have integrally shaped our work in workforce development. Today, we celebrate just a few and hope you’ll take the time to learn more about the many contributions beyond this column.

Let’s start with a truly under-celebrated individual in our industry. Dr. Abram Lincoln Harris, Jr. is among the first nationally recognized Black economists, and his contributions to workforce development are broad and deep, dating back to the early 20th century. According to Black Past, “Harris was highly respected for his work that focused primarily on class analysis, Black economic life and labor to illustrate the structural inadequacies of race and racial ideologies.” From the 1920s to 1950s, he authored books and thought-leadership pieces on labor movements, labor trends and economic reforms that would lead to a workforce more inclusive of Black people.

By flipping the too-common question of why Black students struggle academically from what is wrong with Black children, to asking what is right, Ladson-Billings continues to challenge schools, administrators, teachers and pedagogical norms to create equitable education systems.

Just down the road from us, as Western Michigan University’s ninth president, Dr. Edward B. Montgomery brings to our home state a deep background in economics, including a wide range of experiences within the United States Department of Labor, with whom CAMW! works closely. He is now shaping equity and college access for Michigan’s students, telling the Western Herald when he started at the university in 2017, “University is both about education and knowledge, but it’s also about character and finding something that will sustain you as a citizen, and as a human being for the rest of your life.”

And there’s more history in the making to celebrate: A modern pioneer advocating for women in STEM, Dr. Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe co-founded the Diversity Initiative for Tenure in Economics, and founded WISER, the Women’s Institute for Science, Equity, and Race, where she also serves as president.

“This profession is what we make it… therefore, it’s going to take all of us to be responsible to make it a better profession,” she said on a recent Women in Economics Podcast. CAMW! echoes this sentiment. We actively partner with Women in Skilled Trades, an organization that provides resources, training and advocacy to women interested in exploring and accessing careers in the construction trades. And our Capital Area IT Council, under the leadership of executive director Jordan Davis, localizes Sharpe’s focus by facilitating a Women in IT Peer Group, among other efforts to help educators and employers diversify the IT workforce in greater Lansing.

And today, CAMW! continues to work to dismantle structural barriers to achieve an equitable workforce. We strive to carry on the work innovators like Harris fought so hard to have heard and respected. Through programs such as the Partnership. Accountability. Training. Hope. Program and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Youth Program we look to break down barriers that disproportionately affect our Black clients and provide access to education, financial supports, training and other resources to help reduce wage and wealth inequities.

Similarly, all of us in workforce and talent need to know and understand that educational resources and college access are pillars to ensure equitable access to career opportunities for Black Americans. Through dozens of partnerships, initiatives and programs, we work to ensure everyone in our region has access to quality education. By embracing Ladson-Billings’ challenges of antiquated thought processes, we can be more effective and supportive in reducing racial disparities in post-secondary enrollment.

At CAMW!, we believe college IS for everyone, and we believe “college” is any post-secondary education beyond high school. Post-secondary education not only prepares individuals for careers in high wage, in-demand careers, but in turn, it lifts our communities and strengthens our workforce. Montgomery’s contributions to one of our state’s major universities are history in the making.

Today, I celebrate a mere four professionals of the countless Black individuals whose contributions to economics, education and workforce development impact the work we do every day. Because of these industry leaders, we continue to provide programs and participate in partnerships that increase access to education, training and work for Black individuals. It is an honor to continue their work on the ground throughout the years, and next week I look forward to celebrating those making an impact locally.

COVID-19 shows why it’s time to finally end unpaid college internships

February 9, 2021   |   By Matthew T. Hora and Mindi Thompson, The Conversation

​From The Conversation

Unpaid internships are often seen as an important rite of passage for college students. And with good reason. Studies have found that students acquire new skills and networks that enhance their job prospects.

In the years just after graduating from college, students who have an internship are 15% less likely to be unemployed and earn 6% more than students who did not. Simply put, an internship is widely viewed as a “must-have” experience for college students.

However, as researchers who study how students transition from college and into the workforce, we note that it is clear that asking college students to work for free is problematic. We believe the value of unpaid internships is even more questionable due to the economic challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Besides the legal and ethical questions of not paying people for their work, unpaid internships also favor students from affluent families. The reason is that they can afford to forgo a paycheck and the high cost of living in big cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., where many internships are located.
For some observers, like the legal scholar Jessica Curiale, unpaid internships have effectively created a “class divide.” This divide is due to the fact that low- and middle-income students often cannot afford to pursue unpaid internships, which adds to the challenges these students already face in graduating and gaining access to well-paying jobs

Class divide

But during a pandemic marked by an economy with continuing uncertainties and layoffs, these longstanding problems are even worse. Consider that students today must deal with the constant stress of a deadly virus. They also must face isolation wrought by constantly changing campus policies and online coursework.

On top of that, they must figure out how to pay for their grocery, rent and tuition bills.
At the same time, 40% of college students lost an internship, job or job offer in the spring of 2020. Also, nearly 60% of college students experienced food insecurity or homelessness in early 2020, worsening these two longstanding and widespread problems in higher education.

Pandemic problems

Making matters worse is the fact that many students will soon be graduating into an economy with high unemployment, which historically is linked to lowered prospects for earnings, advancement and future employment.

These problems are leading some students to worry whether their hard work and loans will result in not just their dream job, but any job.

Should the COVID-19 pandemic represent the end of unpaid internships? And if the answer is yes, then can government, employers and philanthropists fully fund all internships for students in college?
Some unpaid internships are technically legal if they are primarily an educational experience. But based on current conditions, we contend that the very notion of unpaid work is indefensible.

Ways to pay

This is no small problem. An analysis of 675,594 internship postings in 2019 revealed that 71% did not list any pay.

It could be that those postings simply lacked information about compensation in job descriptions. However, data from our national College Internship Study indicate that unpaid internships are prevalent. In our survey of 3,809 students at 13 schools, 43% of the student interns had an internship that was unpaid.

Research on unpaid internships also shows that these positions tend to be concentrated in certain majors and jobs. A University of Georgia study found that political science, journalism and human development majors were more likely to pursue unpaid internships than their counterparts in business or agricultural programs.

In our own research, we found that 76% of unpaid interns are women and that 55% intern at nonprofits.

Below we propose three ways to make paid internships more plentiful and available to all students.
As the nation’s largest employer and host to legions of interns in Washington, D.C., the federal government is in a unique position to send a message to employers across the nation that interns must be paid for their work.

1. Ban unpaid internships in the federal government

This is precisely what U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, intended when she announced in 2018 that all interns in her office would be paid US$15 an hour. The cause has since been taken up by other Capitol Hill offices and Pay Our Interns, a nonprofit that is seeking to increase paid internships.

To begin funding these government positions, Congress and the Biden administration could allocate funding in upcoming stimulus packages for college students to work as paid interns in federal, state and local government offices. Efforts should be made to find other sources of funding to pay interns over the long term.
Creating tax breaks and grant programs is especially important because many potential hosts of interns, especially small businesses and nonprofits, struggle to allocate staff time or resources to adequately support them, whether or not they’re paid.

2. Create tax breaks and grants for employers that hire student interns

With many state and local government budgets drained by the COVID-19 pandemic, federal funding may be required to allow state governments to convert unpaid positions in state agencies into paid internships.
Nonprofits regularly bring unpaid interns on board for weeks or months at a time. Many nonprofits have also been hit particularly hard during the pandemic.

3. Fund paid internships at nonprofits

Funding paid internships at nonprofits would help them weather increased demand for their services, while also reducing the overall number of unpaid positions.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen inequality in society, ending the use of unpaid interns is one way to help turn things around.

Renowned educational theorist, teacher educator to lead Georgia Southern 2021 Fries Lecture

January 14, 2021   |   By Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern University

Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D., renowned pedagogical theorist, teacher educator and author, will present the 2021 Norman Fries Distinguished Lecture, hosted by Georgia Southern University’s College of Education.

The lecture will take place virtually via Zoom on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

In her lecture, “Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Educating Past Pandemics,” Ladson-Billings will discuss how pandemics provide opportunities for revisioning and reimagining culturally relevant teaching practices. She suggests that instead of “getting back to normal,” it is time to get on to new and more equitable ways of educating all students and creating a more democratic society.

Ladson-Billings is the former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and faculty affiliate in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also served as the 2005-06 president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Ladson-Billings’ research examines the pedagogical practices of teachers who are successful with Black students. She also investigates critical race theory applications to education. She is the author of critically acclaimed books The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children and Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms, as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters.

Former editor of the American Educational Research Journal and a member of several editorial boards, Ladson-Billings’ work has won multiple scholarly awards including the H.I. Romnes Faculty Fellowship, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Palmer O. Johnson Outstanding Research Award. She is a 2018 recipient of the AERA Distinguished Research Award and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018.

The annual Norman Fries Distinguished Lectureship series began in 2001. It is funded by an endowment in honor of Norman Fries, founder of Claxton Poultry. In his more than 50 years of business, Fries built the company from a one-man operation into one of the largest poultry production plants in the U.S. Past Fries lecturers include David Oreck of Oreck Vacuums, South African apartheid author and lecturer Mark Mathabane, NASA director James W. Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Gordon S. Wood, Nobel Prize laureate William D. Phillips, Ph.D., bestselling author Susan Orlean, concussion expert Dr. Russell Gore, and PricewaterhouseCoopers Network chief operating officer Carol Sawdye. For more information, visit

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers approximately 140 different degree programs serving almost 27,000 students through 10 colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit

Taking Action: Advancing Social Justice through the Transformation of International Schools

January 7, 2021   |   By Mariana Castro and Christina Nelson, The International Educator

The International Educator

As we write this from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, with its wintery snowcapped buildings and frozen lakes, we recognize that we are on the Native lands of the Ho-Chunk nation as well as other indigenous peoples. We begin by acknowledging the circumstances that led to their forced removal and honor who they are and their history. We also acknowledge our roles in this history and the circumstances that brought us to and keep us in positions of power.

As educators of international students, the acknowledgement of this history and our positionality is as important as reflecting on the feelings created by these acknowledgements. If our immediate reaction is guilt or irritation, then it will be impossible to use that recognition to compel us to do anything but feel shame and anger. When we recognize the allowances provided to us and the reasons behind them with the intention to have it shape our perspectives, we are more likely to see and interrupt the existing bias and institutional racism that impact our international communities.

In other words, acknowledgement is not enough. Reflection without action can lead to cynicism and to unrealized potential. Nevertheless, acknowledgement and reflection are the first steps towards action and a critical step in the journey of advocacy and activism in education. After all, action without reflection can become meaningless, lead to educator burn out, and even harm rather than help our students. For this reason, in this article, we invite you to engage with us in a specific type of reflection: critical reflection. Critical reflection imparts change in our practice, our beliefs, and our values. It pushes us to action.

We want to explore institutional racism in terms of the systemic barriers, the policies and practices that lead to unequal access and to exclusion. John A. Powell, professor of law and director of the Othering and Belonging Institute (University of California, Berkeley), suggests the opposite of exclusion is not inclusion. Inclusion can be interpreted as an invitation to participate in the dominant culture. For example, inclusion at a prestigious school or university might look like this: “You are welcome into our school as long as you behave like us, talk like us, be like us.”

Powell proposes belonging as the opposite of exclusion. Belonging “…means that your well-being is considered and your ability to help design and give meaning to […] structures and institutions is realized” (Powell 2012, p. 5). In other words, belonging invites the system to change to accommodate individuals and not the other way around. In an international school, for instance, an example of inclusion could be inviting students who are part of the local community and identifying curricular and pedagogical ways to support their learning.

To help us engage in critical reflection on the institutional racism present within our international communities, we encourage you to ponder these three questions with us:

  • Where do you see injustices masquerading as good intentions in your international school community?

Identifying injustices is not as simplistic as searching for a smoking gun. It is not a search for “individual bad actors intentionally doing bad things with nothing but racial animus on their minds” (Obasogie 2016). While it is important to identify the injustices that are clearly unfair, it is just as important to identify those injustices that may occur despite our good intentions. An example of this practice in international schools could be hiring only “native” English-speaking teachers from particular countries. The school may have the good intention of providing excellent role models for language. Nevertheless, the ideology behind “nativeness” in any language is flawed because languages thrive and look differently depending on the context in which they are used (e.g., English used in Sydney, Australia versus English used in Singapore). Hiring only “native” speakers from certain countries sends the message that only certain variations of English are valued, which excludes others, and creates injustices in our schools.

  • What do you notice about the explicit and implicit ideologies and cultural and social norms that are valued by your international school community?

Just as fish are not aware of the water in which they swim, so we, too, are unconsciously swimming in the waters of our own ideologies and cultural and social norms. Internalized racism and implicit bias show up in our norms and ideologies, pushing back against belonging, propagating inequality, and marginalizing others based on the ways they live and express themselves. In some schools, there are norms that regulate salaries and promotions. Some of these norms reflect the value placed upon languages, nationalities, and cultures. Since these norms are based on shared ideologies by dominant groups, they are rarely questioned, but they exclude and create social injustices in school communities.

  • Where do you see exclusionary decision making in your school communities?

We all make decisions based on our life experiences, using what we already know and often including others who share similar life experiences, similar thought processes, and similar procedures to reach decisions. By excluding people with diverse backgrounds in decision making, we also exclude potential innovative approaches and keep people with shared backgrounds and ideologies in power. Symptoms of exclusionary decision making might include curricula that do not leverage students’ languages and cultures as valuable resources or a population of predominantly white educators that have grown up with English as their dominant language.

As you engage in advocacy and in the fight for social justice in international schools, we encourage you to keep critical reflection at the heart of your practice. We hope the questions we posed in this article inspire you to continue this work and to transform our international schools into sites of belonging.

The Humanities & Business Education In an Economic Crisis: A Podcast

January 5, 2021   |   By Aspen Institute

Aspen Institute

As colleges weigh whether to welcome students back to campus this fall, they do so under the burden of financial pressures on higher education that have been building for over a decade. Among these pressures is a question increasingly prominent in media: Given the rising cost of tuition, what is the return on investment of a college education? Since the last financial crisis, this question has often been used to set up a false choice between liberal arts education and career-oriented education in STEM or business. In this episode, we’ll hear why this based on a flawed understanding of “employability” in evaluating higher education, and learn why moving beyond the binary of liberal arts vs business helps students and even, democracy itself.

The Business 20/20 podcast is a series that explores the changing relationship between business and society from 1999 to today. Each episode unpacks a key event—from the Seattle WTO protests to the global financial crisis and beyond—to find insights for the future. Produced by the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program and hosted by Michelle Harven.

Click here.

CCWT releases report on internships at HBCUs

January 5, 2021   |   By WCER Communications

WCER Communications

The Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions, which is housed in the School of Education’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research, has published a new research brief examining internships at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The report, titled “What do we know about internships at HBCUs? A review of the literature and agenda for future research,” was authored by UW–Madison’s Matthew Hora and Jacqueline Forbes, with Deshawn Preston of the United Negro College Fund.

Hora is the founding director of the CCWT, a research scientist at WCER, and an assistant professor of adult and higher education with the departments of Liberal Arts and Applied Studies, and Educational Policy Studies. Forbes is a doctoral student in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

The research brief is described as follows in the abstract:

Internships and other high-impact practices (HIPs) that feature experiential learning are being increasingly promoted at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) as a way to support students’ career and academic success. In this paper we review the literature on what is known about HIPs and internships at HBCUs and how students’ racial identities have influenced interns’ experiences and outcomes. Our analysis finds little empirical research on internships at HBCUs and a general lack of in-depth and critical analysis on the ways that racial identity and the unique institutional cultures of HBCUs impact internships and Black student experiences. We then review contextual forces salient to Black interns’ experiences such as pervasive workplace discrimination, and theoretical frameworks that could inform future research on the ways that race, culture, institutional features and local “field effects” interact to shape student experiences and professional development. We conclude by outlining a research agenda for studying internships that foregrounds issues of racial justice, adopts elements of Bourdieu’s relational sociology, and investigates how the unique cultures of HBCUs influence how internships are designed, implemented and experienced.

The full research brief is available for download here.

Millions of ELL Students Face Prospect of In-Person, Federal Testing During COVID-19

January 5, 2021   |   By Corey Mitchell, Education Week

Education Week

Corrected: An earlier version of this article incorrectly included Florida among the states that develop and administer their own English-proficiency exams. Florida uses the ACCESS exam, which is developed by WIDA, one of the nation’s largest ELL testing vendors.

The disruption to in-school learning caused by the global pandemic this year has hit the nation’s 5 million English-language learners especially hard.

These students often lack access to dependable internet and technology, have non-English-speaking parents who struggle to support their remote learning, and have lost crucial access to teachers and classmates who have in prior years helped them develop their language skills.

Now, millions face yet another predicament: being asked to return to schools to take federally required English-language-proficiency exams amid the national surge in coronavirus cases.

That’s because WIDA, one of the nation’s largest ELL testing vendors, has concerns about the validity of a take-home test and students’ access to technology and the internet.

“My job as a test director, is to say that the score you get from our assessment means the same thing that it meant last year, that gives you the same information so that you can make a choice and decision about a student’s proficiency,” said H. Gary Cook, the senior director of assessment for WIDA. “I have a really hard time understanding how we can get a score that’s comparable to the score that’s not remote.”

Advocates in at least two states, Colorado and Florida, say it is unfair and potentially dangerous to ask English-learners—most of whom are Latino, Asian, and Black—to return to school buildings while COVID-19 cases sweep through their communities.

In both states, groups have urged the state education commissioners to postpone the start of testing season, which begins next month, until things are safe or make the test voluntary for families who are not yet comfortable with their children returning to school. National organizations for English-learner educators are also urging states to postpone or aggressively seek testing waivers.

In both states, groups have urged the state education commissioners to postpone the start of testing season, which begins next month, until things are safe or make the test voluntary for families who are not yet comfortable with their children returning to school. National organizations for English-learner educators are also urging states to postpone or aggressively seek testing waivers.

The reliance on in-person testing is “far too risky and potentially life threatening” and “raises serious discrimination concerns,” Jorge Garcia, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education, wrote this month in a letter to Colorado state Education Commissioner Katy Anthes.

Despite the requests, the Colorado and Florida departments of education indicated this week they will proceed with testing. States run the risk of losing federal funding if they fail to enforce federal standardized testing requirements.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states must use data from the exams to determine whether students are English proficient. Not offering the tests could hold back some students who are ready to exit English-learner status.

The push to delay or forego the English-proficiency testing is part of the larger debate this year over federal standardized testing requirements during the pandemic. Outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has declined to waive testing requirements for the 2020-21 school year after granting states a reprieve in the spring as schools shut down nationwide.

Taking Out the Guesswork

The English-proficiency exams are required by state and federal law for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The scores indicate what level of English proficiency a student has reached and helps determine if students should stop receiving English-learner support services.

Determining whether ELL students still need support and when they no longer require it marks a critical juncture in their academic careers. Students who are deemed English proficient and pulled out of support services before they are ready can end up struggling in school. Taking longer to reclassifying students as English proficient could slow their academic growth and limit their access to higher-level courses that can prepare them for college and career opportunities.

States use the English-proficiency tests to take some of the guesswork out of the process.

Both states belong to the WIDA consortium, the organization that oversees the ACCESS for ELLs tests, which measure students’ English-proficiency in four domains—listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

WIDA, which provides the ACCESS tests to 36 states, several United States territories, and agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Education decided in September not to offer a remote option for the test. Altogether, the consortium tests 2.1 million students annually, slightly more than 40 percent of the nation’s English-learner enrollment.

The tests will not have remote options this year because WIDA and its member states were not confident that all students would be able to take the test in its current format, and that students would have equal access to technology at home to complete the exam, said Cook.

There were also concerns that English-learner students’ parents, some of whom are not proficient English speakers themselves, would be unable to help with setting up and proctoring the test, said Jonathan Gibson, the director of consortium and state relations department at WIDA.

There were also concerns that English-learner students’ parents, some of whom are not proficient English speakers themselves, would be unable to help with setting up and proctoring the test, said Jonathan Gibson, the director of consortium and state relations department at WIDA.
For younger students, a remote test would have been especially difficult to carry out: the entire test for kindergarten students is paper-only and the writing test is paper-only for students in 1st through 3rd grade.

TESOL International Association, an organization for teachers who specialize in working with English-learners, has also raised questions about the validity of tests given this year, especially the speaking portions: with students wearing masks in class, it could be more difficult for teachers to hear and understand what students are saying.

Advocates in Colorado argued that the test results may yield little useful information, given the amount of time that many English-learners have been away from in-person schooling.

The English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21) consortium, which includes eight states, also will not offer a remote option for its English-proficiency test.

The consortium determined that remote testing was not a constructive use of “time given the pandemic circumstances,” Cathryn Still, the executive director of ELPA21, said in a statement provided to Education Week.

Advocates Push Officials to Tell Parents They Can Opt Out

While advocates in Colorado and Florida are pushing for a reprieve, many of the remaining states in the WIDA consortium will forge ahead with in-person testing, allowing for flexibility in the testing schedule by either delaying the start of testing or extending the period where students can take the exam. Testing has already begun in Montana and Department of Defense schools.

In response to concerns about health-and-safety protocols, WIDA developed guidelines on how to administer the ACCESS tests during the pandemic. While having data to gauge how students progressed or regressed is valuable, Cook acknowledged that requiring students to return to class does carry risks.

In Colorado and Florida, advocates are asking the states to communicate to parents that they can opt their children out of taking the test. While the state could face penalties for not offering the test, students cannot be punished for skipping the test.

Advocates asked in their letter to Florida state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to inform parents that “those students who elect not to take the tests will not be disciplined, punished, or otherwise sanctioned for opting out of the tests.”

Illinois is among the states that pushed back the start of testing in response to community concerns. The state’s Board of Education this week announced plans to delay the opening of its spring assessment window, ensuring that no students will take a federally required assessment, including ACCESS, until mid-March at the earliest. In previous years, the state testing window for ACCESS typically ran from mid-January through mid-February.

California, home to about 1.1 million English-learners, will offer remote and in-person testing options for its annual English-proficiency exam, the English Language Proficiency Assessment for California, also known as ELPAC. Most of California’s 6 million public school students are still learning from home—and some school districts have not set a timeline to resume in-person instruction. More than 40 percent of public school students in the state speak a language other than English at home.

California, home to about 1.1 million English-learners, will offer remote and in-person testing options for its annual English-proficiency exam, the English Language Proficiency Assessment for California, also known as ELPAC. Most of California’s 6 million public school students are still learning from home—and some school districts have not set a timeline to resume in-person instruction. More than 40 percent of public school students in the state speak a language other than English at home.

Like California, the states of Arizona, Texas, and New York develop and administer their own English-proficiency exams. Officials there did not immediately respond to requests for comment.