higher education

"Why not take a blank piece of paper and think about how best to conduct education?” That question comes from a new team at the University of Rochester charged with re-imagining the university. Project Imagine is considering changes to the academic calendar, a reorganization from traditional departments and colleges to interdisciplinary centers, and other big ideas. Project Imagine co-leader Dr. Ray Dorsey says now is a good time to go back to square one and explore if there are better ways to operate beyond the pandemic.

The committee is looking for community feedback and ideas. We explore some of them and invite listeners to weigh in with our guests:

  • Dr. Ray Dorsey, M.D., David M. Levy Professor of Neurology and director of the Center for Health and Technology at the University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Julia Maddox, director of the Barbara J. Burger iZone at the University of Rochester Libraries

A number of area colleges and universities have announced they plan to reopen in the fall. Their plans come with modifications to the academic calendar, online courses, and policies that address physical distancing and safety guidelines. Meanwhile, students, faculty, and parents have questions and concerns about what to anticipate.

We talk with the presidents of three local colleges about what they’re expecting for their institutions. Our guests:

Psychiatrists and mental health counselors across the country say college students are facing a campus mental health "epidemic." NPR reported on the issue last year, and now, with the pandemic shutting down campuses and pushing students to online learning at home, many may face additional challenges.

The SUNY system has created a task force to enhance mental health support and services for students. This hour, we discuss the work of that group, and how the pandemic is impacting students' mental health. Our guests:

  • Kate Wolfe-Lyga, director of the Counseling Services Center at SUNY College at Oswego
  • B. Janet Hibbs, family and couples psychotherapist, and co-author of "The Stressed Years of Their Lives"
  • Brigid Cahill, director of the University Counseling Center at the University of Rochester
  • Stephanie Guilin, student at Monroe Community College, and mental health advocate

In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Brown University president Christina Paxson wrote that it won't be easy, but college campuses must reopen in the fall. She points to the financial, practical, and psychological barriers students would face learning remotely -- especially low income students who lack sufficient access to technology -- and what could be a catastrophic financial toll on the universities themselves.

Meanwhile, some students and professors who say reopening would pose too much of a health risk on campus communities.

So what's the plan? Our guests share updates from their institutions:

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a number of challenges for institutions of higher education. Students are learning remotely, and faculty are doing their best to provide virtual lessons. Some colleges and universities are also facing unexpected financial issues. The University of Rochester, for example, has announced that it is taking financial belt tightening measures.

This hour, we talk with the leaders of local colleges and universities about their concerns, their priorities, and how they see their institutions adapting in the short and long term. Our guests:

Photo provided by Jamie Tario of SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College is launching the Empire Opportunity Program for the 2020 academic year. 

The program offers financial aid and academic support to up to 60 students for classes both online and on campus in Buffalo. It is geared toward working students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Dana Brown, director of the program, said the aim is to enrich the lives of students who may not otherwise have access to higher education.


Inside Higher Ed reports that more institutions now have chief diversity officers than ever before. But what do those positions entail? How do colleges and universities make decisions about the roles and responsibilities of diversity offices, and how do they measure results when it comes to creating more diverse and inclusive campus communities?

This hour, we’re joined by local chief diversity officers who share how their institutions are providing structural responses to cultural issues. In studio:

  • Cephas Archie, chief diversity officer at the College at Brockport
  • Calvin Gantt, chief diversity officer at Monroe Community College
  • Keith Jenkins, vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion at RIT
  • Diane Ariza, vice president for community and belonging at Nazareth College

A growing number of American college professors are changing the way they grade students. In particular, some are engaging an evaluation method referred to as "ungrading."

We sit down with a local professor who decided to stop scoring papers this year and instead, write lengthy comments and meet individually with students. He's trying to change the power dynamics and the grading methods that he has come to believe are ineffective.

We discuss this new approach with our guests:

On July 1, 2019, Sarah Mangelsdorf became the new president of the University of Rochester. She was selected for the role following the resignation of Joel Seligman, and is the university’s first female president.

Mangelsdorf comes to Rochester from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she served as provost. She’s also a professor of psychology whose research focuses on the social and emotional development of infants and young children.

We sit down with Mangelsdorf to discuss her background, her goals for the university, her views on the university’s role in terms of economic development, and how she thinks the campus is moving forward after the events of last year. In studio:

We’re broadcasting from WEOS in Geneva, as we sit down with the new president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Joyce Jacobsen. Jacobsen is the 29th president of Hobart College and the 18th president of William Smith College. She is the Colleges' first female president.

Jacobsen started the job on July 1. We talk to her about her career in higher education, what drew her to Geneva, her vision for the future of HWS, and more.