Dropping out: Former students discuss why they left

Peter Thiel, one of the wealthiest and best-educated American entrepreneurs, is not convinced that college is worth the cost. According to his comments on BBC News, student loans are now reaching almost a trillion dollars, and only half of the recent U.S. college graduates find themselves in full-time jobs after receiving a diploma. “Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook didn’t complete Harvard. Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard,” Thiel told BBC News. “When you do something entrepreneurial, the credentials are not what really matters. What matters is having the right idea at the right time [at] the right place.”

Josiah Brown, former Whitworth student, found that leaving Whitworth to pursue something entirely different than what he had been studying was a worthwhile decision.

“When I first applied to Whitworth, I wanted to study Theology and become a youth pastor,” Brown said. “The fall of what would have been my senior year, I got certified as an EMT, and decided to move to Portland to become a paramedic. Completely opposite of what I thought I’d be doing, but absolutely the best decision of my life.”

Brown studied at Whitworth for two years before taking some time off to work in Denver. There, he completed a semester of urban studies before returning to Whitworth. A year later, Brown dropped out of Whitworth and spent eight months in Africa. He said he had no intention of returning to finish earning his bachelor’s degree.

“I had a draw to be doing more action and less studying,” Brown said. “I paused my education at Whitworth because I felt like I needed some more real world experience.”

The National Center for Education Statistics shows that only 28 percent of full-time students and only five percent of part-time students will finish their college studies after taking some time off.

Cody Thompson, former Whitworth student, dropped out of school as well. Thompson attended Whitworth for three semesters before deciding to leave the school. For Thompson, monetary issues were a big factor for leaving.

“I changed what I wanted to do every three months and spent $80,000 not knowing what I wanted to study,” Thompson said. “Originally I wanted to be a teacher, then I changed my major to art, and then theology before finally deciding to just leave.”

According to a survey done by the Apollo Research Institute, more than two-thirds of college students indicated that expenses were a big contributor to dropping out. In 2011, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that the average debt of those trying to obtain a B.A. was $23,000.

“I am paying for school all on my own,” Thompson said. “I left when I found out that I could study way cheaper elsewhere. Now I spend about an eighth of what I would have spent at Whitworth.”

Thompson said he misses Whitworth’s environment and community the most. While he is glad to not be in as much debt, he said it was worth coming to Whitworth at least for a little while.

According to the Apollo Research survey, the second highest reported reason students leave college is the anxiety over missing friends or family. In addition, some students have difficulty managing the stress that comes with classes, or develop resentment over doing coursework instead of something more interesting.

Megan Leary transferred from Whitworth to the University of San Diego in 2009.

“I was very homesick and missed my family too much,” Leary said. “I was born and raised in Southern California, and I was too far away from my family and friends.”

Leary said she originally wanted to attend Whitworth because of its reputation of being a small, private university with a successful business program. However, she soon discovered that Spokane was substantially different from where she grew up, and she decided to return to her home state. Leary will be graduating this spring from the University of San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in accounting with a supply chain minor.

“I know I made the right decision leaving Whitworth, but I also do not regret going to Whitworth for my freshman year,” Leary said. “I met some amazing friends and made so many memories that will last a lifetime.”

Although there are students who transfer from Whitworth, there are also many who choose to transfer to Whitworth.

Michelle Reardon transferred to Whitworth in 2010 as an academic sophomore. After spending a year studying at Walla Walla University, Reardon realized that she wasn’t truly content with the institution’s policies and had the desire to leave.

“I think all too often parents are responsible directly or indirectly for the institution their child attends. Not in my family,” Reardon said. “It was a personal decision. My parents have always acted with unconditional love, encouragement and support for whatever decisions or paths I choose.”

After leaving Walla Walla, Reardon chose to attend Whitworth based on how she viewed the integrity and reputation of Whitworth’s School of Global Commerce and Management.

“I had a family history and connection to Whitworth,” Reardon said. “My grandparents met and married because of this school, my older sister attended all four years here as well as several other family members. Despite the strong family ties, what really impressed me was their business program.”

Reardon will graduate this spring with a degree in business administration.

Reardon said that she would have regretted it had she not transferred to Whitworth after leaving Walla Walla University.

“The relationships I have made and the lessons I have learned here at Whitworth are priceless and worth more than I could ever have imagined,” Reardon said. “Even though this ride hasn’t been without its bumps, I have grown, found love and most importantly, I have found myself. And that’s more meaningful than any degree in my opinion.”

Jennifer Ingram Staff Writer

Contact Jennifer Ingram at jingram13@my.whitworth.edu.

Education spending yields poor results

Due to the numerous problems our public education system is faced with, the federal government has stepped in by increasing funding. This seems like a valid solution, but according to Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute, “Washington spends huge amounts in the name of education but gets almost no educational improvement in return.”

One example of unnecessary and wasteful spending is in the Obama administration’s “Education Blueprint: An Economy Built to Last,” which is a plan to invest $25 billion “to make sure that we can keep teachers in the classroom.” While this may seem good, Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation writes, “More teachers now teach fewer students than at any point in history.” She says that between 1970 and 2010, student enrollment increased by 7.8 percent, while “education staff” went up 84 percent. Another example of wasteful spending is Head Start, which is an $8 billion program for preschool-aged students. According to McCluskey, “the fact is there's no meaningful evidence the program does any good. In fact, the most recent federal evaluation found that Head Start produces almost no lasting cognitive benefits, and its few lasting social-emotional effects include negative ones.” These are just a few examples of government waste. What we need are true reforms that actually improve the quality of education.

I believe that the best way to improve quality is by giving more control to the state governments, which can create more tailored approaches for their students. One viable solution is the American Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act (A-PLUS Act). According to Education Week, each state could choose to opt out of No Child Left Behind and could set up their own goals for student performance, which must be approved by the Department of Education. According to PBS, No Child Left Behind “dramatically increases the role of the federal government in guaranteeing the quality of public education for all children in the United States -- with an emphasis on increased funding for poor school districts, higher achievement for poor and minority students, and new measures to hold schools accountable for their students' progress.” This big government approach has not worked to improve schools. By allowing states to get out of the one-size-fits-all approach to education, they can test new and innovative systems.

Jeb Bush, in the state of Florida, is working on reforms at the state level. He founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which produced a plan titled “Florida’s Education Revolution.” His guiding principles for reformation are, “holding schools accountable for results, setting high expectations, rewarding success, giving families real school choice, and attracting talent into the classroom.” The basis for his whole plan is the “The A-F School Grading System.” The grade that each school gets is not only dependent upon whether a school can get many students at the “proficient” level, but also on whether each individual student is progressing. The bottom 25 percent of all students is given a higher weight in the calculation, forcing schools to focus on them. The schools that receive an A grade get more funding from the state. Students in failing schools are given options to attend a new schools. According to Foundation for Excellence in Education, “While Florida still has far to go to ensure that all children receive a high quality education… these common sense and now proven reforms can spur real improvement in student learning.”

If we want true reforms that give every student the high-quality education they deserve, we must empower states to be more innovative in their approach. By relying on the federal government, we are wasting billions of dollars on failing educational methods.

Lindsey Hubbart Columnist

Hubbart is a sophomore majoring in economics. Comments can be sent to lhubbart15@my.whitworth.edu.

Lecture emphasizes culture’s importance in higher education

Cultural and social skills should be taught alongside academics, said guest speaker Geneva Gay Thursday, Oct. 4, in a lecture given in partnership with Whitworth’s school of education in the  Robinson Teaching Theatre. Gay is a professor of education at the University of Washington, and a nationally acclaimed speaker on the topic of multicultural education. Gay was introduced by Lawrence Burnley, assistant vice president of diversity and intercultural relations and assistant professor of history at Whitworth. The event aligns with plans for a new lecture series under goal four of the Strategic Plan, to demonstrate courageous leadership in an increasingly diverse world.

“The Strategic Plan calls for opportunities to develop curriculum in ways that are culturally responsive,” Burnley said.

In the school of education, Whitworth includes diversity training in preparing students as future educators. But students aren’t the only ones learning about diversity.

“In order for our students to have a good perspective, we need faculty to have one first,” Roberta Wilburn, associate dean and director of graduate studies in education, said.

The multicultural experience Jan Term program has been in place for more than 25 years and has been recognized as a model, said Dennis Sterner, dean of the school of education. This emphasis continues to be extended throughout the campus.

“We need to equip our entire community with intercultural competencies,” President Beck Taylor said.

The topic of the lecture was about choosing course content for an inclusive mind and heart education. Gay addressed a broad range of realities and current setbacks faced in providing this inclusive education.

“I can’t tell you exactly what to do in your context because I am not a member of this context,” Gay said. “Not everyone in your university will ever be ready for diversity.”

In relation to course content in any context, Gay explained that there is a difference between formal and informal curriculum. Formal curriculum includes the academic information distributed through course content. Informal curriculum includes speakers, sports, campus-wide activities and university images.

“In some ways, the informal curriculum, the indirect curriculum, can be more impactful than the formal curriculum,” Gay said.

Within the process of forming a more inclusive education, the informal curriculum must be taken into account. At the same time, the formal curriculum should expand to encompass a more inclusive canon.

“In addition to teaching students academic skills, we need to teach social and cultural skills,” Gay said.

Gay said definitions of diversity should not only include race and ethnicity, but also gender, religion and socioeconomic status. Part of understanding all of these as separate factors of identity is in recognizing that those identities also lead to association within groups, which are also deserving of respect.

“All of us, whoever we are, are cultural beings,” Gay said. “We have to live in this world together.”

At the end of the lecture, Gay opened the floor to questions from the audience. President Beck Taylor asked for Gay’s input on an issue at Whitworth.

“I hear a lot from students who say they don’t see themselves in the curriculum. They feel removed,” Taylor said.

Gay responded by advising Whitworth to cultivate a sense of refuge, reminding the audience that different people need very different resources and support.

mproving on the formal and informal relationships and equipping staff and faculty are all vital contributions.

“Good, solid, deep, authentic relationships are needed all over the place,” Gay said.

Laryssa Lynch Staff Writer

Contact Laryssa Lynch at laryssalynch15@my.whitworth.edu.

Environmental center brings educational opportunities

The first annual Verbrugge Environmental Center Symposium was held at the Scotia House, right next to the Verbrugge Environmental Center, on Saturday, Sept. 29. The VEC is 605 acres of mixed coniferous forest situated approximately 35 miles northeast of Spokane. It is located near the headwaters of the Little Spokane River.

Whitworth is merely the beneficiary of the property, not the owner.

Gary Verbrugge, owner of the property, donated use of the property to Whitworth University.

“So much development and subdividing is going on in Scotia Valley. I wanted to avoid having our property subdivided and developed. I wanted to provide a home for the wildlife and encourage conservation,” Verbrugge said.

He began to connect with faculty at Whitworth and found that they had mutual goals of preserving  wildlife, nature and education.

“It is a big piece of property, one of the few remaining in this area,” Verbrugge said.

He said he likes the fact that someone will be using the property and hopes that it will encourage future generations to value conservation and learn from nature.

The vision for the VEC consists of building a facility that will provide opportunities for research, education and conservation.

The purpose of the meeting was to share with stakeholders and potential collaborators the vision for the property, the progress toward that vision to date and the kinds of partnerships that could potentially be facilitated with the development of the VEC.

Many Whitworth professors, as well as representatives from various schools and organizations, attended the meeting.

Among those representatives was Sarah Pooler, former professor of education at Whitworth, who now teaches at Riverpoint Academy in Spokane.

Pooler said she hopes the center will provide new experiences for her students.

“I want students to connect with nature in an experiential hands-on way, to get unplugged, to appreciate beauty and understand the importance of our role in caring for the environment,” Pooler said.

Another attendee of the symposium was Patrick Sawyer, outdoor educator at Chewelah Peak Learning Center.

Sawyer came to the meeting to learn about how Chewelah Peak may potentially connect with Whitworth in bringing students to the VEC for learning experiences.

Discussions were held at the meeting about research activities and collaborations that may take place at the VEC. These include everything from hard sciences to social sciences and cultural anthropology.

Whitworth assistant professor of biology Grant Casady is one of the leaders responsible for the research and conservation programs at the VEC.

Casady has led groups of students in conducting research and collecting baseline data, such as measuring the forest canopy, measuring tree diameters and identifying various vegetation species, all of which will benefit future research.

“All the research we do involves students and conservation projects,” Casady said.

Conservation projects by Whitworth students include prescribed burns and planting new trees.

“I’ve been very impressed with the college students,” Verbrugge said.

The site is also used by Whitworth for educational ventures. Casady takes some of his biology classes out to the center for field trips and other professors take their classes to the property for lectures. Assistant professor of chemistry Drew Budner takes a chemistry class, professor of biology Frank Caccavo takes a microbiology class and associate professor of biology Mike Sardinia takes a class to the field for parasitology.

Dennis Sterner, dean of the Whitworth school of education, is in charge of the educational portion of the VEC.

“The center will provide lots of different opportunities for candidates in teacher preparation at the undergraduate and graduate levels,” Sterner said.

For example, it will help prepare elementary school teachers by providing them with opportunities to connect with children at the center and conduct lessons with an environmental focus. An outdoor laboratory will be available for graduate students to do research in environmental education.

The VEC is a place that can provide educational opportunities to people outside the Whitworth community as well.

“There are opportunities to bring families to experience and talk about creation, but more importantly to learn about their creator,” said Dave LejaMeyer, the director of development for major gifts at Whitworth and part of the project management team for the VEC.

Masters in teaching students brought a group of sixth graders up to the center last summer.

Through collaborations with other organizations, the VEC will be used diversely in education, research and conservation.

Results of the discussions at the symposium will be used to inform a proposal to the National Science Foundation for a planning grant to establish the VEC as a research station.

“We are working on a proposal to the NSF; if funded it would provide for the planning of the overall use of the property,” Casady said.

As of now, the facility does not have a revenue stream, meaning construction of the facility will begin after a business model is formulated and a master plan completed.

Small projects such as providing restrooms or a rain shelter may be the first steps taken. From there the plan is to progressively add more buildings. The ultimate vision is to have a 16-person educational facility.

“The idea is to eventually have a place for housing so students may stay for a period of time, such as for Jan-term,” Casady said.

These developments are intended to increase Whitworth involvement with VEC and connect students with other collaborations.

The VEC is intended to serve as a learning experience for Whitworth students that goes beyond the classroom.

“The center will provide people with a different perspective in a different place,” LejaMeyer said.

Rebekah Bresee Staff Writer

Contact Rebekah Bresee at rbresee16@my.whitworth.edu.