From the University of Chicago news archives: Obama’s students speak

November 20, 2014

Six years into his presidency, Barack Obama still gets me a few odd — usually very, very odd — inquiries about his real history.

Today I got another inquiry asking why anyone would believe Obama taught at the University of Chicago Law School. ‘After all, he wasn’t a real professor. Don’t you find it odd we never hear from his students? Maybe it’s because he didn’t have any.’ [Yes, I’ve edited out the snark and insults, and corrected the spelling.]

It pains me that these hoaxes continue.  I don’t condemn the gullible for having differing views, but I do resent that these discussions keep us from serious discussions of real policy.  I am troubled that so many people would condemn legislation we need based on their erroneous view that President Obama is somehow made illegitimate by history.  You’d think they’d have learned from “The Devil and Daniel Webster” that we should deal with the devil, even, to improve our nation and the heritage of good laws we build on. Or perhaps they could have learned from the history of World War II, when we allied our nation with Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union in order to defeat a more menacing evil.

Santayana’s Ghost is troubled, too, I’m sure.

We straighten the record as often as necessary.  If we don’t make corrections in these errors, the errors will be repeated, and the devastating results of peoples’ believing the hoaxes will be multiplied.

First, yes, Obama was an instructor in Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law School.  More accurately, he was a Lecturer, and then Senior Lecturer — but at Chicago that does not imply less-than-professorial adjuncts.  Instead, it suggests these are high-functioning, well-respected professionals who pause from careers of great power to instruct students.

The law school put up a page on their website with the answers to the most-asked questions:

Statement Regarding Barack Obama 

The Law School has received many media requests about Barack Obama, especially about his status as “Senior Lecturer.”

From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School’s Senior Lecturers has high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.

That should answer serious inquiries, and even most snarky questions.  It won’t.  Dear Reader, you may wish to bookmark this site, and the University of Chicago site, for future, quick reference and rebuttal.

As with most other hoaxes involving Barack Obama’s birth, education, higher education and career, serious journalists and writers for justly-proud schools and organizations already sought out people who knew Obama before he became famous.  Claims that these interviews do not exist are hoaxes, as are the claims based on the imagined absence of these stories.

What did Obama’s students think of him, and why don’t we hear from them?  Apparently they thought he was a great instructor; we don’t hear from them because critics are Google-challenged, or just too nasty to admit the information is out there. For example, this is from The Record Online, the alumni magazine of the law school:

From the Green Lounge to the White House

Author:  Robin I. Mordfin

When Barack Obama arrived at the Law School in 1991, faculty and students alike sensed that he had a bright future ahead of him. As the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review, he was clearly an accomplished scholar with a fine mind and his choice of careers. And once he began teaching, his strong oratorical skills and his ability to communicate complex ideas made his political ambitions appear credible.

Craig Cunningham, ’93, one of the President’s first students and a supporter of his teacher’s political ambitions, felt that Obama was brilliant, talented, and had the potential to be a great leader. But Cunningham was also concerned about Obama’s political future.

“I did expect him to run for office, because I would hang around after class and we would talk about the state senate,” Cunningham explains. “But after he lost the congressional race to Bobby Rush I thought he was moving too fast, that he should slow down and not run for a different office for a while because he was trying to do too much at one time. And Chicago politics were not going to allow him to do
that. I was worried. And I was really surprised when he told me he was going to run for U.S. Senate.”

Douglas Baird, the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor of Law and former Dean, shared Cunningham’s concern that winning the seat was a long shot for Obama.

“I remember having a cup of coffee with him when he said he was thinking of running for the U.S. Senate, and I looked at him straight in the eye and said, ‘Don’t do it, you’re not going to win.’”

The future President came to the attention of the Law School when Michael McConnell, ’79, a professor at the Law School at the time who is now a federal judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, told then-Dean Baird about an impressive editor at the Harvard Law Review who was doing an excellent job editing McConnell’s submission. Baird reached out to Obama and asked him about teaching. Having already made plans to write a book on voting rights after graduation, Obama refused the offer. So Baird took a different approach and offered him a Law and Government Fellowship, which would allow him to work on his book and would perhaps lead him to develop an interest in teaching. Obama accepted the offer and began the fellowship in the fall of 1991. At that time, he also practiced civil rights, voting rights, and employment law as well as real-estate transactions and corporate law as an attorney with Miner,
Barnhill & Galland, a position he held until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2005.

Though the intended voting rights book ultimately shifted focus and became Dreams from My Father, Baird’s plans for moving Obama into the classroom played out as expected. By 1993, Obama was teaching Current Issues in Racism and the Law—a class he designed—and added Constitutional Law III in 1996.

“In Con Law III we study equal process and due process. He was incredibly charismatic, funny, really willing to listen to student viewpoints—which I thought was very special at Chicago,” says Elysia Solomon, ’99. “There were so many diverse views in the class and people didn’t feel insecure about voicing their opinions. I thought that he did a really good job of balancing viewpoints.”

“When I walked into class the first day I remember that we—meaning the students I knew—thought we were going to get a very left-leaning perspective on the law,” explains Jesse Ruiz, ’95. “We assumed that because he was a minority professor in a class he designed. But he was very middle-of-the-road. In his class we were very cognizant that we were dealing with a difficult topic, but what we really got out of that class was that he taught us to think like lawyers about those hard topics even when we had
issues about those topics.”

Over time, Obama developed a reputation for teaching from a nonbiased point of view. He was also noted for widening the legal views of his students.

“I liked that he included both jurisprudence and real politics in the class discussions,” says Dan Johnson-Weinberger, ’00.

“Lots of classes in law school tend to be judge-centric and he had as much a focus on the legislative branch as the judicial branch. That was refreshing.”

From 1992 to 1996, Obama was classified as a lecturer. In 1996, after he was elected to the state senate, he became a Senior Lecturer, a title customarily assigned to judges and others with “day jobs” who teach at the school.

While the comments the administration heard from students about Obama were that he had a marvelous intellectual openness and an ability to explore ideas in the classroom, he was not the subject of enormous student discussion.

“Most students were not that focused on Barack during the years I was there,” says Joe Khan, ’00. “For example, every year the professors would donate their time or belongings to the law school charity auction. Professor Obama’s donation was to let two students spend the day with him in Springfield, where he’d show them around the state senate and introduce them to the other senators. People
now raise thousands of dollars to be in a room with the man, but my friend and I won the bid for a few hundred bucks.”

“I knew he was ambitious, but at that point in time at the Law School there were so many people on the faculty that you knew weren’t going to be professors for the rest of their lives,” Solomon explains. “We had [Judge] Abner Mikva and Elena Kagan and Judge Wood and Judge Posner. There is a very active intellectual life at the Law School and this melding of the spheres of academics and the real world is very cool. It’s what attracts teachers and students to the school.”

Unsurprisingly, though, he was of greater interest to the minority students on campus. “I don’t think most people know his history,” Ruiz says, “but when he became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review it was a national story. I remembering reading the story and thinking I gotta go to law school!”

“We African American students were very aware of him because at the time there really weren’t a lot of minority professors at the Law School,” Cunningham explains, “and we really wanted him to be a strong representation for the African American students. We wanted him to live up to the pressures and reach out to other ethnic minorities. And we were also very excited about possibly having an African American tenure-track professor at the Law School.”

But a tenure-track position was not to be, although not because of a lack of interest on the part of the Law School. It was apparent that while Obama enjoyed teaching and savored the intellectual give-and-take of the classroom, his heart was in politics.

“Many of us thought he would be a terrific addition to the faculty, but we understood that he had other plans,” explains David Strauss, Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor. “Although I don’t think any of us imagined that things would work out the way they did.” And while students like Cunningham wanted him to continue to a tenure-track position, others were expecting a promising
and accomplished political career.

“I was into state politics while I was at the Law School, so I am one of the few alums who knew the President as both a legislator and as a teacher,” notes Johnson-Weinberger.

“I thought he would continue as a successful politician. But I never would have guessed that he would be our President.”

During his tenure in the state senate, Obama continued to teach at the Law School, some nights traveling straight up from evening sessions at the State House to his classroom.

“But the students never thought of him as a part-timer,” Strauss adds. “They just thought of him as a really good teacher.”

In 1996, Obama ran for, and won, the Thirteenth District of Illinois state senate seat, which then spanned Chicago South Side neighborhoods from Hyde Park–Kenwood to South Shore and west to Chicago Lawn. Then in 2000 he ran for, and lost, the Democratic nomination for Bobby Rush’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“He was very demoralized at that point and would not have recommended a career in public service to anyone,” Ruiz says. “He had suffered a setback, he was facing a lot of struggles in Springfield, and it was a hard lifestyle traveling back and forth to Springfield. We sat at lunch and he talked about how if he had joined a big firm when he graduated he could have been a partner. We did a lot of what if. But
then he decided to run for U.S. Senate. And the rest is history.”

And history it is. Since he first came to the attention of Douglas Baird, Barack Obama has gone from being the first African American president of Harvard Law Review to being the first African American President of the United States.

He came to the Law School and taught hundreds of students to think like lawyers and the students helped him to sift and think through myriad complex legal issues. In other words, even as President Obama left a lasting impression on the Law School and its students, that same environment helped to shape the man who became President Obama.

 

With the possible exception of Theodore Roosevelt, never before in history have we elected a president who had published two best-selling memoirs before running for the office (I’m not certain about Teddy; most of his writing came after he left the White House, but he well may have had a memoir published before he ran on his own in 1904).  Could Obama’s critics at least bother to get a copy of either of his books, to see whether he covered their questions there?

Yes, that would indeed require that they question in good faith.  That may be too high a standard.


Rhodes Scholars, U.S. class of 2013

November 24, 2012

I’ve been delayed in noting the U.S. Rhodes Scholars class of 2013.  The Rhodes Trust announced the group earlier this month, on November 17.

Rhodes Scholars get two years of study, usually, at Oxford University, in a rigorous program.  The program was set up by Cecil Rhodes, the developer of Africa, in his will.  He provided enough money to fund a program that annually selects 32 students of great leadership potential and very well-rounded education from the U.S., and a similar number in each of 13 other jurisdictions.

English: Cecil Rhodes makes peace with the Nde...

Cecil Rhodes makes peace with the Ndebele, Matobo Hills in present-day Zimbabwe, 1896. Zimbabwe was formerly known as Rhodesia. Sketch by Robert Baden-Powell (the founder of the international Scouting movement) (Wikipedia)

Over the years this program trained many of our best leaders and most accomplished people in several areas.  Rhodes Scholars include many of the world’s most accomplished people.  I find it interesting, and inspiring, to see who won the most recent awards, what they’ve done so far in their young lives, and what they plan to do.

Do you know any of these people?  Do any come from your home town, or your alma mater?  Got a story about your Rhodes Scholar studies, or your work with Rhodes Scholars (are you Robert Reich?)?

Below is the press release from the Rhodes Trust’s U.S. arm, and then profiles of the U.S. winners (with photos this year!).

The press release:

WASHINGTON, DC/November 17, 2012 – Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, today announced the names of the thirty-two American men and women chosen as Rhodes Scholars representing the United States. Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and may
allow funding in some instances for four years. Mr. Gerson called the Rhodes Scholarships, “the oldest and best known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates.” They were created in 1902 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. The first class
of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; those elected today will enter Oxford in October 2013.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, candidates must be endorsed by their college or university. This year approximately 1700 students sought their institution’s endorsement; 838 were endorsed by 302 different colleges and universities. Committees of Selection in each of 16 U.S. districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interview. Gerson said, “applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes. These criteria are high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor. These basic characteristics are directed at fulfilling Mr. Rhodes’s hopes that the Rhodes Scholars would make an effective and positive contribution throughout the world. In Rhodes’ words, his Scholars should ‘esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim.'”

Applicants in the United States may apply either through the state where they are legally resident or where they have attended college for at least two years. The district committees met separately, on Friday and Saturday, November 16 and 17, in cities across the country.

Each district committee made a final selection of two Rhodes Scholars from the candidates of the state or states within the district. Two-hundred twelve applicants from 88 different colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition, including 12 that had never before had a student win a Rhodes Scholarship.

The thirty-two Rhodes Scholars chosen from the United States will join an international group of Scholars chosen from fourteen other jurisdictions around the world. In addition to the thirty-two Americans, Scholars are also selected from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (South Africa, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland), Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Approximately 80 Scholars are selected worldwide each year, usually including several who have attended American colleges and universities but who are not U.S. citizens and who have applied through their home country.

With the elections announced today, 3,292 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships, representing 314 colleges and universities. Since 1976, women have been eligible to apply and 473 American women have now won the coveted scholarship. This year, men constituted 55% of the applicant pool and 53% of those who reached the final stage of the
competition. Just over 1900 American Rhodes Scholars are living in all parts of the U.S. and abroad.

The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field and the degree (B.A., master’s, doctoral) chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England. Mr. Gerson estimates that the
total value of the Scholarship averages approximately US$50,000 per year, and up to as much as US$200,000 for Scholars who remain at Oxford for four years in certain departments.

[The press release continues:  “The full list of the newly elected United States Rhodes Scholars, with the states from which they were chosen, their home addresses, and their American colleges or universities, follows. Brief profiles follow the list.”  Here we have included only the profiles.]

Profiles of the U.S. Rhodes Scholars-elect class of 2013 — (These profiles include several of the at-large Rhodes Scholars-elect — for ease of edting, I have not removed them (heck, take a look and see what the leaders from other parts of the world look like).  The list of only the 32 U.S. winners can be found here.):

Rhodes Scholars-elect class of 2013

Clayton P. Aldern

Clayton P. Aldern

Minnesota, 2013

Current place of residence: Cedar

University: Brown University

Other information: Clayton is a senior at Brown where he majors in neuroscience. His work focuses on visual information processing and decision-making, and toward a better understanding of how human memory functions.  Clay is also active as a peer advisor, a journalist, as editor-in-chief of a magazine of the Brown Daily Herald, and is committed to increasing scientific literacy in American culture.  He also conducts research on treatment access for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury patients.

Juliet Elizabeth Allan

Juliet Elizabeth Allan

Georgia, 2013

Current place of residence: Atlanta

University: University of Georgia

Other information: Juliet graduated from the University of Georgia in 2012, with bachelors degrees in Arabic, international affairs and economics, and a masters in international policy. Elizabeth’s interests focus on U.S. policy in the middle east and north Africa. She has studied in Morocco, at Oxford, as well as in Peru, Germany, China, India and South Korea. She is co-director of a tutoring and mentoring program for low income students that includes 200 volunteers, and is also a long-distance runner and white water rafter.

James Bonifacio

James Bonifacio

New Zealand, 2013

Current place of residence: Christchurch

University: University of Canterbury

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Physics (2011) / Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Physics (Honours)

Other information: James is completing his Honours year in Maths and Physics. Fascinated by science from a young age, the focus of his interest now lies in theoretical physics. Alongside his own drive for understanding how the world works, James is passionate about teaching and inspiring others to learn, both fellow students and through volunteering at a local primary school and Refugee Homework Centre.  A black belt in Taekwondo – he won Gold in the 2011 New Zealand Black Belt Championships and Silver in the 2012 South Island Championships – James  enjoys the discipline physical challenge brings. He is currently training for the Coast to Coast World Multi-Sport Championship to be held in New Zealand in February 2013. Longer-term he aspires to contribute to the collective understanding of mankind through the study of theoretical physics.

Jennifer M. Bright

Jennifer M. Bright

New York, 2013

Current place of residence: Manhattan

University: Yale University

Other information: Jennifer is a senior at Yale majoring in ethics, politics and economics. Jenny has focused on the legal, medical, economic and political aspects of urban public health policy. She has interned for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, the New York Academy of Medicine and in the New York City Mayor’s office. She is also editor-in-chief of the Yale Undergraduate Law Review and the president of the Yale Urban Collective.

Joy A. Buolamwini

Joy A. Buolamwini

Tennessee, 2013

Current place of residence: Cordova

University: Georgia Institute of Technology

Other information: Joy graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2012 where she majored in computer science. She is now at the Carter Center working on global mobile surveying tools. An entrepreneur who has founded or co-founded three businesses, she has established a mobile data system for use in Ethiopia, and a digital teaching tool for schools in developing countries. Joy also helped develop a program using a robotic teddy bear to help the recognition ability of autistic children. She has won a Fulbright for work in Zambia where she will work to expand access to education.

David M. Carel

David M. Carel

Pennsylvania, 2013

Current place of residence: Penn Valley

University: Yale University

Other information: David is a senior at Yale where he majors in economics. He cofounded an education technology start-up and performs as lead drummer in a West African dance troup and as an instructor in Rukdan Israeli dancing. He has become a leading advocate relating to HIV/AIDS, including as president of an AIDS coalition at Yale and as a national board member of the Student Global AIDS campaign. He has done extensive work at the community level in a small town in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, the country of his parents’ birth. He is fluent in Zulu and Hebrew.

Louis Chambers

Louis Chambers

New Zealand, 2013

Current place of residence: Dunedin

University: University of Otago

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Laws (Honours) Conjoint

Other information: Louis is completing his Honours in Law and his BA in Economics, with Environmental Management.  Alongside his legal studies, Louis’s love of debating won him the 2011 Australian Law Students Association Mooting Competition; he serves as President and Adjudicator for the University of Otago Debating Society and has co-founded Law for Change to inspire students and young professionals to pursue public interest legal careers. Louis is National Co-ordinator of Generation Zero, a youth advocacy organisation promoting international thinking on climate change issues. For relaxation, Louis enjoys mountain biking, running, snowboarding, rock climbing and more. Longer-term Louis hopes to contribute to environmental and climate change policy, whether via government or NGO.

Natasha Chilundika

Natasha Chilundika

Zambia, 2013

Current place of residence: Lusaka

University: University of Zambia

Current/recent course: Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Studies (2011)

Other information: Since completing her BSc in Agricultural Economics, Natasha has worked as a research assistant seeking to promote the interests of agricultural smallholder farming in the private sector. Whilst at University she served as Administrative Secretary for the University of Zambia Students Union Sports Council (UNZASU) and as Volleyball Team representative.  In her free time now Natasha enjoys dancing, and is closely involved in her local church. Longer term she envisages a policy role, influencing national approaches to economic policy with a view to alleviating poverty.

Aidan C. de B. Daly

Aidan C. de B. Daly

New York, 2013

Current place of residence: Manhattan

University: Harvard University

Other information: Aidan is a senior at Harvard majoring in computer science, with a minor in molecular and cellular biology. Aidan has done research internships at Harvard in quantum computational chemistry, at NYU in DNA computing, and at the American Museum of Natural History in population genetics. He has developed an iPhone app for field scientists, directed video productions, is a book illustrator, is co-captain of the Harvard kendo club, and was coxswain on the varsity lightweight crew.

Christopher B. Dobyns

Christopher B. Dobyns

Maryland/DC, 2013

Current place of residence: Highland, Maryland

University: Cornell University

Other information: Christopher is a senior at Cornell where he majors in African Studies with minors in Inequality Studies and Law and Society. Kit is a Udall Scholar who has studied Kiswahili and Zulu, taught English in Rwanda, worked at an orphanage in Tanzania, developed a curriculum for South Africa’s National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities, and created a curriculum on human rights abuses for a high school in Rwanda. He also founded a company that distributes low-cost energy in rural Nigeria and founded a nonprofit that provides consulting to social entrepreneurs.

Alyssa Fitzpatrick

Alyssa Fitzpatrick

South Australia, 2013

Current place of residence: Adelaide

University: University of Adelaide

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

Other information: Alyssa is in the final year of her medical degree. During the course of her degree she took electives in Vietnam and in Oxford and found both experiences profoundly influential in different ways. Apart from her studies, Alyssa serves as Chair of Insight, the global health group of the University of Adelaide, and served as Publicity Officer for the Australian Medical Students’ Association’s Global Health Committee.  Alyssa enjoys and performs classical and contemporary ballet and performs with, and is on the executive of, the Adelaide University Medical Orchestra. Beyond Oxford, in the shorter term, she hopes to train in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and, in the longer term, to work within the global health arena from both a medical and public health perspective.

Amanda J. Frickle

Amanda J. Frickle

Montana, 2013

Current place of residence: Billings

University: The College of Idaho

Other information: Amanda graduated from The College of Idaho in 2012 where she majored in political economy and in history, and graduated summa cum laude.  Amanda has been very active politically, a leader in the Obama campaign in Montana, as student body president, as president of the Gay-Straight Student Alliance, and as an advocate for LGBT rights.  She has also worked for the Idaho ACLU, an executive officer on the feminist majority alliance, and has petitioned for sustainable environmental practices.  Much of her academic work has been in gender studies.

Julian B. Gewirtz

Julian B. Gewirtz

Connecticut, 2013

Current place of residence: Hamden

University: Harvard University

Other information: Julian is a senior at Harvard majoring in history. Elected as a junior to Phi Beta Kappa, his secondary field is English and he has won prizes for his poetry. Fluent in Mandarin, his senior thesis is on the influence of western economists on Chinese reform. Julian is publisher of the Harvard Advocate, writes for the Huffington Post on China-related topics, and is a columnist for the Harvard Crimson. He also founded and directed a program that connects U.S. and Chinese young people, and has worked for Facebook, and for Alibaba in China.

Rhiana E. Gunn-Wright

Rhiana E. Gunn-Wright

Illinois, 2013

Current place of residence: Oak Lawn

University: Yale University

Other information: Rhiana graduated from Yale in 2011 with majors in African American studies and women’s gender and sexuality studies. She now works at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, DC. Rhiana’s senior thesis won prizes from both of her departments. Her interests focus on the complex causes of inequality, poverty, and disadvantage. She has been extremely active in community service, working for the Yale Women’s Center, New Haven school children, grandmothers caring for children orphaned by HIV-AIDS in Uganda, and in Chicago for wards of the state. In Washington, she works as a health outreach volunteer with sex workers.

Margaret C. Hayden

Margaret C. Hayden

Maine, 2013

Current place of residence: Brunswick

University: Stanford University

Other information:  Margaret is a senior at Stanford where she majors in human biology and ethics in society. Her honors thesis is on the ethical implications of biological conceptions of mental illness and personhood. She has published two papers, has served as a patient advocate, and is passionate about the medical, sociological, political and moral contexts of mental illness. She is also a varsity squash player and a varsity sailor.

Christian H. Heller

Christian H. Heller

North Dakota, 2013

Current place of residence: Beulah

University: United States Naval Academy

Other information: Christian is a senior at the United States Naval Academy, where he majors in history and minors in Arabic. He has interned at the U.S. Army War College and at the Office of Naval Intelligence. His academic work is focused to enable him to develop a broad understanding of the middle east. He is passionate about physical fitness, a marathoner and an amateur body builder; he is proud that he lost 115 pounds to attend the Naval Academy and to serve in the military. He has done submarine training, and attended the Marine Corps selection program at Quantico.

Allan J. Hsiao

Allan J. Hsiao

Kentucky, 2013

Current place of residence: Louisville

University: Harvard University

Other information: Allan is a senior at Harvard with majors in economics and east Asian studies. Elected as a junior to Phi Beta Kappa, Allan is editor-in-chief of the Harvard Asia Quarterly, a professional academic journal, and the only undergraduate on its editorial board, senior editor of the Harvard Health Policy Review and of the Harvard Global Health Review. Allan was also an executive producer and director of the Identity 2012 Fashion Show, and president and co-founder of the Harvard actuarial society. He has attended a summit for young leaders in China, and has studied in Korea and Japan.

Kiley F. Hunkler

Kiley F. Hunkler

Missouri, 2013

Current place of residence: Glendale

University: United States Military Academy

Other information: Kiley is a senior at the United States Military Academy where she majors in engineering psychology. She has the highest academic average in her department and is one of a small number of seniors endorsed to attend medical school directly out of West Point, which will now be deferred until after her course at Oxford. She is a battalion commander and is captain of the women’s lacrosse team. Kiley has interned at Walter Reed and worked at regional hospitals in Ghana.

Micah A. Johnson

Micah A. Johnson

Ohio, 2013

Current place of residence: Canton

University: Yale University

Other information: Micah is a senior at Yale where he majors in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and psychology with a neuroscience concentration. Micah was elected as a junior to Phi Beta Kappa and won the Hunt Lyman prize as the outstanding junior at Yale intellectually and socially. His academic focus has been on brain disorders. He has done research on Parkinson’s disease and worked in Ghana to design and develop a plan to improve mental health care. He founded a program at Yale that assists in public health programs in Latin America, and is executive editor of the Yale Journal of Medicine and Law. He is also a professional magician and was the international junior champion in close-up magic.

Rachel R. Kolb

Rachel R. Kolb

New Mexico, 2013

Current place of residence: Los Ranchos

University: Stanford University

Other information: Rachel graduated from Stanford in English in 2012, and with a minor in human biology. She is now a candidate at Stanford for an M.A. in English. Elected as a junior to Phi Beta Kappa, she is managing editor of the Leland Quarterly and an opinion columnist for The Stanford Daily. She has been active with Christian ministries and in disability advocacy. She has won numerous prizes for her writing and has for two years been president of the Stanford equestrian team, representing Stanford in the national finals. She is deaf; her Rhodes interview included the use of a sign interpreter.

Catherine Laporte-Oshiro

Catherine Laporte-Oshiro

California – North, 2013

Current place of residence: Larkspur

University: Yale University

Other information: Catherine is a senior at Yale majoring in ethics, politics and economics. Her concentration is on Chinese state capitalism and she aspires to a career in public service related to China. She has studied Mandarin in Beijing and interned with a non-profit organization in Hong Kong and taught English in Nanjing. She also served as president of the Yale undergraduate economics association. She is team captain of the Yale Fed Challenge Team, analyzing the state of the U.S. economy. Cate also served as an economics intern for Senator Dianne Feinstein and has been active in the Yale Political Union.

Christopher Linegar

Christopher Linegar

Diocesan College, Rondebosch 2013

Current place of residence: Cape Town

University: University of Cape Town

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Science in Mechatronics

Other information: Chris is completing the final year of his degree on a bursary from Denel Dynamics.  His thesis project has been selected to be presented at the SAIEE National Competition later this year.  Serving as Web Editor at UCT’s Varsity Newspaper, he was extensively involved in promoting the growth of online student media at UCT, and has initiated several internships in journalism and web development.  Building on his experiences tutoring Maths and Physics, Chris is pursuing an outreach initiative aimed at making electronic learning resources available to underprivileged school pupils across South Africa.  For recreation, he is an avid photographer and enjoys mountain biking.  Chris envisages a career in autonomous robotics, through which he hopes to encourage students to aspire to higher levels of robotics research in South Africa.

Benjamine Y. Liu

Benjamine Y. Liu

Connecticut, 2013

Current place of residence: Westlake Village, California

University: Yale University

Other information: Benjamine graduated from Yale last year with a major in biology. He is now studying for an M.Phil. in computational biology at Cambridge University on a Mellon Fellowship. Ben also won a Goldwater Scholarship and Yale College’s highest honor, the Alpheus Henry Snow prize, for intellectual achievement and character. He has extensive public health experience, including in China, the Dominican Republic, and England, and has many publications in neuroscience. He also launched a musical and educational program in the Los Angeles County jails.

Dakota E. McCoy

Dakota E. McCoy

Pennsylvania, 2013

Current place of residence: Wexford

University: Yale University

Other information: Dakota is a senior at Yale where she majors in ecology and evolutionary biology. Cody is a Goldwater Scholar, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and won the Frances Gordon Brown prize for intellectual distinction, leadership and service. She has several peer reviewed publications and has done research projects in ecology, primate cognition and evolutionary biology. She is a member of the varsity track and field team, where she throws the javelin and runs hurdles—and is in Yale’s top 10 of all time in each discipline. She also volunteers for the Special Olympics and sings a capella.

Rachel M. Myrick

Rachel M. Myrick

North Carolina, 2013

Current place of residence: Charlotte

University: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Other information: Rachel is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majors in political science and global studies and minors in creative writing. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, she has written for the undergraduate law journal and extensively for a student magazine. Rachel is also the student body vice president and chair of the student advisory committee to the chancellor. She also designed a cultural enrichment program for children at a domestic violence shelter in Belize.

Kiron Neale

Kiron Neale

Trinidad & Tobago, 2013

Current place of residence: San Fernando

University: University of the West Indies

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Science  (2012)

Other information: Kiron majored in Geography and Environment & Natural Resource Management, completing his BSc with First Class Honours. Kiron won the Caribbean Academy of Sciences Studentship to present his undergraduate dissertation on alternative fuel sources at the Caribbean Academy of Sciences General Meeting and Conference in November 2012. He currently works as an Associate Professional in the Environmental Policy and Planning Division of the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources. Beyond his academic and personal commitment to the environment, Kiron’s interests  embrace the visual arts, and sport of many kinds; as a track athlete he was the 60m and 300m silver medallist at the University of Alberta Campus games, where he spent a semester on exchange.  Longer term, Kiron wishes to contribute to environmental policy development in the wider Caribbean.

Geoffrey Pascoe

Geoffrey Pascoe

Victoria, 2013

Current place of residence: Victoria

University: Monash University

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Computer Science (Honours) (2011)/ Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering and Bachelor of Science

Other information: Geoffrey is currently completing his studies, and does so as a Dean’s Scholar of the Faculty of Engineering. Academically, Geoff’s interests tend toward mobile robotics and he hopes to contribute – at Oxford and perhaps beyond – to transformative changes in technology in the field of transportation.  Alongside his studies, Geoff has indulged his other passion, politics, serving both as President of the Monash University Liberal Club and a member of the Executive Committee of the Young Liberal Movement of Victoria. As a change from robotics and politics, Geoff umpires for the Victorian Football League Senior Squad. Whilst Geoff is unclear of the exact path his future career will take, he is clear that he will be working on ideas and technologies that impact people’s lives for good.

Laura Pittman

Laura Pittman

Newfoundland, 2013

Current place of residence: St John’s

University: Memorial University of Newfoundland

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Engineering

Other information: Laura is the final year of her Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. Whilst on campus, she has served as Vice President of the Engineering Students’ Society, Director of Languages and Volunteers for the Canadian Federation of Engineering Student 2011 Congress, and as a participant on the Atlantic Council of Engineering Students. She was chosen to represent the university as one of twenty-five Memorial Ambassadors. Laura has also been closely involved in a programme to introduce school girls to engineering. Following these community projects and in addition to highly successful research and employment placements, she was awarded the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education Student of the Year Prize for 2011. Laura is a High School volleyball coach, and plays volleyball and football. She plays the piano and violin, and dances. Longer term, Laura hopes to combine her interests in biomechanics with socially responsible business enterprise.

Kameel Premhid

Kameel Premhid

KwaZulu-Natal, 2013

Current place of residence: Durban

University: University of KwaZulu-Natal

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies and Political Science (2010) / Bachelor of Laws (LLB)

Other information: Kameel’s twin passions are politics and law, with particular focus on the relationship between government, civil society, and the international community. An active member of the Democratic Alliance since 2004, Kameel served as Chief Whip for the KZN Youth Parliament (2008-2010), and continues to serve as elected Branch Committee Member for one of the Durban Wards.  A keen debater, Kameel won 2nd Best Individual Speaker at the Pan-African Universities’ Debating Championships in Bulawayo, 2011; was invited to serve as an Independent Judge in the 2012 World Universities’ Debating Championships and has a long history of coaching young people in KwaZulu-Natal Schools’ Debating Association.

Daniel A. Price

Daniel A. Price

California – North, 2013

Current place of residence: Grass Valley

University: University of California, Berkeley

Other information: Daniel is a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, where he will graduate with two B.S. degrees, one in bioengineering, and one in electrical engineering and computer sciences. He also has a major in physics. He has done research in medical robotics at Johns Hopkins, and at Berkeley to develop a new imaging modality known as magnetic particle imaging. He aspires to a career applying his interests in medical devices and medical robotics to address global health care needs.

Vinesh Rajpaul

Vinesh Rajpaul

South African College School, Newlands, 2013

Current place of residence: Cape Town

University: University of Cape Town

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Science in Physics & Applied Mathematics (2009) / Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics (Honours) (2010) / Master of Science in Astrophysics

Other information: Vinesh completed his BA at UCT with First Class Honours and is now working on a research-based Master’s in Astrophysics, with a focus on exoplanetary science.  He has already authored a number of peer-reviewed publications in this area. He is passionate about improving educational opportunities for young people in Southern Africa and in 2010 he raised funds to establish a merit scholarship for students from poor backgrounds, to encourage and recognise hard work and academic excellence, and has volunteered for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town since 2006.  For light relief, Vinesh enjoys language (French), literature and music (piano), “dabbles” in art and photography (with international recognition), and enjoys a number of outdoor activities, including running, cycling and hiking. Beyond Oxford, Vinesh would like to establish an exoplanet research group in South Africa and hopes to contribute, longer-term, to the development of education policy in South Africa.

Joseph W. Riley

Joseph W. Riley

Tennessee, 2013

Current place of residence: Athens

University: University of Virginia

Other information: Joseph is a senior at the University of Virginia where he majors in Chinese, and is in the honors program in government and foreign affairs. A Truman Scholar, and a Jefferson Scholar, Joe is ranked the number one Army cadet in the national ROTC. He is coauthoring a book on Sino-American relations and has done field research on Chinese mineral extraction industries in Africa. He has attended 101st Airborne Division Air Assault school, and Army Airborne Infantry school, and founded an organization to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Fund and to help bridge the civil military divide.

Mubeen A. Shakir

Mubeen A. Shakir

Oklahoma, 2013

Current place of residence: Oklahoma City

University: University of Oklahoma

Other information: Mubeen is a senior at the University of Oklahoma where he majors in biochemistry. Dedicated to a career in medicine, particularly oncology, he has interned at Columbia University and at the University of Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and in its departments of pediatrics and urology. He has also worked in a program for entrepreneurs where he is developing an iPod application to detect concussions in collision sports. Mubeen also co-founded an education program for underprivileged youth in Oklahoma and tutors for children and teens in the Oklahoma Muslim community, and is an opinion columnist for the student newspaper.

David Sherwood

David Sherwood

Western Australia, 2013

Current place of residence: Perth

University: University of Western Australia

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Science (2011)/ Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (Honours)

Other information: Dave is currently completing his degree in chemistry.  Whilst at UWA, he won research placements at Monash University and the Paul Scherrer Institut, Switzerland; and won the Fogarty Foundation Scholarship.  He has remained closely involved with the Foundation’s on-going programmes to provide tutoring for disadvantaged high school students. Profoundly influenced by what he saw of unequal access to high quality education, in 2011 Dave established a not-for-profit company to organise tutoring for over 500 primary school students at 11 remote schools. For relaxation, Dave plays competitive sport – soccer, netball, badminton –  and enjoys camping and water sports. Longer-term Dave hopes to contribute to broad educational reform, ensuring that an individual’s life prospects are not restricted by their place of birth.

Edward Stace

Edward Stace

New Zealand, 2013

Current place of residence: Dunedin

University: University of Otago

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) (2009)/ Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

Other information: Edward will complete his medical studies in the coming year. During the course of his medical degree, he took a year out to undertake research on Bone Banking, graduating BMedSc with First Class Honours.  A keen sportsman, he was invited to join the New Zealand Rowing Squad but declined in favour of his studies.  Instead, he joined the Territorial Army where he was promoted, this year, to Lieutenant. He continues his sporting involvement, hiking, running and playing rugby; this year he won first place in the Army’s Twin Peaks Battle Tab.  Alongside competitive sport, he is a jazz trumpeter.  He hopes to continue medical research at Oxford and, longer-term, he envisages a career in medicine, with the aim of influencing national approaches to preventative medicine and public health.

Evan R. Szablowski

Evan R. Szablowski

California – South, 2013

Current place of residence: Bakersfield

University: United States Military Academy

Other information: Evan is a senior at the United States Military Academy where he majors in mathematics. He has also studied at Al-Akhawayn University in Morocco, and worked on projects encouraging entrepreneurship in Ethiopia, and on emerging markets in the Czech Republic. Evan is also a triathlete, conducts a West Point choir, and was a member of the first American team ever to win the Sandhurst military competition.

Helen Taylor

Helen Taylor

Paul Roos Gymnasium, Stellenbosch, 2013

Current place of residence: Stellenbosch

University: Stellenbosch University

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Arts in Law (2009) / Bachelor of Arts in English (Honours) (2011); Bachelor of Laws (LLB)

Other information: Helen graduated Cum Laude in Law and in English (Honours) and is now completing her LLB. At Stellenbosch, Hockey has taken a back seat in favour of her studies and of her interest in music. An accomplished pianist and violinist, she also teaches the violin and performs in a professional music group based in Cape Town, Camerata Tinta Barocca.  Earlier this year, Helen attended a Summer School at King’s College, London, exposing her to the internal workings of the Royal Courts of Justice and the Old Bailey. This experience has confirmed her longer-term aspirations to become an advocate or a judge. Helen is keenly interested in the place of justice in law, particularly in the field of human rights law.

Jacob Taylor

Jacob Taylor

New South Wales, 2013

Current place of residence: Sydney

University: The University of Sydney

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Arts in Languages with combined Honours in Social Anthropology and Chinese Studies (2010)

Other information:  Jacob’s interest in how culture takes hold of our bodies and minds has led him towards a keen interest in the emerging field of neuroanthropology.  Having completed his degree in 2010, Jacob has combined meanwhile his interests in rugby and China as a member of the Partnership Development Team of the Australia-China Youth Dialogue, and as the China Consultant and Liaison for the Australian Rugby Union.  Alongside his career as Vice-Captain of the national Rugby Sevens team, Jacob has established the Engaging China Project which seeks to promote the study of the Chinese language in Australian schools.  Longer-term, Jacob hopes to contribute to the growing body of knowledge in neuroanthropology, before seeking to influence more broadly the incorporation of empathic knowledge into the way we educate, govern, and do business worldwide.

Vincent F. Taylor

Vincent F. Taylor

Jamaica, 2013

Current place of residence: Kingston

University: University of the West Indies

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Electronics (2011) / Master of Philosophy in Computer Science

Other information: Vincent completed his BSc with First Class Honours and is currently researching the scope of wireless sensor network security. He has used his talents in electronics to assist in the design and development of websites for charities such as the I Believe Initiative. He combines this with a passion for amateur radio as a webmaster of the Jamaica Amateur Radio Association. Vincent also represents the Department of Computing on the Faculty of Science and Technology Graduate Students’ Social Events Committee, and has won the Professor Sir Kenneth Hall Award for Excellence in Philanthropy for his extra-curricular activities. During his leisure time, he enjoys middle-distance running and weightlifting, and amateur astronomy.  Long-term Vincent envisages contributing to technological advancement in developing countries.

Joseph W. Thiel

Joseph W. Thiel

Idaho, 2013

Current place of residence: Boise

University: Montana State University

Other information: Joseph is a senior at Montana State University where he majors in chemical engineering; he will also get a B.A. in liberal studies, with a focus on politics, philosophy and economics. He is the only student representative on the Board of Regents of the Montana University System. Joe was the vice president of Engineers Without Borders at Montana State and served as a student senator. He has done summer work related to the storage of spent nuclear fuel and in biofilms engineering. He is keenly interested in international development and worked in western Kenya on an engineering project to provide water to rural primary schools.

Maka B Tounkara

Maka B Tounkara

Zambia, 2013

Current place of residence: Lusaka

University: University of Zambia

Current / recent course: Bachelor of Arts in Economics (2012)

Other information: Maka won the Citi Bank Scholarship for best overall final year student in economics, and graduated this year with Distinction. During the course of his degree he served as Vice President of the University of Zambia (UNZ) Business and Economics Association and was elected Business and Finance Chairperson for the Council of Hall Representatives. Maka also contributed to a scheme to raise awareness and understanding of HIV within the University community. By way of recreation, Maka is a keen football player. Maka is working currently as an Intern in the Budget Office of the Ministry of Finance and as a Staff Development Fellow in the economics department at UNZ.  Longer term, Maka envisages a career as an academic engaged in policy work.

Andrew Trotter

Andrew Trotter

Queensland, 2013

Current place of residence: Brisbane, Australia

University: Queensland University of Technology / Australian National University

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws (2011) / Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (2012)

Other information: Andrew completed his BA with Distinction and LLB with First Class Honours in 2011.  Whilst at QUT, he was awarded the Golden Key Asia-Pacific Outstanding Achievement Academic Award (2010), the Tom Cain Trophy for Outstanding  Achievement (2011) (Best Mooter) and the Tom Cain Trophy for Outstanding Achievement (2011).  Apart from academic study and debating, Andrew played cricket, acquired fluency in French and Japanese, conversational Spanish and a useful level of Mandarin. Having completed the GLDP at ANU earlier this year, Andrew is now working as Associate to the Hon Justice Atkinson at the Supreme Court of Queensland.  Beyond Oxford, Andrew hopes practice at the Australian bar, whilst continuing to engage in research and law reform to improve the quality of criminal and human rights law.

Katie D. Whitcombe

Katie D. Whitcombe

Arizona, 2013

Current place of residence: Mesa

University: United States Naval Academy

Other information: Katie is a senior at the United States Naval Academy where she majors in Chinese. She is tied for first is her class in academic order of merit, and is in the top 2% in overall order of merit, and is Brigade Character Development Officer. Katie’s primary interests lie in working with the peoples of the western and southwestern Pacific. She is on the varsity track and field team where she sprints and hurdles. She also plays the flute and is a dancer. She co-founded Operation Wounded Warrior on her campus, and volunteered last summer in the Philippines to work with girls victimized by human trafficking.

Georgianna H. Whiteley

Georgianna H. Whiteley

Minnesota, 2013

Current place of residence: Wayzata

University: Luther College

Other information: Georgianna is a senior at Luther College where she majors in chemistry and minors in biology. Annie has done research on Maasai traditional medicine and the distillation of plant oils for that community’s economic development. She has also worked on projects at the nanoscience and nanotechnology institute at the University of Iowa. She is active as a youth mentor, and in Habitat for Humanity and other community projects. She is a varsity tennis player.

Benjamin B.H. Wilcox

Benjamin B.H. Wilcox

Illinois, 2013

Current place of residence: Winnetka

University: Harvard University

Other information: Benjamin is a senior at Harvard majoring in history, with a focus on Latin America and the United States. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, he has done policy and community work with a Brazilian NGO, and his senior thesis relates to race and Brazilian history. Ben is also president of the Harvard-Radcliffe chorus, active in the international relations community, and has written for the Harvard Crimson and the Harvard Political Review. A cyclist, Ben has also logged 10,000 miles pedaling across North America and Europe.

Rachel M. Woodlee

Rachel M. Woodlee

South Carolina, 2013

Current place of residence: Greer

University: Wofford College

Other information: Rachel is a senior at Wofford College where she majors in business economics and Chinese language and culture. Rachel is fluent in Mandarin, and a junior member of Phi Beta Kappa. She is captain of Wofford’s Division I volleyball team. She has traveled in several regions of China, lived with a family in Tibet, and has also studied in Peru and India.

Nina M. Yancy

Nina M. Yancy

Texas, 2013

Current place of residence: DeSoto

University: Harvard University

Other information: Nina is a senior at Harvard majoring in social studies. Nina has interned in the British House of Commons, for CNN, and for the Center for American Political Studies. She has been a teacher and director of Citystep, an organization that provides dance instruction to low income youth, and worked with developmentally challenged youth in Peru. She is also a member of the Harvard Ballet Company and a choreographer for the Expressions Dance Company. While in high school, her family lost their home in Hurricane Katrina. Nina was recently chosen to be the first class marshal of her graduating class.

Phillip Z. Yao

Phillip Z. Yao

New Jersey, 2013

Current place of residence: North Caldwell

University: Harvard University

Other information: Phillip is a senior at Harvard where he majors in physics and minors in philosophy. Phil is passionate about expanding access to education and technology and has mentored in New York City’s Prep for Prep program, worked in the New York City Mayor’s office on a new computer science curriculum, and founded a virtual library that will reach over a million students in India with Pratham while on a summer fellowship. Phil was chair of education policy on the Harvard Undergraduate Council for two years, and continues to contribute to its education committee. He is also for a third year on the University’s educational policy committee, which comprises deans and department chairs, with oversight on undergraduate educational policy. Phil is also a pianist and a poet.

Daniel W. Young

Daniel W. Young

Virginia, 2013

Current place of residence: Charlottesville

University: Cornell University

Other information: Daniel is a senior at Cornell majoring in philosophy and minoring in South Asian studies. He spent last spring semester in Nepal conducting research for his senior thesis on the social activism on Dalit (“untouchable”) castes. His work in philosophy is focused on the intersection of normative ethics and political theory. Daniel is active in the Cornell prison education program, offering liberal arts courses to men in maximum and medium security prisons. He is also active in Cornell’s outdoor education program and sings with the Cornell glee club.

Qili (Cherry) Xu

Qili (Cherry) Xu

Hong Kong, 2013

Current place of residence: Hong Kong

University: The University of Hong Kong

Current/ recent course: Bachelor of Laws (LLB) (2012) / Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL)

Other information: Cherry completed her LLB with First Class Honours, graduating first in her year, and will complete the PCLL this year. She is a senior editor of the Hong Kong Journal of Legal Studies, and represented her university in the 2012 Philip C Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. Following participation in a voluntary programme at the Thai / Myanmar border, Cherry leads a media project to help raise awareness for legal and political activism in the area. For light relief, she enjoys literature, music, photography, and drawing. Her passion for law is borne of a keen sense of justice, and she hopes to develop this in the future as a barrister in Hong Kong and China.

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MITx launches — new model for post-secondary learning?

December 22, 2011

We get press releases in the e-mail:

MIT launches online learning initiative

MIT launches online learning initiative

MITx‘ will offer courses online and make online learning tools freely available.

December 19, 2011

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MIT today announced the launch of an online learning initiative internally called “MITx.” MITx will offer a portfolio of MIT courses through an online interactive learning platform that will:

  • organize and present course material to enable students to learn at their own pace
  • feature interactivity, online laboratories and student-to-student communication
  • allow for the individual assessment of any student’s work and allow students who demonstrate their mastery of subjects to earn a certificate of completion awarded by MITx
  • operate on an open-source, scalable software infrastructure in order to make it continuously improving and readily available to other educational institutions.

MIT expects that this learning platform will enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students, offering them online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences. MIT also expects that MITx will eventually host a virtual community of millions of learners around the world.

MIT will couple online learning with research on learning

MIT’s online learning initiative is led by MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif, and its development will be coupled with an MIT-wide research initiative on online teaching and learning under his leadership.

“Students worldwide are increasingly supplementing their classroom education with a variety of online tools,” Reif said. “Many members of the MIT faculty have been experimenting with integrating online tools into the campus education. We will facilitate those efforts, many of which will lead to novel learning technologies that offer the best possible online educational experience to non-residential learners. Both parts of this new initiative are extremely important to the future of high-quality, affordable, accessible education.”

Offering interactive MIT courses online to learners around the world builds upon MIT’s OpenCourseWare, a free online publication of nearly all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate course materials. Now in its 10th year, OpenCourseWare includes nearly 2,100 MIT courses and has been used by more than 100 million people.

MIT President Susan Hockfield said, “MIT has long believed that anyone in the world with the motivation and ability to engage MIT coursework should have the opportunity to attain the best MIT-based educational experience that Internet technology enables. OpenCourseWare’s great success signals high demand for MIT’s course content and propels us to advance beyond making content available. MIT now aspires to develop new approaches to online teaching.”

OCW will continue to share course materials from across the MIT curriculum, free of charge.

MITx online learning tools to be freely available

MIT will make the MITx open learning software available free of cost, so that others — whether other universities or different educational institutions, such as K-12 school systems — can leverage the same software for their online education offerings.

“Creating an open learning infrastructure will enable other communities of developers to contribute to it, thereby making it self-sustaining,” said Anant Agarwal, an MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “An open infrastructure will facilitate research on learning technologies and also enable learning content to be easily portable to other educational platforms that will develop. In this way the infrastructure will improve continuously as it is used and adapted.” Agarwal is leading the development of the open platform.

President Hockfield called this “a transformative initiative for MIT and for online learning worldwide. On our residential campus, the heart of MIT, students and faculty are already integrating on-campus and online learning, but the MITx initiative will greatly accelerate that effort. It will also bring new energy to our longstanding effort to educate millions of able learners across the United States and around the world. And in offering an open-source technological platform to other educational institutions everywhere, we hope that teachers and students the world over will together create learning opportunities that break barriers to education everywhere.”

Read frequently asked questions about MITx

Tip of the old scrub brush to James Darrell.


Texas House votes to maim education, cripple health care, send the aged off to ice floes

April 4, 2011

Where anyone can find an ice floe in Texas is a powerful question, but the search will be on to find some soon, if the budget approved by the Texas House of Representatives cannot be fixed.

Texas House Democrats sent out a notice shortly after the vote, explaining some of the cuts:

An hour ago, Texas House Republicans forced through some of the most destructive budget cuts in Texas history.  On a party line vote, 101 House Republicans trampled on the priorities of regular, middle-class Texas families. [1]

Tonight, Republicans voted to:

  • Eliminate 335,000 Texas jobs in both the public and private sectors, threatening our fragile economic recovery [2]
  • Lay off up to 100,000 teachers and school support workers, crowding dozens of kids into unruly classrooms [3]
  • Kick 100,000 kids out of full day Pre-Kindergarten [4]
  • Close half of the state’s nursing homes, leaving thousands of seniors with no place to go [5]
  • Create a ripple effect that will force local governments like cities, counties and local school districts to raise taxes [6]
  • Cut off access to financial aid for thousands of graduating high school seniors [7], while forcing up college tuition through cuts. [8]

They didn’t have to cut this deeply into the priorities set by most Texas families.  They chose to make the deepest cuts public education since the creation of our school finance system in 1949. [9]

For months, Republicans have been yelling “Cuts! Cuts!” and they have ignored the thousands of office visits, letters, emails and phone calls of average Texans protesting these hurtful cuts.

Democrats offered plenty of creative solutions that would keep schools open, spare nursing homes from closing, and keep our promise to graduating seniors who have worked hard for a chance to earn a college education. Republicans shot them down one by one in favor of deeper cuts.
Anybody can swing an axe and slash budgets across the board.  Texas needs people who can lead, set priorities, and protect those priorities.

Remember, Republicans chose to make these cuts. Help us hold them accountable for costing jobs, hurting families, and for choosing to sacrifice the future of too many Texas kids.

Sincerely,

Cliff Walker
Texas HDCC

  1. http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=82R&Bill=HB1
  2. http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Budget-cuts-could-slash-hundreds-of-thousands-of-1291051.php
  3. http://www.kvue.com/home/117522288.html
  4. http://www.newschannel10.com/Global/story.asp?S=14368977
  5. http://www.reporternews.com/news/2011/mar/09/democrats-cuts-will-hit-homes/?print=1
  6. http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/03/08/2906285/unfunded-mandates-from-the-texas.html
  7. http://blog.mysanantonio.com/texas-politics/2011/03/house-budget-writers-ok-bill-that-would-trim-23-billion/
  8. http://www.newswest9.com/Global/story.asp?S=14310923
  9. http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9MBC0PG1.htm

Fewer teachers when more are needed, bigger classrooms when smaller classrooms are needed, less health care in the state with the largest uninsured population of any state, the highest proportion of uninsured people.

Cleaver prop from YourProps.com

Texas Republicans chose the meat cleaver over the scalpel to try to balance Gov. Rick Perry's $27 billion deficit. Many cuts appear targeted to do the most damage possible to education and other "liberal" state functions. Cleaver prop from YourProps.com

Prisons, highways, state parks, and other programs suffered serious cuts, too.

Had a foreign power done this to Texas, it would be considered an act of war.  How will Texas citizens respond?

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Historians back Cronon against Wisconsin witch hunt

March 31, 2011

Just the news, folks.  Just the news.

The Organization of American Historians Speaks Out on Academic Freedom and Defends OAH Member and University of Wisconsin–Madison Professor William Cronon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2011

For more information, contact:
Katherine M. Finley, Executive Director
Organization of American Historians
112 N. Bryan Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47401
ph 812.855.7311; fax 812.855.0696

The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), led by President Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History at Columbia University, issued the following statement on March 30, 2011, supporting academic freedom and deploring the recent efforts of Wisconsin politicians to intimidate OAH member and professor William Cronon:

The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians deplores the efforts of Republican party operatives in the state of Wisconsin to intimidate Professor William Cronon, a distinguished and respected member of our organization and currently the president-elect of our sister association, the American Historical Association. As a professional historian, Professor Cronon has used his extensive knowledge of American history to provide a historical context for recent events in Wisconsin. Requiring him to provide his e-mail correspondence, as the Republican party of Wisconsin has now done, will inevitably have a chilling effect on the capacity of all academics to engage in wide public debate. The timing and character of the Freedom of Information Act request for Professor Cronon’s e-mail correspondence leave no doubt that the purpose of this request is to use the authority of the state to prevent William Cronon from freely exercising his rights as a citizen and as a public employee.

Cronon, a professor of environmental and U.S. western history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has come under fire from the Wisconsin Republican party. A longtime member of the OAH and a former member of its executive board, Cronon is the incoming president of the American Historical Association. He has been thrust into the spotlight for his March 15, 2011, blog post and for a subsequent op-ed piece in the New York Times, critical of the Wisconsin legislature and Governor Scott Walker. The OAH Executive Committee believes that the action of the Wisconsin Republican party in requesting e-mails sent by Professor Cronon will have a negative impact on academics who engage in wide public debate.

For Further Reading

American Historical Association, “AHA Deplores Effort to Intimidate William Cronon,” online posting, March 27, 2011, AHA Today http://blog.historians.org/news/1293/aha-council-deplores-recent-intimidation-efforts-aimed-at-cronon.

William Cronon, “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here),” online posting, March 15, 2011, Scholar as Citizen, http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/15/alec/.

William Cronon, “Wisconsin’s Radical Break,” New York Times, March 21, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/opinion/22cronon.html.

William Cronon, “Abusing Open Records to Attack Academic Freedom,” online posting, March 24, 2011, Scholar as Citizen, http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/24/open-records-attack-on-academic-freedom/.

Posted: Mar. 30, 2011


FOIA “request” in Wisconsin could be violation of whistleblower protection law

March 27, 2011

Wisconsinite Jean Detjen sent me a note correcting my misinformation:  Wisconsin does indeed have a whistleblower protection act.  The law protects Wisconsin state employees, against retaliation for disclosing information about wrongdoing.

William Cronon, Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, University of Wisconsin

William Cronon, Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, University of Wisconsin - University of Wisconsin photo

My reading suggests that, since professors are not specifically exempted, Prof. Cronon, at the University of Wisconsin, is specifically protected.

If the University of Wisconsin gives that answer to the Wisconsin Republican Party, however, the Party will argue that it is not a government official prevented from retaliating against a government employee.  That would be ample reason for the state to deny the FOIA request of the Party flatly and completely.

There is another, potentially more pernicious angle here:  The Republican Party in Wisconsin is, in this case, an agent of the Republicans in the state legislature, those whose tails are on the line for violating Wisconsin law, and as Prof. Cronon outlines it, Wisconsin tradition and historical norms.  It’s likely that the Party is acting at the direction of legislators.

In short, it’s kind of an organized crime action.  I think that the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) would cover this sort of action — any retaliation for hire, or by an agent, which creates a pattern or practice of organized crime activities.  Worse for the Wisconsin Republicans, if there were an ambitious U.S. attorney out there somewhere, there is no scienter requirement on RICO actions — that is, there need not be a clear formation of criminal intent.  The mere actions of an organized crime group, even with no intent to break the law, can be a RICO violation.

Even worse for the Republicans, RICO is available for anyone to use.  Were I Prof. Cronon, and were the Republicans to press their FOIA request to court, I’d counterclaim in federal court with the RICO statute.

That’s a nasty escalation.  But in these days, in this case, where a state party organization has gone to the employer of a university professor to get his job after he merely reported history, I wouldn’t take chances that the Republicans would later play fair or nice.

Every step against Cronon, every press release, every statement from a legislator or party apparatchik, provides more evidence of the coordinated effort, and establishes further the “pattern and practice” of organized crime activity.

Maybe cool heads will soon prevail, maybe patriotism and love of the First Amendment will break out among Wisconsin Republicans, and they will retract their demand that Prof. Cronon deliver them all of his e-mails as a professor at  the University of Wisconsin.

Maybe badgers will fly.

“Badger” is supposed to be the mascot of Wisconsin’s top-flight university, not a tool of partisan politics.


Students frozen out of schools, education, maybe hope

February 9, 2011

Does the headline pertain to Dallas ISD’s being closed for cold weather for the fifth day in eight, or does it refer to the situations in Austin, where Gov. Rick Perry insists Texas is better off than the rest of the nation with a $25 billion deficit it can’t close, and all education institutions being given solitary confinement or death penalties?

Gov. Rick Perry, Texas State of the State Address, February 8, 2011

Photo by Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman; Dallas Morning News caption: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst after delivering the State of the State address Tuesday, said there are 'no sacred cows' in the strapped Texas budget." Reality caption: Texas Emperor Rick Perry gives thumbs up to the lions who will face education's representative, Hypatia, in the Lege Arena fight-to-the-death; Perry promised not to be present for the final moments of the fight.


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