“Did you know intellectuals are lousy at talking about their work?” PLU Associate Professor of Communication Amy Young asked the sold-out audience at Downtown Tacoma’s Theatre on the Square.
PLU faculty members Maria Chavez, Bradd Busick and Young each responded to the event’s theme of “Did You Know…?” by posing questions addressing trends, systems and mores prevalent, but often unaddressed, in higher education.
Echoing many of the themes of her book, Prophets, Gurus and Pundits: Rhetorical Styles and Public Engagement, Young’s talk focused on academia’s widely held inability and disinterest in sharing scholarship with the general public.
“We need to think about how our work is relevant to audiences outside of our fields and outside of our campuses,” Young challenged. “If academics want to make public arguments and do scholarship that matters to people, we’ve got to get better at speaking a different language.”
“Intellectuals should ‘go public’ and demonstrate the relevance (of scholarship and research) to social and political concerns,” urged Young. “We need to change the system from the inside. That is happening, but slowly.”
Chavez used her talk to shed light on the millions of young people in the United States who are currently locked out college classrooms, a byproduct of what she referred to as “the de-Americanization of Latino youth.”
Drawing on research published in her book Living the Dream: New Immigration Policies and the Lives of Undocumented Latino Youth, Chavez detailed the denial of educational resources to the children of undocumented Latinos and proclaimed the injustice of the lack of equal opportunity to higher education in the US.
“We are a nation of immigrants, and we must treat our young immigrants in a way that reflects the American dream,” Chavez concluded.
Busick ‘99, an Adjunct Faculty Member in the PLU School of Business and a senior manager at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, urged the audience to recognize the value of authentic relationships between professors and students, and contended that the absence of such relationships is the inescapable inadequacy of online higher education.
“Did you know we are on the brink of sacrificing quality for quantity?” Busick asked, expressing concern with the rising trend of institutions taking on thousands of degree-seeking students.
“The question that I have is, what kind of product are we actually putting into the marketplace when we have professors who don’t have the chance to know their students?” Busick said. “Know them, meaning to actually be able to teach them effectively. Are we actually developing attributes and qualities, including soft skills, that the market wants?”
The evening’s PLU presence was not limited to the three presenting professors, as alumna Hannah Williams ’04 gave a talk about motivating K-12 students; the program was hosted and organized by alumnus Adam Utley ’04; and two current students, Derrik Ellis and Anne-Marie Falloria, volunteered at the event.