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Free online program for teachers wins ASU President's Innovation Award.
Other honorees are youth-fitness partnership, paint-reuse program and Starbucks.
April 11, 2016

Free online classes for teachers among several ASU initiatives to be honored by President's Awards

Classroom teachers are more crunched than ever, and many see time spent on professional development as inefficient and a waste of resources.

Arizona State University is working to help teachers build their skills through a series of free online modules.

The micro-courses — each an hour or less — have been created by the Sanford Inspire Program, part of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU.

The program, funded by the Denny Sanford Foundation, looks to remake professional development for teachers, who can log on any time they want and take courses in how to give clear directions on a task, integrating physical activity into a lesson, how to motivate students and dozens of other topics.

Sanford Inspire is so distinctive that it has won the President’s Award for Innovation for 2016. 

“It is a huge honor to be selected for this competitive award at an institution that is known for innovation,” said Ryen Borden, executive director of the Sanford Inspire Program.

“Earlier this year, ASU was named the nation’s most innovative university by U.S. News & World Report, adding to the depth and meaning of this university-wide recognition.”

Sanford Inspire is one of two winners of the President’s Award for Innovation this year. The other is the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a unique partnership to expand access to higher education. Under the initiative, Starbucks employees who work as little as 20 hours per week can finish a bachelor’s degree with full tuition reimbursement through any of ASU’s online undergraduate degree programs. There is no obligation for partners to stay at Starbucks after they graduate from ASU.

Other winners to be recognized at the President’s Recognition Reception on Tuesday, April 12, are:

President’s Award for Sustainability: The No Wasted Paint Program by Facilities Management. This initiative finds old paint throughout the campus, accommodates requests by departments and contractors to pick up leftover paint and accepts paint that has been delivered anonymously to their shop. The paint is cataloged by building, color and date and used for projects such as graffiti cover-up. The reclaimed paint is also given to students and departments for approved projects.

Since the No Wasted Paint Program began in 2008, 1,547 gallons of leftover paint have been used on campus, which has averted sending 28 55-gallon drums out of state as hazardous waste. This has saved the paint shop almost $31,000 in paint purchases and avoided $3,100 to $4,600 in hazardous-waste disposal fees.

President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness: FitPHX Energy Zones. This program offers free fitness and nutrition education to middle-school students at public libraries. It’s a collaboration among ASU’s Obesity Solutions initiative, the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation, Phoenix Public Libraries, the Phoenix Mayor’s Office, Mayo Clinic, Maricopa County Department of Public Health and several ASU schools and colleges.

The program provides ASU undergraduates with a real-world internship, training the next generation of professionals and providing role models to youth.

SUN Award for Individual Excellence

  • Stacey Bales, coordinator for engineering student success, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Polytechnic campus
  • Haley Chapman, associate director for academic services, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, West campus
  • Brian McCarthy, University Registrar Services
  • Kate Opitz, academic success coordinator, College of Health Solutions, Downtown Phoenix campus


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Life after college can be precarious for new grads. An ASU prof gives advice.
April 12, 2016

ASU professor's new book looks at the struggles of graduates in the new economy

As Arizona State University prepares to celebrate a fresh new crop of graduates in May, the outlook for them is more precarious than ever.

Jeffrey Selingo, a professor of practice at ASU's College of Public Service and Community Solutions, found that unemployment among young college graduates has gone up, wages have gone down and nearly half are underemployed.

Selingo addresses this scary situation in his new book, “There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow.”

He notes that the shift in launching a career is starting later and ending later as people live longer. But though a longer time to explore career options can be good, the problem is that many graduates are starting out unprepared.

Jeff Selingo“Young adults are doing everything their parents and guidance counselors tell them to do, and yet they are still failing to find secure jobs that lead to lifelong careers,” writes Selingo (left), who is directorHe also is a special adviser to the president at ASU and is the former editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. of the Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership, a partnership between ASU and Georgetown University.

He describes a variety of ways for new graduates to find the skills they need for a career, as well as what current college students — and even high schoolers — should do to get a step ahead.

Selingo answered some questions about what he discovered while researching “There Is Life After College.”

Question: Your book contains several anecdotes about college graduates who find themselves adrift, moving from one temporary job to another or, out of options, going to graduate school and racking up debt. Is this situation unique to our time?

Answer: It’s somewhat unique to our time although it think it includes the future as well because of the way the economy is structured now. The previous generations had careers where they could focus not only on one company but also one occupation. But now entire industries are coming and going at an alarming pace, and that results in a much more difficult time for today’s college graduates to launch into a career.

At the same time we have more people than ever before going to college. There used to be multiple pathways to success after high school, but now we’ve been telling students — and rightly so — that the pathway to success is a college degree. The unfortunate part is that many students never get that degree. But even those who get the degree essentially sleepwalk through college. They don’t take advantage of the opportunities presented to them, such as undergraduate research or multiple internships, and they don’t find the work that will give them experience they need. They pick easy majors and easy classes to skate through. Those are the students who really struggle after college.

Q: You mention that the debate over the role of college is not new.

A: We’ve had this debate for centuries. The American system was imported from Europe. The idea was that a select few people went to university to train to be statesmen, attorneys and pastors. Everyone else learned their jobs through apprenticeships.

As more and more people were going to college, universities expanded their disciplines and academic majors, and we started to see college as the access point to the job market.

What ended up happening is that we have an expectation that campuses are a place to train for a job and get a broad education, which creates a lot of tension as a result. You need both. But we expect it all in four years. It’s very difficult to give a full-fledged academic experience that trains the mind and also gives hands-on experience.

Q: So what are employers looking for?

A: I spent a lot of time with employers the last few years. I asked them what are the skills necessary for success today, and I hear “soft skills” — but I think they should be called “hard skills” because they’re hard to teach. And that’s communication, writing, the ability to deal with ambiguity.

For the most part today, students aren’t immersed in that world because somebody has directed their education from day one.

The other big thing, especially in middle- and upper-middle-income families, is that many students don’t work part-time jobs in high school anymore. If you look at the statistics, fewer are working part-time jobs than ever before. Helicopter parents want their kids to participate in athletics and every club imaginable and volunteer work, and that has made them less resilient.

Low-income students who work are in some ways better off when they get to college in terms of dealing with a work environment.

Q: Are internships valuable?

A: Students who interned in college, particularly in their field, had a much better shot of getting hired and were most likely to be hired by the company they interned for.

I saw that with Google but also with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Those companies told me that in the last decade they have been increasing the percentage of students they hired from their internship pools largely because they want to “try before they buy.” They want to know that these students are able to do the jobs. And they don’t trust the bachelor degree as much as they used to.

Q: In your book, you describe the opaque hiring practices of many companies, in which unprepared employees ask random questions of candidates. And many new graduates are left in the dark about why they didn’t get a job. How do people learn from this practice?

A: The thing for students and even universities to understand about companies is that they tend to contradict themselves during the hiring process. They say they want these soft skills, the so-called liberal-arts skills, but then they actually hire for specific skill sets related to the job.

On the hiring process, I’m actually somewhat optimistic about the future because of the use of people analytics, which brings the “Moneyball” approach to hiring.

The Oakland Athletics baseball team got better when they started using data to pick players rather than instinct. The same is true in the working world. We tend to hire based on personal bias, such as where somebody went to school, which is why we’re so enamored of Harvard and Yale and other Ivy League schools.

In fact, companies using people analytics find that it’s democratizing. Companies that would hire from a select few institutions are now hiring from a broad range of universities. They’re finding that graduates from the ASUs of the world are doing as well as Stanford or Harvard graduates, and they’re finding that out years later. They’re reverse-engineering the careers of their most successful employees.


Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now