Katherine Nugent

Disruptive Innovation

I have been reading with interest in past Chronicles of Higher Education articles pertaining to changes that are occurring in institutions of higher education, such as changes in student financial aid, decreased instructional budgets, perceptions of value of a college degree, student’s non-linear progress through the degree plan, and a plethora of technology being used in educational instruction.  Authors have labeled these changes as disruptive innovation.

Disruptive innovation in nursing education is not new as the College of Nursing and nursing programs throughout the nation have been continually updating curricula and changing pedagogy to address changes in the standards of nursing practice that require the need for graduates to be better skilled in clinical decision-making.  The introduction of clinical simulation is a great example of innovation in teaching.

But the pace of change has accelerated in the last few years as a result of several significant reports and events.  In January 2010, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a report calling for a “radical transformation” in nursing education.  In March of that same year, President Obama signed into law unprecedented reforms to the U.S. health care system.  In October of 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a groundbreaking report about the future of nursing that discusses innovation in nursing education.  In November 2010, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with the Institute of Medicine launched an initiative to advance comprehensive change in the nation’s health care system and in nursing practice and education.

As the College of Nursing contemplates our response to innovative disruption, we can reflect on the words of T.S. Eliot, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning”.

Dr. Michael Forster

Mississippi moves to enact overdue concussion policy for young athletes

The good news is that Mississippi is unlikely to long remain the only state in the nation without a youth athlete concussion policy.  Under leadership of Public Health Committee chairman Sam Mims, House Bill 48 sailed through the House, and should do likewise in the Senate, where health leader Brice Wiggins has pushed for concussion legislation in the past.  One less black eye for Mississippi on the health front.

The news would be better still if the legislation incorporated ongoing educational and research efforts.  Getting a policy in place is a good first step, but as we move forward we’ll need comprehensive training based on current knowledge for those responsible for concussion prevention, mitigation, and intervention, coupled with a centralized capacity to track and report the incidence of concussion in youth athletics.  The College of Health, and specifically colleagues in the School of Human Performance and Recreation with specialized knowledge of brain injury, is in an excellent position to offer the state these resources.

Concussion is a critical and widespread public health concern.  The more we understand it and its long-term consequences, the more we realize how serious it is.  The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine estimates that nearly four million concussion injuries occur annually in the U.S., with as many as half going unreported.  We can’t move too quickly to address the need for training and incident tracking in this area.  Until we do, our young athletes will remain at an unnecessarily high level of risk.

Dr. Michael Forster

HP&R reorganizes and launches planning effort

A new team of administrators in the School of Human Performance and Recreation – the largest unit in the college, with approximately 1000 undergraduate and graduate majors across seven professional areas – was installed in November, and is doing a bang-up job.

Nancy Speed, Gary Krebs, and Scott Piland, all veteran faculty members with deep USM roots, are working well both in relatively distinct functional areas – student success, curriculum and assessment, and faculty development/research promotion, respectively – and as a team bearing collective responsibility for realizing the instructional and research missions of the school.  (If there’s a weak link in this team, it’s me, serving this year as acting school director after our new director hire fell through.  But that’s another story….)

The reorganization of administrative operations is a major step in moving the School of HP&R forward.  Another big one – in fact crucial, in my view - is underway in the form of a strategic planning effort.  Starting off with faculty contributions to a SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) analysis, this effort kicks into high gear tomorrow, when Gil Reeve, a facilitator with the American Kinesiology Association, leads a daylong planning workshop with all members of the corps of instruction.

Ann Blackwell

Brand New Endings

One of the best things about the start of a new year for me is the opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for the future.  Although we cannot change mistakes we made this past year, we can certainly learn from them.  Although we will not control everything we face in 2014, we can still identify and diligently pursue noteworthy goals.  I like the quote credited to Carl Bard.  He said, “Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

In higher education, we have the distinct privilege of contributing to a “brand new ending” for each of our students by offering them the lasting benefits of a college education and degree.  What we do is important.  In fact, the systemic impact of a college degree is well documented.  A college degree benefits individuals, and in turn, families, communities, and our state by the positive impact it has on employment, salary, health, quality of life, and the economy.

Contemplating on the impact of our work serves to reaffirm the commitment of the College of Education and Psychology (CoEP) to vigorously support our students to be successful.   We intend to do everything possible in 2014 to offer each of our students a “brand new ending” available through a college degree.  Will it be challenging?  No doubt.  Will it require everyone working together?  Absolutely.  Will it change the landscape of Mississippi if we maintain our resolve?  That is definitely the plan.

Happy New Year!

Dr. Michael Forster

Social Work graduates progressive change agents

Following are remarks I made at the School of Social Work’s pre-commencement recognition ceremony on December 12:

Good evening.  For quite a long time now, I have been fond of saying that Social Work is the “greatest profession in the world,” for two reasons:

  1. Social workers have both a mission and an ethical responsibility to change the world for the better, AND
  2. They have the tools – the knowledge, the skills, the values – to do it.

Do we – does the state of Miss, does the U.S., does the world? – need social workers today?  You bet!  In fact, the need for social workers fired by the mission to change the world for the better, and armed with the tools to do it, has never been greater.  The challenges facing us today are – without exaggeration – enormous.  Poverty rates are soaring, unemployment remains much too high, homelessness and hunger are widespread.  The wealth inequality gap in the U.S. is greater today than any time since the 1890s.  In Mississippi, fully 1/3 of our children – disproportionately children of color – are poor.  Hundreds of thousands go without accessible and affordable health care, with strong political resistance to taking advantage of opportunities to extend it to the poor and the near-poor.  Social services have been cut, cut, and cut again, as the result of a long-running public budget crisis.  Individuals, families, and communities are under growing stress as available support and resources diminish.  Now, you may have noticed a very recent “thaw” in the Washington gridlock around budgetary matters – evidently no one wants another government shutdown, and this is a good thing – but those pushing for “austerity” measures which would further shred our already weak social safety net are still calling too many shots in the ideological wars being waged.

So that’s the bad news. But there is good news too, fortunately.  The good news is that across the country (and the world), we see progressive movement and reaction, even resistance, to much of the bad stuff happening.  We see challenges to cuts that hurt the poor and disadvantaged.  We see demonstrations against destruction of the environment, new and well organized efforts to raise the minimum wage, to extend unemployment benefits, to increase health care access.  We even see very innovative and creative efforts to “reinvent” community and political economy – to form housing cooperatives, for example, and self-reliant economic arrangements of various sorts, to establish democratically run worker-owned businesses, to repossess public land for common purposes, to produce food and energy on a localized basis so that communities can get out from under corporate control and “go green” on their own.

This is good, and social workers need to be involved, deeply involved.  Social work needs to be part of progressive movements to democratize, to share wealth, to re-include and empower the excluded, to save the planet from ecological degradation.  It needs to form part of the resistance to forces of destruction, inequality, oligarchy, and exploitation of vulnerable populations.  In fact, nothing less than leadership in such efforts should be asked of us, because nothing less will do if we are to remain faithful to our heritage, our mission, and our ethical commitments to work for justice and a better world – a more fair, more inclusive and egalitarian world.

So graduates, this is your charge, to stand up and stand out, to lead in making progressive change. It is a heavy charge, but I have no doubt you are up to the task.  Why, otherwise, would you have chosen this profession?  And why, just as importantly, would the profession have chosen you?  Yes, chosen you – because social work is not so much a job as a vocation, and that is how it is with vocations – they choose you as much you choose them; they issue the call, and you decide only to answer or not.  Clearly, social work – the greatest profession – has called you, and you have chosen to answer; you would not, otherwise, be here tonight, prepared to “commence” to the next phase of your professional life.

Let me close by saying that as both a professor of social work and as dean of the College of Health, I am immensely proud of the wonderful work the School of Social Work does, and most especially of their contribution to this wonderful moment – the graduation of so many new professional social worker-change agents, fighters for social and economic justice.  Graduates and families, I applaud your accomplishment.  Faculty and staff, I applaud yours.  It is a single and singular accomplishment – important, timely, and indispensable – to Mississippi, the US of A, and, indeed, our ever-shrinking planet.  Thank you.