Dean Stricker's Scrapbook

About the Dean's Scrapbook

UHC Founding Dean G. Alec Stewart began a tradition of collecting thought-provoking articles from various publications and placing them in binders in the cafe area of the 35th floor of the Cathedral of Learning for everyone to read.

Dean Stricker has continued this tradition with this web page containing links to recommended articles that were published in the past two years.

Meet the Parents Who Won't Let Their Children Study Literature
Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post, September 2, 2016

This interesting article describes the well-intentioned but misguided influence of parents on the choice of majors by college students.  It contains several points worth remembering, such as “One reason for the “explosion” of double majors is that students want one major to satisfy Mom and Dad and another to satisfy their own interests.” Another is, “It’s worth remembering that at American universities, the original rationale for majors was not to train students for careers. Rather, the idea was that after a period of broad intellectual exploration, a major was supposed to give students the experience of mastering one subject, in the process developing skills such as discipline, persistence, and how to research, analyze, communicate clearly and think logically.”

The Violence of Forgetting

Brad Evans and Henry A. Giroux, The New York Times, June 20, 2016

Henry Giroux is an American philosopher now at McMaster University in Canada. This sentence of his is from Thomas Jefferson, reworded, and is the core of the reason I became an academic:

No democratic society can survive without a formative culture, which includes but is not limited to schools capable of producing citizens who are critical, self-reflective, knowledgeable and willing to make moral judgments and act in a socially inclusive and responsible way.

And the need for social consciousness and responsibility is exactly the reason the UHC now has an office of Academic Community Engagement.

The Two Questions You Should Ask Yourself About Climate Change

What's the Deal with Geoengineering?

These two articles mark the beginning of a series of articles, posted on Slate during the first week of January 2016, about the various technological means being considered to address the problems that are causing climate change.

Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change

Justin Gills, The New York Times, November 28, 2015

The lead-in to this article states: "The issue can be overwhelming. The science is complicated. Predictions about the fate of the planet carry endless caveats and asterisks. We get it. So we've put together a list of quick answers to often-asked questions about climate change. This should give you a running start on understanding the problem." In other words, this article should be a good introduction to the issue of climate change.

A Prudent College Path

Frank Bruni, The New York Times, August 8, 2015

In this opinion piece, the author (the same one who wrote the previous entry) extolled the attractions of honors programs and honors colleges at public institutions as worthwhile choices for talented and ambitious students who seek a first-rate education at an institution lacking some of the drawbacks of elite private schools “such as exorbitant tuition and an enclave of extreme privilege.” His description generally fits the University Honors College at Pitt; that is, a substantial community of honors students within a large public research university with considerable resources and socioeconomic diversity, numerous honors courses and other special opportunities including designated residence halls and individualized advising -- all at a relatively low cost and in relatively close proximity to home.

College's Priceless Value

Frank Bruni, The New York Times, February 11, 2015

I believe the author has made his case very well. Specifically, I do not think that supporting intellectual curiosity is a luxury nor do I think that college should be a trade school. I could point to my college professor who introduced me to classical music in a humanities course as providing a transformational experience that has enriched my life subsequently. Yes, reading an article on the neural control of the cardiovascular and renal systems also was transformational in a way that directly affected my subsequent scientific career, but during my life I have been transformed in more than one way and each time I am the better for it. Such transformational experiences are part of the college experience that we want to provide.

An Interview with Margaret Atwood

February 6, 2015

Margaret Atwood is an acclaimed contemporary author, so her views of the future, the useful role of science-thinking, the plausible consequences of climate change – all should be of interest. In this interview, it is evident that she speaks as well as she writes.

The American Dream is Leaving America

Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, October 25, 2014

The author makes a compelling case that fixing the education system is the civil rights challenge of our era, especially as the United States is being eclipsed in economic and educational mobility.  The theme of this op-ed piece is a chilling glimpse into a future that is avoidable if the country chose to respond appropriately. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee a divided Congress taking such action, nor do I foresee adult citizens asking their city or state government to deal with the problem locally. Not good.


Spirit Guides
William Deresiewicz, Slate, August 14, 2014

This excerpt, from Deresiewicz’ Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and The Way to a Meaningful Life, provides a wonderfully idealistic perspective on education, teaching, and advising in college.  It’s very well-written and also well-presented, with anecdotes and stories that illuminate the main points and make them more clear and memorable. Here is a quote that I found particularly striking: “…there are two things, above all, that students want from their professors…: that their teach­ers challenge them and that they care about them.”