Learning Boats of Leyte

Boats on the shore of an insland in the Phillippines

The Learning Boat program aims to help Filipino children get the education they need.
Image: Shutterstock

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the islands of the Philippines. It was the worst storm in the nation’s history, and like any other disaster, delivered its worst destruction to the poor. On the impoverished island of Leyte, nearly 19,000 boats were lost, destroying the island’s fragile fishing economy, and ninety percent of schools were destroyed.

The Philippines Foundation, founded by Filipino-American Evelin Weber, felt called to help both of these catastrophes, and the Learning Boats of Leyte was inspired.

Leyte children’s lives are already centered around boat culture, and many did not have access to schools even when there were schools, due to long commutes and too-expensive ferry fares. Seeing this, Weber wanted to create an outdoor classroom that could come to the children.

“Fishermen park their boats on shore after a day’s work, and the children will then have a lesson that varies from boat to boat,” says Weber.

And the fishermen’s boats will come from the Learning Boats program. Their goal is to provide a thousand donated boats and to put every single student back in school. Part of their goals will be supported by their recent partnership with Philippine Airlines and the advertising agency Ogilvy. They also have plans to soon begin working with a local TV network to create a children’s television show that would mesh with the lesson plans for the Learning Boats.

“Two-Minute Warnings” Don’t Help Children Transition from Screen Time

Boy using tablet

A two-minute warning may not be the best way to get kids away from screens.
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Interactive technology like iPads and computers are an almost essential part of life in many families, and toddlers of today will be the first generation or so to never have not known such devices. As such, figuring out how to incorporate those devices into their lives is an important part of raising them to be productive adults. One aspect of that is finding ways to transition away from “screen time” to other activities.

One common method is to offer a “two-minutes warning” to let children know that their screen time is almost up. Conventional wisdom would point to this making transitions easier, but a recent study from the University of Washington finds that the opposite is actually true. Children who are given two-minute warnings tended to plead or fight more to keep using devices when time was up.

The reason behind this might be that those warnings and subsequent stoppage of screen time don’t come at a natural stopping point in the activity. If that happens in the middle of a video or game, the child is less likely to want to stop. The study found that the most successful transitions came when a game or video ended on its own, when the child became bored, or when there was something else that naturally interrupted it, like arriving at a destination or a friend coming over to play.

Some of the most successful transitions came as part of a daily routine. The same child who gets to play with an iPad as a reward was more resistant to ending screen time than when it was time for breakfast or the like. If it was routine, the child knew to expect that end to screen time and was more accepting of it.

The study also found that most parents weren’t using such devices as babysitters, but as a distraction during medical visits, to keep kids occupied while driving, or so they could take care of other children or do chores.

A Visit from Space

Earth viewed from space

A set of happy circumstances meant a surprise visit for one California school.
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Retired Air Force Colonel Donald McMonagle was in fourth grade when John Glenn became the first American to orbit the planet, and he vividly remembers the amazing photographs that came home with the first astronaut.

“I actually got my ruler out of my desk to prove to myself that the Earth was round,” he said, remembering using a ruler and a book to prove the curvature of the horizon from those photos.

Now, he’s seen that sight with his own eyes. McMonagle has three spaceflights under his belt from the early 90s, and he’s spent more than three weeks outside the Earth’s atmosphere. He’s paying forward that moment of childhood inspiration by visiting students at La Honda Elementary School in Lampoc, California.

In a forty-five minute after-school presentation, McMonagle shared stories about brushing his teeth and doing research aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, as well as answering questions about about daily life in orbit.

La Honda’s luck in scoring a personal visit from an astronaut really came down to a neat set of coincidences. Susana Hernandez, the president of La Honda’s PTA, arranged the visit because her brother-in-law works with McMonagle and knew that the astronaut would be in the area. All of the plans were last minute, but they came together beautifully.

The timing was perfect, too, as the third-grade classes were studying space that same week, and in fact had launched their own rockets just the week before McMonagle’s arrival.

McMonagle, who was once told that the only future for him as a pilot was in the commercial sector, had two lessons he wanted the students to take home from his presentation: Never lower their aim, and never stop learning.

“I can tell you that you are just starting your life, and there’s all kinds of things ahead of you that you can launch into many different kinds of careers,” he said. “Only your imagination can determine how far you can go.”

Rockefeller University Helps Grow Biotech In New York City

Students in a classroom

Rockefeller University–and New York City in general–has a history of supporting biotech education.
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New York City is a world-class metropolis and has been a center of innovation in the arts, sciences, business, and financial communities for decades. It continues to lead the way by supporting creative partnerships in life sciences and the biotech industry.

One of these new developments is located at The Rockefeller University, a leading research center. It will be the future home of the Stravos Niarchos Foundation-David Rockefeller River campus. These ongoing–and lucrative–partnerships have attracted the support of leaders in the financial community such as Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford of General Atlantic, who also serves a Vice Chairman at The Rockefeller University.

The Rockefeller University welcomed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in March to tour their campus and host a biotech conference. Wall Street has made New York City a center of international business for many years. Mayor de Blasio is working with life science industry leaders and educators in New York City to ensure that this region continues to be an important address for doing business today and in the future.

The biotech conference grew out of an interest in continuing the sustained growth of this sector in the region. Over the past five years the mayor’s office has been supporting policies that have created 15 percent growth in the city’s life science job market. The innovative policies have supported the construction of lab space that startups can afford to use. It has also encouraged entrepreneurship and supported programs that offer training and mentorship to life science companies launching new ventures.

The new campus will support the University’s goal of maintaining 75 independent laboratories. It will allow them to continue their groundbreaking research in biological imaging, cancer biology, immunotherapy, genetics, neuroscience, and other areas.

University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne spoke enthusiastically about the ongoing partnership between the university, the city, and the business community. “New York City has made significant progress in recent years in developing its commercial life-sciences industry,” he said. “Both Mayor de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Glen are committed to sustaining this growth and are working actively with industry leaders to help the bioscience sector reach its full potential.”

The future of life sciences and the biotech industry in New York City looks healthy today and for the foreseeable future.


Same-Sex Classrooms: Good or Bad?

Young boys in classroom

Are same-sex classrooms better or worse than co-ed? It’s not that simple.
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Do same-sex classrooms help or hinder? That’s the question asked in Juliet Williams’s The Separation Solution? Single-Sex Education and the New Politics of Gender Equality.

The UCLA gender studies professor’s study looks at the way gender separation is being used as a method of educational reform—and whether or not it’s working. It’s become more popular in the last three decades, Williams says. But it continues to be a source of contention. “A lot of people who have their hearts in the right place disagree about some very fundamental questions,” she notes.

In fact, according to recent studies, gender separation isn’t really a predictor of the quality of education. “The most accurate way to look at the whole field,” Williams says, “is that, with co-education, we know it can work. We know there are some excellent schools out there and lots of not-so-excellent schools. Among the excellent schools, some are co-ed and some are single-sex. But what the excellent schools have in common doesn’t have anything to do with gender.”

Williams also points out that there are other, far more pressing, educational reforms needed in American schools today. Single-sex classrooms and schools, she suggests, are popular right now because they are simple fixes—they don’t require the time, effort, and money necessary to provide better nutrition, more teachers, more school hours, or more professional development.

Same-sex reform, when it does happen, tends to be focused primarily on at-risk boys of color. Williams finds this concerning because it ignores at-risk girls of color, who are also struggling. “A whole generation of girls is not only being left out, but this also reinforces the misunderstanding that problems of racism or economic disadvantage only affect boys,” she says.

The issues brought up in Williams’s book were discussed by larger panels of academics at The Separation Solution conference at the UCLA School of Law, which took place on May 6-7. Supported by the African American Policy Forum and the Center of Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, the conference was part of the Irene Flecknoe Ross Lecture Series.

Trump Goes to Trial for Defunct University

Law books and a scale on a desk

The cases against Trump University will be going to trial in late November.
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San Diego federal judge Gonzalo Curiel determined on Friday that Donald Trump will testify in November in the class-action lawsuit against his now-defunct Trump University.

There are three lawsuits in progress involving Trump University. Several students brought the lawsuits forward in 2010, alleging that the for-profit university was a scam, with students paying as much as $35,000 for real estate success secrets they never received.

The students also reported that they were encouraged to purchase more expensive courses taught by experts picked by Trump himself. However, these courses ended up being more like infomercials than actual classes.

While Trump noted that the school received primarily positive reviews, students pointed out that the school had a D-minus rating on the Better Business Bureau by the time it closed in 2010.

In addition, Trump pointed repeatedly to a 98% satisfaction rating on internal surveys from the university. The protesting students addressed this as well, saying that the surveys were conducted before they have gone through the entire program—and without removing the students’ names from their comments—so it’s likely they were concerned about saying anything negative about their courses or instructors while they were still earning a grade.

Though Trump’s lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said Trump would be present for most, if not all, of the trial starting on November 28, Trump himself has argued he can’t be held responsible for the quality of the university education, since he wasn’t involved in the daily operations. He will, however, be taking the witness stand.

But there’s a pretty big wrench in the proceedings: Trump is likely to become the Republican nominee for President. Needless to say, there’s likely to be a lot of hoopla around a presidential candidate—or the actual President, depending on how things go—showing up in court on a fraud charge.

“This will be a zoo if it were to go to trial,” Petrocelli said back in March. The situation has only gotten more complicated since then.



Columbia Business School Chooses Honorees for Centennial Dinner

Golden star on a plate with fork and knife

The Columbia School of Business honored several big names who supported the school this year.
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This year, the Columbia Business School honored three new people at its Annual Dinner. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the event, intended to celebrate the school’s first 100 years of innovation and community. Alumni and friends will gather for the dinner and celebrate KKR’s Henry Kravis, winner of the prestigious Centennial Award; Bruce Greenwald, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award; and Shazi Visram, winner of the Distinguished Early Achievement Award.

The dinner, which took place on May 2nd at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, served as the centerpiece of the school’s year-long festivities. The dinner has traditionally been a successful venue for bringing in critical funding; for securing resources for program development, student financial aid, and faculty research; and for supporting the ordinary day-to-day operations of the school.

The 2016 Centennial Award was given to Henry Kravis, co-founder of private equity firm KKR and 1969 graduate. Kravis is also the co-chairman of the Business School’s Board of Overseers.

The award recognizes his “extraordinary leadership and generosity,” the school said. One of the school’s new buildings will be named the Henry R. Kravis Building in his honor.

Bruce C. Greenwald, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, is the Robert Heilbrunn Professor of Finance and Asset Management and the Co-Director of the Helbrunn Center for Graham & Dodd Investing at the Columbia Business School. In his long career, he has been described as a “guru to Wall Street’s gurus.” He’s also been widely recognized as an outstanding teacher, having won the Columbia University Presidential Teaching Award. He holds a bachelor’s of science degree in electrical engineering from MIT, a master’s in public administration and a master’s in electrical engineering from Princeton, and a doctorate in economics from MIT.

After graduating from Columbia Business School in 2004, Shazi Visram founded Happy Family Brands, the first US brand to offer a full line of nutritious foods for babies, toddlers, and kids, as well as items for new parents. She is the winner of the Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award and was named in Crain’s New York Business’s “40 Under 40.” Happy Family Brands is now a multi-million dollar enterprise. She holds a bachelor’s in history from Columbia and she works with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship as a mentor to aspiring young entrepreneurs from low-income communities.

The Return of Technical Education in High Schools

Teacher and students in woodworking class

Shop class is making a comeback in American high schools.
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Technical education in the United States went out of favor in the early 1990s, when things like “shop class” became a place to stash students who weren’t expected to go to college. Starting around 1990, there was a nationwide push to give all high school students the same college prep education in the hopes that it would drive more of them to enroll in higher education within two years of graduating. In 1990, that number was only 40%, and by 2013, it was only up to 42%. Not a huge success.

But recent developments have been highlighting other ways to get kids to pursue higher education and the benefits that can come from it. Increasingly, schools are engaging students with technical programs that teach them the skills they need to pursue specific career paths and college majors. Finding career paths that students are interested in helps them prepare for the real world and can speak to the specific “middle income” jobs out there that are apparently hard to fill.

Schools specifically dedicated to technical education, which are starting to make a comeback, aren’t strictly necessary. Better education on these kinds of subjects can be introduced in other high schools as well. They have the added benefit of giving students examples of how the skills they’re developing, such as mathematics, can be applied in the real world, something that many schools have long failed to do under the “high school to Harvard pathway” of the last 30 years. That system often led to students being pressured to attend university and then finding themselves with a degree, a lot of student loan debt, and no real job prospects. While education itself is a perfectly good goal, high school especially is about preparing students to become functional citizens, and pushing them down a path that doesn’t actually lead them to gainful employment isn’t really doing that.