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Nationally Acclaimed Educator Terrell Strayhorn Visits the UNCW Campus

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

 Terrell Strayhorn

Terrell Strayhorn spoke to a full house in McNeill Hall Auditorium during WCE’s Public Speaker Series event on Oct. 20. A professor of Higher Education at The Ohio State University (OSU) and director of the recently established Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE) at OSU, Strayhorn focused his presentation on access to higher education and the success of college students.

Overall, the U.S. has done a good job of providing students access to higher education, Strayhorn said. More than 21 million students are  enrolled at 4,300 colleges and universities in the U.S., and more first generation students are attending college than at any other time in the nation’s history. For access to higher education, Strayhorn said he would award the country a grade of B+.

Terrell Strayhorn lecturing He assigned a lower grade of C- for student success. Strayhorn said half of all students who begin work toward a degree drop out before they complete it, and among black men, two out of three drop out.  There has been no success in closing achievement gaps over the past 30 years, he said.

Strayhorn is encouraged that researchers at CHEE are finally talking about the issues of access and success together because “access doesn’t mean anything without success.”

He acknowledged that the issues are complicated, and the field of higher education is changing.

“OSU has 56,000 students. Twenty years ago, there was open access and anyone with a high school diploma could get in, but that’s no longer the case.” he said.

Strayhorn said it’s important to ask new questions about higher education.

“We need to ask, who should have access and for what,” he said. “It’s also important to question how success is measured.”

Traditional success measures include retention rates, GPA and test scores, but Strayhorn said these measures don’t align with student perspectives.

“If you ask students why they go to college and what they want, they all say the same thing,” he said. “They all say, ‘To get a job’.”

Terrell Strayhorn greeting attendants of his lectureStrayhorn met with 26 faculty members on Oct. 21 for an open discussion. The discussion was moderated by Kevin McClure, assistant professor of higher education. The meeting was followed by an open discussion with students.

The Watson College Public Speaker Series was established by Dean Kenneth Teitelbaum in 2013 with a goal of bringing nationally known scholars to campus to share knowledge and ideas. Previous presenters include Sonia Nieto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Lisa Delpit of Southern University in Baton Rouge and Michael Apple of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Strayhorn’s presentation and all previous public speaker presentations can be viewed online at www.uncw.edu/ed/speakerseries