Is it their fault?

Students are often blamed for their disinterest in academic pursuits

By Zachary Nelson

The professor must first convince the student that the subject at hand is useful in real life. Only then will the student agree to care about anything the professor says.

It is a complaint of teachers and parents alike that students are not engaged in coursework. Professors and parents decry this apparent disinterest as laziness or another flaw of character (Kohn). They claim that video games and socializing, is all they ever do. To confirm this, I conducted a survey of UB students this past month (n=21). Student engagement in various activities was measured on a 1-7 scale (7 meaning high engagement). Electronic entertainment scored a 4.46 while spending time with friends scored a 5.95. Meanwhile, academic pursuits (class lectures and homework assignments) scored only a 4.1. (See Figure 1)

Figure 1 shows how engaged students are in the corresponding activities. A score of 7 indicates “very engaged.”
Figure 1 shows how engaged students are in the corresponding activities. A score of 7 indicates “very engaged.”

To understand the reasons behind this undesirable deficit, we will consider the average day of a gamer who attends UB. First, this student listens for an hour and a half to a lecturer talk about a subject which does not seem to have an application the real world. Then, during their study time, the student attempts to memorize this seemingly meaningless information and so he can fill in the correct little bubbles with a led pencil at the end of the month.

The student then goes home and unwinds by playing a videogame where he is participating in a breathtaking rescue scene. As the student is playing, he reacts emotionally as if he was actually doing the act himself – which would certainly be an exhilarating and engaging experience (McGonigal).

Wouldn’t it be more natural for our brain to engage in the video game instead of the class lecture? Wouldn’t it be natural for our brain to tune out a lecture that is perceived as irrelevant to normal functioning? Wouldn’t it be natural for the student to pursue the next most productive alternative? (i.e. texting or watching sports highlights in class).

Perhaps students are harshly critiqued by parents and teachers unnecessarily. Talking down to someone for following a natural mental process may be quite misinformed and potentially hazardous to the portion of the student’s brain that dares to think beyond the PowerPoints and scantrons.

Please understand, I am not suggesting that the content UB lectures are irrelevant or meaningless. Nothing could be further from the truth. Much rigorous work has been put into building the theories that are taught in the textbooks. I am, however, suggesting that if the contents of the lecture are perceived by the students as being disconnected from reality, students will perceive the lecture as a waste of time.

Fixing the problem does not require an overhaul of the wealth of knowledge we have accumulated over years of rigorous academic research. The solution, instead, lies in the presentation of the information. This is where further research should be done.

Image Source: Zachary Nelson
Text Citations:
Kohn, Alfie. “From Degrading to De-Grading.” High School Magazine Mar. 1999: Print.
McGonigal, Jane. “Gaming Can Make a Better World.” YouTube. TED, Web. Dec. 2016.

Business school begins new school year with new dean

By Andrew Koch

Murray Dalziel (pronounced D-L) was announced as the new Dean of the business school on June 3 and he officially took over as Dean in August. Prior to coming to the UB, Dalziel had been the director of the Management School at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom since 2007. According to the University of Baltimore’s University Relations Office, while at Liverpool, Dalziel helped increase the university’s enrollment, launch new programs ,and increase its teaching standards. One of his accomplishments was developing new management programs at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China, as well as other programs for when Liverpool opened a campus in London.

Prior to restarting his career in academia, Dean Dalziel worked for the Hay Group, an international consulting firm, from 1988 to 2007. During that time, he eventually became the company’s managing director for North America and Europe. From 1972 to 1988, Dalziel was with another consulting firm, McBer and Company, where he would become both an Executive Vice President and a Senior Vice President within the company. He was also a teaching fellow and tutor at Harvard University from 1972 to 1976, and received a Doctorate in Sociology from Harvard in 1979. Prior to teaching at Harvard, Dalziel graduated from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1972 with an M.A. in Sociology. One thing he says he was very much involved in while at Liverpool was online education.

“That was a very key component of my operation,” Dalziel said, adding that he also brought his management and client experience into the classroom. He feels it was the mission of the UB, to make a higher education accessible to everyone, that attracted him. He said the major business schools that get a lot of publicity are, in his view, only educating “elites.”

“That’s a good mission to have,” Dalziel said, “but … if you’ve ever looked around the world of business, it’s not populated by elites. It’s populated by people who actually get work done.”

As for the direction he’d like to take the Merrick School of Business in during his tenure as Dean, Dalziel said that’s something he wants to collaborate on with both students and faculty.

“In my first 90 days, I’m not going to come up with this defined vision or this defined strategy because that’s something we’re going to work on together,” Dalziel said.” So I’m going to be doing a lot of learning. I’m talking to everybody … and I want to talk to students as well. I want to really understand the students that we have.”

He added that he likes to think of students not as consumers of education, but as partners in it. He wants to know what it’ll take so that when faculty are at professional gatherings in the future, and they say they work at the Merrick School of Business, their colleagues will say “Wow!”

On Aug. 8, the UB announced that the online MBA run in partnership with Towson University had been named one of the 30 best online MBA programs in the country. Dean Dalziel said he’s pleased to see increasing enrollment in the program, and he really likes the direction the program’s going in.

“I think it’s got a very powerful proposition for students … it’s very consistent with what is going on in other industries,” Dalziel said, adding that it gives students, especially those who work full-time, more choice and flexibility about how they want to construct their MBA programs, while still teaching them the basics at the same time.

In addition to his career in higher education, Dalziel continues to be an investor in startup entrepreneurial ventures in the Northeast, especially in the Philadelphia area.