People We've Met
With about 15 stops in 19 days, the These Four Years documentary team has just completed the major part of its journey, filming interviews across the US and in Canada.
The team interviewed over 40 people during this trip. They flew from Seattle, WA, to Rochester, NY. They drove to New York City, NY; Boston, MA; Washington, DC; Athens, OH; Chicago, IL; and West Lafayette, IN. They flew to Montreal, QC, Canada; New Orleans, LA; and then finally to their last stop in Toronto where they drove to Waterloo, ON, Canada.
Other interviews completed before major travel included stops in California, Oregon and Washington states, putting the total number of interviews thus far at just over 50.
Here’s a closer look at where the team went and who they talked to...
Friday, June 12, 2015
Often called the “Canadian MIT,” the University of Waterloo (https://uwaterloo.ca/) is a comprehensive institution located a little more than an hour West of Toronto.
The team interviewed Rocco Fondacaro, acting executive director of Waterloo’s Co-operative Education and Career Action program, and Rachel Pautler, an undergraduate student who just completed her degree and is also CEO of a startup called Suncayr, a product that once approved by the Canadian government will help sunbathers determine when it is appropriate to apply sunscreen.
“I think our students are highly employable,” Fondacaro said of those involved in Waterloo’s co-op program. “ There is a lot of that additional pressure. “But it helps them get a better understanding of what they like to do and what they don’t like to do.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
At Dillard University (http://www.dillard.edu/), a historically black college/university (HBCU) in New Orleans, La., the team interviewed Yolanda Page, Ph.D., Vice President for Academic Affairs, and two students -- Oscar Garcia, a rising junior from Honduras, and Joy Semien, a Louisiana native who graduated in May.
Garcia spoke about what it’s like to be a minority at a minority school. He is the only Latino in his class at Dillard.
He also talked about the value of international experiences and study abroad opportunities such as those he has received while attending Dillard. Garcia was recently in Germany and will soon travel to China and Chile for study abroad purposes.
“That’s what I want to do with my life,” Garcia said, adding that he hopes to one day work for the U.S. Foreign Service. “I want to travel the world and do and much as I can.”
Garcia also explained that he is a first-generation college student.
“It’s really amazing to see that in my family,” said Garcia. “I am setting that standard.”
Joy Semien just graduated from Dillard this spring and will attend graduate school in Texas beginning in August. Semien grew up in a small Louisiana town about 40 miles from New Orleans called Geismar, perjoratively known as “Cancer Alley” because of chemical plants in the area and unusually high incidents of illnesses suffered by residents.
After completing her educational journey, Semien hopes to return to Geismar.
“Everyone came from somewhere,” Semien said. “Can you go back and help them?”
She also said that she finds happiness through helping others and making other people happy.
“I want to put a smile on someone’s face every day,” Semien said.
She noted that the value of college extends beyond the academics.
“College is more than just reading a book,” said Semien. “It’s about taking the words from that book and turning them into your own destiny.”
Garcia and Semien emphasized the importance of having a can-do attitude, adding that opportunities are out there and that more students should go for them.
For her part, Dr. Page discussed the curriculum at Dillard as well as issues that HBCUs face today. She shared some of Dillard’s many accomplishments and goals. She also talked about what it was like for the school, which suffered extensive damage campus-wide, to experience Hurricane Katrina nearly 10 years ago, and the amount of effort it took for the institution to recover from that event.
“The value of an experience is what one makes of it and takes from it, Page said. “People need to take more of a holistic approach when looking at value.”
Not including room and board, tuition at Dillard for the 2015-2016 academic year is $7,519 for 12 to 18 credit hours. The total undergraduate enrollment at Dillard is 1,183 students, with a student to faculty ratio of 11:1.
Dillard’s mission is “to produce graduates who excel, become world leaders, are broadly educated, culturally aware, and concerned with improving the human condition.”
Monday, June 8, 2015
Team members interviewed former astronaut Julie Payette, an alumna of McGill University (https://www.mcgill.ca/), as well as meeting with the director of the University’s Alumni Relations office and two current McGill students.
Born in Montreal, Julie Payette (http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronauts/biopayette.asp) is a famous Canadian engineer and astronaut. She is an international baccalaureate of the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, having received a scholarship to study there.
After returning to Montreal, Payette earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from McGill University and a master’s in applied science and computer engineering from the University of Toronto.
Payette now works as the Chief Operating Officer for the Montreal Science Centre (http://www.montrealsciencecentre.com/).
Payette spoke about her childhood, which she described as happy, normal and modest. After attending the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal with her family, Payette initially aspired to become an Olympic athlete. As a young girl, Payette said she was intrigued by the ways in which Olympic athletes represented their countries with such honor.
Payette emphasized the value of education. She said that there are ways for students coming from families with modest means, such as herself, to work hard and achieve their higher education goals.
“Education is key to a prosperous society,” Payette said, adding that for young people “education, in my book, is one of the most precious gifts they can give themselves.”
She talked about the international contexts of Montreal, which had positive influences in her life and makes McGill University a unique and enriching learning environment.
The team also interviewed Derek Cassoff, Director of Communications for McGill’s office of University Advancement.
Cassoff spoke about what McGill alumni gain from their time at the University, what many of them do after graduation, and how they continue to be involved with the school.
Tania Raggo, who works in recruitment and serves as Supervisor of McGill’s Welcome Centre, was interviewed about the typical profiles of incoming students, what it’s like to begin the McGill experience, and the decision-making process for many students.
Both Cassoff and Raggo talked about some of the key differences between the higher education systems in Canada and the U.S. One such difference is that the vast majority of Canada’s nearly 100 four-year universities are publicly funded. In contrast, higher education in the U.S. is a mixed environment, with more than 600 public institutions and more than 1,800 private schools.
Two McGill students – U.S. citizen Noah Mitchell from New York, and Kate Bauer from Ontario – were interviewed about their time at McGill, what it’s like to attend college in Canada, and what their college decision processes were like.
McGill’s tuition varies based upon the degrees students pursue and where they are from. Tuition is cheapest for students who reside in the province of Quebec, then increases for other Canadian students who live out-of-province and for international students, including Americans.
Generally speaking, tuition for in-province students ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 per year, while students from the U.S. pay up to $15,000 annually.
Sunday and Monday, June 7 and 8, 2015
The team had the opportunity to meet with and interview Purdue University (http://www.purdue.edu/) President Mitch Daniels, a former Governor of Indiana (2005-2013).
The doc team also spoke with Brent Drake, Chief Data Officer at Purdue’s Office of Institutional Research, Assessment and Effectiveness (http://www.purdue.edu/oir/).
Purdue’s total cost to attend is $23,032 for Indiana residents, $41,994 for non-residents and $44,154 for international students. These rates are frozen through the 2016-2017 academic year.
As of Fall 2014, Purdue’s total enrollment was 38,770 students with 29,255 undergraduate students. The student to faculty ratio is 13:1 and the average class size is 31.
The school’s mission statement is: “Purdue University serves diverse populations of Indiana, the nation, and the world through discovery that expands the frontiers of knowledge, learning that nurtures the sharing of knowledge, and engagement that promotes the application of knowledge.”
Thursday and Friday, June 4 and 5, 2015
The team spent two days at Ohio University (http://www.ohio.edu/) where members conducted interviews with three students and Dr. Richard Vedder, researcher, economist and author of “Twelve Inconvenient Truths about American Higher Education,” (http://centerforcollegeaffordability.org/uploads/12_Inconvenient_Truths.pdf).
Vedder, who holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois, is director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (http://centerforcollegeaffordability.org/). He is also an esteemed emeritus professor of Economics at Ohio University (OU).
Vedder and a team of students, three of whom were interviewed by the team, conduct research through CCAP that contributes to the college ranking numbers found in various publications, including Forbes magazine.
Vedder spoke to the economic values of higher education, including how the U.S. has too many college graduates and too many bachelor degree holders working at jobs that have no degree requirements. He also spoke on the social aspects of college experiences.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
At the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES ( https://nces.ed.gov/), a division of the U.S. Department of Education (http://www.ed.gov/), the team interviewed two statisticians who conduct national studies on high school, university and post-university student populations.
Dr. Elise Christopher conducts longitudinal studies on high schoolers. Among other factors, Christopher tracks the rates at which students graduate from high school, how many students stop-out, or completely drop-out of school, as well as the size and location of education systems.
Additionally, Christopher compared the percentages of high school students who said they would go to college with the number of students who actually enrolled.
Ted Socha, another NCES Statistician, spoke about another longitudinal study, which involved students enrolled in and graduating from college. Socha’s research tracks the professional pursuits of students after graduation from college and how many of those students now work within their fields of study versus those who have found work in areas unrelated to their degrees.
Both Christopher and Socha provided helpful context, information, and qualitative data that will be included in “These Four Years.”
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
At Georgetown University (http://www.georgetown.edu/) in the Nation’s Capital, the team interviewed Dr. Jeff Strohl, Director of Research and Senior Research Fellow at Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce (https://cew.georgetown.edu/).
Strohl talked about the connections between college and the labor market. He said that the demand for certain jobs and areas of employment can be a major determinant in what people study.
Strohl spoke about how consideration of labor market demands can help students get the most out of college, and get the best return on the investments they make in themselves to pursue higher education.
In short, Strohl said, the major matters, and the values of majors varies as well.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
At Boston University (http://www.bu.edu/), the team interviewed two undergraduate students, Taylor Barrow and Giancarlo Rodriguez. Both students shared their passions for social justice and working within their communities.
Boston University (BU) is a private research university with a student body of 30,009 students, including 15,834 undergraduate students. The student to faculty ratio is 13:1.
BU’s tuition for the 2015-2016 year is $47,422. Room, board and fees put the total cost at $62,956.
According to its website, the BU mission statement is as follows:
“We prepare innovative and ethical leaders who understand the impact of business on society and create value for the world. Our students comprehend organizational systems, the vital role of leadership, and the forces transforming the global economy. We generate scholarly knowledge and insights that advance management practice through our research, teaching, and community engagement.”
Giancarlo Rodriguez, a rising junior at BU, is from Los Angeles. At one point, he wanted to study medicine, but now studies philosophy. He said it took him a while to find his passion, originally having felt pressure from his family to pursue a doctorate.
Eventually, Rodriguez decided what was best for him. One concerned he expressed is what he perceives as a lack of diversity within the BU campus community.
Taylor Barrow is a rising senior at BU who hails from from Detroit. She studies biology and hopes to return to her community to give back after she graduates.
For Barrow, fulfilment comes from helping others, never being fully content, and always having goals to work toward.
Both Rodriguez and Barrow are actively involved with the university’s Community Service Center (http://www.bu.edu/csc/), as well as BU’s First-Year Student Outreach Program (FYSOP). (http://www.bu.edu/csc/fysop/)
Saturday, May 30, 2015
At Harvard University (http://www.harvard.edu/), the team interviewed Justin Crichlow, a sophomore who is also a member of the men’s soccer team. We also interviewed Harvard graduate Kathryn Ramsey, who now works as a researcher at Harvard Medical Center (http://hms.harvard.edu/).
Harvard, located in Cambridge, Mass., across the Charles River from Boston, has an enrollment of about 21,000 students, including undergraduate, graduate and professional students. The student to faculty ratio is approximately 8:1.
Harvard’s website says the University’s mission is “to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society. We do this through our commitment to the transformative power of a liberal arts and sciences education.”
Tuition at Harvard is $45,278. Room and board costs $15,381. Estimated costs for supplies, travel and miscellaneous expenses put the total cost of attendance between $64,400 and $69,600. An estimated 60 percent of undergraduate students receive financial aid.
From his perspective as a student-athlete, Crichlow explained soccer played a role in his college decision process and is a key determining factor each semester in terms of scheduling classes.
Crichlow said his faith as a Christian is a major consideration in terms of his feelings about personal fulfillment. He said he hopes to find happiness in life through a good relationship with God.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
At Sarma (http://www.sarmarestaurant.com/), a Boston-area restaurant, the team interviewed chef and owner Cassie Piuma.
Piuma shared her personal experiences about being a college undergraduate, and then explained how she found her way to culinary school and operating her own business.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
At Hamilton College(http://www.hamilton.edu/index.cfm), located in Clinton, NY, the team interviewed Dr. Daniel Chambliss, co-author of How College Works and professor of Sociology.
Named for Alexander Hamilton, the school is a small, private liberal arts college in upstate New York. Home to 1,850 enrolled students, 98% of whom live on campus, Hamilton’s tuition for the 2015-2016 school year is $49,010. Room and board put the total comprehensive fee at $62,070. The student to faculty ratio is 9:1.
Hamilton’s mission statement, according to their website, is, “to provide an educational experience that emphasizes academic excellence and the development of students as human beings, as we prepare them to make choices and accept the responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic world of intellect and diversity.” The Hamilton motto is, “Know Thyself.”
In his book(http://www.amazon.com/How-College-Works-Daniel-Chambliss/dp/0674049020), co-written with Christopher Takacs, Chambliss claims to have found the key ingredients for a good college experience.
The team asked Chambliss about these components as well as his experience with, and opinion on the value of, higher education.
Chambliss emphasized the importance of relationships and mentorships, saying that close connections with mentors can make all the difference for any student’s success.
He also said the goal should be to help students develop a love of learning so that they can continue to learn for themselves, finding their own paths and always continuing to grow.