Dear Gov. Daniels

Dear Gov. Daniels,

It was a pleasure seeing and meeting you on Tuesday.  The workshop really touched me. Like Parker Palmer, I am a Quaker.  Quakers seek Spirit will in every action they take.  This is kind of nice, because if I am seeking god’s will I am not as attached to the outcome. I know we see thing different from each other, but hope that we can have a conversation with an open heart.  Thank you for agreeing to talk to in more depth in January or February. I will be in Massachusetts at some point during that time to conduct interviews for my dissertation, but should be free as some point to speak.

There is one thing I wanted to bring up regarding your response to the role of higher education in a democracy.  I resonated with the need for the liberal arts, and I also take issue with the fact that many students today are not aware of basic political facts.  This concerns me and is relevant to engineering. The main reason I am pursuing my PhD in engineering education is to bridge the gap between technical education and societal issues.  Since WWII, engineering education has focused primarily on technical aspects and students are not aware of many contemporary problems. Engineers often discredit and look down upon problems that are non-technical. As a result, engineers are under represented in politics and often neglect to see who benefits from their design. I see engineers having the responsibility to understand how an oil refinery they are designing will impact commerce as well as affect the disenfranchised people down wind of the plant. This type of education is needed to create leaders and active citizens, but is often neglected. Purdue’s engineering education department has made some strides to address these issues, but it is far from ideal. It difficult to create change in the more traditional engineering classes, the courses today are often taught in the same way with the same material used in the 1950’s, yet our needs and technology has shifted dramatically.

I would like to take this issue and layer it with a method you have encouraged to approach education, outcome-based rewards.  You have requested that your salary be based on some type of outcome-based system.  My problem with this is that the goals will inevitably be subjective.  Coming from different backgrounds, the things that I will consider important to achieve will be different than what you will see it. This type of system often neglects social issues and weighs heavily on metric that are easily quantifiable, like is financial. Racism is a large concern on Purdue’s campus after two recent hateful acts.  Should this be apart of funding?  It is the role and responsibility of the President to address.  Also, if you want to take in consideration student civic knowledge (and I would also include engagement), something you said was important for higher education role in democracy than this should be considered determining financial rewards as a president. This difficult thing to measure and would require extensive studies, and the process of measuring will likely take away from the process of educating.

Well, this is some of my reflections from the talk on Tuesday.  I do want to thank you for agreeing to talk with me.  I greatly appreciate the experience to see you and Dr. Palmer, as it was a truly rich and life transforming experience for me.  I am looking forward to meeting and continuing the conversation.

Sincerely,

Julia Thompson

Doctoral Student

Engineering Education

Purdue University

P.S. I am sure you will read this after the show, but good luck with Colbert.  If you do see this, ask him for the “Colbert Bump.”

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his response:

Tks, Julia for following up on y-day’s conversation.  The whole idea of compensating people in higher ed on performance is basically new territory, so no one has a good model to copy.  I am sure we won’t get it just right the first time or maybe ever, but I do hope we can move in the right direction, and much of it should be centered on making a Purdue education even more valuable….high quality for the students, affordable for them and their families.

We will save this message for after my arrival and if you want to talk further we will look for a chance then.  Tks again.

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Reflection:

My first reaction to Governor Daniels’ response is frustration.  I wish outcome based pay would be backed by research, but such bonuses dont work.  I don’t know what he means by value of education… Does he mean monetary value or does he mean value for the public good? Does he think it’s more important for students to go out and make lots of money, or does he think students should go out and make the world a better place?
I am glad he is interested in reducing the cost.  Student debt is too high and is an issue that needs to be addressed. Though outcome based pay bothers me, the fact that Governor Mitch Daniels has been appointed to the position of Purdue University President through cronyism bothers me, and there are many other issues of concern surrounding this situation.  However, I now have engaged in conversation with him, and he has agreed to meet with me.  I will definitely need to call a clearness committee meeting (a quaker meeting intended to seek spiritual clearness) to unpack my feelings to clarify which topics to discuss with him.
This is surely an interesting adventure, and I am thankful for this opportunity.
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