Category Archives: Uncategorized

Talk at UC Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE)

On June 4, 2024, Noah Pickus and I gave a book talk on our book, The New Global Universities, at the UC Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE). The talk was moderated by John Douglass, a friend and collaborator, who has been a gracious host for my visits to CSHE as a visiting scholar, and who is a co-author with me in several pieces about higher education in Singapore and Hong Kong, including a chapter in his book on Envisioning the Asian New Flagship Universities.

The talk included many thoughtful questions from John Douglass, who helped us clarify how these small schools in our book are not to be dismissed as “boutique” institutions, but rather have had a transformative effect already on reshaping higher education globally. Examples include the transformation in engineering education sparked by Olin College, the new model of ethical entrepreneurial leaders being fostered by Ashesi University in Ghana, and the new types of regional studies courses developed at NYU Abu Dhabi and Fulbright University Vietnam, which are helping reshape how we interpret the Arab World, and Vietnam’s role in the world, respectively.

We are grateful to John Douglass and Shanshan Jiang for helping organize the meeting and helping us have this great discussion about these important issues.

Our Article on Start-up Universities Published in University World News

My co-author, Noah Pickus, and I published a recent article in University World News entitled “Startup Universities inject new energy into the HE system.” The article opens with a story of how Noah and I came together to begin our book project, and how the global journeys that Noah and I took in our lives helped us experience some of the excitement of starting new universities and helping create new models of higher education in Asia and how these new universities give alternative and novel approaches to learning that are so much needed in today’s world.

The article describes how these new universities in some cases help students in countries like Ghana, India and Vietnam receive a top-quality liberal arts education at a small fraction of the price that it would take to travel to the US or Europe, and by staying within their home country or region, are more likely to then be retained as leaders and scholars within those regions to help advance their economies and cultures. The article also describes new approaches to staffing, and how many of these new universities have been able to avoid granting tenure (using long-term contracts instead) and creating competing department, and how this approach has reduced costs and increased campus unity and coherence.

The article also gives examples of many of the innovative advances provided by these new universities. To provide a brief quote, here is a section from the article about these innovations:

Examples include the four-year leadership curriculum at Ashesi University in Ghana, which allows students to integrate lessons from the classroom with their lives as students as they become the type of ethical entrepreneurial leaders that Ashesi hopes will promote a ‘renaissance in Africa’.

Also, new courses in Vietnamese studies developed at Fulbright University Vietnam, which explore the many dimensions of Vietnam’s culture, politics and economics as it has evolved after the ‘American War’ of the previous century.

Many start-ups, by abandoning disciplinary departments, can also structure their degree programmes along interdisciplinary lines of inquiry that strongly incorporate experiential learning.

Examples include the African Leadership University, which has several immersive internships and real-world experiences as part of the curriculum in entrepreneurship, and the project-based learning curriculum at Olin College of Engineering, where students begin designing new inventions in their first year of study, and continue through all four years to even develop designs for their own companies as part of the curriculum.

(From our article, “Start-up universities inject new energy into the HE system,” June 3, 2024, University World News).

We are grateful to University World news for the speedy publication of the article, and for the help it gave us in reaching an important new audience for our book.

Talk for Open Society University Network

On May 29, my co-author Noah Pickus and I gave a talk for the Open Society University Network (OSUN), which is led by the courageous and innovative leaders at Bard College in New York, and the Central European University in Vienna, Austria. The network includes nearly 30 member universities across the world, in a range of countries and territories including Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Palestine, and Taiwan. The network also includes Ashesi University, one of the institutions we wrote about in our book, the New Global Universities. The image below, from the OSUN website, shows the scope of this global network.

The announcement for the talk included a nice blurb about the book, and we had a global audience of attendees who asked very good questions. We are grateful to Gray Rinehart for the invitation. Among the attendees were representatives of universities such as Parami University, based in Myanmar, and led by Kyaw Moe Tun, who asked some good questions. Parami University has been part of many of our discussions within the Pacific Alliance of Liberal Arts (PALAC), a group based at Soka University of America, that I founded along with Thomas Schneider, who is now leading the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU).

We especially valued the chance to think about how new universities can help engage students and communities within countries that are struggling to gain greater freedom, and we believe that high quality liberal arts education, with academic freedom to explore deep questions that affect all of us as common members of humanity, provides the greatest hope for peace and a better world. Our new universities we write about are helping to build this better world, along with the universities built and led by the members of the OSUN group.

TOI-3984 A b and TOI-5293 A b: two temperate gas giants transiting mid-M dwarfs in wide binary systems

With a collaborator from Penn State University, we brought our little Nieves Observatory of the Soka University of America into its first published astrophysical paper. The project was to use our 0.3-meter telescope to confirm the detection of an extrasolar planet that was earlier detected by the satellite TESS. The light from the star is dimmed when the planet crosses in front of the star (or transits), and this allows measuring the size of the planet by comparing the radius of the planet with the star’s radius, which is derived from the fractional amount of light blocked during the transit. Our telescope was used remotely from PSU, and the data helps us learn more about the planets in these systems.

The paper was entitled “TOI-3984 A b and TOI-5293 A b: Two Temperate Gas Giants Transiting Mid-M Dwarfs in Wide Binary Systems” and was published in the Astronomical Journal in 2023. The paper confirms the existence of two gas giant exoplanets, TOI-3984 A b and TOI-5293 A b, orbiting M dwarf stars identified by TESS. These planets are notable for their relatively cool temperatures and their presence in wide binary systems, each with a significant stellar companion. The study utilizes a combination of TESS photometry, ground-based observations, speckle imaging, and high-precision radial velocity measurements to characterize the planets. TOI-3984 A b has a mass of approximately 0.14 Jupiter masses and an orbital period of 4.35 days, while TOI-5293 A b has a mass of 0.54 Jupiter masses and an orbital period of 2.93 days. The findings highlight the potential for these systems to provide insights into the formation and migration of gas giants around M dwarfs and their atmospheric compositions.

The light curve from the transit of the exoplanet, as taken with our Nieves Observatory at Soka University of America. the dip in the star’s brightness is caused by the planet transiting in front of the star, and the model (in blue) allows for the calculation of the size of the exoplanet.

This paper contributes significantly to our understanding of exoplanetary systems, particularly in the context of gas giants orbiting M dwarf stars. Traditionally, gas giants have been found around more massive stars, making these findings around M dwarfs relatively rare and valuable for comparative planetology. The study of TOI-3984 A b and TOI-5293 A b offers insights into the diversity of planetary systems and challenges existing models of planet formation and migration, especially in the less massive protoplanetary disks around M dwarfs. Additionally, the characterization of these planets expands our knowledge of temperate gas giants’ atmospheric properties and potential habitability. The methodologies employed in this paper, combining space-based and ground-based observations with high-precision spectroscopy, set a precedent for future studies of similar exoplanetary systems.

(note: this summary was made with the assistance of GPT 4o).

Multi-wavelength Photometry and Progenitor Analysis of the Nova V906 Car

With my former Yale-NUS student Jerrick Wee and former collaborator from Caltech Nadeja Blagorodnova, we studied an erupting nova known as V906 Car in optical and infrared wavelengths, using remotely operated telescopes in Chile. Two of our Soka University of America students, Taiga Morioka and Jeff Facey, contributed to the work. The paper was published in the Astrophysical Journal in 2020.

The paper was entitled “Multi-wavelength Photometry and Progenitor Analysis of the Nova V906 Car,” and presented an extensive observational study of the classical nova V906 Car (also known as Nova Car 2018 and ASASSN-18fv), discovered by the ASAS-SN survey on March 16, 2018. We provided detailed optical and infrared photometry data, highlighting the nova’s evolution over 126 days. The nova’s light curve showed a steep decline with a decline rate parameter ∆m15(B) = 0.88 and negligible host galaxy reddening. High-resolution spectroscopy estimated the extinction towards the nova as AV = 1.11+0.54−0.39. The progenitor system analysis suggests a white dwarf mass of < 0.8M☉, and a donor star likely being a K-M dwarf with 0.23-0.43M☉. The study contributes valuable data on novae’s light curves and spectral energy distribution, enhancing our understanding of their physical properties and progenitor systems.

The figure displays the light curves of V906 Car across various optical (BVRI) and near-infrared (JHK) bands. The nova exhibited a characteristic rise to maximum brightness followed by a rapid decline, consistent with a C-class nova. The presence of a secondary maximum in the near-infrared bands, particularly in the H and K filters, indicates complex interactions and the possible formation of dust within the ejecta. These detailed light curves help in understanding the photometric evolution and underlying physical mechanisms driving the brightness changes in classical novae.

The study of V906 Car provides critical insights into the broader astrophysical understanding of nova systems. By capturing the nova’s early rise and detailed multi-wavelength photometry, the paper contributes to refining models of nova outbursts, particularly the shock-powered mechanisms suggested by correlated optical and γ-ray emissions. The accurate measurements of extinction and distance further validate the use of classical novae as standard candles for cosmic distance calculations. Additionally, the analysis of the progenitor system enriches our knowledge of white dwarf accretion processes and the role of donor stars in nova systems, which are essential for understanding stellar evolution and binary interactions.

(note: this overview provided with assistance from ChatGPT 4o).

Stanford University Book Talk – May 15, 2024

With sponsorship from Stanford Digitial Education, my co-author Noah Pickus and I will be giving a talk on May 15, 2024, at 1 PM PST. The talk will be available to all via Zoom, and the registration link is below. I include a flyer and other images from the event below as well. The talk will include Minu Ipe, who is the vice chair and managing director of the University Design Institute of Arizona State University. Minu will moderate the discussion, and Noah and I will give an overview of the book, the eight amazing new universities we wrote about, and a discussion with the audience about the lessons these new universities provide for innovation and change in higher education. I hope you can join. Please share this with your friends!

The event is part of a series on Academic Innovation for the Public Good, and the Stanford Digital Education office has been sponsoring these as a series of talks. The link to the event website is below.

MIT X Talk – Reimagining Higher Education: Lessons from Around the World

During my sabbatical at Harvard, I had the chance to visit MIT frequently to learn about their work in artificial intelligence and to see first-hand how they adapt new technologies to undergraduate education. It has been great to get to know the MIT Open Learning Group and to have some great talks with Sheryl Barnes and others at MIT. Toward the end of the year, MIT invited me to give an X talk on April 24 entitled “Reimagining Higher Education: Lessons from Around the World.” That talk is based on the book The New Global Universities, which I wrote with Noah Pickus. The talk featured a nice group of in-person attendees and is available on recording from the MIT Open Learning YouTube channel.

The video is also imbedded below. I hope you enjoy it!

Harvard Graduate School of Education book talk on Building Universities

As part of my work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), where I have been based this year as a visiting scholar, I was able to present a talk on April 25 based on our book The New Global Universities – Reinventing Higher Education in the 21st Century at HGSE for their students. The talk was entitled “Building a University from Scratch” and was with HGSE faculty member and former Macalester President Brian Rosenberg. We discussed the institutions that Noah Pickus and I wrote about in our book, as well as Brian Rosenberg’s experience at Macalaster and as a board member of ALU, which was one of the institutions in our book. We had a good discussion with the audience members, and it was great having a chance to present the book at HGSE as I wrap up my sabbatical year, and begin some new projects at Stanford toward the end of the academic yearl. The book talk is available as a zoom recording online at HGSE. I hope you enjoy it!

Visit to Asian University for Women in Bangladesh

This week I have been in Bangladesh, which included some time in Dhaka to learn more about the founding of Bangladesh in 1971 and to be in the country for its National Day on March 26, and then to Asian University for Women in Chittagong, where we met as the Board of Trustees to learn more about their ongoing work developing women who can help lead the future of their countries. The women were very inspiring and included many of the most talented young women from Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and over a dozen other countries. We heard directly from the women in both the pre-undergraduate, undergraduate, and the new MA programs at AUW, and the stories of the women were inspiring, as was their drive and tenacity as they learned to be leaders, coders, and designers of the future of our world. I am proud to be able to help AUW as it plans for its new campus and adds new students, new majors and new degree programs.

AUW logo

Master Class on Global Citizenship for the Aspire Leaders Institute

Last month, I had the honor of teaching a master’s class at the Aspire Leadership Institute, founded by Harvard Business School professors Tarun Khanna and Karim Lakhani. The Aspire team also gave me a great overview of the program, which currently reaches thousands of future young leaders around the world, with their top countries, including India, Turkey, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Kenya. They hope to grow to reach 100,000 students in the coming years, and their program is open to any student between 18-29 years old who come from from lower income levels, and who are first-generation students to go to college.

Their curriculum features three modules: a four-week course on personal and professional development, a four-week immersive learning environment featuring master classes from top thought leaders and academics, a six-week horizons course that develops advanced leadership skills, and then students join a growing alumni network across the world. My contribution was a master class on global citizenship, which is included in an article in their newsletter and is featured on their website. The class reached nearly 1000 students from around the world, and I tried to connect these students with examples of global citizens who have shaped the world and helped promote peace and a deep understanding of our common humanity. The talk featured quotes from Diogenes, Rabindranath Tagore, Daisaku Ikena, Wanjira Mathai, Anthony Kwame Appiah, and others, and I look forward to contributing to their future cohorts with additional talks in the coming years. You can see that link here: