Archive for July, 2018

Service of Everybody Gets a Trophy: College & University Academic Honors Galore

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Photo: debate.org

Not short of recognition in my professional life, in college I was a dorm officer and on the college student council but I wasn’t much when it came to academic honors. [I made Dean’s List one semester, a shock to me most of all.] I’m impressed with my Phi Beta Kappa friends and with anyone who graduated with academic honors.

Photo: rochester.edu

I was not happy to read Melissa Korn’s Wall Street Journal article, “You Graduated Cum Laude? So Did Everyone Else.”

Korn wrote: “Nearly half of students who graduated from Lehigh University, Princeton University and the University of Southern California this year did so with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors, or their equivalents. At Harvard and Johns Hopkins, more got the designations than didn’t.” Over 50 percent of Middlebury’s graduates and at Wellesley, 41 percent were so honored, up from 1/3 in the past 10 years.

Korn quoted former Duke professor Stuart Rojstaczer: “A 4.0 does signal something significant, that that student is good. A 3.7, however, doesn’t. That’s just a run-of-the-mill student at any of these schools.” Rojstaczer has focused on grade inflation for years according to Korn.

“Most elite schools cap the share of the graduating class that can receive academic honors. But the caps vary widely, from 25% at Columbia University to up to 60% at Harvard,” she wrote.

Excerpts from the article:

  • “Harvard’s number hit 91% in 2001, as highlighted at the time in a Boston Globe article about generous honors policies. Soon after, the school revised its selection process.
  • “Academic researchers say that uptick is a sign of grade inflation, not of smarter students.
  • “A handful of schools, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have tried to rein in the awards.
  • “Derrick Bolton, dean of admissions for Stanford University’s Knight-Hennessy Scholars graduate program, said application readers may glance at honors designations, but don’t dwell on them.” The program that accepted 50 and rejected 3,451 students, “looks more for candidates who challenge themselves academically, even if that means a B grade along the way.”

To be eligible for academic recognition the GPAs required by the colleges and universities in the article started at 3.5 and 3.6. At Tufts, which wouldn’t share with the Journal the percentage of students awarded academic honors, you needed a 3.2 in engineering.

Harvey Mudd College

If someone is paying yearly almost $70,000–$52,666 tuition and $17,051 room and board–at Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif., they might expect an award, don’t you think? Harvey Mudd was the first in a list of the 50 most expensive colleges and universities in Business Insider published in February 2017.  The publication credited “Trends in College Pricing” as its source. Brown was the least expensive charging $64,566 for tuition and room and board. I went to Boston University, number 38, now at $65,110 per year, whereas Yale, number 47, where my husband graduated, cost $64,650.

Do colleges and universities think that they are doing students a favor by lowering the bar in handing out academic honors by the pound? Are they being smart? Is the likely chance a student or child will be so honored a selling point to attract candidates?

Photo: dentaltechnicianjobs.net

Service of Say What? Inadvertent Impressions Businesses Make

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

Photo: gofindtheothers.com

It’s not hard to find businesses that mean well but do their customers or themselves little good with their marketing efforts.

The Grass is Greener….

I couldn’t stop the car last weekend to snap a shot of a scruffy looking property with a small sign on the remarkably unkempt grass that promoted a lawn care business. Made me sad for the business.

Divorce Auction Style

A postcard advertising a “Divorce Liquidation Auction” would have done well to omit the words “Have Fun.” “Fun” didn’t go with the headline that indicated that two people had to sell their belongings due to an unfortunate situation. On the reverse side of the card we read that the couple had been married 20 years and had travelled a lot. I know: I’m thin-skinned, but when I saw the card I envisioned vultures circling a carcass looking for spoils. Not fun.

Warning: Read But Don’t Look

Our 2018 Malibu flashed a warning on the dashboard screen. I took my eyes off the road to see that it said “Taking your eyes off the road too long or too often could cause a crash resulting in injury or death to you or others. Focus your attention on driving.” Struck me funny.

I have driven the car since May, and find that the over-sensitive screen is a dangerous distraction as well. I barely touch it and something changes—like my favorite radio stations. I end up with links to three of the same instead of the selection I’d originally made.

I’ve given up using the address book transferred to the car from my mobile phone. As I scroll through the names with my finger touching the screen as gently as possible, I must press too hard because I mistakenly call two to three people before tapping the person/number I want to call.

I’m also fearful that General Motors and probably the world now have all the phone numbers of everyone I know or knew.

Head-Scratcher

Actor Sofia Vergara plays Gloria Pritchett on the TV sitcom “Modern Family” on ABC and also stars in Head & Shoulders shampoo commercials with her son Manolo and other family members. I like that she gets Proctor & Gamble to include her relatives but the twist in the current commercial is mean. Vergara exclaims how soft Manolo’s hair is, runs to wash hers and then shoves herself on to his chair and takes over. A mom that steals a scene from her kid: Not funny and gives the wrong impression. And I don’t think Vergara is a nasty person.

What marketing slipups or miscommunications have you noticed lately?

Sofia Vergara and son Manolo

Service of Did You Know That When You Bought or Rented It?

Monday, July 9th, 2018

1966 Ford pickup. Photo: classiccars.com

I once rented a glorious apartment with a view of the East River and Manhattan out the kitchen window; a working fireplace; large living and dining rooms; two bedrooms and a skylight in one of the bathrooms. I soon discovered it had a serious paucity of electric plugs and closets so shallow that when we closed the doors one shoulder of every jacket was crushed and wrinkled.

I was so taken by the rest of the place that I paid no attention to these flaws.

Photo: pinterest.com

Some NYC co-ops don’t permit washing machines in apartments which could be a deal-breaker if you have young children. Suburban communities often don’t allow people to hang laundry outdoors which if this is important to you, you want to know before moving in.

The subject of Douglas Belkin’s Wall Street Journal article, Luke Lambert, soon discovered that he wasn’t allowed to park his pickup truck outside–in his driveway or on the street–when he moved to Flossmore, Ill. The ban, which caused the man’s dad to borrow a sedan to visit him from Wisconsin because he got a ticket when he parked his pickup in his son’s driveway on his first visit, is one of many restrictions in this Chicago suburb.  Aboveground pools, dog leashes longer than 8 feet or grass taller than five inches are also prohibited. Residents have 24 hours to hide garbage cans after pickup.

The outlawed pickups must be stored in a garage but Lambert’s 1966 Ford was too big to fit so he parked it at his grandmother in laws’ house 10 miles away. Flossmore citizens think that theirs may be the last American community with such a residential restriction and Lambert wants to reverse it. Currently pickups are allowed outside of businesses and in church parking lots and for a few minutes outside homes to unload contents.

Lambert built a Facebook page in his effort and collected 300 signatures. The opposition suggested that people “Build a bigger garage or buy a smaller truck and park it in your current garage. No one who is not using it for business ‘needs’ a giant truck.”

According to Belkin, after a fall referendum, the trustees will make their decision. The mayor can’t predict the outcome and thinks it will be close.

Have you ever moved somewhere only to learn too late about problematic, inconvenient imperfections or rules? Do you think the conservatives in Flossmore are out of step or that Lambert should leave well enough alone?

Photo: learnwithkak.com

Service of Adventure: Food, Physical or Business

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Photo: goway.com

When I read Charles Passy’s article about his distaste for a Japanese delicacy—natto–I knew I wanted to write about his predicament. Last April I’d covered the topic of the foods I’ve tried and can’t force myself to eat again and I’ve not added to the short list that included grouse and animal entrails. I’m game most of the time.

Passy admitted in his Wall Street Journal article, “As someone who has spent a good part of his journalistic career writing about food, I take a certain pride in the fact I will eat anything and everything… such as a taco stuffed with chile-dusted fried grasshoppers and ice cream made from durian, the infamously pungent fruit.”

Natto. Photo: seriouseats.com

But he can’t tolerate the odor and texture of  Japanese fermented soybeans—natto–regardless of how they are prepared and what accompanies them. He wrote: “It smelled like a stinky cheese left outside the fridge for at least an hour too long. But even more notable was the texture: If you think okra is slimy, imagine okra that, on a scale of 1 to 10, goes to 11.”

I’ve often heard adults admit that they take no chances when it comes to food and won’t accept even a tiny taste of unfamiliar fare. Many claim to be meat and potatoes enthusiasts.

Tatsu rollercoaster. Photo: the coasterguy.com

At the same time they may be far braver than most when it comes to putting themselves in physical danger by gliding in a hot air balloon, riding upside down in a Tatsu roller coaster or putting their life in the hands of a cable and pulley for a zip-line trip down a mountain.

And then there are those who take huge chances in business.

Have you tasted natto? Are you adventuresome in some ways and apprehensive in others? In your work has there been one thing that you dislike, as Passy does natto, even if you’re pretty happy with the other 99 percent?

Fried grasshoppers. Photo: menshealth.com

Service of a Simple Transaction Done Well: Kudos LAZ Parking

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Photo: worldartsme.com

One smart, quick, knowledgeable, engaged person can make a huge difference when there are potential stumbling blocks in a transaction designed to be seamless.

We received a letter from LAZ Parking, the company that runs parking lots and grants permits at Metro-North railroad stations. We had parked in the LAZ lot in Dover Plains for 15+ years and sent a check to renew our yearly permit before the other one expired. In return, LAZ provided proof of payment to display in the car window. The system worked well.

But they changed it. [I could write many posts about so-called upgrades that turn out to be downgrades for me.]

LAZ asked us to sign up online, to download proof of car registration and supply other information. In addition to online registration systems that in my experience are often fraught with peril and traps leading to potential error, our situation had a few complications:

  • My husband had held on to the letter for at least 10 days which was 9½ days too many. Each station has a limited number of monthly parking slots and they are promptly scooped up.
  • We needed to change the account from my husband’s name to mine to match our new car registration.
  • We wanted to pay by check, not by credit card, the way the system is set up.

We were saved by Kathleen Dawson, LAZ Administration Assistant Supervisor, who shepherded our order through all the twists and turns. She was in one office and our online application was used by another. She cleared up the system’s initial confusion over the name change which caused us at first to be refused a permit, responded to all my concerns, expertly advising me and warned those at the other LAZ office about our quirky situation. What might have been a nightmare that ended up with the loss of our parking permit turned out just fine. We are grateful to Ms. Dawson and to those at the second office who expedited and approved our request the day they received our check.

Have you been as lucky as we were to have someone like Ms. Dawson guide you and lubricate a transaction that had many opportunities to become grounded? Do most companies nurture, respect and reward five star customer service support staff such as Ms. Dawson?

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