President Edward Burger

Higher Ed Episodes

President Edward Burger and Jennifer Stayton of Austin National Public Radio affiliate KUT explore topics of higher education, lifelong learning, and exercising the brain in this lively and entertaining weekly podcast.

President Edward Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton

Episodes

Posted: October 6, 2019 at 6:00am

“The only thing constant is change.”

That saying, or some derivation of it, is attributed to the ancience Greek philosopher Heraclitus around 500 BC. But it certainly rings as true now as it did then.

In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed ,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss preparing students to handle life’s big changes.

Earlier this fall, Ed announced that in January of 2020 he will leave his position as President of Southwestern and become President and Chief Executive Officer of the St. David’s Foundation in Austin, Texas. After spending decades in academia, this move represents a big change for Ed.

So, why did he do it?

Ed says his long career in academia was actually one of the factors that propelled him to step into a different arena.

“We should not let our gifts and talents confine us to how we define ourselves and our future,” Ed believes. “If there is something more that we want to do, I don’t think we should use the fact that we are successful at something we’re currently doing as an impediment to not go off; trail blaze; take the risk; effectively fail; and do something else.”

Ed says much of what he has learned going through this process is applicable to students or anyone in a process of learning and discerning.

“How do you open your mind to looking at a future version of yourself that is a dramatic departure from where you are?”

Ed believes that question lies at the heart of launching into a big change. He says several steps are necessary to take a major, new step:

* “Your first have to overcome that inertia that says ‘things are okay now, … or things are great now, so let’s not mess up the apple cart.’”

* “[Don’t] be afraid of the emotional responses you will have to even consider such a move or such a change because they are real. And you have to balance all of that.”

* “One needs to create the space in one’s psyche to embrace this notion of change.”

* “There’s a mourning process. We need to give ourselves the space for us to mourn the loss of the bonds, the friendships, the community that we will be leaving. And then begin to imagine and be excited by a future community and a future life that will come next.”

Listen to the entire episode to hear more about contemplating, navigating and executing a big life change.

Ed promised the newest puzzler would be tougher than recent ones. He did not change his mind about that; be ready for a tough one this week.

This episode was recorded on Sept. 25, 2019.



 

Posted: September 29, 2019 at 6:00am

When strong feelings bubble up, your heart might win out over your head in deciding what happens next. But at times, a more thoughtful approach might prove ultimately more effective. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed ,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the tug-of-war between feeling and thinking.

Ed says he thinks higher education can play a role in teaching people how to navigate and process strong feelings so that those feelings can inform – but not derail – learning and major decision making.

“I think that especially on a college campus…it’s really important to allow people space for both that emotional reaction or that emotional response,” says Ed. “And then to encourage them to process and have something else come out of it.”

Ed is quick to clarify that feelings should not be shortchanged or discounted in learning and decision making. He says they actually play a vital role. But he emphasizes the importance of balancing those feelings with mindfulness and awareness.

“Our feelings and our emotions will generate all sorts of intuition; all sorts of creativity; all sorts of new insights; all sorts of new ideas. And then we can play off of them,” says Ed. “But the playing off them, and then what comes next, is all about when we start to think through them.”

What happens if that emotional response is not followed by thoughtful reflection?

“It’s like a car being stuck in the mud,” says Ed. “The wheels are just spinning and spinning and spinning, spewing up mud, but it’s not moving anywhere.”

Listen to the full episode to hear more about how to keep those wheels from just spinning in the mud without making progress, and to get the solution to last episode’s football puzzler (muddy field not required!).

This episode was recorded on Aug. 7, 2019.

After this episode was recorded, Dr. Ed Burger announced that he is leaving Southwestern University in January 2020 to become president and chief executive officer of St. David’s Foundation.



 

Posted: September 22, 2019 at 6:00am

Fewer college students than you might think make it from Freshman orientation all the way to graduation. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed ,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss why students drop out, and what colleges and universities can do to help them stay in.

David Kirp’s book “The College Dropout Scandal” (excerpted in The Chronicle of Higher Education) is packed with statistics about college attendance. One data point from the book really stands out: over four in ten college freshman will not graduate with a degree within six years.

As Ed points out, some of those reasons are practical or situational, such as an illness in the family or a change in family geography or status.

But there are other reasons more rooted in the institutions than in the students.

Ed says universities who make special efforts to recuit groups of students such as first generation college students or international students also need to then provide those students with the necessary support.

“Once a student arrives, there are instutions whose attitude is ‘we took that student… and now we’re done,’” says Ed, “instead of thinking about ‘ok, how do we now map a way for that student not just to graduate… but to flourish.’”

Ed believes that support – for any student – needs to include personal connections because “the moment it becomes less personal, it’s easier to find a way out.”

Ed believes higher education as a whole should also examine the culture around expectations of what is “normal” and achievable in the standard four year time frame. He says acceptance and flexibility in that regard might help more students stick with school.

“If someone needs, for whatever reason, a little more time to finish, they shouldn’t think anything except ‘this is the time that it takes me,” says Ed. “This idea that four years is success- is really nonsense.”

Listen to the entire episode for further discussion about helping students stay in school. The puzzler takes to the gridiron this week, but no special knowledge of football is needed to figure this one out.

This episode was recorded on Aug. 7, 2019.

After this episode was recorded, Dr. Ed Burger announced that he is leaving Southwestern University in Jan. 2020 to become President and Chief Executive Officer of St. David’s Foundation.