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


Posted: December 2, 2018 at 6:00am

There has been a lot of talk in recent months about creating and maintaining healthy and respectful environments – especially in the workplace. But what about in the classroom? In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the keys to keeping the classroom an open and respectful place.

Ed believes everyone in the classroom should have a role in keeping the discussion civil and the tone respectful even if there are passionate disagreements about what is being taught or discussed. But he believes the conduct of the teacher goes a long way in laying the foundation for a respectful culture. For example, Ed says he used to be more vocal and open with his instant comments and assessments about students’ answers. But he started to understand that could unintentionally stifle students’ input if they fear differing opinions might be met with lower grades.

“Allowing everyone to share their reflection or their thinking or their feelings or their interpretation, their analysis, and then let the other members of the class pick it up, to me is a more powerful way that opens the conversation. I’m trying to get people to put themselves out there in my class.”

What about when things get disrespectful, heated, or downright ugly in the classroom?

Ed says getting students to agree at the beginning of the semester to some “rules of the road” for handling classroom discussions can help ensure a healthy, respectful environment.

“At the very beginning of the course, to basically have the entire class, with ownership of the students themselves, create in some sense rules of engagement and ways that we’re going to proceed…. And some instructors actually write these things down.  They become ‘here are our guiding principles’” about how people in the classroom will treat each other  – and specifically when they disagree.

What is the one practice Ed believes everyone should embrace to help keep the classroom civil? Listen to the episode to hear more (that is a big hint right there!) and to get a new round of riddles. The more serious puzzler is still taking a break for the holidays but will be back in January.

This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2018.


Posted: November 18, 2018 at 6:00am

In school, our reading choices are mostly dictated by what is assigned for classes or from reading lists. But once we are out of school, the decisions are up to us.  In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the joys and impacts of lifelong reading.

Ed believes that there are a couple of  keys to staying well read beyond our school years.

One: expand the canon of what is considered “must reads” in school and beyond.

“Those canons traditionally are Western, usually written by white dead men,” says Ed.  “What about the voices of individuals who are out there, in history and beyond, who were creative beings, or even not, but just having their story told….And so now, the question is, how do we find a balance where we can get a diversity of voices and perspectives?”

Two: read books that will push us in reading and in other arenas.

“Reading can transport you to a world where you might not be comfortable but you can actually find your way,” Ed believes. “That’s really the exciting world of ideas which can be reflected through reading.” Ed says exploring new ideas in our reading can lead us to exploring new ideas in other aspects of our lives.

What are on Ed’s and Jennifer’s bookshelves? Ed says he prefers non-fiction and likes reading about the art of comedy. But he also was completely mesmerized by the “Harry Potter”series. Jennifer also favors non-fiction but cites “The Thorn Birds” and “The World According to Garp” as favorite reads from the past.

What is the one classic series that Jennifer has never touched? And what is the one book that Ed suggests everyone read?

Listen to the full episode to find out, and to get the answers to the riddles about veggies and witches!

This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2018.


Posted: November 4, 2018 at 6:00am

One reason often cited by non-voters for their lack of participation goes something like this: “my vote doesn’t really count” or “how can my one vote make any difference?” Voter turnout among college-aged students is traditionally low in midterm election years. But this year is shaping up to be different. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss how to sustain that interest even when national politics are not so charged.

Ed believes that getting voting-aged students to the polls is half the battle. The other half? Making sure they are informed voters.

“You just don’t want to have voters going in there and taking out a die and rolling it and then whatever it lands on that’s how you feel on the issue or who you decide to vote for,” says Ed.  He hopes that voters will not make their voting decisions only influenced by “sound bites or 160 characters or generic Facebook posts where we don’t even know exactly where they’re actually emanating from.”

Ed believes that student can and should take the “best practices” of learning they have acquired in classrooms over the years and apply that to the act of voting.

“Articulate what are the issues that matter to you, that are important to you,” says Ed. “And then for each one of them, try to explain why. Is it an emotional response? Is it a logical response? Am I responding because I don’t like the other side, or because I like this side?”

Ed believes that student can making voting a practice – part of the way they live their lives – by getting interested and engaged early.

Listen to the full episode to hear more about using skills honed in the classroom to make decisions in the voting booth. The puzzler is taking a break for a little while to make way for some lighter riddles. These first two are pretty easy; see if you can get them right away.

This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2018.