Sunday, January 07, 2007

Hazel Markus Quoted in New York Times Article

Today's New York Times has an article on the demographic make-up of top American universities' undergraduate student bodies, with a focus on the large percentages of Asian-American students at these institutions ("Little Asia on the Hill," by Timothy Egan). Here is a link to the article; note, however, that you may have to complete the free registration and the article will probably disappear from free access in a few days, anyway. Those of you at universities whose libraries have online subscriptions to LexisNexis might try seeking the article through that option.

Hazel Markus, a social psychology professor at Michigan from 1975-1994 before moving to Stanford, was quoted in the article, as seen in the following excerpt:

Hazel R. Markus lectures on this very subject as a professor of psychology at Stanford and co-director of its Research Institute for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Her studies have found that Asian students do approach academics differently. Whether educated in the United States or abroad, she says, they see professors as authority figures to be listened to, not challenged in the back-and-forth Socratic tradition. “You hear some teachers say that the Asian kids get great grades but just sit there and don’t participate,” she says.

One of the main findings of cross-cultural psychology is that Asian cultures tend to be more collectivist, with more of a premium on maintaining harmony within the group, than is the case in the U.S. In the above excerpt, I can see Asian students' stance toward professors as being consistent with preservation of harmony within the classroom. However, such a demeanor may also create the seeming paradox of Asian students being perceived as excessively individualistic.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Getting to Meet Mary Sue Coleman at UM Rose Bowl Rally in L.A. Area

Happy New Year!

Wolverine Nation relocated to southern California this past holiday season, as supporters of the Maize and Blue flocked to see Michigan play in the Rose Bowl football game (the less said about the game, the better).

I'm from Los Angeles and was back home visiting family. I did not go to the game, but my family and I attended a pep rally for the team at the Santa Monica Pier, Sunday, December 31, the day before the game.

I would say there were at least a few thousand Wolverine fans there. Because we were a bit late in arriving, we had to stand off to one side of the stage, behind a huge sea of humanity. Afterwards, however, a couple family members and I walked around the main area where the stage was.

UM President Mary Sue Coleman was in the area, and what looked like a dozen or so students were reacting to her as if she were a rock star, requesting to take photos with her. I waited my turn and got to take a picture with her, too (shown above). There were two points I wanted to convey to her, and did during my brief opportunity:

(1) After introducing myself as a Michigan Ph.D. recipient and current faculty member at Texas Tech University, I noted to her that my president at Texas Tech is her former provost when she was president at the University of Iowa, Jon Whitmore.

(2) In reaction to a statewide ballot proposition passed in November 2006 barring consideration of race/ethnicity (and some other demographic characteristics) in decision-making by Michigan governmental entities, President Coleman had vowed to use all legally available means to maintain a diverse student body at the university. (Many of you will recall that the U.S. Supreme Court had said in 2003 that race-sensitive admissions policies, if properly designed, were constitutional. The Court's opinion only said, however, that such policies were allowable, not required.)

In that context, I told President Coleman that, through my experiences as a social psychology graduate student, I had gotten to know some of the faculty members who would go on to play roles in defending the university's admissions policies at the Supreme Court. I then finished with my encouragement to her to, "keep fighting the good fight on educational diversity."


In addition to former football coach Bo Schembechler, about whom I wrote a couple entries ago, the University of Michigan lost another icon recently, former U.S. president Gerald R. Ford. Not only was Ford a UM alunmus; he also played football for the Wolverines. Also, the UM's School of Public Policy was named after Ford a few years ago.