Bored at work

The teenage cashier at the Wegman’s check-out line just insisted that I do something fun tonight.

He did not tell me to, “have a good day,” and he did not thank me for shopping. As I walked away, he insisted that I do something fun tonight.

Before that, he asked me how my day was going. He listened for my answer before he started bagging. Then he asked me if I had done anything fun that day. I said I hadn’t. He told me what he likes to do after work to have fun.

As I walked away with my bags, he did not immediately turn to the next customer. I had already taken several steps when he turned around and insisted that I do something fun tonight. He was having a great time, and he made me re-think my evening priorities.

It’s entirely possible that your job is boring, and that you need to get out. It’s equally likely you just haven’t found a creative way to make your current job more enjoyable.

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Why you get a summer break

Two summers ago I visited England. I love seeing college campuses, so I went to the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. One of the most fascinating aspects of both universities was the lawns in front of the buildings.

It turns out you’re not allowed to walk on their perfectly-manicured lawns. They have guards to make sure you don’t. Why grow such beautiful-looking grass if you’re not allowed to walk on it?

It turns out there is no reason for the lawn. There’s a long history going back to the middle ages of wealthy aristocrats growing grass in front of their castles to show off their riches. The unspoken statement goes something like this: “We are so wealthy we can waste money maintaining grass we don’t use. We are prestigious.” You have a lawn in front of your house for the same reason.

The reason you get a summer break is equally silly. Many decades ago, families needed their children to work on their farms during summer months. A break from school used to be practical, but it’s not anymore.

Is your break really well-deserved? Is there nothing you could be doing to improve?

My advice for dealing with drama

I get asked about this a fair amount. You might not like the answer, but here goes:

Give me a $100 bill. You have 24 hours to talk to the person you’re having drama with. If after 24 hours you’ve talked to her, I’ll give you your $100 back. If you haven’t, I get to keep it.

That’s probably all that needs to happen. You don’t actually need my advice, you just need a little incentive.

Looking for love

Nobody, when creating a profile for a dating website, writes, “I’m looking for someone popular.” People are much more likely to write, “I’m looking for someone honest.”

And yet, every day we’re tempted to pick popularity over honesty. Every time we gossip about someone else we’re choosing the love of popularity over the love of honesty.

Honesty is a higher love than popularity. That’s intuitive, and yet we don’t act like it is.

Love is a choice. There is nowhere to look for it.

The Future of Fredonia: President Virginia Horvath on the Excelsior Scholarship, Economic Development in Chautauqua County, College Affordability, and the Value of a Liberal Arts Degree

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Fredonia President, Dr. Virginia Horvath (Photo by Corey Maher)

After twenty-seven years at Kent State University (as a graduate assistant, then faculty member, then dean),Ginny Horvath began to think about senior leadership roles and considered vice president positions around the county. Her major stipulation was that the institution value undergraduate teaching, learning, and faculty collaboration.  

“I applied to a school in another state,” Horvath said. “With that one, I got as far as the phone interview, and then I withdrew, because I asked, ‘What are the opportunities for me to teach if I become Provost here?’ There was a long pause and they said, ‘We’d have to check with the union on whether that would be okay. We don’t really like administrator-types in the buildings where the students and faculty are.’ That was enough for me. To be called an ‘administrator-type’ who’s not welcome in that building? I said, ‘No, that’s not for me.'” The main issue was not the teaching, since her role as vice president would keep her busy enough. The response told her something important about the culture of that college and that she would be expected to stay away from faculty and students.

Fredonia, of course, allowed her to continue teaching, even as she was appointed to the presidency in 2012. A teacher at heart, Horvath has seen how a college education can change lives, elevating some of her early students from relying on public assistance to earning wages higher than her own.

But much has changed in higher education since she began teaching in the late 1970’s, namely, the dwindling government support for public universities. The subsequent rise in tuition has led many to question the value of a college education.

Our conversation, which took place in the President’s Office in Fenton Hall, covered college affordability, the Excelsior Scholarship, the value of a liberal arts degree, economic development in Chautauqua County, and how they’ll all shape the future of Fredonia:

Jon-Ryan Maloney: With the growing cost of college, how do you engage somebody who thinks a humanities degree isn’t worth it? You seem to have a unique perspective because you lived this question. Particularly on this campus, how do you think about the question of a broad, liberal-based education?

Dr. Virginia Horvath: When people start college they might think, “I’m going to major in business, because I’m going to work for a business.” Well, most people who are not entrepreneurs work for a business. Some businesses need people with business degrees to do marketing, advertising, and accounting, but a lot of entry-level positions in businesses want a person with a bachelor’s degree. They don’t care what it’s in, because they’re going to train you in the specifics of the company. So I think a liberal arts degree is helpful preparation for all of those. I think of Diane Craig, who was the CEO of Ford Canada, and is now in charge of all Ford sales in the United States. At Fredonia, she was a math major. Students here have asked her, “How did your math major lead you to that? Is it because you were good at math?” She says, “No, I got a job working in a Ford showroom as a salesperson, and I couldn’t have gotten that job without a bachelor’s degree.” So some of the marketability of a bachelor’s degree depends on people having an attitude that they’re becoming as smart as they can be. Not, “I’m going to take the requirements, and then I’ll have the degree that entitles me to a job,” but more, “I really want to work to be as smart as I can be.” Even if you’re never going to be a sociologist, you take sociology because you’re going to learn about society. You’re going to learn about those issues that you have to use in the workplace to understand social groups. Why take math if you’re never going to be a math teacher or an accountant? Because you’re training that part of your mind that can do quantitative reasoning. What job doesn’t depend on understanding data and statistics? A person who really goes into our CCC (College Core Curriculum) courses with the right attitude, thinking of it as developing different parts of the brain, is getting ready to do anything.

You’re right, it costs a lot more now than when I went to a SUNY institution. Critics say it’s because of administrative bloat, or climbing walls, or because we have all these people that we don’t need.

JRM: And I should also say that there are pretty high-level people saying that. There are articles being published in The New York Times, and people writing books about what you just said. How do you think about that?

Dr. Horvath: When I went to UB (University at Buffalo), around 75-80% of the operating budget came from New York State. So with the investment in the campus, the university wasn’t  counting on tuition for operations. Here at Fredonia we’re down to 12% coming from the state, so we no longer have taxpayers who want to invest in the next generation.I think our tuition is still really low.

There are high schools in Western New York that charge three times as much as we charge for a year of college. I’m on the board of the high school I went to which now charges $21,000 per year for tuition. They’re stunned when I’m talking and they ask, “What’s your tuition? Skyrocketing, right?” I say, “Well, yes, it’s up to $6,670 a year,” and they’re embarrassed that they challenged me about this. It’s remarkable what we do here. If you think about the cost of living (room, board, books, and fees), the cost of attendance is about $20,000. I don’t think anyone borrows $80,000 to go to school here. I’m hoping not, because if you can’t afford any of it then you should be able to get some aid. So I don’t think there are people who have no resources, no possible way to cover any of the cost of college and have to borrow the full amount and leave with an $80,000 debt. Our average debt here is $25-$26,000, which is sizable, but a new car costs about that, and it depreciates the minute you drive it off the lot. An education does not depreciate.

People sometimes measure the value of college solely in terms of the starting salary, “So I leave with $25,000 in debt and my starting salary is $32,000. What kind of investment was that?” Well, if you go into that $32,000 a year job with the right skills and attitude, you’re going to succeed. I always look at these articles about the culture and the expense of college, and what examples they’re using. They’re not looking at places like Fredonia that charge under $7,000 a year for tuition but those that are charging tuition of $30,000 to $50,000 and beyond.

I saw an article this week about a Pew Research study that was done, a survey of Democrats and Republicans about their views of whether different institutions help society or hurt society. I think it was 58% of Republicans say that higher education hurts our society, and with Democrats maybe 72% thought it helped society. There’s a lot of ambivalence about whether higher education does any good in the world–and people define that “doing good” in very different ways.

JRM: In my mind that’s ironic, because I imagine these same people have directly benefited from higher education.

Dr. Horvath: You’d think so, but I think there’s this bias now. We have our “Liberal Arts” program, and I keep pushing to call it something else because the visceral reaction people have to the word “liberal” now is that it’s a political ideology, leading to a liberal bias and useless degree. They’re not thinking of it in terms of its word origin. Classically, the seven liberal arts were meant to free people to be skilled to do a lot of things. Even at Alfred State (Wellsville), which is a wonderful place, people go for two years and learn construction trades. They learn wiring; they learn installation of solar energy. We need those people in our society, and you can have a good quality of life doing those things. But I’m concerned that people turn away from vocational training, because for many people it’s the kind of work they’d want to do, and that our society needs. What we don’t need anymore is people who are trained from high school to work in a factory and have union protection to stay only in that job forever — those are the jobs that are being replaced by mechanical operations.

But we still need people to do all kinds of work and to learn new technologies and approaches as they inevitably come along. I do wish that students at Fredonia would have job training in different areas and learn about the world doing those things. The more we try to protect students in college, the less we have them prepared for the world. I’ve heard from some people that they don’t want to hire people coming out of college because they try to negotiate incredible salaries just because they have a degree, or that they think everything in the workplace revolves around them. I really want the ‘Responsible’ part in our baccalaureate goals to be something we continue to work on — that people are responsible for themselves and that others don’t have to take care of them. And the “Connected” part — that people see that the success of a company depends on everyone doing different kinds of jobs and respecting each other.

JRM: I’m going to make a generalization, but I sometimes hear older staff members bemoan the fact that younger staff members don’t appreciate how good they have it.

Dr. Horvath: I do think there are generational differences. Every generation has certain characteristics that they bring to the workforce, but I don’t believe that the good old days were always so good. Or even when people talk about what it used to be like for faculty members, for example. I remember my own college classroom experience where I saw a faculty member hit a woman right in the face. He was drunk and he was angry at her because she had fallen asleep. In those days nobody complained. There are people today who say we’ve gone too far with political correctness, but I’m appalled at some of the things that happened in my classes that really weren’t fair or inclusive. There are things that have happened to me and others that would probably rise to the level of sexual harassment. But there wasn’t anywhere to go; it’s just the way things were.

In some ways, what people think is over-sensitivity makes us more aware of how to work with each other. I value those approaches. When I came here as Vice President for Academic Affairs I said ‘no’ to a lot of people, because I saw unfair practices. Certain people would come in and negotiate adjustments to their salary. I said, “No, we need to have a system for evaluating these. It can’t just be that you have more need.” A person would come in and say, “I’m married and have four kids, and this person is single, so why should we make the same amount?” That’s not how we determine salary. I can sympathize that someone is getting in financial trouble, and that the salary is really challenging these days if there’s no other family member who has an income, but I’m not going to abide by family size as a criterion for salary. Or to say that single people should spend more time on committees and married people should be allowed to go home to their families. That’s not right. So I said no to a lot of things when I first got here that I thought were not equitable. But I do think that for early-career staff, and middle- and late-career staff, the issues are different, and I just hope that people respect each other and work together.

And I’m really glad for the history that people have. Some of the people have been here so long they’ve seen tremendous changes on campus. Many feel nostalgic, as I do too. I graduated from UB in 1978. That was the golden year — the last year of state funding levels we enjoyed was 1980. I was there in those years when there was plenty of state funding. When people were on this campus between 1960 and 1974, that’s when all these buildings came up. There was that much investment in campuses. It must have been a glorious time for people to feel that there was an investment. Some people have said that there was never enough money, but trust me there was a lot more than we have available to us now.

JRM: I’m going to ask another broad question. In the last year I’ve had my mind opened, particularly talking to Terry (Brown) and Cedric (Howard), about where they see Fredonia going, and who they see it serving in the future. When you think about the future of Fredonia, what are you thinking about right now?

Dr. Horvath: I’m thinking about building on our historic strengths. Fredonia was established first as a private institution, Fredonia Academy in 1826, and later as a Normal school, and then a State Teacher’s College, to serve the people in this region. It’s why it was established here. I like that we have so many people that come from across the state, and I’m really proud of the academic programs that bring them here. I know the population growth is not in our county, but we need to balance our strength as a residential campus that serves people who don’t come from the area with those people who do. Really, we’re all that’s here in Chautauqua County: Fredonia, Jamestown Community College (JCC), and Jamestown Business College, that’s it. For people who want to go to earn a bachelor’s degree and really can’t go far away, we’re it. So I’m eager to bring together the people who come from across the state and outside the state, with the ones who are right from this region and offer the kinds of academic programs we do well in. We do well in what so many people now say is missing in higher education.

With the Excelsior program, it was unfair the kind of publicity the private schools gave to SUNY. They were appealing to their alums to oppose this program and say how unfair it would be to the private schools. They said, “You can go to those SUNY schools, but they’re all big, cheap, impersonal, and you get what you pay for.” That was unfair to us. We are not big, cheap, and impersonal. So many people at this place give their sweat and their blood to do things the right way, and right at the heart of it is what’s good for the students. It’s what everybody asks, and what every decision comes down to here. I love that about Fredonia. Some people say that they’re student-centered — we really are. We are always thinking, “Will this help students, or will it hurt students?”

The focus on student success is real here. We celebrate when our students succeed, and everybody takes pride in it. I saw a post on Facebook this morning from a senior that I knew from the time she came to orientation. I wrote her a recommendation letter for graduate school, and she put on her Facebook page this morning that she got into her dream school. To me, that’s the really exciting part of what Fredonia is. I want us to stay with that mission of changing the lives of the students who come here, and helping them succeed wherever they go. We do it really well. When I think of the future I think of those kinds of collaborations I’m excited about with JCC — “Destination to a Dream,” we’re calling it. More than just an articulation agreement, how can we be more integrated with JCC? If we have capacity, why don’t we have classes in this building that are JCC courses taught by JCC faculty, right here on campus? There might be a course that students need that they offer and we don’t. Wouldn’t it be helpful for people to be all in one place? If people want a residential experience, and they need to spend their time doing an Associates of Arts first, why not live in our residential halls and do that? So in broader terms, I’m really thinking about not being so separate from those programs.

When I think about Fredonia’s future, I think we’re going to be successful when we can continue to tell the story of the difference a Fredonia education makes. Also in terms of social justice — that’s really important to me. When I consider the growing diversity of our incoming classes, I’m thinking, “Here’s an opportunity to have the Fredonia brand, the Fredonia education, helping a broader range of people.” Not just white people, not just people from a variety of races, ethnicities, and social classes. Fredonia often has a more working-class population when you look at the number of Pell-eligible students here. If you have people who came from wealth, their degree adds a little bit, but if people didn’t come from wealth and they get a degree, the difference can be tremendous. It’s like the students I started with (at Kent State), who were on public assistance and left with a degree twice that of their professor. It changed their lives, and it changed their community.

JRM: And it seems like going forward we’re going to do that more and more on purpose.

Dr. Horvath: Yes, and what’s interesting to me is that some people say, “Oh, if we start diversifying our student body, we’re dropping our academic standards.” That’s absolutely not happening. Fredonia attracts very smart students, very creative students, students who are good problem-solvers. I say this because I’m in classes with them. They come up with unbelievable solutions to problems, whether it’s working out the details of a paper or a problem with a group that they lead. That’s a skill you can’t really teach, but our students come in here with a drive for it, and they value it in others.

Students here get along with each other in remarkable ways. I saw it at orientation this week. At the opening session, I saw students putting tables together, because they had all chatted on Facebook but never met face-to-face. Then there was a student at a nearby table with five parents. I talked to that student, and he told me what his major was, then when I went around to the next table and said, “What’s your major?” One person told me their major, and she said, “Nobody here’s in that.” I said, “But Henry over there is. He’s majoring in that.” They said, “Come over!” So there was this person sitting alone whom they invited to the table, and before I left everyone was all chatty-chatty. You can’t recruit and say we want nice, smart, and creative people, but that’s what we get. In some places every classroom door would be locked because there’s thousands of dollars of equipment in every one of those classrooms. Are they vandalized here? No. Are they stolen? No. I’m in the library a lot and I see people set their laptop down and go to the bathroom. Their laptop is sitting there when they get back. Their backpack is still there.

JRM: We take that for granted.

Dr. Horvath: Yeah, we do. Sometimes I get discouraged with enrollment — what more do we need to do to get people to come here? I think we’re turning a corner, and there’s a lot of work ahead, but I really do think this is the kind of experience people want for college.

JRM: My original motivation in asking you for this interview came when I was reading Jeff Selingo’s latest book, There Is Life After College. There was one part where he talks about the benefit of going to a city campus. He gave the example of American University in Washington D.C., that if you go there and major in political science there are so many more opportunities because you’re embedded right in the city. It made me think of your involvement in economic development here. I’m wondering if that’s something you think about, in terms of increasing the amount of opportunity for internships or jobs here in the future.

Dr. Horvath: Absolutely. We really need to get students to engage in service learning, internships, and co-ops that give them real work experience and expand their understanding of the world. This may sound strange, but I’d even like to see a faculty fellows program.

JRM: What would that be?

Dr. Horvath: It could be a summer program — for two weeks faculty members could go to a job in a field that’s completely unrelated to what they do. So they’re not going in as the expert. You’re not taking a biology faculty member and sending them to a lab or hospital. You’re taking a biology faculty member and sending them to the Cummins plant where they build machine engines. You go to work nine to five in that factory, either observing, or performing some job. It could be something like writing a brochure, or writing a background for a grant application where they have to do the research. That would change the way faculty understand the world after college.

When I was in high school I had the opportunity for an internship that changed my perspective. I was in a program for people who might be interested in medicine, and I was given a job in medical photography and illustration at a hospital. So I got up every day in the summer when I was fifteen and I learned photography. I’d have to take pictures every day during surgery. I would be handed brain tissue, and I had to take a picture of what was removed. I went to autopsies and took those kinds of pictures. I learned all the developing, learned darkroom techniques.. Then I’d go to the lectures and hear the doctors explain what I’d taken a picture of. Those were good skills, so when I wanted to do writing in college I could fall back on that experience. We had to write up reports about what we photographed, and it had to be done right away. I was fifteen. I think those things help. We have an option for service learning to be added to any course here for an extra credit.

JRM: Any course?

Dr. Horvath: Any course. It’s not being used much by people, and I don’t know why. That’s one thing I want to change. I had a student do a service learning project while I was at Kent State. I was teaching a children’s literature course and I told students on the first day that these books would be available in any library, because they’re well-known books. I had my course with a multicultural emphasis. I didn’t tell them that, but each book was written by a writer from a certain ethnic group in the United States. None of those books was in the local library in one of the student’s small towns. The student asked the librarian, “Why do you not have these books? Some of them are award-winners.” She said, “Oh, we don’t have people like that here. We don’t have African-American writers, we don’t have Asian writers, we don’t have Latino writers. We don’t get those books here.” This student was outraged, so she did a service learning project. She worked with four different preschools in the area, involving the parents in a community-wide bake sale and clothing exchange to buy books for the library. They bought forty books for that library that were all by underrepresented authors. Then she did a display called, “Ohio Writers.” She didn’t say “Multicultural.” She was making a point that these are all books written by people in Ohio. She earned that one hour of service credit. To me, that’s a great example of someone who learned not only community organizing and communicating with parents; she learned about the role of the public library and the ways librarians might choose books that expand readers’ world views.

JRM: And she was being creative.

Dr. Horvath: Yes, and I would love to see our students doing more projects like that. To do that they need to be more involved in the community. I’m co-chair of the Western New York REDC (Regional Economic Development Committee). We’re the group that oversees the Buffalo Billion–now Buffalo Billion 2.. So, yes, there are huge projects throughout Western New York, and I’m so committed to Dunkirk and Fredonia. I’m excited about every new business that opens here, every job that’s created. It matters to me that these communities survive and do well, but there should be opportunities through our incubator and other businesses for students to get that kind of experience. And I hear nothing but praise from people in our community when they’ve had Fredonia interns, whether they’re at the WCA home or a small business that can’t afford to pay anyone to build a website, develop a marketing plan, or do social media. We have students who come in and do that work remarkably, and it changes the prosperity of that business, and it changes our community. I find it hard sometimes to get students off-campus. We make it such a safe and inviting space that they don’t want to leave. Or they’ll do service projects with a group — I know our athletes are great at that and I hear about what a difference it makes — but there are opportunities in the workforce too where I think our students could have an even greater influence.

JRM: I have one more question, about the Excelsior Scholarship. It’s a two-part question: how is it going to affect us, and how do you think about it in terms of the word “free?” What I mean by that is, not only is it not completely free, but in the sense that when something is free I might not value it very much. How do you balance the idea of value, and the idea of the opportunity that this presents?

Dr. Horvath: A lot is still unknown about the Excelsior program. It came out so late and none of us had any idea this was coming. I don’t think it affected our enrollment dramatically for fall. Our first-year class is up twenty percent over the class of Fall 2016, but we really had a strategy this year with our SEM Plan (Strategic Enrollment Management). We had a lot of people working. We changed the way we do admissions. We changed the way we do recruitment. We did a lot of work to reach out to people. There are going to be people who say, “Oh, look at what the Excelsior program did,” but although the program may help some students pay for college better, it was not likely to be the factor in college decision-making. In SUNY we’re unique to be up so much in first-year enrollment. If it were because of Excelsior, the increase wouldn’t be just Fredonia, because a lot of places aren’t seeing any real difference between their entering classes of 2016 and 2017. So we don’t know what the impact will be.

The program is political in the sense that it was a very popular issue in the 2016 Presidential election, and I think it’s no accident that Governor Cuomo announced this with Bernie Sanders, and not Hillary Clinton, even though this was very similar to her announced plan. Even during the campaign when Sanders would talk about free college, the administrator in me would say, “Sounds great. Who’s paying for it?” Because it’s not free — someone paid for everything. To me that matters because if they told us we can’t charge tuition, it opens a floodgate, and we might have tons of people here, with no way of paying our bills. We now count on tuition for parts of our budget, so I was interested in hearing what the business model is. I see the TV ads where someone is holding up a sign that says, “Free College Is Here!.” It is not free college. It is a last-dollar scholarship. It doesn’t cover fees, books, room, and board. So if you think of the cost of attendance, it doesn’t cover that. It closes the gap between aid a person might have and $6,670. After that, the cost of attendance is up to the student. I’m worried it’s a false promise, and it also suggests that it’s open to everyone, and that it’s a great opportunity for New Yorkers. Now we realize that there wasn’t enough money put into the fund for that, so there’s a very complicated process of people applying. We have a whole team on our campus engaged in the processing right now. One of the requirements is that there’s a certain number of credit hours students have to take to be eligible. There was an audit of the people who had applied for it who are continuing students at Fredonia. Yesterday I asked the people in financial aid to estimate the cost of their doing this, because they’ve been meeting weekly since April. In the past two weeks they’ve been meeting every day, all day, because there are so many complications in this system just to have the check on the credit hours. And then the requirement of staying in the state for the number of years they received the scholarship: I don’t know how that would be monitored. We are not equipped right now to monitor students for four years to make sure they stay in the state.

JRM: So that would be our job?

Dr. Horvath: We don’t know. There’s a lot that’s still unknown. So here’s what I would say about it: I appreciate attention on making college accessible and affordable. We need to have that conversation. If I were asked by the Governor, and I think a lot of presidents would agree with this, I would say, “Make sure that New York State really supports public education so people can afford it.” I would have said, “Increase the base support to campuses, and lower tuition. Not free tuition, but lower tuition by increasing base support.” Then we wouldn’t have needed the $200 tuition increase this year. That’s weird to me, to increase it by $200, then put this other money in and make it complicated. And don’t make people feel like they had to beg for something. The point you made about, “If it’s free, people don’t value it,” I get that. We don’t want to staff courses and have people not show up or give it their best. Students having some investment in their own college makes sense to me, but I’d like to have that investment be as low as possible.

I’d also like to have more flexibility. We’re not allowed to do some of the things the private schools are allowed to do. They’re allowed to waive tuition. So at Niagara University, with annual tuition of $31,000, financial aid staff might say, “We’re going to give you a $12,000 scholarship, so your tuition is only $21,000. Now, we have a hard job because students will say, “I only got a $1,000 scholarship (from Fredonia), but I got $12,000 from Niagara.” Yes, but that leaves you to come up with $21,000 for tuition, and another $12 or $15 for your room and board. Do the math. But it still looks appealing to people. Niagara didn’t necessarily have $12,000 in cash, as private institutions have the independence to discount tuition without moving dollars from endowment into operations. They calculate every year what their percentage will be: “So here’s our sticker price, but if we collect 60% of that we’ll be okay.” So they can waive it. They don’t have to match dollar-for-dollar for everything they awarded and could offer the equivalent of an Excelsior scholarship without anyone’s permission.

JRM: I didn’t know that’s how it works.

Dr. Horvath: Yes, but we’re not allowed to. We’re not allowed to waive room and board. We’d like to sometimes. We have a few empty residence halls. I think that’s efficient for us to do that given our enrollment, but I’d love to say, “For honors students, we will waive your room for the first year,” and not collect anything, not move dollars from an endowment, because frankly we don’t have $14,000 scholarships to offer to cover room and board. We’re not allowed to do it. We wanted to lower the out-of-state tuition for people who live within a certain radius of the campus. I have pushed on this legislation, and I’m so grateful that Senator Young understood what I was saying and proposed a bill that got through the Senate. Then it was stuck in committee in the Assembly. So we’re waiting for the legislature to approve whether we could charge one-and-a-half times the in-state rate, instead of three-times the in-state rate to people who live in Erie. When I show the map with a circle around Fredonia, two-thirds of it is lake. So you think of where we’re getting people from, the rest are in Pennsylvania. It’s only a fourth of the area that’s actually in New York State. I see billboards in Buffalo: “Come to Cleveland State University, and we’ll waive out-of-state tuition so you can come at the Ohio in-state rate.”

JRM: At a public school?

Dr. Horvath: At a public school. New York has the biggest out-migration, people leaving the state to go to school, and one of the smallest in-migrations in the country. Again, I appreciate the Governor’s interest in doing something so people can have access to college. I just don’t know that something that complicated, that presents itself as “free,” is going to get us there. I do think that for people in Chautauqua County it might make a difference, because if they’re not going to pay room and board anyway, then their only cost of attendance is in those fees and books. They’d still have to come up with the fees every year, but it might make a difference to people who can’t drive to Buffalo or Jamestown to go to college, or people who live in our area and maybe want to go to JCC and get an associate’s degree, then come here for their bachelor’s. That’s what I’m really hoping, that this program gives an opportunity to people who wouldn’t otherwise have it.

JRM: And you probably won’t know for another six-to-twelve months what sort of impact it might have.

Dr. Horvath: Yes, we won’t know.

JRM: Is there anything anything else that you wanted to say, anything that we didn’t cover?

Dr. Horvath: I hope that in my comments to you my love for learning and my love for Fredonia come through. That’s the most important part. I’ve had students ask me, “What would I need to do to be a college president?” I’ll say, “Think about what you know about what a college president does, and love doing that.” It’s not the title, it’s not the house or this office, or the role. It’s more what I do that attracts me to the job. It’s my job as a servant-leader to think about what people need and how I can best serve the people who put their trust in this institution. I have an obligation to taxpayers in New York. I have an obligation to the people in Western New York who are, or used to be, proud of the institutions that are here and saw them as part of the fabric of their communities. Certainly in Dunkirk and Fredonia we’re part of the fabric of the community. Our success means something to the people in this community. And I have a sense of obligation to the students and families who put their hopes and dreams here. When I see those people at Convocation, the day before classes start, I see all those faces looking hopeful in King Concert Hall. This is what they’ve worked their whole lives for, and what their families worked to get them to achieve. I don’t want to let them down.

The first weekend of college

You’ll meet a lot of new people that weekend. In what might be your most vulnerable moment as a college student, you’ll meet people who seem very sure of themselves. They’ll seem certain that college is just high school with more binge drinking. They’ll be more concerned with their party schedules than their class schedules.

Ignore those people.

The people you’re looking for are a lot like you. They’re not quite sure who they are; not quite sure where to start. They feel a little afraid, and a little weird. They want to matter, and they’re concerned by what they see going on around them.

Look for those people, even if they take longer to find.

Because after all, you should feel weird in a culture that has deviated so far from what’s important.

Getting dumped

Anger is a perfectly reasonable response to getting dumped. Rejection is hard, and anger is our mind’s go-to response to cope.

The response is helpful if it initiates some change — some further clarification that might help both parties understand better. The response is not helpful if it lasts longer than it should. It should not initiate months, even years of resentment.

The solution is simple: practice not being resentful. In fact, practice exactly the opposite.

Matthieu Ricard, dubbed by scientists as “The World’s Happiest Person,” had this to say recently to Krista Tippett on her podcast:

“You cannot, in the same moment of thought, wish to do something good to someone or to harm that person. Those are mutually incompatible, like hot and cold water. So the more you will bring benevolence in your mind at every of those moments, there’s no space for hatred. It’s just very simple, but we don’t do that. We do exercise every morning, 20 minutes, to be fit. We don’t sit for 20 minutes to cultivate compassion. If we were to do so, our mind will change, our brain will change. What we are will change.”

I’d recommend listening to the full interview here. Krista keeps churning out beautiful works of art with every show.