Blog Posts

Fostering Creativity in Research

Last semester, one of my professors encouraged us to be more creative after he randomly asked us what our individual superpower would be. Most of us stuttered at first out of shock, but were able to assemble an answer after a few minutes of thinking…except for me. I managed to piece together a terrible answer in the heat of the moment, but it dawned on me that I’m terribly uncreative. My professor pointed us to a LinkedIn article explaining the need for creativity in an increasingly innovative world. His overarching message was that as researchers, we should be inquisitive. After we finish an experiment, we shouldn’t publish the results and coast; we should be asking ourselves how we can improve the experiment or create another hypothesis that uses similar methods. I never thought of research that way; I thought that most people just shelved projects after completing them. But the truth is, finished projects may prompt other researchers who read your papers to carry on your work, so it’s important to also hold that “wanting to do more” mindset. This is something I struggle with; I just finished writing a paper and had the “what do I do now?” chat with my advisor, which went horribly since my advisor was under the impression that I had a host of ideas for another research paper. I’ve always wondered how graduate students formulate their research topics. Maybe that comes with experience, or maybe some students are just naturally more creative than others. Regardless, I know I need to change my attitude towards creativity, so I found two great documents (1,2) on how to boost research creativity. I’ll highlight three tips I found especially interesting:

  • Do literally anything other than research. Work out at the gym. Go to an amusement park. Walk around the park. A sudden activity change can stimulate creative ideas. As someone who gets easily bored sitting in the lab all day, I will definitely adopt this. I pledge to take multiple short strolls around campus next year to clear my brain. Maybe this will help instill some research ideas!
  • Develop strategies to combat perfectionism. This boosts productivity and minimizes perfectionism. Creativity requires you to deal with the ebb and flow of research, so preventing perfectionism helps manage creativity. This is sort of counterintuitive, and as a semi-perfectionist, I was surprised (and slightly disappointed) to learn of this.
  • Mentally exhaust yourself. This is also incredibly counterintuitive, but research has proven that humans become more creative when the brain is tired. I’ll have to read more about this, because I think that this can quickly spiral off-track, which is definitely undesirable in graduate school.

Over the rest of the semester, I’ll read more articles about fostering creativity. I hope to share some tips I’ve gleaned with the rest of the class in a blog post near the end of the spring!

Some Fun Ways To De-Stress

It’s not a secret: graduate school can be incredibly stressful at times. There’s pressure to publish, teach, win grants, network, and more. Since the Finals Week-induced stress is approaching, I thought I’d share some of my favorite activities to do around Blacksburg.

To preface this list, I love reading Next Three Days to find activities. As the name implies, it’s a comprehensive list of all of the activities happening in Blacksburg (and the NRV) over the next 3 days. I’ve found a few of the items below from this website!

  1. Farmers Market: Every Saturday, there’s a small Farmers Market near Champs and Idego Coffee. Vendors are local, prices are low, and food is tasty! They occasionally have live music or other socializing events (there’s a tomato tasting event soon).
  2. Running on the Huckleberry Trail: This 7.5-mile trail leads from the Blacksburg Community Library to the mall in Christiansburg. It’s not steep, and you’ll often see other joggers and bikers. It’s pretty scenic once you get to the Foxridge area; I recommend you venture out (walking, running, or biking) at least once, especially now that the weather is favorable.
  3. Venture Out Challenge Course: I’ve only done this once, but I had a blast. This is basically a small obstacle course that promotes teamwork, strength (mental and physical), and problem solving. It’s meant for a group of people, so I would encourage bringing your labmates or friends. One downside is that it can be costly depending on how many people you have (fewer people –> higher cost), but it’s incredibly fun and a unique way to spend a few hours.

Regardless of how your relieve stress, it’s important to be consistent and know what helps you blow off steam. Best of luck wrapping up projects, classes, and the school year!

Reflections on Being a Physics TA

I’ve been a Physics TA for the past 2 years and have learned a lot about myself, my teaching styles, and how to develop course content. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve gleaned:

  1. Review all of the material beforehand, even if you think you know it thoroughly. There were many times where I brushed off looking at homework questions because I assumed I would be able to solve them off the top of my head since they were “simple.” Nope. This is especially critical if you’re a TA for a class you took long ago or don’t have direct exposure to anymore.
  2. Your demeanor can make or break a student’s experience. I’ve seen two “stereotypes” of TAs: the ones who are hard, rigid, and follow the rules to a T, and the ones who are more lax but probably don’t care about the class as much. It’s possible to be a great TA in either stereotype, but it’s also important to think about it from the students’ perspectives. It may be appropriate to be strict if students are misbehaving, but I personally see no reason to not be relaxed in the classroom/lab. It makes the atmosphere less tense and students can focus more on learning the big ideas rather than fretting over minor details.
  3. Frequent communication with professors is vital. It builds a strong rapport, makes it much easier to suggest course or grade changes, and you can probably ask for a reference at the end of the semester.
  4. It’s okay to make mistakes. Students typically hold the misconception that TAs are subject matter experts and may become frustrated when TAs can’t immediately solve their problems. Making mistakes is human, and sometimes, it may help students to learn what they shouldn’t do. I vividly remember setting up a problem incorrectly because I made a faulty assumption. Some students approached me after class and said they would’ve made the same mistake, so it’s possible to still help them even if you don’t arrive at the right answer.
  5. TAs don’t receive SPOT scores, so implement alternative methods to obtain feedback. I had students fill out a Google Form regularly, and that helped me gauge my strengths/weaknesses. Regular feedback is important because it allows you to experiment with pedagogy to help as many people (yourself included) as possible.

I’ve had a great time being a TA and would definitely like to try being the Instructor-of-Record for a Physics course one day. I hope you can find these tips useful, implementable, and attainable!

Why Is Tuition So Expensive?

Many foreign countries offer free or virtually free college, including Norway, Sweden, Germany, and France. However, American colleges are known for their absurdly expensive college tuition and yearly tuition increases. A typical private American institution can cost upwards of $60,000/year, which is more than the country’s median household income (~$56k/year). I was curious to learn the reasons why college is so expensive and came across two articles (1, 2). Here are the most surprising or critical reasons:

  1. Higher tuition means colleges can offer college tuition discounts. Realistically, very few students can afford to pay full tuition. Colleges can leverage that to offer tuition discounts (financial aid packages) of varying amounts. Some may only have to pay $5k, others will pay $20k, some may receive a full ride, etc. Admissions officers can then build a freshman class composed of accomplished, competitive students who are all vying to receive financial aid. This is an incredibly common tactic used commonly by private universities since their tuition tend to be exorbitantly higher than tuition at public universities.
  2. Similarly, yearly tuition raises are common because institutions are aware of government-sponsored student loans. According to the first article, federal student aid accounts for most of the college tuition increases between 1987 and 2010. Most, if not all, students are eligible for loans, and there have been more types of loans to respond to the increase in student demand. For instance, unsubsidized loans are a relatively new concept.
    It’s a simple principle: if students can borrow more money, colleges can charge more. And because there are more ways to borrow money, colleges can take advantage of this to raise tuition.
  3. State funding can’t keep up with enrollment. Many state governments have cut funding to higher education institutions and allowed colleges to raise tuition to compensate for the deficit. Studies have shown that when state funding is constant or increasing, tuition remains level. But when state funding decreases, college tuition increases. 80% of American students attend public universities, so government budgets don’t play a small role in determining tuition costs. Although state funding has been increasing slightly, university enrollment has been skyrocketing in comparison.

This annoys me because it feels like higher education institutions are becoming heavily monetized. Some of the methods and logic universities use (such as the tuition discounts outlined in Point 1) feel sleazy. Point 3 is the most intriguing because I attend a public university that will face an over-enrolled freshman class next fall. I’m wondering by how much tuition will be raised if we don’t have enough support from the state.

Should ETS Be More Transparent About the GRE?

After our thorough in-class discussion of the GRE earlier this semester, I found myself thinking about the utility of standardized admission tests. These tests are administered to a range of students: high school students typically take the SAT and/or the ACT for admission to an undergraduate program, while college students typically take the GRE for admission to a graduate program. There are other standardized tests, such as the LSAT (for entry into a law program) and the MCAT (for entry into medical school), but I will focus on the GRE, as it was the crux of Monday’s dialogue.

Some arguments I’ve read in support of the GRE (and standardized tests in general) claim that it “levels the playing field,” because each curriculum varies wildly. Simply put, there is too much variability within programs. Two baccalaureate engineering programs may be ABET accredited, but that doesn’t guarantee all of the course content at one university was taught at another. Comparing standardized test scores directly pits applicants against each other while ignoring scholastic differences. However, someone who has a higher GRE score doesn’t mean he or she is smarter than someone who didn’t score as well; it is used to predict students’ performance in the first year of graduate school.

I find it interesting that ETS (the producer of the GRE) can use this test to predict student performance. The word “predict” is heavily rooted in statistics, and such a powerful claim must be substantiated by mountains of data. I’m not sure if that data is publicly available, but I’d like to see how exactly ETS correlates GRE scores with graduate school performance. Some commonly used metrics might include GPA and scientific productivity (number of publications, grants awarded, etc.). While statistically valid to an extent, there are many hard-to-measure and/or not easily quantifiable metrics to consider to obtain a full measure of “success.” Such metrics include cognitive maturity, program rigor, mental health status, social adaptability, creativity, and advisor agreeableness, to name a few. Each factor has the ability to impact a firmly quantitative measure that the GRE may use to measure success (like GPA). For example, moving to a new institution for graduate school made it hard for someone to make friends or study effectively (social adaptability). I wonder how ETS incorporates these more qualitative metrics into their analysis.

In class, I asked Dean DePauw why finding GRE scores was significantly harder than finding SAT scores across institutions. For instance, Stanford’s undergraduate mid-50% SAT scores are easily found on the Incoming Freshman Profile, but the mid-50% GRE scores are not mentioned anywhere on the graduate admission page. Someone responded and said GRE datasets are publicly available online through ETS (or some other site, I can’t exactly remember), but I find it odd that such data isn’t readily available. This goes hand-in-hand with my question asking if ETS should be more transparent with the GRE (ranging from developing questions, releasing scores, and even analyzing their data to improve their test).

One major issue arising from transparency is ETS’s business model. ETS still needs to profit, and providing too much insight into the company would certainly derail the company. Since ETS is a major distributor of GRE preparation supplies, divulging “test secrets” would not benefit their business model either, since competitors could buy the book and copy the contents. It’s a fine line to balance, and I don’t believe there’s an easy solution, but perhaps being more transparent about question development will make studying and taking the test less aggravating.

(Disclaimer: I have not taken the GRE, so my views in this article stem from what my classmates, colleagues, and friends have said about the test, as well as the hyperlinked articles in this post.)

Bringing Students and Faculty Closer in Large Public Universities

I wish to close (or lessen) the gap between faculty and students in large public universities. Private schools are well-known for their small student:faculty ratio, which is conducive to building strong relationships between the two parties. For example, I have friends at private institutions who have had dinner parties, attended plays, and explored museums with faculty. These situations arise when faculty and students connect, which is often the case when there aren’t many students in each class. These extracurricular experiences don’t typically happen in large public universities simply because the professor can’t build a one-on-one relationship with all of the students in each class. In public schools, students often feel distanced from their professor, especially in lower-level classes where enrollment may be in the hundreds. As a (hopeful) future professor, I’ve thought of some strategies to bring students and faculty together. These can be adapted in a small private institution or a large school like VT:

  1. Encourage students that professors are here to teach and are genuinely interested in them. Some students might think that professors are only hired to conduct research, so directly addressing that misconception by stating your role as an educator might make students more receptive to you.
  2. Offer a small incentive for having students introduce themselves. I have 2 ideas for this: come to office hours and briefly chat about anything (the class, VT, life, the universe, etc.), or submit a 1-slide Powerpoint about yourself (hobbies, etc.). One of my former classes offered something similar to this; we had to submit a 5-sentence biography and a picture of ourselves. The assignment was only worth 2% of the total grade, so it was inconsequential if it wasn’t submitted, but it was an easy (and fun) way to earn quick points.
  3. Attend out-of-class activities and encourage students to attend as well. For instance, a professor teaching a music class could suggest students see an upcoming concert. If the activity is related to class material and you state that you will attend, students might be highly motivated to go. Like the last point, you could offer some (extra) credit if they catch you at the event. This could also help town-gown relations, such as an art exhibit featuring pieces crafted by local artists.
  4. Arrive to class early and stay late. Approach students in the front row and ask them how their day is. Because students will be transitioning in and out of the classroom, conversations will probably be very brief, but conversing for a few seconds every class quickly builds rapport.
  5. Prove your humanity to the students. When I previously taught a small class, I would always open class with a comic strip. The strip would never be relevant to the lesson, but I found that showing the students that I had some form of a personality prompted students to reciprocate. After I read the comic strip, I would dedicate 5 minutes to talking about their lives. Although I lost about 10 minutes each class to these activities, I was able to get to know each student personally. By the end of the semester, the students and I were able to open up to each other freely. I will admit that the class only had 11 students, but I firmly believe the principles can be adapted to a class of any size.

Most of these 5 ideas are mainly focused around building strong rapport with students, but I’ve listed these because I believe that this is the first step to opening the doors to creative, out-of-class experiences. These experiences don’t typically happen in public schools, but I hope to see that in the future. I hope to bridge the gap between faculty and students, because learning is a two-way street.

Why MOOCs Failed, and Some Remedies

This Inside Higher Ed article, titled “Why MOOCs Didn’t Work, in 3 Data Points,” summarizes the pitfalls of MOOCs as determined by a massive multi-year study led by MIT. It covers some problems, which I’ve summarized in this post, but I’m also listing some potential solutions.

To start, a MOOC is a massively open online course. As the name implies, MOOCs are essentially online classes offered by an institution that can be taken by anyone with an Internet connection. Classes range from basic mathematics to the art of 3D printing to business law; there’s almost certainly a class for every subject imaginable. All of the materials are available online, so users simply need to create an account on the proper platform (edX, Coursera, MIT OpenCourseWare, etc.), enroll in a class (or multiple classes), and start learning. Most classes follow the traditional “watch a lecture video –> complete an online worksheet –> take an online quiz” format. While most MOOCs are real classes that were “converted” to an online format by educational institutions, they hold no actual course credit. However, most platforms offer a paid “certificate” upon completion that verifies successful completion of a course. The certificate can be posted on LinkedIn, discussed in job interviews, and so forth.

Problem: One of the biggest downfalls of MOOCs is the incredibly low completion rate. Only 3.13% of MOOC participants finished a course in 2017-2018. This already low figure is troubling because it’s part of a downward trend; only 6% of participants finished in 2014-2015. Only 46% of participants who were seeking a certificate finished a course in 2017-2018. These figures have been declining over MIT’s 6-year study of MOOCs offered by MIT and Harvard.

One reason why completion statistics are so low is because MOOCs carry no credit in the real world. Currently, few (if any) universities allow using a MOOC to satisfy degree requirements. This provides little incentive for students to finish a class if they know it doesn’t count for anything, other than earning potential bragging rights, having the satisfaction of learning, or adding a casual interview topic. It’s easy to neglect a MOOC when trying to juggle it with other classes, work, family life, etc., but the fact that it holds virtually no weight makes it easier to forget.

Solution: One potential fix is to offer MOOCs that directly interface with a university degree. For example, if VT’s ME department decides to venture into MOOCs, they could produce an online version of Thermodynamics, which can count towards the degree if taken by VT students who earn a certificate of completion. Of course, the material would need to be of the same quality as the in-class Thermodynamics, but this is a possible alternative for students if they desire or require schedule flexibility (for instance, if someone is behind and needs to take it over the summer, but he or she already committed to an internship and cannot be on campus to take the summer in-class version). If this solution were to be implemented, completion rates wouldn’t skyrocket since the users described in this scenario only represent a tiny subset of all the MOOC users across the globe. However, successfully implementing 1 course could open the door for future educators.

Problem: Another reason why MOOCs are criticized is because they are shifting towards complementing a current education, rather than jumpstarting one. Geographical data reveals that users in the studied Harvard/MIT MOOCs overwhelmingly live in first-world countries (69%), yet 1.43% came from students in countries classified as “low human development.” Educators cite being bottlenecked by the available technology in those countries to explain why such a low percentage of students reside in lesser-developed countries. In fact, one quote from the article states that “Dramatic expansion of educational opportunities to underserved populations will require political movements that change the focus, funding, and purpose of higher education; they will not be achieved through new technologies alone.” In other words, radical educational changes (like popularizing MOOCs in underdeveloped countries) will require a massive infrastructural upheaval, because these reforms often need resources like money, Internet connections, and new buildings.

Solution: Simply put, there’s no easy solution to smooth the geographic distribution of MOOC users. Bringing MOOCs to more underserved countries requires bringing the Internet to those countries, which is a hard task since they just might not have the capabilities for it at this moment. MOOCs can consider packaging their classes into smaller “pieces” to reduce bandwidth usage (for those who have Internet access, but not much access). For countries who can’t access MOOCs, perhaps this is a chance to start an educational movement across the globe.

Personally, I find MOOCs interesting and useful for personal gain. I’m guilty of enrolling, but not finishing, a class. I think they should still continue to be offered as long as it doesn’t become an expense to universities or 3rd party platforms. Open-sourcing education is an incredibly valuable tool that can make a real difference to someone. Even though 1.43% of users in the MIT study live in an underdeveloped country, 1.43% is still about 55,000 users. This is an incredibly large number, and it would be a shame to see such a unique educational service disappear for monetary reasons.

Open Access Journals

As society continually drifts into the Information Age, printed media is quickly being converted into online blogs, newspapers, and videos. The same can be said about academic journals; many issues of long-standing journals are now downloadable as a PDF. Another trending topic is open-sourcing information. Many computer codes, graphics, and research-related items are now being posted online for free so anyone can use the files for their own benefit. Some academic journals have embraced open sourcing; one such journal is the Advanced Modeling and Simulation in Engineering Sciences journal (AMSES). As the name implies, this open-sourced journal focuses on modeling & simulation, multibody dynamics, nonlinear systems, and the underlying numerical methods used to solve these complex problems. As per other open-source information banks, every article published in this journal is available 24/7 at no cost. Users do not need to subscribe to an organization or pay a significant fee to access papers. However, authors of accepted papers must pay up to $1230 in “article processing charges,” but some (or all) of the cost may be waived if the authors belong to a university that is partnered with SpringerOpen, the “umbrella organization” of this journal. Interestingly, VT is a partner, so students who publish in this journal won’t have to pay the entire charge.

One unique advantage of this open-source journal is the ability to publish creative graphics to complement the paper. Publication gives publishers the chance to publicize extremely large datasets, post moving/animated images, and provide direct access to the data used to create the visuals so they can manipulate the data themselves. In addition, the SpringerOpen library is a popular “brand name” of journal collections, so articles experience high visibility once published. One interesting tidbit states that published articles are downloaded 7 more times, have 50% more citations, and 10x more online mentions than papers published in non-open access journals. This may be a financial consequence; it’s much easier to access these articles because they are freely available online (whereas traditional journals may keep their issues behind a paywall).

As for the AMSES journal itself, the editorial board consists of many reviewers worldwide. This is consistent with some of the famous mechanical engineering journals. For instance, the ASME Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement, and Controls (non-open access) has many editors from not only the US but from many countries (Italy, India, and Canada, to name a few). The AMSES journal touts a fast reviewing rate; on average, it takes 61 days for the editors to make a decision and 22 days to publish an accepted paper, yet the acceptance rate is less than 18%. I’m not sure if this is a consequence of being fully online and open-sourced; many non-open source articles nowadays are also using electronic methods to review articles. I was slightly disappointed when reading through the Aim & Scope; it doesn’t mention why this article was open-sourced or provide any statistics that are commonly associated with traditional journals (like Impact Factor). I wonder if open-sourced journals have a separate set of metrics, given their intrinsically different viewpoint on ease of journal access.

Ethics in Research

I found a case from ORI’s website about Dr. Gareth John, a researcher at Mount Sinai’s medical school. I didn’t understand the technical details of the case, but in summary, he falsified a few medical samples and fabricated a set of corresponding data that he used in his publications. After being investigated, Dr. John entered into a settlement agreement with ORI. His research must be supervised for 1 year and his institution must submit certification that any of his research-based findings, procedures, and other related items are legitimately discovered. Another aspect of his punishment is correcting his falsified data in the journal hosting his publications.

Ethics is a critical aspect of one’s career; while publishing misleading data can benefit a researcher immediately, the long-term effects are not worth the risk. Dr. John’s reputation was most likely smeared. The link to his lab’s website is broken, and he holds a different job title on LinkedIn. Although I’m speculating, these changes are most likely the result of his misconduct. ORI’s website has many case summaries related to research misconduct. Frankly, I’m surprised to learn that this much tampering exists–and this is just within the medical field. One question I’ve always had is how one becomes accused of misconduct. My best guess is that someone reads the published (and falsified) paper in a journal, performs a similar experiment, obtains radically different results, investigates the falsified article in-depth, and reports the article via the proper channels.

I also wonder what happens if someone in a lab group reports internal misconduct to an authority. This is a crude example, but in the recent Marvel movie Venom, researcher Carlton Drake performs underground experiments on humans that end horribly. Dora Skirth, a scientist who works in Drake’s lab, disapproves of these experiments and reports them to journalist Eddie Brock, who publicizes the human trials. If this scenario happened in reality, would Dora Skirth be granted amnesty if the lab was dissolved? Even so, she would still be associated with the lab within the research community, so her reputation would still be damaged…unless she was granted anonymity as a means of protection. Does ORI have protocol for similar situations? I plan to read more into ORI’s procedures; they have detailed documents pertaining to handling protocol.

Mission Statements

Mission and Vision Statements describe a university’s purpose, goals, and values. This is an important because there are so many different higher-ed institutions, so providing a mission and/or vision statement serves to differentiate one institution from another. For this post, I pulled mission statements from Harvey Mudd College (small private liberal arts/engineering school) and Virginia Tech (large public university) to illustrate the similarities and differences between mission statements. Here is Harvey Mudd College’s mission statement:

“Harvey Mudd College seeks to educate engineers, scientists, and mathematicians well versed in all of these areas and in the humanities and the social sciences so that they may assume leadership in their fields with a clear understanding of the impact of their work on society.”

And Virginia Tech’s mission statement:
“Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) is a public land-grant university serving the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. The discovery and dissemination of new knowledge are central to its mission. Through its focus on teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement, the university creates, conveys, and applies knowledge to expand personal growth and opportunity, advance social and community development, foster economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life. “

Clearly, VT’s mission statement is much longer than HMC’s. VT also has a more “complete” mission statement; it’s easy to identify exactly what VT strives to accomplish. For instance, VT cites outreach and engagement as two goals. HMC does not mention either in their mission statement. Does this mean HMC is not committed to giving back to the community? Most likely not; public service is critical in today’s world and is performed by a vast majority (if not all) of the higher-ed institutions. Thus, I can reasonably speculate that graduates of HMC are well aware of the value of community service, even though it is not explicitly stated in the mission statement.

Length aside, the two mission statements outline different goals for their graduates. From digging deeper into HMC’s website, HMC classifies itself as a liberal arts school with a focus on engineering. This is reflected in the mission statement; HMC students learn not just their major (some STEM-related field), but are equally informed in humanities and social sciences so that they can fully understand the impact of their leadership on society. I highlighted “leadership” because this is a powerful term: HMC wants graduates to become not just fluent engineers, but leaders in their discipline. It’s clear that HMC puts a tremendous emphasis on grooming their students for the much-dreaded “real world.” This is consistent with their reputation: HMC is well-known for their stellar undergraduate teaching, leading to a 6+ figure mid-career salary.

On the other hand, VT’s mission statement focuses on creating and disseminating knowledge. While the mission statement certainly covers every facet expected of a large public land-grant university (teaching, research, outreach, etc.), it does not have the particular focus on students seen in HMC’s mission statement. This is acceptable, because VT was not designed to be a teaching-focused undergraduate-only institution like HMC. Although VT’s mission statement is more detailed, it seems too generic. It didn’t really tell me any specifics, such as the type of teaching focus (new pedagogy, technology-enabled, etc.), I was looking for. I was drawn more towards HMC’s statement because of its brevity and clarity. I could immediately tell what kinds of graduates HMC produces, just from reading the 1-sentence mission statement.

One of the suggested articles, What do universities want to be? A content analysis of mission and vision statements worldwide, found that virtually no mission statements included some sort of quantitative figure–which holds true for the two missions statements I selected. I suspect this is because including some number as a metric acts as a ceiling for the university. For example, if VT says that they want to “bring in $1 million in research grants this year,” $1 million acts as a “cap.” Why should VT be limited to just $1 million? What if they don’t achieve that metric in a given year? Should the Board of Visitors have to approve a new mission statement on a regular basis to accommodate economic trends, such as inflation ($1m now does not hold the same value as $1m ten years ago)? Although it would be nice to get a feel for the kinds of numbers VT (and other higher-ed institutions) hope to produce, I believe they don’t include such statements because it may inhibit the underlying purpose of the university.