Wednesday, October 28, 2009

30 rocks

In Friday's Eagle:
Texas A&M has more than 30 candidates for the university's presidency, including nationally recognized names and individuals who have been "highly placed" in federal government, officials said Thursday.

Not on the list are Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a former Aggie yell leader, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a former Texas A&M president, said Richard Box, chair of the 16-person search committee looking for the leader.

Thursday was the soft deadline for applications, though Box said "great candidates" would still be considered if they applied.

The candidates are from academia, business and government, though a breakdown wasn't immediately available, Box said. He disclosed no other details, including where in federal government they may have served.

"If I did that, I'd almost be telling you who they were," said Box, an Austin dentist.
Vision 1920 is tingling with speculation about who the "nationally recognized names and individuals who have been "highly placed" in federal government" might be.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The green-eyed monster

A notable comment from the Inside Higher Ed article
McKinney chalks up criticism [of the NCTM] to jealousy, adding “why anybody, anybody with pure motives, would be opposed to NCTM I have no idea.”
Chancellor McKinney did not add that he also has no idea why anyone with pure motives would criticize the late Anna Nicole Smith's marriage to billionaire J Howard Marshall.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Murano's performance evaluation explained

More brilliant PR from the Chancellor, as he gives an interview explaining events from last Spring:
Early in her presidency, McKinney says, Murano made a controversial promise, agreeing to hire the Board of Regents’ favored candidate to head research operations on the campus. Such a promise would fly in the face of well-established norms in higher education – where hires of this nature are typically subject to national searches and faculty input – but McKinney openly admits that he and the regents expected Murano to deliver on “her word.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The guidelines for this year's Student-Led Awards for Teaching Excellence have just come out:
The guidelines for the system program called “TAMUS Teaching Excellence Awards” (a.k.a. SLATE) have been issued. The program has been changed from our pilot SLATE program run by the students last year. In particular, there will be no inquiry to departments concerning the rigor of any course or its grading with respect to expectations in the curricula, and no review and recommendation by a student committee this year. Although the students advocated for small courses (less than 15 students enrolled) and courses that grant less than three hours of credit, the System guidelines have stated clearly that those variations are not allowed in the program.

The departmental and student committee reviews were added in response to criticism that SLATE was an easily gamed popularity contest that made TAMU an international laughingstock.

Vision 1920 is glad to see that A&M is showing the strength to remove the concessions to the critics... even if they might be right.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Building a great physics department

Texas A&M has added another Nobel Laureate to the faculty:
For the second time in four years Texas A&M University has hired a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Later this week the university will announce the hiring of David M. Lee, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in physics. Lee, 78, will move his laboratory from Cornell University to College Station.

“Change is good,” Lee said of the move from Cornell, where he has worked for half a century. “You have new colleagues and new ideas. It's very stimulating.”

The addition of Lee means A&M now has two Nobel Prize winners on its faculty. It hired the other, 77-year-old physics laureate Dudley Herschbach, in 2005.
TAMU Physics seems to be following a plan modeled on another top Physics Department described by blogger Michael White.
I stumbled on this amazing set of videos: physics legend Hans Bethe giving lectures on theoretical physics to his retirement community neighbors.

It's not as crazy as it sounds - a running joke around Ithaca (where I grew up and where Bethe's university, Cornell, is located) is that one of the top physics departments in the US is at the Kendal retirement community in Ithaca.

Update: In the comments, it is pointed out that the Houston Chron missed a Nobel Laureate at TAMU. Prof. Bruce McCarl was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the Peace Prize in 2007, and Vision 1920 should have noted the Chron's omission earlier. Dr. McCarl also has the distinction of having done his Nobel work while at Texas A&M instead of being bought brought in later. However, it should be noted that Dr. McCarl himself on his vita only describes this as "Nobel Peace Prize participant" rather than listing himself as a Nobel prize winner. Since the IPCC had over 2000 members and one usually thinks of a Nobel prize winner as being one of three or fewer who share an award, this humility seems appropriate (and admirable) to us here at Vision 1920.