Aug 282014


August 28, 2014

Severed Snake Heads Can Still Bite — and Often Do

It sounds like a wild fabrication: A spitting cobra, being prepared for a dish in a restaurant in southern China, bit and killed a chef 20 minutes after its head had been chopped off, according to a report in China Daily. It turns out snakes do this quite frequently. “Hell, yes, that can happen,” Sean Bush, snake expert at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, told NBC News. “It’s a last-ditch effort to survive, so it’s very common common. They get real snappy in the throes of death.” The longest Bush has heard of a snake striking after being decapitated was a rattlesnake whose severed head bit someone after 90 minutes. Reptiles have much lower metabolisms than humans do, meaning their internal organs stay alive longer, hence the biting. The lesson? Be careful around venomous snakes— even if they look dead. “It’s important to inform the public that a even decapitated snake can kill you,” Bush said.

Aug 282014


August 28, 2014

Frances Melinda Carver

Frances Melinda Carver died Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. Her colleagues at the Brody School of Medicine will gather today, Aug. 28, 2014, to share memories and stories; a more formal memorial will be planned for a later time.

Melinda was born in Asheville on June 12, 1953, and lived there until she went off to college at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. After she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology, Melinda moved to Richmond, Va. to work in laboratory research at the Medical College of Virginia. She later moved to Greenville and worked as a research technician and research specialist in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University for over 30 years. During this time, Melinda earned a MS in Biology and contributed to significant research papers in the fields of transplantation, immunology, biochemistry, and oncology.

Melinda loved her friends and family, her dogs and sailing. Melinda earned her U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s license, taught a marine captain’s license course and was a certified American Sailing Association Instructor. Several years ago she decided to live on her boat full time, becoming a lively and cherished member of the River Rat Yacht Club at Jordan Creek. She also greatly enjoyed visiting her big brother and his family out in California.

Melinda is survived by her niece, April Carver, of Los Angeles; nephew, Greg Carver, of Encinitas, Calif.; niece, Julie Carver, of Bennington, Vt.; and Abbey, her adored schnauzer, who has been lovingly adopted by Dennis and Denise Brewster.

Melinda, we’ll miss that bright smile of yours, your joyful personality, and your generous, caring heart.

Aug 282014


By Andrew Carter

August 28, 2014

CHAPEL HILL — While UNC-Chapel Hill investigates an off-campus altercation among members of the football team, coach Larry Fedora announced Wednesday that four players, including two defensive starters, have been suspended for the first game of the season Saturday.

Fedora said Desmond Lawrence, Donnie Miles, M.J. Stewart and Brian Walker were suspended for a violation of team policies. He didn’t reveal which policies.

Fedora’s announcement came one day after Yahoo! Sports reported that Jackson Boyer, a nonscholarship wide receiver, sustained a concussion amid an alleged hazing incident that turned into what the website characterized as an assault.

Neither the Chapel Hill Police Department nor UNC’s campus police were called to the Aloft Hotel, where the alleged incident happened in early August while the football team stayed there during preseason camp. There is no police record of any altercation at the hotel.

After twice saying he couldn’t comment on the Yahoo! report, Fedora announced the suspensions immediately after practice. All four players are defensive backs, a position group that refers to itself as the “rude boys.”

Lawrence and Walker, both from Charlotte, are starting cornerbacks. Stewart and Miles are backup players, but Fedora expected both to play prominent roles.

“We’re going to hold all of our guys accountable for everything they do, on the field and off the field,” Fedora said. “And we also have very high expectations for guys in this program, and they didn’t meet those expectations. So that’s why we’re having some disciplinary measures here.”

Fedora, though, offered no details of why the players were suspended, other than to say, more than once, it was because of a “violation of team policy.” Details of what transpired at the Aloft Hotel, then, remained scant.

Boyer’s mother, Kimber, and his brother, Cole, did not return messages seeking comment. UNC did not make any football players or assistant coaches available for comment after practice. Boyer, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining, has continued to practice with the team.

UNC officials have declined to discuss details of the alleged incident, and it’s unclear whether the university considers what happened to meet its official definition of hazing.

The university has a clear anti-hazing policy. The policy, outlined on UNC’s website, reads, in part, “UNC expressly prohibits hazing or any activity that puts a student’s physical, emotional or psychological health and safety at risk.”

UNC’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs is handling the investigation. Fedora said he had no role in the investigation, and Kevin Best, a football team spokesman, said the athletic department would have no role in it.

The four players will sit out the season opener against Liberty. Asked if the suspensions could last longer than one game, or if he considered the matter closed, Fedora said he considered it “a closed book for me in football, yes.”

It’s unclear, though, whether the university’s broader investigation could add additional disciplinary measures. Fedora said he didn’t know when the investigation might be complete.

“The office of student affairs is handling that, because students are involved,” Fedora said. “So I am not privy to that information, actually. So that may continue to be going at this time.”

Before Yahoo! posted its report Tuesday, neither Fedora nor anyone inside the football program provided any indication that it was aware of an alleged hazing incident. Fedora throughout the preseason has spoken in glowing terms about Lawrence, Stewart and Walker.

He said he didn’t know exactly when he found out about the alleged incident, but once he did he began to take action. Asked why he decided to suspend four players, he said, “We’re getting to a point where I had enough information where I could make a decision.”

Surrounded by television cameras and reporters, Fedora said he hoped the suspensions provided the team a message “that everybody is held accountable for their actions and that we have some very high expectations to be a football player here at the University of North Carolina. And if you don’t meet those expectations that you will be disciplined.”

This episode is another moment of turmoil for an athletic department that has been embroiled in highly publicized controversy. The NCAA recently reopened an investigation it closed in 2012, and the university is still trying to determine the relationship between the athletic department and suspect African- and Afro-American Studies courses.

Now, days before the start of a football season surrounded by high expectations and hope, Fedora is facing his first significant off-the-field crisis at UNC. He approached a throng of reporters with a wry smile and said, joking, that he’d been looking forward to seeing them.

Then he announced the suspensions.

“I think our student-athletes do a great job,” athletics director Bubba Cunningham said after Fedora met with reporters. “We have 18,000 students, we have 800 participating in intercollegiate athletics. And from time to time, we all make mistakes. And when we do, we hold each other accountable.”

Aug 282014


By Jay Price

August 28, 2014

RALEIGH — Four N.C. State University students have dreamed up a striking way to detect date rape drugs that’s getting some major media buzz.

It’s also generating a backlash from people who say it doesn’t get at the root causes of rape.

The idea: nail polish formulated to change color if you dip your finger in a drink spiked with one of the incapacitating drugs, such as GBH, Rohypnol or Xanax.

This simple approach fired the imaginations of journalists around the world this week, just as the college fall semester was getting underway.

It also has caught the eye of at least one local investor, who has reportedly pumped $100,000 into the project. It won $11,250 this past spring in the university’s Lulu eGames, a contest sponsored by and the university’s Entrepreneurship Initiative that’s aimed at encouraging students to develop solutions to real-world challenges.

The startup is called Undercover Colors, and its slogan is “The First Fashion Company Empowering Women to Prevent Sexual Assault.”

The idea isn’t entirely new. There were already startups promoting date-rape detectors built into drinking straws, coasters, drinking glasses, lip gloss and a small device you dip into your drink. Another company also claimed to be developing a similar nail polish, called Dip Tip, this spring.

Few seem to have actually reached the market, but interest in them has been high, and all generated media splashes.

And now it’s Undercover Colors’ turn. Stories on the fledgling company have appeared this week in the Daily Mail and The Guardian in Great Britain, Huffington Post, The Washington Post,,, USA Today and Buzz Feed, among others.

It’s unclear how far along in development the nail polish is, or when it might come to market. The students who started the company, all of them men in the materials science and engineering department, are declining interviews.

“At this point, we are early in the development of our product and are not taking interviews or doing stories,” wrote Stephen Gray, a spokesman for the group, in an emailed statement.

Stepping into a minefield

Even so, they have not only got a whirlwind taste of the startup world with the wave of attention and investment, they also stepped into a societal minefield: the politics of sexual assault.

One question about the nail polish is precisely how big a problem it seeks to solve.

Susan R.B. Weiss, associate director for scientific affairs for the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, said that data on the subject are sparse but that the use of date-rape drugs is probably not common. Alcohol is by far the drug most likely to be involved in rape, Weiss said.

For various reasons, it may never be clear just how common it is for surreptitiously planted drugs to be used in rapes. In part that’s because most rapes aren’t reported, and when they are, it’s often after any trace of drugs has worked its way out of a victim’s system.

There are at least some data, though.

A 2007 study of college students by RTI International in Research Triangle Park supports the notion that alcohol is the drug most linked to rape. The researchers found that 11.1 percent of undergraduate women had been sexually assaulted while incapacitated, and the large majority reported that what had knocked them out was alcohol.

Only about 0.6 percent reported being certain that their sexual assault occurred after they were given a drug without their knowledge or consent. Others thought they had been drugged but weren’t sure.

Alcohol a greater risk

“Clearly, undergraduate women are at much greater risk of sexual assault that occurs in the context of voluntary consumption of alcohol and/or drugs or that is physically forced than sexual assault that is drug facilitated,” concluded the researchers, who were funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Anti-rape activists have begun voicing objections to the nail polish.

The fact that date-rape drugs aren’t a major factor in sexual assaults is one issue, said Rebecca Nagle, co-director of a group based in Baltimore called FORCE.

“These four young men took an approach based on some pretty popular mainstream views about how sexual assault happens and who it affects,” Nagle said. “We need to have conversations about how sexual assault really happens, and we have to be talking about it accurately, because basing our fears on assumptions actually doesn’t get us very far.”

Rape is an epidemic in the United States, Nagle said, and one factor that allows that is victim blaming.

The nail polish would perpetuate that, she said. Suddenly, it would be a woman’s responsibility to use the polish. Otherwise, if you become a victim of assault, then some would say that the rape was your fault because you didn’t test your drink.

It would simply put another burden on women when the real causes of rape are elsewhere, she said.

“Yes, we need to take steps toward ending rape and preventing rape, and it’s really not the responsibility of people who might be raped to do that. It’s actually the responsibility of two groups of people,” she said. “One is the perpetrators. People need to stop raping people. And then it’s also the responsibility of communities and our country.”

Founders respond

On Tuesday, Undercover Colors co-founder and CEO Tyler Confrey-Maloney posted what appeared to be a reaction to the backlash on the company Facebook page:

“We are grateful for and encouraged by the support we’ve received over the past few days … We hope this future product will be able to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators, creating a risk that they might actually start to get caught.

“However, we are not the only ones working to stop this crime. We are taking just one angle among many to combat this problem. Organizations across the country need your support in raising awareness, fundraising, and education.”

Among those Undercover Colors recommends, he wrote, were: The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network; Men Can Stop Rape; and Raleigh-based InterAct.

Aug 282014


By Elena Novak

August 28, 2014

RALEIGH — Finishing law school is Amy Heimel’s dream. As a 46-year-old single mother of three children, fulfilling that dream isn’t easy.

Last year, Heimel started as a full-time student at Campbell University’s law school in downtown Raleigh, but was forced to withdraw.

“I withdrew knowing that I didn’t think I was going to complete it,” she said. “I thought that was the end of my dream because I’ve been wanting to do this for 20 years.”

Then an online search brought her back to Campbell. The school’s new Campbell Flex program, which ushered in its first round of students this month, is targeted to people with work or family obligations that prevent them from attending full time. Students are allowed to finish their law degree within seven years, instead of the usual three, and pay only half of the $37,800 tuition each year.

In the first year, Campbell Flex students take half of the normal load and finish the second half the following year. After that, it’s up to them to earn 90 credits at whatever speed they can accommodate.

“It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for me and my situation,” Heimel said.

Campbell announced the Flex program last fall at a time when law schools were becoming a less attractive option for many people because of climbing student debt and an uncertain job market. Nationally, applications for last fall’s entering class were down 12.3 percent – the third straight year of decline, according to the Law School Admission Council.

Heimel is one of 18 Flex students who started last Monday, more than Campbell expected to enroll, said J. Rich Leonard, dean of the law school.

“We thought if we got 10 applicants in the first year it would be extraordinary because we were really asking people to change their lives on a dime,” Leonard said. “We were astounded when we got 40.”

Enrollment at Campbell has increased by 64 students since last fall, including the new Flex students, even though the applicant pool for law students nationwide is the smallest it has been since 1974, according to the Law School Admission Council.

“I think we’ve done a good job of demonstrating that we are an exceptional school in an extraordinary city,” Leonard said. “We’ve just upped our recruiting game to make a pretty obvious case for why this is a great place to come to school.”

Most law schools require a three-year, full-time commitment. N.C. Central University in Durham offers an evening program with classes three nights a week for four years on a year-round basis.

Jonathan Lewis considered the N.C. Central program before opting for Campbell Flex.

“Central’s evening program is almost a separate school, whereas at Campbell you’re pretty much integrated into classes with all the other students,” said Lewis, 32, who works full time at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office while providing for his wife and 11-year-old son. “You have the same professors. You have the same classmates. You just go at a slightly slower pace.”

Army veteran Matt Lancaster is a single parent who started out as a full-time law student at Campbell. At the time, Lancaster, 38, was working at a company called Workplace Options recruiting mental health professionals for an employee assistance program, a job he still holds.

“Whenever I applied I was still trying to figure out how in the world I was going to manage financially,” he said. “The thought of the student loans I was going to have to take out at my age and the debt I was going to have to incur, it was startling.”

One day after he received his acceptance letter, Lancaster saw an online advertisement for the Flex program.

“The one thing I’ve learned in all of my years is what you think you want to do and what you think you have planned doesn’t always work out that way,” he said.

Aug 282014


by Jennifer Ludden

August 26, 2014

For Georgetown University freshmen, orientation this week included a new activity: mandatory small-group discussions on sexual assault.

“For a lot of the kids, this might be the first time they ever actually talk about sexual assault or what consent means in an environment with their peers,” says Chandini Jha, a junior who helped lead several discussions and who’s been pushing administrators to do this for two years.

Georgetown is not among the more than 70 colleges being investigated for how they’ve handled sexual assault cases; in fact, it’s ahead of many others on the issue. But Jha says the problem is a national epidemic. About , as are some men, and Jha has become active beyond her own campus. Last winter Jha joined a group that uses social media to spread the word that schools are bound to try to protect students from sexual assault under a federal law called Title IX.

“Our goal is to get this critical mass of students educated about it,” she says, “almost as a check against universities violating Title IX but also to help empower students who’ve been in those situations [about] things they can ask for their universities to do.”

It’s just the kind of information Dana Bolger wishes she had back in 2011, when she says she was raped during her sophomore year at Amherst College.

“My dean encouraged me to take time off, go home, essentially wait for my rapist to graduate and then come back to campus when it was safe to do so,” Bolger says.

One of many demonstrations highlighting what has been called a national epidemic of campus sexual assault.

She did drop out for a bit. Then she returned, joined a support group and discovered she wasn’t the only one who felt mistreated by her college. Bolger and others demanded meetings with Amherst officials, a list of reforms in hand. They got nowhere.

“But for a survivor who has to study in the same library as her assailant,” she says, “or a survivor that has to eat in the same dining hall as his rapist, urgency is real.”

So in 2012, they went public. The student paper posted , and the response was electric.

“Angie Epifano was able to tell her story in the Amherst Student, and the next day there were thousands and thousands of views,” Bolger says. “I don’t know what that possibly could have looked like in the 1970s.”

The college president reached out to Epifano and announced reforms. Suddenly, sexual assault victims across the country were seeking each other out online.

After finishing her degree, Bolger co-founded with Alexandra Brodsky of Yale University, to educate students about their rights. The group has a growing network of campus activists, including Jha at Georgetown. It connects assault survivors to pro bono attorneys. It staged protests at the Department of Education. That led to meetings with White House officials and members of Congress.

Such high-profile events have put these activists in the spotlight. But outside that, other students continue to act, sometimes on their own.

“I created from the daily crime log,” says Guillermo Rojas, who’s in his last semester at Dartmouth, one of the schools under investigation for its handling of sexual assault. By law, schools are required to keep a public tally of campus crimes, including sexual assault. But, unlike many, Dartmouth College doesn’t put it online. A few weeks ago, Rojas decided to do it himself.

“The college refuses to provide emailed spreadsheets,” he says, “and refuses to let us take pictures.”

So Rojas goes over to the Department of Safety and Security and types the data into his laptop. “I always feel like a nuisance,” he says. “I get the sense that not a lot of people ask for it.”

“It’s just morally reprehensible that administrators are putting the burden of fixing the problems onto students like that,” says Susy Struble, a Dartmouth alumna, class of ’93. Struble was raped on campus, and she’s thrilled with activists like Rojas, though she worries it won’t be enough. Students, she says, graduate.

“College administrators know this,” she says. “They know that if they can just hunker down and weather a crisis, that group of students is going to graduate sooner or later. But alumni are always around. We have a lot of influence, we have a lot of money, we still have a lot of say on what kind of culture we have on our campuses.”

Struble has helped found two alumni groups to keep up the pressure.

Bolger agrees this is key. Not yet a year out of college, she’s quit a job to devote herself full time to Know Your IX. Yes, she says, it’s great that the federal government has tightened the rules on how schools should handle sexual assault. “But at the end of the day, what we need is enforcement,” she says. “Schools are operating today knowing that the department has never once sanctioned a school for these violations.”

Bolger can imagine a career holding them to account. Among the other ambitious items on her to-do list: law school.

Aug 282014


AUG. 27, 2014

Vaibhav Verma was frustrated that he could not get into the most popular courses at Rutgers University, so he decided to try a new approach.

He didn’t sleep outside classrooms to be first in line when the door opened, or send professors a solicitous note. Instead, he built a web-based application that could repeatedly query the New Jersey university’s registration system. As soon as anyone dropped the class, Mr. Verma’s tool would send him a message, and he would grab the open spot.

“I built it just because I was a little bit bored,” he said.

By the next semester, 8,000 people had used it.

At Brown University, Jonah Kagan had a clever idea of his own: Get his fellow students to name their three favorite courses, and use the results as a guide for people seeking great, unusual electives. Building the website was easy, but he could not persuade Brown to give him enrollment figures, which would have allowed him to control for differences in class size. So the survey died.

Experiences like those two are becoming common at campuses around the country, as students are showing up the universities that trained them by producing faster, easier-to-navigate, more informative and generally just better versions of the information systems at the heart of undergraduate life.

Students now arriving for fall semester may find course catalogs that they can instantly sort and re-sort according to every imaginable search criteria. Scheduling programs that allow someone to find the 47 different classes that meet Thursdays at 8:30 p.m., then narrow them down to those that have no prerequisites, then narrow again to those that count toward requirements in two majors. Or apps that allow you to see what courses your friends are considering, or figure out who has the same free periods that you do, or plot the quickest route between two far-flung classrooms.

But this culture of innovation has accelerated debates about the flow of information on campus, and forced colleges to reckon with some unexpected results of the programming skills they are imparting.

Last year 19 students at Baruch College in Manhattan used a computer script to check for openings in crowded courses — at such high frequency that they nearly took down not just Baruch’s computer system but also that of the entire City University of New York. That earned them a stern talking-to. On the other hand, the scheduling app that two University of California, Berkeley, students devised worked so well that administrators decided to adapt it for official use.

These encounters have proved to be educational, though not always in the way the colleges intend.

“What I really learned,” Mr. Kagan said of his negotiations with Brown, “is how hard it is to get the data you need out of these old legacy school information systems.”

To some extent, the tension reflects a basic difference in worldview.

“Students are always more entrepreneurial and understand needs better than bureaucracies can,” said Harry R. Lewis, the director of undergraduate studies for Harvard’s computer science department, “since bureaucracies tend to have messages they want to spin, and priorities they have to set, and students just want stuff that is useful. I know this well, since students were talking to me about moving the Harvard face books online seven years before Zuckerberg just went and did it without asking permission.”

Zach Hall saw that up close when, as a student at Furman University, he developed a course-selection website that included a wide array of useful functions. “ beat the socks off the course listings that the university was putting out there,” recalled Brad Barron, the registrar at the South Carolina institution. But, worried that it might harm the university’s computer system, Mr. Hall recalled, “the I.T. department kind of freaked out.”

Eventually, however, they proposed a compromise: Internet technology officials would make it easier for him to get the data he required if he would remove the links to rate-your-professor sites (which never go over well with the professors being rated). He took the deal.

To help their fellow student-developers, 10 students and newly graduated seniors from colleges around the country converged on a lodge at Lake Tahoe last summer for what they called a Campus Data Summit. They have since published a guidebook for dealing with recalcitrant university administrations, including advice like “be proactive about their fears,” “make friends with faculty” and, perhaps most crucially, ask for “forgiveness, not permission.”

Amy Quispe, a summit-meeting organizer who was finishing her studies at Carnegie Mellon University, said struggles over campus data were so bad in some cases that “in a lot of ways students’ creativity was being stifled.”

Campus software developers say they see evidence that some colleges are becoming more comfortable with these collaborations, though as with any learning process, the path is not always a straight one.

Alex Sydell and William Li collaborated on a website, Ninja Courses, that made it easy for fellow students at Berkeley, and later at four more U.C. campuses, to compare every aspect of different courses as they built their schedule for the semester. Berkeley saw the website’s value and went so far as to pay them for their innovation. (“For students, the offer they gave us was very generous,” is all Mr. Li will say about the amount.)

But when their point person moved onto another job, Mr. Sydell says, they got a cease-and-desist letter accusing them, among other things, of violating U.C. copyrights by using the colleges’ names.

Those concerns appear to have been assuaged; Ninja Courses now has over 50,000 registered users.

Yale University, which initially shut down a website that the twin brothers Harry Yu and Peter Xu built to make the course catalog easier to navigate, later admitted that it did not really understand the processes it was trying to regulate. “Questions of who owns data are evolving before our very eyes,” Mary Miller, the dean of Yale College, said at the time. “What we now see is that we need to review our policies and practices.”

Some universities are bringing student software developers directly into the fold. Stanford administrators liked Kevin Conley’s idea for an app with information about the campus bus service, so they gave him a job building it. It is now available free at the iTunes app store.

At Brown, where Mr. Kagan had trouble getting enrollment figures, Ravi Pendse, the university’s new chief information officer, said that when it came to sharing data, schools “tend to be risk averse, and with good reason” — starting with laws that require them to protect students’ privacy. “The easiest answer is to say no.”

He has taken a different approach, however, starting what he calls “a student software hub for collaboration and innovation,” designed to support students with ideas about how to connect campus information systems. “I wish Jonah Kagan would come back, and we’ll work with him,” he said.

Many campus developers say the next frontier is for more colleges to get comfortable releasing their information not case by case, but in uniform formats known as A.P.I.s (for application programming interfaces). That would make it possible, they say, to create tools that work at Florida State University as well as they do at Alaska Bible College. Students at disparate schools could spend time building on one another’s efforts instead of just replicating them.

“It turns out if you give students that power they’ll do some pretty great things with it.” said Alexey Komissarouk, who started a student group called PennApps while at the University of Pennsylvania.

It has done some pretty great things for the students, too. Ms. Quispe now works at Google. Mr. Kagan works at Clever, an educational start-up that assembles student data from K-12 schools around the country. Mr. Li is still running Ninja Courses. And Mr. Sydell works at DropBox. He said he could not be sure how much Ninja Courses helped him get the job, but added, “I’d guess that it scored some bonus points.”

Aug 282014


By Casey Ark August 28
Casey Ark is a columnist for The Patriot News and is the owner of Plato Web Design, a custom web development firm based in Harrisburg, PA.

When I graduated from Penn State a year ago, I thought I was perfectly prepared to succeed in the business world. I’d worked hard, graduated at the top of my class in computer science and managed to acquire lots of experience with the sorts of industry software that I was sure hiring managers were looking for. I’d even chosen a STEM degree, which – according to just about everyone – is the smartest choice to plan for the future (8 out of the 10 fastest-growing job occupations in the U.S. are STEM jobs).

I felt like the job market was mine for the taking. I was very, very wrong.

Despite diligent studying, the only real-world business skills I’d learned at college were how to write a résumé and operate three-fifths of the Microsoft Office suite. My college education left me totally unprepared to enter the real workforce. My degree was supposed to make me qualified as a programmer, but by the time I left school, all of the software and programming languages I’d learned had been obsolete for years.

To find real work, I had to teach myself new technologies and skills outside of class, and it wasn’t easy.

My experience is far from unique. Despite rising tuition rates, graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to land jobs (53 percent of college grads under 25 are unemployed or underemployed). More and more graduates are finding that their conceptually-based college educations leave them ill-equipped to handle “real-world” jobs – so much so that, according to some experts, most companies no longer care what their recruits majored in, since they know they’ll have to extensively train them regardless. This is even more poignant in the tech sector – in fact, 47 percent of the technology jobs in New York City no longer require any college education at all. Across the country, only half of high-tech workers have graduated college.

Businesses aren’t looking for college grads, they’re looking for employees who can actually do things – like build iPhone apps, manage ad campaigns and write convincing marketing copy. I wish I’d been taught how to do those things in school, but my college had something different in mind.

At least 90 percent of my college education (and that of so many others) boiled down to pure terminology, or analysis of terminology. My success in any given class was almost wholly based on how well I could remember the definitions of countless terms – like the precise meaning of “computer science” or how to explain “project management” in paragraph form, or the all-too-subtle differences between marketing and advertising.

Our future marketers don’t need to know the differences between advertising and marketing, they need to know how to sell things. Our future programmers don’t need to be able to define computer science, they need to know how to program computers. Those are the skills that are most important, and they’re precisely the things that aren’t being taught – in large part because schools don’t hire professors who know how to teach them.

There are plenty of requirements for the average professorship, but job experience generally isn’t high up on the list – in fact, a 2006 study of college professors in STEM fields showed that a whopping 59.8 percent hadn’t had any job experience in their industry. That means that a large portion of the professors tasked with teaching college grads how to become marketers, managers and salespeople have never marketed anything, managed anyone or sold anything at all. Our professors teach what they know, and after years spent steeping in theory, it’s no wonder that they put such an emphasis on conceptual learning.

To me, this is the root of our college problem: The average college student is paying $30,000 a year for the chance to learn valuable skills from professors who haven’t had the opportunity to learn those skills themselves. Maybe it’s a crazy idea, but if you’re going to spend all that money for a college education, shouldn’t you expect to learn real-world skills from people who know what they’re doing?

In our current framework, that idea sounds like fantasy – but what if we tried something different? What if we came up with a new way of hiring teachers, and a new outlook on how to develop college courses?

In an ideal world, business students would learn how to succeed in business by actually running their own businesses – Cedarville University (based in Cedarville, Ohio,) is allowing them to do just that. Each fall, the school issues a challenge to their junior class: come up with a viable idea for a business and make it a reality.

Unlike most college business simulations, Cedarville’s program has students develop business ideas on their own, acquire real funding from local banks and use real money and manpower to run the business over the course of the semester. Every business major gets involved – marketers run legitimate ad campaigns, accountants keep track of income and student managers are elected to oversee the project. The result: a concrete learning experience that allows students to try their hand at their field of study, and actually apply some of the concepts they’ve learned.

Programs like Cedarville’s (along with existing college internship programs) are smart ways to impart real-world knowledge while in school. If colleges spent more time on this sort of practicum, and less time on rote terminology, we might see more well-rounded graduates.

Solving the issue of inexperienced teachers may be even simpler: have schools relax academic requirements for professors and focus far more on hiring effective businesspeople. With a little more leeway, academically-minded candidates will have more freedom to gain job experience, and schools may even attract more talent directly from the business world. Success in business and success in the classroom are certainly different things, but I’d wager that it’s a lot easier to show an accomplished businessperson how to teach than it is to show a teacher how to be an accomplished businessperson.

Admittedly, these are simple ideas and represent only a small portion of the problem, but they’re a start. With better teachers and more hands-on material, I like to think that our graduates would be better equipped to succeed in the workforce, and that earning a bachelor’s degree might someday hold the same status that it used to. But what would I know? I’m just a college grad.