Category Archives: Commentary

One-On-One With Tracy Jan

by Cassandra Martinez

When Tracy Jan was only seven, the seeds of her journalism career were being planted. Jan created her very own newspaper, filled with drawings, headlines and stories about events surrounding her life.

From then on, Jan became involved in the news whenever possible, writing for her high school paper and creating her own college newspaper.

During her time at Stanford University, Jan was awarded the Fulbright grant and allowed to travel to Taiwan to write human-interest stories for a local paper in Mandarin.

When I met Tracy at the Boston Globe a few days ago with Sam Mausner, she was nothing but cordial and informative cornering the past, present and future of her career.

While she admits the future of journalism is still a mystery, with the Boston Globe having a particularly hard financial year ending with most journalists taking a 10% pay cut as well as other benefits being slashed.

According to Tracy, hard financial times and the emergence of the Internet have made the Globe focus on their site and upgrading its features to make the site more user-friendly.

When asked what she thought was a negative aspect of this new virtual age of journalism, Tracy had a definite answer: the negative comments and citizen journalism.

“The hardest thing is just filtering comments,” Jan said. “People can and have just spouted off about one of my stories, not bothering to censor themselves.”

A possible reason for such brutal honesty and bullying on the web could be the fact that there are no consequences to bad behavior on the net. I, myself, have seen numerous stories with a multitude of comments that spawned from anger over someone who wrote something irresponsible.

Tracy’s beef with citizen journalism and blogging is with the thinking that a lot of people on the Internet are not able to properly discern quality journalism that has been checked for facts from opinion-tainted blogs calling themselves relevant sources of news.

But in the age where news and social media on the web have become outlets for one another with such sites like Facebook and Twitter, it seems like this is only the beginning.


Looking Back…

As my first semester at Emerson College comes to a close, I can’t wait to get off campus and fly those thousands of miles back to Texas the day before Christmas eve.

When I think about what I will be leaving behind here on campus, my journalism blog springs to mind as one of the most timely and innovative assignments I had to do.

In a world where pretty much everyone can have their opinion read by the world thanks to their blogs, journalists must learn the power of the internet and social media and use it to their advantage.

Following my reporter from The Boston Globe, Tracy Jan, was a blessing. Reading and critiquing stories about higher education and the multitude of colleges that surrounded my new home was both informative and entertaining.

I’ve actually had the experience of reading news about my own school that I had no idea was actually occuring through Tracy’s articles in The Globe, such as the tenure issue that Tracy said was actually inspired by an investigative article she read in the Berkley Beacon.

Looking through the statistics for my blog, I get about ten views a week, mostly from myself. So I may not be reaching a huge audience, but the point is that its here.

A search with just the right phrase and anyone can stumble onto my blog to read just what I have to say on the subject of higher education and Tracy Jan.

Fitzsimmons Fixing Admissions

by Cassandra Martinez

Now, as the admissions season kicks into high gear, the 65-year-old dean traverses the country on recruiting trips, sharing his tale of how a working-class youth managed to make the trip from the modest streets of Weymouth to Harvard Yard, just 15 miles away but seemingly a world apart. It’s a story line he imparts frequently to put Harvard on the radar of students who might have dismissed an Ivy League education as a pipe dream.

Even in today’s world of financial aid and grants for students applying to colleges across the country, when you picture a typical student gracing the halls of of a prestigious university such as Harvard you get a very clear image of a prep school kid with all the advantages in life.

Ask William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean, what the ideal prospective student looks like and he will give you a very different picture.

When Fitzsimmons took the position of dean he was unhappy with the “pipeline of students with prep school pedigrees” and was determined to change the way Harvard accepted students.

One of Fitzsimmons noteworthy changes to Harvard admissions procedures was back in 2006 when he influenced the change to dismantle early action because statistically early admission “tended to favor the most affluent, savvy students.”

Fitzsimmons relationship with Harvard started when he was in middle school living outside of the city, but in his eyes he was world’s away from the university “with its opulent dining halls and common rooms decorated with gilt-framed portraits, wood paneling, and leather furniture.”

According to Fitzsimmions’ collegues, he has been able to persuade Harvard alumni to fund scholarships for lower-income students even if it means the alum’s family might have a harder time getting into the school.

In a world where college education is becoming only more expensive with each passing year and financial aid is becoming a much more difficult process to obtain, Fitzsimmons is taking a stand and making changes that all other college’s can follow.

Dawn of a New Admissions Era

by Cassandra Martinez

The college that once told high school seniors to stop cramming so many extracurricular activities on their resumes has taken another step toward making applications less stressful – MIT has done away with the traditional, and much fussed-over, long essay.

In an article written in the October 4th issue of the Boston Globe, Tracy Jan reports on the changes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is making to their admissions process.

The college essay detailing the most influential person in your life or the biggest decision you have yet to make has become one of the biggest cliches and stresses for high school seniors across the country, but MIT is taking a stand against this ritual that seems to them, archaic.

According to Stuart Schmill, MIT’s dean of admissions, it is almost impossible for a possible student to be able to fully articulate in an essay dealing with just one particular topic enough information for the university to make an informed decision on whether or not an applicant is a suitable fit for their institution.

Schmill is proposing that instead of one mammoth essay being the deciding factor as to whether or not a student is allowed entry into their prestigious institution, they should answer 2-3 short answer questions, such as how one approached a significant challenge in their life thus far.

These shorter and more specific questions are designed to garner a more candid response from students, which I totally agree with. Instead of getting canned responses that seniors have been trained to answer with, applicants must pull from their past experiences that have shaped them into a good addition for MIT.

These days getting into a prestigious university has become more of a game based on connections and training than on skill and intellect. By making these small changes to the way colleges accept students admissions are beginnnig to take a step back in the right direction where future students are accepted because they truly deserve it.

Generating People Skills at MIT

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Leadership Program aims to develop, among others, the following skills:

  • Ability to assess risk and take initiative.
  • Willingness to make decisions in the face of uncertainty.
  • Urgency and the will to deliver objectives on time in the face of constraints or obstacles.
  • Resourcefulness and flexibility.
  • Trust and loyalty in a team setting.
  • Relating to others.
  • In a recent article by my reporter Tracy Jan which was published on October 25th of 2009 by the Boston Globe the subject of interpersonal skills in one of the most impersonal fields, engineering, was put under the microscope.

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created a program for their seemingly introverted student engineers to devlop their communication skills so when they do graduate and enter the workforce they are able to compete with say their more charismatic and confident competition adequately.

    According to MIT, the program offered to upperclassmen was intended to help those that are not “comfortable seeking leadership opportunities within companies.” It is believed that through leadership activities and elevator speech exercises MIT grads will be able to leave school fully able to compete and take control of situations where there needs to be a leader.

    This article by Tracy Jan is yet another example of her stories concerning higher education for the Globe. Jan publishes at least once a week and informs her Twitter followers whenever she has a new article through tweets.

    In Jan’s news articles she always has a broad range of personalities and people she interviews so she can get a wide array of responses on any of her given subjects. In this story on MIT she talks to students of the leadership course but also makes room to have quotes from the man who’s donation to the school made the classes possible.

    Taking Steps to Cure Freshman 15

    “Whatever restraining influences parents might have had when the teenagers were at home are unshackled when kids go off to college.”

    Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston.

    The Freshman 15 is a topic widely reported on by journalists, especially in Boston because of the heavy concentration of colleges and universities in the area. It’s now become an accepted truth that as a freshman, you will drink excessively, you will eat unhealthy food in the dining hall and your exercise habits will all but disappear.

    Tracy Jan, a reporter for the Boston Globe who focuses on higher education, wrote an article on October 18th describing the changes some schools around Boston are beginning to enforce to address at least one of the problems contributing to the unhealthy weight gain most freshman experience during their first semester of college.

    One of the most logical changes being made comes from Merrimack College, where they got rid of their old circular plates and replaced them with smaller square “tapas” style plates.

    The idea is to subliminally have the students eating in the dining hall load less onto their plate and have smaller servings, as opposed to the free-for-all most cafeterias employ now.

    Aside from the smaller plates, Merrimack has trained it’s servers to give out smaller portions and strategically serve more vegetables with say the roasted chicken as opposed to fattening mashed potatoes.

    While this idea sounds good in theory, many of Merrimack’s actual students refer to the servings as “bird food,” and many say they have to get up to get multiple servings with the smaller plates, making the new strategy more annoying than helpful.

    Obesity is an epidemic in America, with a large portion of the problem being in our higher education system, but at least there are beginning to be programs and strategies set into place at these colleges and universities to fix where these problems begin – our eating habits.