My name is Sandy Kaczocha, class of 2000. I like the rehab style opening, helps me understanding who's involved in the discourse.
I want to respond to a few of the points in both Bill and PJ's postings. The first thing I'd like to address is the real side of Waukegan. Bill wants us to ensure that we don't overlook the darker side of neighborhoods that are in the midst of regentrification. I'd like us to make sure that we don't also overlook the reality of Waukegan. My family relocated to Waukegan in 1979 when Shimer moved. I grew up in the Waukegan schools. I know many many students who were lost to stray bullets or the jail system. I was an early entrant not only because I was seeking to get away from the things we all thought lacking in High School. I was an early entrant because I no longer wanted to watch my fellow students get thrown out of third story windows or knifed in the counselor's office.
The real story is that Shimer is in one of the better parts of Waukegan and is very much encapsulated. The fact that people with an income and higher education are moving into the neighborhoods surrounding IIT is indeed a good sign. People investing their time and money into neighborhoods almost inevitably means a reduction in crime. Look at the crime stats for the area around Cabrini Green. I see no such growth happening in Waukegan. I know the city has plans, but the start of Waukegan's plan requires those same steps taken years ago to begin the regentrification in Pilsen, Bronzeville and Bridgeport.
I'd also like to make a point about Corporate America. I work for a credit card company, surely the epitome of Corporate America. What I've found is an increasing hunger for critical thinking abilities. I've read numerous articles in various magazines about the corporate world's increased recruitement and hiring of liberal arts majors. In fact, my mother finally finished her degree at Shimer last year. She did her thesis on the value of a liberal arts education in Corporate America. I helped her complete her research and there was plenty of evidence showing that the types of skills Shimer helps us develop and hone are the same types of skills that Corporate America wants in employees. All the theses are on the school's website, so check it out if you'd like more concete detail.
I don't believe that schools like IIT are actively seeking to crank out androids who can only do what they are told. All institutions want employees who can analyze a situation, dialogue with coworkers and create a sense of cohesion among disparate entities. This isn't something unique to liberal or non-corporate professions.
I'm currently attending graudate school online working towards my Masters in Computer Information Sciences. I'm attending a school that is very much all about the profit, but much of my experience has been very similar to my experience at Shimer. My classes are discussion based. I do have to read from text books, but the experience of taking the text and moving down a path of understanding through dialogue is virtually identical to what we all had when we were sitting around the octagonal tables.
I have been encouraged by my graduate studies. I've realized that the Shimer model is not only valuable in my eyes, but is something that other institutions both corporate and educational are seeking to emulate at least in part. I have been so encouraged that I was thinking that Shimer could potentially benefit by creating a program, maybe along the lines of Integrated Studies 1 or 2 geared towards professionals. I can't tell you how many courses and seminars are being offered around the world aimed at enhancing the critical thinking, speaking and writing skills of professionals. There are even more courses out there on how to facilitate and participate in discussions or how to work to create project group cohesion.
These are absolutely the kind of skills that institutions like IIT are looking to instill in their students. These are absolutely skills that the coporate world is hoping have already been instilled in employees. I don't think that places like IIT and Shimer are diametrically opposed.
One last point, I live in the northern burbs. The DePaul/Barat deal was most definitely talked about as a merger or acquisition. Everyone knew that Barat had reached a critical situation and was incapable of keeping their doors open by themselves. Depaul acquired Barat with dreams of financial benefit. The rapidity with which the decision about the move to IIT has to be made denotes to me that the agreement is indeed a financial one for IIT. Meaning, they have space to rent and want to get it rented. Surely everyone with eyes knows that there is no other financial benefit to partnering with Shimer right now.