The Hunger Games

Like the common shrew, which must consume 200% to 300% of its body weight in food every 24 hours in order to survive, most U.S. colleges and universities have no choice but to relentlessly pursue new degree programs as they entice students in the increasingly competitive Darwinian dystopia that higher education has become.  Three schools are leading the way:

—  Arizona State University is poised to offer the nation’s first Ph.D. in Administration of Executive MBA Programs.  According to Dr. Talson Shad, ASU’s Vice President for Educational Ventures,  “it’s incredibly challenging to oversee a curriculum that awards academic credit to egocentric entrepreneurs and high-level managers for doing little more than telling each other war stories over a period of 18 months.  At the very least you need an occasional reading from the Wall Street Journal or Harvard Business Review that students can Kindle-browse while stopped at red lights en route to their once-a-month  Saturday class that includes 2 half-hour breaks, a 90-minute lunch, and 3 video presentations.  Making all of this look like a legitimate educational experience via a 3-page ‘reflection paper’ submitted by students as a smartphone text at the end of the semester is not a task for the faint of heart.  Of course, there’s also the job of converting EMBA graduates into generous donors to your institution, which is the whole point of having the program to begin with.  You’re certainly not going to get much cash from the folks graduating from your Executive MSW program.”

—  Southern Illinois University’s Ph.D. Program in Departmental Consolidation Coordination is scheduled to begin in September 2019.  SIU’s Provost, Melanie Swale-Gibbon, observes that “consolidating academic departments in times of financial austerity is no day at the beach.  Have you ever tried to explain the substantive logic behind merging Chemical Engineering and Romance Languages to the Faculty Senate?  What about Psychology and Soil Science?  Criminal Justice and English?  It’s a freakin’ nightmare!  The cross-training implications alone are enough to make you lose bladder control.  Our new doctoral program will give students all the tools they need to execute these administrative sleights-of-hand while maintaining a straight face.  The Physics and Political Science faculties at your school will end up begging university leaders to hold a unification ceremony in which the two department chairs, dressed in off-white, walk hand-in-hand down the aisle of the campus chapel while ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ by the Carpenters plays in the background.”

—  Perhaps the most ambitious initiative is taking place at Dickinson College, which launched its Ph.D. Program in Myth Management last fall.  As Darrell Krisk, Dickinson’s Associate Director of Meaning-Making put it, “most schools today are faced with a nearly impossible task: shamelessly pandering to students’ self-interest while not appearing to shamelessly pander to students’ self-interest.  ‘Find Your Path at Yowsa University’ — ‘At Weeble College, You’re Not a Number’ — ‘Your Key to Success Awaits You at Dribble Tech: Claim it Now’.  Kind of makes you want to puke, doesn’t it?  Our doctoral program enables graduates to create sophisticated marketing myths that are comprehensive, coherent, and seamless.  You’ll develop inspiring institutional ultra-memes that course through your school’s circulatory system, enveloping students from their initial website visit to commencement.  For instance, at Dickinson we begin by telling students, you’re so much more than a student here.  You’re part of a cosmic energy stream that erases the boundaries between flesh and spirit, empowering you to alter universal force fields using the job-related skills you develop on our campus.  Close your eyes, take a deep breath, extend your wings, and fall forward into the euphoric embrace of Dickinson College.  Let the rapture begin!’  Is it any wonder that our undergraduate enrollment has increased 312% in the past four years?”

Wow.  Step aside, generic doctoral programs in Educational Leadership for harried school superintendents.  There’s a new shrew in town.