Saturday, September 02, 2023

The Week in Review (September 2, 2023)

1. The weeks pass by one after the other. I regularly reflect on the fact that I have rarely stopped to enjoy them or "smell the roses." There's always a project I'm behind on, always something I feel like I should be working on. My wife Angie has occasionally helped with that, especially for our children growing up. I am a candidate for one of those people who wakes up one morning and realizes their whole life is gone and what have they really done to enjoy it?

This Labor Day weekend we will be socializing twice, once with family and once with friends. It pains me greatly. There's so much I want to do with this precious extra time. Stolen by extroverts! It feels like I am being robbed of my time off. But that is my personality and my issue.

I'm not opposed to a life of leisure. I would love to be such an accomplished writer that I could teach a couple classes a week on whatever subject I choose in whatever way I choose. Then spend much of my time at some coffee shop in Hilton Head writing whatever I choose. That's not a life I deserve nor am ever likely to have. 

2. I finished the first draft of a College Algebra course this week and handed it off to a real mathematician to proof, edit, and perfect. I created about 190 pages of course materials. It could be quite interesting for such a class. I'm very interested to see student response. It should be available to take September 18, especially but not exclusively for high school students, at a very good price.

I'd like to publish things on the side related to my course-creation work. I was thinking about something like Algebra: A Picture Book for this one. We'll see.

3. The fall college season has largely begun. There are winners and losers. Having once aspired to be a college president, I watch these things and try to analyze the reasons.

Asbury College and Seminary are way up. The college is very predictable. The revival was bound to push them up. The seminary apparently also has some great things going on behind the scenes. I think it may have its largest enrollment ever. I predicted they would go down because of the Global Methodist Church not requiring seminary, but they have found some very clever ways to counteract whatever impact that decision might have. One is to offer the third year free if you pay for the first two.

Taylor is a winner in enrollment for fall. They continue the formula of outstanding academics with solid orthodoxy. Warner is a winner in Florida. Don't know all the details, but the president is very entrepreneurial. He actually has an arm tattoo with Warner's logo on it, so I assume he plans to retire from there.

In Wesleyan circles, Houghton and OKWU would seem to be winners. I don't know if Houghton benefited much from Alliance closing. I understand that Tim Fuller had been helping them refine a PELL strategy before he died. When I was there, they had been at 260 incoming class for a couple years. They seem to have transcended that number by a smidge. 

I don't know if the crisis over pronouns in emails benefited them. It may have. They were actually in the New York Times over it. Without any details, my guess is that its enrollment impact was probably a wash. That is to say, I would guess the loss and gain from the publicity probably evened out. But I welcome correction by those who would actually know. I can imagine they received some donations from it and probably also lost some donors too.

I continue to mull over the reasons why other colleges are down. The answer that comes most to mind is an ambiguous brand proposition. What is the compelling reason that would lead someone to you? I posted that question on Facebook. Had a response I really liked: "Good friends, good teachers, good chapel, good God!"

There are several schools where I find myself asking, "Why would anyone come to you?" Let me translate the response above into questions:

  • Is there a vibe of excitement from your students and alumni? Does the campus buzz when students step foot on it? Is the admissions office humming with smiling, positive students who love the school?
  • Do alumni have such great memories that their kids will find it infectious? Do the kids of your alumni grow up thinking, "I want to go there too one day like Dad and Mom?"
  • Do you have exciting teachers? This relates to the previous question. "Be sure you take a class with Wilbur Williams." Solid teachers are important but a dime a dozen. Do you have a great "faculty zoo," with lots of really interesting looking animals?
  • For a Christian college, what is the spiritual atmosphere of the campus? Is the campus full of haters or lovers? Is the Holy Spirit palpable on campus?   

4. I have been slowly using tools to translate my systematic theology into Spanish. Imagine my surprise when I found a button in Word that does it instantaneously. Felt pretty stupid for as many weeks as I've been copying and pasting back and forth. The footnotes didn't pull over, but the end is now in sight. I may have it published by next weekend now.

5. I've only had three takers for my Romans course on Udemy. I took out a Facebook ad a couple days ago to promote it. I don't know if I've ever gotten a single sale from taking out a Facebook or Amazon ad. Seems pretty much like a waste of time. I am tempted to take a course by an organization called AMMO that's allegedly about optimizing the marketing and directly selling your books, but of course I'm afraid I'd just be throwing good money down the drain. Anyone heard of it?

6. My wife is tired of me product testing with her. "What do you think of this?" She did enjoy some writing I read to her this week on "Growing Up Wesleyan." It might offend some, however, so once again don't know if it will see the light of day until I die. And of course then it won't be relevant. :-)

She thinks "Stuff You Didn't Know about Romans" is more likely to sell than Explanatory Notes or "The Story of Romans." An alternative title might be, "Top Ten Surprises in Romans." What do you think?

Signing off from another week... 


Weekend Fisher said...

So I'm browsing a hypothetical bookshelf with the titles ...

1) "Stuff you didn't know about Romans",
First reaction: "Could I learn something new?"

2) "Explanatory Notes",
First reaction: On what? (with a side-helping of hoping it doesn't read like a series of footnotes)

3) "The Story of Romans"
First reaction: Julius Caesar? Hannibal? (Second reaction: Romulus & Remus?) The history-lover in me has hopes for a wild ride through the past ...

4) "Top Ten Surprises In Romans" ...
First reaction: Could I learn something new. (Second reaction: hope it's not chasing trivia or shock for novelty)

So at the end of the day I'm not in a position to know enough about the particular book to have a meaningful insight there. Wishing you the best with it.

Ken Schenck said...

Thank you!

Ken Schenck said...

For the moment, working with the title, "Surprised by Romans."