Do Sweaty Students Make Better Students? The Connection Between Exercise and Better Grades

By Mathew Jade

It’s no secret that college students have jam-packed schedules. There are classes to attend, assignments to submit and socialization to be done. It’s hard enough to find time to sleep, let alone squeeze in regular exercise. You may ask why it’s important – there will be plenty of time to get fit once college is over, right?  However, what I was taught during my MBA, and what has long been taught in all top-notch business schools, is now being backed by scientific evidence: Regular exercise does not just keep you physically fit but also provides important cognitive benefits that can help you perform better in class – or in pretty much any setting where you need to use your brain cells.

Healthy Lifestyle Seamless Pattern

So how exactly does exercise help? Let me elaborate

  • Exercise acts as a stimulant for brain cell development

For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence on how exercise affects brainpower. Recent experiments have proved that there is a definite relationship between exercise and improved cognitive abilities.

For example, the New York Times published the results of a study led by Justin. S. Rhodes, a psychology professor in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. His study involved running experiments on four groups of mice. The mice who were given exercise wheels had marked improvements in brainpower. Mice exercising had more neurons – that is, brain cells – than those which did not.  In addition, the mice exercising regularly had developed more complex connections between neurons, meaning they could think faster.  Substitute a treadmill for a hamster wheel, and there’s a good chance you’ll see better grades over time.

  • Exercise will help you be more focused

A Canadian school that caters to learning-disabled and ADHD children carried out an experiment in 2009, in which children exercised for 20 minutes on treadmills or exercise bikes before starting math lessons. Teachers noted a marked improvement in students’ concentration levels, information retaining capabilities, and their overall motivation to study.

  • Exercise relieves stress

We all know college is a stressful time. It’s a challenge to get enough sleep, and there’s tons of work to do. Exercise, even if it is 15 minutes a day (high intensity, enough to jack up your heart rate and breath) leads to the release of endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that keep stress at bay. So exercise can reduce stress and help you work your way through college more effectively.

Exercise is very important in college. Not only will it keep your brain sharp, but it will also help you stay physically fit. It’s common for students to suffer from the “Freshman 15” – that is, the 15 pounds freshmen pack on in the first year due to limited exercise and unhealthy diet. And following an exercise regime is something you should do for life. For example, Hong Kong business magnate Allan Zeman does 90 minutes of exercise every morning without fail; Zeman once made a U.S. president wait so he could complete his daily exercise routine.

About the author: Mathew Jade is a passionate blogger who loves to write on Economics and finance-related topics. For further updates follow @Mathew_Jade


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In Defense of Your Humanities Degree: 5 Reasons Why Studying the Humanities Isn’t a Waste of Time

By Danika McClure

In the wake of a graduate shortage in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), degrees in the humanities and soft sciences have increasingly been deemed as frivolous and less valuable to the American job market. Shortages in technical industries across the country have forced lawmakers to take action, often by decreasing funding to the arts and soft sciences in favor of colleges which produce more STEM graduates.

Rosemary G. Feal, who directs the Modern Language Association of America, attributes the decline in funding for the arts and humanities in the United States particularly to “legislators who themselves have not experienced first-hand the value of studying the humanities.”

The most recent attacks on the arts and soft sciences come from Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, who told members of the associated press last month that he planned on reallocating the state’s higher education budget, giving more funding to colleges which produced the most STEM graduates.  Ironically enough, Bevin received his undergraduate degree in Japanese studies from Washington and Lee University, a private liberal arts institution.

By reallocating the state’s budget, Bevin hopes to curb the state’s STEM graduate shortage. But Bevin is just the latest in a series of lawmakers that don’t see the value in a humanities education, buying into the all too common myth of the unemployable liberal arts major.

As has been noted numerous times by educators everywhere, completing a degree in the social sciences, humanities, and the arts does not automatically condemn you to a life of retail or unemployment. The opposite, in fact may be true, as studying the liberal arts teaches students a variety of skills most sought after by employers. Rather than looking for technical skills, 95 percent of employers, prefer candidates who display “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems,” skillsets which humanities majors are more likely to have upon graduation.

While there are strong voices present in politics and even the education sector, there is proven value in studying the humanities, and as a person who has spent a large majority of her life in the arts and humanities, I’ve found many of the skills I learned in these “frivolous” courses more valuable to my work than any technical education I received while attending college.  Here are 5 reasons why pursuing a humanities degree isn’t a waste of time.

  1. Thinking Only About Shortages in the STEM Fields Will Oversupply the Workforce

While it cannot be understated that America is in the midst of a STEM crisis, reducing funding for programs outside of the hard sciences will ultimately oversupply the workforce in the scientific and technological sphere. After all, this isn’t the first time that the U.S. has experienced a workforce shortage; according to The Washington Post, this is a mistake the U.S. has perpetuated previously. A generation ago, lawyers made more money than investment bankers; but in the present day, the workforce is oversaturated with law graduates, while the investment banking industry is constantly searching for qualified candidates to fill positions.

While America does need to produce a certain number of STEM graduates in order to keep up with the global economy, there are other complex issues which graduates will have to confront in future years–issues which will require adaptability, in a variety of different environments.

  1. Humanities Education Gives Employees a Global Perspective

As business evolves to be ever globally-minded, business owners, civic leaders, and politicians are increasingly looking to understand the cultural and social climate of countries around the globe, and are counting on humanities graduates to better understand the cultural, historical, and political differences present in these countries.

Many large and revered corporations have failed to expand into overseas markets by ignoring cultural differences present in those markets.

“Some of the most successful American companies, including Walmart in Germany and TJK in Holland have failed overseas,” explains Professor Harry Lane, who teaches in Northeastern University’s School of Business, “because they did not understand how cultural differences would affect their business models.”

Lane, who has spent the past 30 years teaching individuals how to adjust to overseas markets, adds, “Thanks to globalization, an executive deals with more organizations, governments, and people, many of which are vastly different from the entities the executive is accustomed to and from each other.”

Those who have spent time studying the humanities and social sciences are able and ready to help their employer adapt to a variety of situations, partially because of their ability to adapt to any given situation and their proficient social skills, but also because humanities graduates have likely dipped their toes in a variety of social subjects including politics, sociology, anthropology, and language. These skillsets and areas of study allow graduates to adapt more quickly to the history and culture of a region, adding value to employers who seek to quickly develop relationships and transition into lucrative interactions in unfamiliar territories.

  1. Having an In-Demand Degree Doesn’t Necessarily Guarantee Job Placement

Given the fact that college has become increasingly expensive over the past decade, it makes sense that people are choosing majors based on their “employability factor.” Recent studies indicate that nearly 82 percent of 2015 graduates researched their field of study before choosing a degree path at their college.

If obtaining a certain degree guaranteed you a job, this kind of long term thinking would make perfect sense. But many professors, such as Jay Halfond of Boston University, have been speaking out against this line of thinking. In an interview with EvoLLLution, the professor notes, “In my view, it is dangerous and even corrupting to proceed down a path that shows that higher education ensures lucrative jobs soon after graduation. But we need to do a far better job demonstrating the relevance of a broad, general education, while linking what we teach to what is critical in the professional world.”

While there are jobs that require certain skillsets affiliated with specific degrees, generally speaking, your degree may have little to do with your career success. Recent research indicates that 62 percent of college graduates are working in jobs which require a degree, but only 27 percent of graduates are working in careers related to their major.

So what are employers looking for?

Many companies have begun seeking out candidates who have skillsets that are particularly developed among humanities majors: those who are adaptable, possess high levels of emotional intelligence, and are able to fit into the company’s pre established company culture.  That is to say, employers are less worried about your degree program and GPA, and are paying more attention to your personality, adaptability, and your predisposition to upholding company values.

  1. Humanities Courses Teach You How to Grapple with Uncertainty

In many STEM courses, students are presented with factual information and straightforward answers. Humanities classrooms, by contrast, are more likely to present students with material that is subjective, in which analyzing and considering a question is more important that giving a correct answer.

John Horgan, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology explains his own defense of the humanities, writing “The humanities are subversive. They undermine the claims of all authorities, whether political, religious or scientific. This skepticism is especially important when it comes to claims about humanity, about what we are, where we came from, and even what we can be and should be.”

He adds later that by the end of his courses, his students will learn to question all authorities including himself. “You’ll question what you’ve been told about the nature of reality, about the purpose of life, about what it means to be a good person. Because that, for me, is the point of the humanities: they keep us from being trapped by our own desire for certainty.”

  1. The Job Prospects and Income for Humanities Majors Aren’t as Dire as Has Been Reported

UNEMPLOYMENT RATES danika mcclure

Image Source: cew.georgetown.edu

As grim as the job prospects seem to be for humanities majors right out of school, studies show that obtaining a job isn’t quite as difficult as is typically reported. In fact, the average unemployment rate for new graduates in the humanities is right on par with those with computer science and math degrees (9% v 9.1%).

Other studies indicate that humanities majors end up making more money on average than their peers who study the hard sciences. In a column written for The Wall Street Journal, Scott Samuelson cites a study performed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities which found that “at peak earning ages (56-60 years) workers who majored as undergraduates in the humanities or social sciences earn annually on average about $2000 more than those who majored as undergraduates in professional, or pre-professional fields.” Once again, employers were looking to hire graduates with the ability “to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems.”

Author Bio: Danika is a musician from the Northwest who sometimes takes a 30 minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show. You can follow her on twitter @sadwhitegrrl


 Whether you’re studying the humanities or STEM, The Secrets of Top Students can help you get better grades!

Music and Learning: Why Is It Worth Integrating Music into the Classroom?

By Carol Williams 

Many research studies have already shown us that music brings about a range of psychosomatic effects to our bodies. It’s proven to be helpful in dealing with chronic pain. Music also reduces blood pressure or boosts our immunity. It was inevitable that at some point it caught the eye of cognitive psychologists interested in human learning capabilities. Consequently, music emerged as a significant factor for improving the learning process among students of all ages. Here are some reasons why introducing music to the classroom is worth the effort.

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5 Green Careers That Make A Difference (Guest Post)

If you are looking for a viable career path that will provide both a reliable income and a tiny carbon footprint, you may want to consider entering the green-collar job sector. Not only are these jobs part of a growth industry, but they will help you sleep at night, knowing that you’re doing your part to protect planet earth and the many creatures that live here.

Here are five growing green careers that you may wish to investigate.

1. Forester

If you want to blend a love of physical outdoor work with an aptitude for biology, this may be the perfect career choice. The modern forestry industry involves restoring and conserving forests, transitioning to faster growing species, studying the effects of deforestation on the environment, and actual harvesting. Most foresters require a degree in forestry or environmental studies. And, no. You don’t have to look good in plaid.

2. Solar Power Installers

The whole world seems to be jumping onboard the solar power wagon, causing a great demand for people to work in this field. This job involves installing rooftop solar panels or water heaters. If you love working with your hands, have a construction background, and want to enter a growth industry, this could be ideal. And don’t worry about having to move to the Mojave. Anywhere there’s sunshine, there’s bound to be a solar power installation job waiting for you.

3. Conservation Biologist

If your quest is to save the planet, this career path strives to do exactly that. The Conservation Biologist’s job description is to protect the earth’s ecosystems and protect its biodiversity. With positions available in research, teaching, Government agencies, and nonprofits, this field offers a vast array of possibilities. So, if you love nature and have a degree in Biology, this could be the ideal career choice. You may be the one to save the dwindling bumble bee, or halt the attack of the Asian Carp.

4. Recycler

If you were in charge of your school’s recycling program, are the master of composting, or love to find ways to repurpose refuse, a career in recycling may be your perfect fit. With garbage disposal fees mounting and landfill sites exploding at the seams, recycling is a viable and green alternative to the traditional dump. And jobs in this industry are on the rise with openings for a plethora of educational backgrounds. Whether you want to manage a department in a recycle centre, work the sorting lines, or operate heavy equipment on the landfill site, this industry offers a wide array of green jobs that will help make your corner of the planet a better place.

5. Urban Planner

Urban planners typically work for municipal governments, which makes them attractive to someone looking for greater job security and an opportunity to affect positive change on your local community. Urban planners deal with a variety of areas including mass transit and other transportation concerns, emergency planning, dealing with urban sprawl, and building layouts–ensuring that someone who works in this area will never get bored. If you love constructing computer-generated cities and possess a degree in Urban or Regional Planning, this is your chance to put those skills to use–and help your town decrease the size of its carbon footprint.

If you are intrigued by the idea of entering a growth industry and doing work that you can be proud of, one of these green jobs may prove to be your dream career. So swap your collar of white or blue for one that’s green–and love what you do.

How “green” is your job? Does decreasing your carbon footprint matter to you? Why or why not?

Image courtesy of photos.com.

Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, avid blogger, and former Education Coordinator at her local recycling plant. She has written on a vast array of topics including WordPress plugins, financial software, social media marketing, and online reputation management. Follow her at kimberleylaws.com.


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7 Careers In Healthcare That Could Change Your Life (Guest Post)

At some point, it seems all children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. If you were never sure of the answer, but somehow knew that you would be most satisfied doing something that helps others, a career in healthcare could be precisely what you’re looking for.

Your desire to help other people may actually benefit you. Psychology Today suggests that helping others fixes a higher happiness set point. The happiness set point theory says that a human’s level of well-being (happiness) is primarily determined by heredity and personality traits that were ingrained during early life. Researchers have found, though, that a person can raise their happiness set point by focusing on helping others.

Interested in a career in healthcare?

Interested in a career in healthcare?

As jobs in other fields disappear, healthcare jobs are on the rise. Opportunities in healthcare and health technology will continue to be strong for years to come, according to heathcarecareers.org.

Becoming a doctor is an obvious choice for helping people, but medical school is not for everyone. Fortunately, there are a number of other avenues you can take that will lead you to a career in healthcare.

Registered Nurse

As a registered nurse you would directly treat patients, help educate them and provide emotional support to patients and their family members. A registered nurse is often the first person on the job, and the first to get to know a patient’s history and symptoms. You would most likely be the professional a patient would turn to for answers and encouragement. Nursing is a life-changing career for anyone with a passion for healthcare and helping others.

Pharmacy Technician

As a pharmacy technician you would deal with people when they’re either sick or trying to maintain health. It would be your job to help licensed pharmacists provide medication and health care products to patients who need them. Routine tasks include the preparation of medicine, including properly labeling bottles and counting tablets or capsules. You have options when it comes to learning this job. You can either attend class in person or learn to be a pharmacy technician online. For a people-person, working as a pharmacy technician allows you to be a comforting voice during what might be a stressful time for a patient.

Phlebotomist

While the idea of drawing blood and transporting it to a laboratory for analysis may not appeal to everyone, it is exactly what a phlebotomist does. A great phlebotomist is calm, compassionate and can make the act of drawing blood seem effortless. If you’re someone who can soothe a crying child or calm a nervous adult, this may be the perfect career fit for you.

Physical Therapist

A physical therapist helps restore function and relieve pain in those who suffer from injury or disease. Pain can change a patient’s quality of life and even impact their personality. As a physical therapist you would have the ability to help them regain normal function and to encourage patients as they are on the road to recovery. You would also help patients with permanent conditions find adaptations that make their lives easier, thereby changing a person’s entire life.

Sonographer

Sonographers direct high-frequency sound waves into areas of a patient’s body in order to generate an image that will be assessed for a variety of medical issues. In one day you may do everything from looking for a blocked artery to helping parents determine the sex of their unborn child. No two days are alike in the life of a sonographer. If you like variety and can deal with a myriad of different patient personalities, this career can use someone like you.

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists are part of a medical radiation oncology team, working primarily with cancer patients by administering radiation at targeted cancer cells. As a radiation therapist you would work with patients at one of the toughest times of their life. A compassionate nature and professional attitude are both required for such a position.

Dietitian

A dietitian can work in many settings, including: hospitals, schools and nursing homes. As a trained dietitian it would be your job to plan food and nutrition programs for the population you’re working with and to supervise the preparation and delivery of meals. Dietitians change lives by recommending dietary changes that can help people live a longer, healthier life.

Healthcare jobs are here to stay. It’s just a matter of finding the one that speaks to you and investigating what it will take to get you there.

Guest Post by Chuck Flint.
Chuck teaches Pilates and writes about health and wellness from his beachside home in California.


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The Black and the Gold: Computer Science Courses at Harvey Mudd College

I just read a very interesting piece in The New York Times about Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College. Dr. Klawe and her colleagues have been trying to increase the number of female college students majoring in Computer Science – currently only 18% of CS undergrads are women. Here’s one of their initiatives:

In 2005, the year before Dr. Klawe arrived, a group of faculty members embarked on a full makeover of the introductory computer science course, a requirement at Mudd.

Known as CS 5, the course focused on hard-core programming, appealing to a particular kind of student — young men, already seasoned programmers, who dominated the class. This only reinforced the women’s sense that computer science was for geeky know-it-alls.

“Most of the female students were unwilling to go on in computer science because of the stereotypes they had grown up with,” said Zachary Dodds, a computer scientist at Mudd. “We realized we were helping perpetuate that by teaching such a standard course.”

To reduce the intimidation factor, the course was divided into two sections — “gold,” for those with no prior experience, and “black” for everyone else. Java, a notoriously opaque programming language, was replaced by a more accessible language called Python. And the focus of the course changed to computational approaches to solving problems across science.

“We realized that we needed to show students computer science is not all about programming,” said Ran Libeskind-Hadas, chairman of the department. “It has intellectual depth and connections to other disciplines.”

I really like the idea of having “black” classes for advanced students and “gold” classes for beginners, as a way of encouraging more women to go into computer science. (Plus calling it gold makes it sound better!) When I studied CS in college, I was intimidated not by the fact that the vast majority of my classmates were male, but that they had way more experience than I did. I had never even coded a “Hello world” program before, while they had been playing around with programming languages and taking computers apart since they were kids, or at least since high school. It was a huge challenge to keep up with them.

However, I also felt that my intro CS classes were much more accessible than my advanced classes, which catered even more to seasoned – and mostly male – programmers. I don’t think it would be enough to offer separate intro classes for experienced and novice students, and then throw them all together the next semester. I wonder if and how this extra support for inexperienced CS students could be continued after the intro level. I, for one, wanted a much greater variety of CS courses than were offered at Columbia. In my view, there were too many theory courses and not enough practical ones. There also weren’t enough courses that showed different ways technology could be used in society. How do you think women should be encouraged to go into computer science?

Also of interest – Ivy League acceptance rates hit an all time low this year. At Harvard, for example, it’s only 5.9%! I have two things to say about this: (1) The rise of electronic applications means that more under-qualified applicants have been applying to top schools, potentially skewing the results. (2) There are plenty of good schools out there, so don’t stress if you can’t go to an Ivy League. You’ll do fine as long as you choose a school that values education, lets you pursue your interests, and fits your budget. Good luck to all of those heading off to college next year!


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Want to increase the number of students in STEM? Try grade inflation

There’s been a lot of talk these days about how to get more students to study STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) in college. Of course, one of the problems is that the math/science education provided in many high schools is inadequate. But there are also lots of students with exceptional educational backgrounds who decide they just can’t hack it in STEM. See the article “Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard),” by Christopher Drew in The New York Times, from November 4, 2011.

Here’s my half-serious suggestion: use grade inflation. Elite students are used to getting straight-As and stellar SAT scores. Throw them into an environment where they’re suddenly getting Bs and Cs, and of course they’re going to freak out. The humanities have endured grade inflation and survived. Many teachers now use A+s to signal extraordinary achievement. Honestly, I don’t care if you raise grades in STEM or lower grades in the humanities, but there should be some kind of standardization. Why should STEM courses have completely different grading criteria? Teachers can do whatever they want; there’s almost no regulation. If an engineering student is struggling just to get a C and sees his roommate earning an easy A in anthropology, he’s not going to be happy.

Top universities also need to offer more practical STEM courses, not just theoretical. Students who can’t or don’t want to join academia are given short shrift. I had to take a continuing education web design course at NYU one summer because there was nothing like that offered at Columbia. The requirements for STEM majors should also be less restrictive. As a Computer Science major at Columbia, I couldn’t take a lot of CS courses that interested me because they didn’t fulfill the requirements for my concentration, and I didn’t have the time or money to pursue them. Instead I had to take a bunch of required theory courses that I detested and never got any use out of.

As a side note, Sesame Street is also getting in on the math/science craze. I’ll be interested to check back in 15 years and see if it made a difference.

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