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Higher Education and Society

Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Higher education and society are becoming increasingly intertwined. Both act as a transmitter of culture, yet many colleges and universities also ideally seek to create a more perfectible society and more enlightened, engaged citizens. When the connections between social structures and post-secondary education are closely entangled, the university’s aims can take on a contentious struggle for identity in a vexing web of competing external interests – especially in light of scarce economic resources, corporate pressures, technological questions, and globalizing trends. Higher Education and Society weighs the urgent question of how society and higher education influence each other. How the latter responds to that unsettled issue may well determine whether colleges and universities chart a more self-reflective path or one of rising deference to societal contingencies. This book is essential for all those who study and work in today’s colleges – and for all those who seek a better education for their children, the nation, and the world. It is especially recommended for courses in higher education and society, contemporary issues in higher education, the philosophy of higher education, academic issues in higher education, leadership in higher education, and globalization and higher education. The book is also useful for the preparation of faculty development programs in colleges and universities.
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11. Social Capital and Higher Education: Network Resources, Outcomes, and Opportunities



In the March 2007 edition of its alumni magazine, the University of Georgia featured a profile of alumnus Hal Bosworth with the title “Happy Accidents.” The profile shared how Bosworth had graduated with a business degree from UGA but little sense of direction in his life. His mom instructed him to go see the man who was president of the company Bosworth’s father had been president of prior to his death. Even though he attended the meeting in jeans and a T-shirt, he left with a job and loan for a suit (Simmons, 2007). The story describes this as one of several “happy accidents” in Bosworth’s biography, but most readers would agree that more than serendipity was at play. Instead, the story reinforces the aphorism “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In higher education, in particular, an arena focused on knowledge acquisition and generation, the role of social capital and social networks in student success, pre- and post-college, is a challenge to the meritocratic ideal. It is nonetheless a demonstrably powerful influence in the world of academe.

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