The EAB Daily Briefing

Estimate project cost with this interactive budget calculator

December 5, 2017

Although the facilities unit is responsible for overseeing construction projects, it rarely has the authority to decide where and how to invest project dollars. Instead, academic or senior campus leaders typically make budget allocation and investment decisions, and these decision-makers often lack a nuanced understanding of design and construction. As a result, construction projects involving multiple stakeholders are more likely to run over budget or reallocate funding from building infrastructure to surface finishes.

To overcome these challenges, the University of Colorado Boulder uses an interactive budget calculator to estimate project costs. This tool also enables them to communicate how decisions such as choosing to build new versus renovating an existing space will affect a project’s budget.

The Facilities Forum has worked with CU Boulder to provide an editable version of the tool and usage guidelines. This tool provides an overview of the CU Boulder’s interactive budget calculator and outlines three ways institutions can use it: to generate preliminary cost estimates for proposed projects, choose between building new and renovating and existing space, and as a model for developing a campus-specific construction cost calculator.

Here’s the tool University of CU Boulder uses to estimates project cost

Overview of the Capital Project Cost Calculator

The calculator is an Excel spreadsheet with eight tabs. The table below outlines the information provided on each tab and provides recommendations for how project managers can use each one. The Facilities Forum recommends that project managers start with the Tables tab, which maps out data tables that inform many of the calculations throughout the rest of the spreadsheet.

Here’s the tool University of Colorado Boulder uses to estimates project cost

Three ways to use the Capital Project Cost Calculator

Institutions that have used the cost calculator have found it most valuable when used for one of the following three purposes:

1. Generate preliminary cost estimate for capital project
Institutions can use the calculator to generate an early estimate for project costs. While no calculator can fully predict project costs, CU Boulder and other institutions report that the calculator provides a helpful starting point.

2. Compare cost difference of renovating existing space vs. new construction
Project managers can use the calculator to compare the cost of new construction versus renovating an existing space.

3. Source material for institution-specific capital project cost calculator
Institutions can use the cost calculator as a blueprint for creating their own cost calculators, with inputs customized to the prices and regulations in their region. To get started, download the CU Boulder cost calculator and associated guidance.

3 body language mistakes you're making in a meeting's first 5 seconds, according to actors

March 2, 2018

Research has found that people make snap judgements about others' trustworthiness within the first milliseconds of a meeting, Sue Shellenbarger writes for the Wall Street Journal.

Snap judgements are instinctive and can stem from unconsciously held stereotypes, says Alexander Todorov, a psychology professor at Princeton University.

During a meeting, leaders only have a few seconds to win—or lose—the trust of their audience, writes Shellenbarger. Some actors are using their body language expertise to coach leaders on their conference room stage presence. Shellenbarger spoke to several actors-turned-entrepreneurs to understand how leaders can ensure their audiences' snap judgements are positive ones.

Mistake 1: Your smile doesn't seem genuine

Research shows that happy expressions are more likely to inspire trust, Shellenbarger writes. But your facial expressions are important—even when you're out of the spotlight, she warns.

When people's habitual expressions seem grumpy, they seem untrustworthy, says Judson Vaughn, chief executive of First Impressions HQ. However, if you notice that you've forgotten to smile, be careful about how you adjust your expression. Suddenly flipping your frown into a megawatt smile can make you seem even less trustworthy, warns Vaughn, a former character actor.

8 body language mistakes sending the wrong signals to your colleagues

Mistake 2: You're not in character

Before you enter the conference room, take a few moments to imagine what impression you want to leave with your audience, suggests Lisa Peers, chief executive of Peers & Players. Treat your walk to the podium as the "first entrance of your character on stage," says Peers, a professional actor. Practicing a symmetrical stance with "straight and even" shoulders will make you seem—and feel—more relaxed and confident, she adds.

Mistake 3: You're sending the wrong hand signals

When you present to a room of new faces, keep your hands visible and relaxed at your sides to seem genuine and warm, says Hilary Blair, a professional actor and chief executive of Articulate Real & Clear. Showing open palms signals that you've got nothing to hide, says Mark Bowden, president of a communications training firm.

And never go in for a stiff handshake across a conference table, says Vaughn. Instead, maintain warm eye contact and subtly "draw the other person closer to you," he suggests. At closer range, a handshake subconsciously signals that you trust the person—without having to say a word, he adds (Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, 2/28).

Also see: What to do with your hands during a presentation


Common App recruits 9 early adopters for new transfer application

March 2, 2018

More than half of bachelor's degree-earners will transfer institutions at least once during their academic career, but transfer students face a number of barriers to a smooth transition.

Only 23% of community college students who intend to attain a bachelor's degree successfully earn a one within eight years. And on average, students lose 43% of their academic credits when they transfer.

The Common Application is seeking to improve the process with a new application designed specifically for transfer students. The organization hopes the initiative will help "a very important but under-recognized group of learners… by actually acknowledging their diverse backgrounds and experiences," said President and CEO Jenny Rickard when the organization announced the initiative in May 2017.

The organization has named nine institutions that will serve as early adopters of its new transfer-focused application:

  • DePaul University
  • Dominican University of California
  • King's College
  • Lynchburg College
  • Mount Holyoke College's Francis Perkins Program
  • Robert Morris University
  • St. Edward's University
  • University of Dayton
  • Valparaiso University

To update its application for transfer students, The Common App added new features that allow students to enter coursework that might count toward prerequisites, as well as volunteer, internship, and work experience. Other features aim to streamline the process of collecting transcripts and recommendations.

Also see: 4 mistakes that guarantee transfer students will reject you

"Until now, the application has been designed with traditional students coming out of high schools in mind," says Julia Thompson, associate director of admission and financial aid at University of Dayton. "Our transfer students come in with more life experience, work experience and broad academic backgrounds," she adds.

"It's great to see that the Common Application is trying to help colleges with their transfer enrollment," says Peter Farrell, managing director and senior principal of Enrollment Services at EAB. "Transfer students need all the help they can get in finding their way to the right collegiate home to complete their degree," he adds.

Designing an application experience specifically with the transfer student in mind can have meaningful impact on students’ willingness to make it successfully to the "submit" button, according to research by EAB Enrollment Services.

5 tactics to accelerate transfer student growth

"We're excited that Common App is working with early partners to create a tailored application that better supports unique transfer needs," adds Leonor Keller, a transfer student success researcher at EAB. She notes that 54% of bachelor's degree-earners transfer at least once—and that number is growing.

Customizing the application is the first step to supporting transfer students, who bring diverse perspectives and needs during the recruitment and enrollment process, according to Keller.

"Our research shows that the majority of prospective transfers are not willing to apply until they have three key questions answered: How will my credits transfer? How long will it take? How much will it cost?" Keller explains. Adding to the complexity of recruiting transfer students is the fact that more than 50% of them are stealth shoppers, who apply to institutions without any previous recorded interaction with the institution.

Because of this, "it’s important to extend a better process beyond the application," Keller says. She recommends creating personalized engagement during the online search and inquiry phases, offering self-service credit equivalencies to provide progress-to-degree information early, and creating tools that help prospective students explore major options and associated career outcomes (Hoover, Chronicle of Higher Education, 5/10/17; The Common Application release, 2/20; University of Dayton release, 2/26).

Learn more about how colleges can break down barriers for transfer students


Weekend reads: The secret to genius, the perfect way to spend a day off, the horror of bland book reviews

March 2, 2018

Kristin Tyndall's read

Regular naps might be the secret to genius. According to this roundup of daily habits of geniuses, Albert Einstein slept 10 hours a night, then indulged in regular naps throughout the day. And as the article points out, some research has found that sleep can improve problem-solving skills. In between naps, several geniuses spent their time on long walks—or just "squishing" their toes, which Nikola Tesla claimed stimulated his brain cells.

Book reviews have grown too nice, argues Rafia Zakaria. Gone are the days when critics struck fear into the hearts of young authors. Nowadays, reviews read more like advertisements, she writes. She rejects the notion that defanged critics help marginalized voices receive their due, arguing that it is condescending to praise such authors merely for publishing any book, whether their book is any good or not. "The strength of books is not simply in whom they please, but also whom they enrage, those who agree and those who disagree," Zakaria writes.

Kathleen Escarcha's reads

Its flu season on campus—and in the office. Whenever I feel a cold coming on, I make a cup of hot, lemon honey tea. But does science back up the benefits of this classic home remedy? Sort of. Warm water may cut through phlegm and ease our sore throats, says the chief of laryngology at Stanford Health Care. But research on honey's role as an anti-coughing agent remains inconclusive. And while lemon has some antibacterial properties, its acidity can irritate the throat.

If you’re lucky enough to get a day off in the coming months, the New York Times’ Tim Herrera has a few suggestions on how to spend it. You could finally tackle your financial to-do list or give your fridge a deep clean. My favorite suggestion? Do absolutely nothing. I’m a firm believer that taking a day to recharge and unwind can make you more productive later on. I’d also suggest going for a walk or planning your next vacation.


Four ways to engage faculty in early alerts to drive student success

Best practice from the Community College Executive Forum

February 26, 2018

Many colleges have limited staff time and capacity to encourage and respond to early alerts. Therefore, institutions should focus their time and attention on the courses and faculty that have the greatest impact on students. These courses are often developmental or gatekeeper courses with high enrollment. If students fail these courses, their chances of making progress toward a degree decrease significantly.

As part of their most recent Quality Enhancement Plan, Santa Fe College department chairs identify approximately 50 faculty members per year who are teaching the highest-risk gateway or developmental courses, then designates those individuals as Navigating the College Experience (NCE) faculty. Though all faculty members receive training and communication about early alert, these faculty must especially understand the importance of the system.

NCE faculty members receive earlier reminders than other faculty to submit early alerts. Instead of the standard reminders at weeks four and eight, these individuals receive reminders at weeks three and seven.

Not only do these earlier reminders encourage utilization, they also encourage reporting about more than just grades. By week three, many faculty members have not yet given any large assessments of student performance. Therefore, the faculty members must focus their alerts on behavior, participation, or other signs of distress.

Four ways to engage faculty in early alerts

To increase compliance and interest in the system, Santa Fe College incorporated several communication best practices into their reminders:

1: The nudges come from trusted academic leaders, such as the provost and other senior faculty members. Faculty inherently trust these individuals and are more likely to respond positively to their communication.

2: The emails regularly remind faculty of the early alert system’s mission to support students.

3: The emails contain outcomes data, anecdotes about successful interventions, and even national data on the effectiveness of early alert systems. The anecdotes personalize the impact of early alert, increasing the effectiveness of the reminder. All of this information convinces busy faculty that submitting these reports is a good use of their time.

4: The emails include specific examples of risk that students might display. Especially for newer faculty, this guidance helps them think beyond student grades or academic performance so that student success staff have more holistic insight into each student’s situation.

Learn 10 more practices for engaging faculty in student success at community colleges
(Available only to Community College Executive Forum members)


1 in 3 leaders have a fatal flaw they aren't aware of. What's yours?

February 28, 2018

The stakes are high for developing self-aware leaders.

Research has shown that high levels of self-awareness lead to better team performance and conflict management, but most people have no clue how others perceive them.

While most leaders can identify their strengths, many are oblivious to their weaknesses, write Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman for Harvard Business Review.

In fact, 30% of leaders have a fatal flaw they aren't aware of, according to Zenger and Folkman's analysis of 360-degree feedback survey data.

Everyone has weaknesses, but fatal flaws can hurt a person's overall effectiveness as a leader, Zenger and Folkman write. Leaders who perform in the bottom 10% of a skill are more likely to land in the bottom fifth overall—no matter how strong they are in other areas, the authors warn. Leaders don't have to master every skill, but completely lacking in one can seriously hamper their performance.

Zenger and Folkman theorize that strengths are easier to identify because they are often seen as direct outcomes of specific behavior. For example, great problem-solvers can recall specific problems they helped solve.

Weaknesses and fatal flaws, however, are the result of inaction. These flaws lead to "a project that doesn't exist," the authors write. The most common fatal flaws are a lack of strategic thinking and not building strong relationships, they add.

Also see: You're less inclusive than you think you are

How to find your fatal flaw

Find a colleague who is willing to share honest feedback about your leadership, Zenger and Folkman recommend. Many colleagues recognize serious failings in their coworkers, but they rarely feel comfortable speaking up unless you give them an opportunity, the authors write.

Higher ed leaders can build their self-awareness through 360-degree reviews—as long as they listen to the constructive criticism, says Allison Vaillancourt, the University of Arizona's vice president for business affairs and human resources.

Instead of addressing negative feedback, some leaders flaunt their flaws in an effort to ward off further criticism. Criticism can sting, but truly effective leaders are willing to address their weaknesses directly, Vaillancourt writes (Zenger/Folkman, Harvard Business Review, 2/26).

Keep reading: How to take constructive criticism—the right way


4 steps to find a solution in a stressful situation

February 27, 2018

When we start to feel stressed, most of us turn to external fixes, according to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Ama Marston, a strategy and leadership expert, and Stephanie Marston, a psychotherapist and corporate consultant.

These external changes could be small, like a new to-do list app, or much larger, like a new job. But no matter how big of a change we make, all external solutions to stress are ultimately "temporary and ineffective," the authors argue.

Instead, they recommend working on your internal response to stress. Cultivating a healthier attitude in stressful situations can help you build resilience and adapt to change, Marston and Marston write. Based on their research, here are four questions that can help you work through stressful situations.

1: How can this stress help me? Studies have found that people who think of stress as helpful tend to be more confident in difficult situations.

Marston and Marston recommend looking for ways your stress could be useful, such as generating energy to overcome a challenge or teaching you something about your work process. The authors also recommend keeping an eye out for more severe signs that can indicate burnout, such as frequent headaches or irritability.

Read more: How to make stress useful

2: What can I control in this situation? Distinguishing between what you can and can't control is "essential" to resilience, the authors write. People often think in extremes about their sense of control, either feeling that they can't change anything or feeling like it's their responsibility to prepare for every possible outcome.

When you feel stressed, take out a pen and paper and make a physical list of the things you can and can't control, Marston and Marston recommend. Reflect on the resources, networks, and skills you do have that might help you influence the outcome. If nothing else, you can always control how you interpret and respond to a situation, the authors argue.

Stressed out? Here's what's going on in your brain—and what to do about it

3: Why did this happen? Reflect on the root causes of the challenge you're facing, including your personal context as well as the broader organization. For example, if the challenge was caused by an economic, political, or environmental trend, consider ways your organization can adapt or even turn the challenge into an opportunity.

4: What can I do next? Brainstorm three actions you can take, based on what you've learned about the situation, Marston and Marston recommend. Look for solutions that address the root causes of the challenge—or you may find that your fixes are only temporary, the authors warn (Marston/Marston, Harvard Business Review, 2/26).

4 common stressful situations for managers—and how to react to them


The top 10 jobs employers can't seem to fill in 2018

February 26, 2018

The labor market is looking up for students who will be graduating in 2018. The U.S. economy is close to full employment, and the number of jobless claims approached a 45-year low in mid-February.

Of course, demand for workers isn't spread evenly. To identify the positions with the most severe labor shortages, CareerCast analyzed a number of factors, including:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics job growth predictions;
  • College and university graduation rates;
  • Trade and professional association data; and
  • Job listings posted to CareerCast's site.

According to CareerCast, the top 10 jobs that are most difficult to fill this year are:

  1. Application software developer
  2. Construction laborer
  3. Financial advisor
  4. Home health aide
  5. Information security analyst
  6. Medical services manager
  7. Nurse practitioner
  8. Personal care aide
  9. Physical therapist
  10. Truck driver

The demand for health care workers has been driven by two trends, economists say. First, Baby Boomers are getting older and increasing their demand for health care services. Second, many health care professions are likely to be protected from automation because they rely on empathy and a human touch.

Demand for financial advisors is high for similar reasons, according to CareerCast. Baby Boomers near retirement are seeking expert financial advice to help with the transition (Mutikani, Reuters, 2/22; CareerCast site, accessed 2/23).

See the hottest jobs, skills, and employers in your state


What experiential learning means to your students, in their own words

February 26, 2018

Kathleen Escarcha, staff writerKathleen Escarcha, staff writer

As pressure rises for colleges to offer more experiential learning opportunities, more institutions have begun to offer these programs over winter and spring break.

The push for experiential learning comes from both students, who worry about their post-grad career prospects, and employers, who report widespread skills gaps.

We asked students and recent graduates how their alternative break experiences shaped their academic and professional goals. Here's what they said.

Lesson 1: Students discover new academic interests

Last year, Jorge Bagaipo, a junior at American University (AU), spent his spring break in El Progreso, Honduras completing a service project to empower local youth.

During his trip, Bagaipo saw a real-world application of the international relations concepts he was learning in class. And while he began the trip with an interest in environmental policy, he left Honduras with a newfound passion for international development and Central America's immigration issues, he says.

Experiential learning opportunities like service projects help students connect coursework to their real-world interests and career goals, Alexa Silverman writes for EAB's Academic Affairs Forum. Not only do students get an early look into academic and career options, they are also guided to see the connection between their coursework and their interests, skills, and aspirations, she adds.

Lesson 2: Students explore possible career options

As part of her Global Supply Chain master's program at the University of Southern California, Cheryl Tolentino went on a career exploration trip to Singapore and Malaysia. While abroad, Tolentino and her classmates visited local businesses and heard presentations from industry leaders.

Listening to an alumnus from her master's program discuss his work as the chief operating officer of Grab, South East Asia's version of Uber, was the most inspiring moment of the trip, she says.

Career exploration trips not only help students explore career options, but also help universities strengthen relationships with employers, Kathryn Masterson wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education. And strong industry partnerships connect students to job opportunities and employers to an untapped talent pool.

Lesson 3: Students develop workplace-ready skills

Students don't have to book a plane ticket to reap the benefits of an alternative break. Many universities are providing mini alt-break opportunities around campus.  

For example, Cris Agonoy, a recent graduate from Drexel University, earned class credit while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Philadelphia.

According to Agonoy, her spring break service project helped her land an internship with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). "My interviewers said I stood out because I had leadership and collaboration experience outside of the classroom," she explains. Agonoy believes her community service project and GSK internship are the two critical experiences that helped her land a full-time job with the pharmaceutical company after graduation.

She's probably right.

Research has found that employers tend to hire roughly 50% of their interns as full-time employees, and 80% of employers consider internships to be a recruiting tool. Similarly, more than 90% of executives believe colleges should increase experiential learning opportunities, according to survey from Northeastern University. Employers are increasingly looking at what candidates have done—not just what they studied. 

Also see: How experiential learning can boost graduation rates