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greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement

TEDCRED 50+

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Shouldn't the best universities be in the best cities?

Can we agree that the best universities in America are Harvard and Stanford. Can we also agree that the top cities are Los Angeles and New York? Wouldn't one expect that the best universities would be in the best cities? Wonder why they're not.

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  • Jun 23 2013: The best universities will be where the best long-term strategy for employing talented teachers/professors exists. The most talented teachers will draw the most talented students, assuming the freedom of choice and academic competition. The most talented students will likely learn the most and perform the best in the workplace, either as employees, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, artists or similar stand-outs in their chosen field of study or profession. As competitors and employers analyze the differences in the best employees, and are able to attribute some of these differences to the quality of the college education received, then the reputation for being the best university grows. It is the reputation gained by the opinion of these customers (in this case employers) that makes a difference. The rest is mostly personal opinion.

    The location no doubt makes a difference in a top teacher's decision about where to teach, but it is probably not top on the list. Were I a top teacher, I would want to balance other information with location, such as: Where my time was going to make the biggest difference to students? Where was my best opportunity to become a better teacher through education and further study? Where is the best pay to lifestyle benefit offered? Where am I going to be the happiest? and possibly, 'Where am I most likely to grow and advance as a teacher/researcher?'

    Many of these are the same questions facing top students and leaders of other industries as they make career choices. How these questions are weighted is largely personal preference.
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      Jun 23 2013: This is, in my opinion, an astute analysis. The one area which I think is somewhat skewed is that the research opportunities a position affords would be an extremely high priority, and often the highest priority, for a top professor/scholar, particularly one whose work requires substantial physical facilities. The opportunity to become a better teacher is probably less of a priority than the opportunity to teach students with a lot of interest and potential in the person's field.
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        Jun 23 2013: Fritz, see what you think of my reply to Robert here.
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      Jun 23 2013: but still, wouldn't one think that the most stimulating workplaces for a top teacher would be in, or near, the most stimulating cities, Boston and San Francisco, which Harvard and Stanford are near, are great cities, but I don't think anyone would claim that they have the same number of top creative people, in many fields, as L.A. and New York.
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        Jun 23 2013: I would much rather teach in Cambridge or Palo Alto/SF than in LA or NY.
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          Jun 24 2013: Now, Fritzie, you are understanding that I didn't word my question perfectly, when I said in LA or NY I meant in or near. So you would prefer to be near Boston or SF? Care to say why?

          My mom was pointing out that when these universities were established, century and more ago, perhaps Boston and SF were more important than LA or NY. That might partially answer my question, but I would still think that as LA and NY became important, the academic elite would gravitate there. Perhaps read my answer to Billy Zhang here, and share your thoughts?

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