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BAC Faculty Member Promotes Accessibility of Higher Ed in New Book

Herb Childress's “The PhDictionary” helps prepare students for the journey of receiving a PhD

The PHDictionary Book Cover

Image courtesy The University of Chicago Press Books

For Herb Childress, education is life. The former BAC dean of research and assessment and faculty member embraces the BAC's mission of making architectural education, as well as higher education in general, accessible to those who aim to pursue it. His new book, The PhDictionary: A Glossary of Things You Don't Know (but Should) About Doctoral and Faculty Life, strives to decode the culture and jargon of higher education through his own experience as a first generation college student.

Herb graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Bachelor of Architecture and went on to receive his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He lectured at Duke University prior to coming to the BAC, where he first served as director of undergraduate curriculum and then dean of research and assessment. Herb is currently the co-founder and director of metaphor for the Teleidoscope Group, where he offers diverse consulting in design needs assessment and programming, higher education curriculum and assessment, community development, and qualitative market and consumer research more broadly.

This educational journey is the basis of his new book. He was inspired to help a body of young people learn a culture that is often inaccessible to those who don't grow up surrounded by it.

"My parents had one high school diploma between the two of them. And when I was teaching at Duke, I kept hearing my colleagues talk about something that their mother had done as the dean of some college, or their father's research as a faculty member at some other college. As it turned out, more than half of the 26 had one or more parents with PhDs and in higher education. It was a family trade, like mortuary work or circus acrobatics," reflected Herb. "So the book is about the language of higher ed, and stories of how not knowing that culture has held people back."

During his time at the BAC, Herb drew on similar principles in his teachings. He created a seminar for first year architecture and design studies students to help students understand the academic and design culture they were about to enter. In his reflections, Herb noted that this was the course he was most proud of.

"I reliably choked up during my last talk to the Year One Seminar students each semester. We closed the course talking about the moral role of the designer, not to make cool things, but to make identifiable lives better in the ways those people chose," said Herb. "I was in tears every time, launching these young people onto a journey they never anticipated. If you don't cry once in a while when you're teaching, you aren't teaching the right stuff."

Herb remains very active in the BAC community, working on assessments of student growth as well as special projects with President Glen LeRoy and Interim Provost Diana Ramirez-Jasso. The BAC congratulates Herb on the success of his new book. 

Herb was recently profiled in Insider HigherEd by Colleen Flaherty. Click to read full article.