Bartholomew Sparrow signs copies of his book, “Brent Snowcroft and The Call of National Security: The Strategist” after a discussion about it Thursday afternoon. Sparrow talked about the lasting impacts of Snowcroft’s work in National Security.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Former U.S. national security advisor Brent Scowcroft positively influenced foreign policy because of his tranquil childhood, government professor Bartholomew Sparrow said Thursday.

Scowcroft, who served under former presidents Gerald Ford and President George H. W. Bush, advised both administrations in an official and non-official capacity, according to Sparrow. Sparrow said Scowcroft’s ideal childhood influenced his ability to make sound policy decisions.  

“[His decisions] convey, it seems, how secure Scowcroft was growing up — secure psychologically, secure maturely, secure socially,” Sparrow said. “He had no status anxiety. He wasn’t motivated by a sense of deprivation.”

Sparrow said Scowcroft’s contributions to foreign policy were not as visible as other iconic advisors and presidents such as Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon and George Kennan because he preferred to work behind the scenes.

“He’s worked in small groups, in one-on-one closed meetings,” Sparrow said.

Sparrow said Scowcroft’s success as a national security advisor stems from a powerful combination of wisdom and a friendly personality.

“He has strong, well-informed views, but makes sure he’s willing to be persuaded by new evidence and strong arguments,” Sparrow said. “He listens. He is very serious, reserved and rightly been described as compartmentalized. He is affable; he plays pranks; also, to be sure, has a great sense of humor; he was not above making off-color jokes. He gets along well with others … in fact, the interns at his office at the Scowcroft Group in Farragut Square refer to him as ‘Yoda.’” 

Herbert Hurn, a UT alumnus and retired former sales manager at IBM, said he admired Scowcroft’s fact-based decision-making process.

“He looked at research and facts and developed his targets based on wisdom and logic rather than [on] an ideological [basis},” Hurn said. “He was doing what seemed to me what was best for America and best for the time.”

Kevin Merrill, a public affairs graduate student, said that he believes Scowcroft’s humble, friendly personality strengthened the organizations he worked for.

“He was a friend to so many different people and able to work organizations to their best efficiency and effectiveness by understanding their needs and how they cross-relate to his own needs,” Merrill said. “It’s very refreshing to know that there are leaders at the senior level who can step back and say, ‘I don’t know everything,’ or, ‘My answer is not the best answer.’”

The UT System announced a partnership Tuesday with the interactive website MyEdu to increase online advising efforts across UT institutions. 

The partnership is part of UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s Framework for Excellence Action Plan, which focuses on trimming costs by increasing university efficiency. The goal for implementing MyEdu is to increase graduation rates by helping students better understand how to navigate through their degree plans with online advising. UT-Austin, UT-Arlington and UT-Permian Basin will be the first to receive the MyEdu platform, although officials did not announce an exact date when the decision was made. The MyEdu platform will expand to all other UT System institutions in 2012.

The MyEdu platform will include a “graduation road map enabling students to visualize their time line to graduation” in an effort to minimize “planning mistakes that leave students extending time in college to complete required courses,” according to a press release.

Journalism senior Janet Herrgesell said as a first-year interest group mentor she gets asked many questions from students about their degree plans.

“Sometimes I can forward them to a link, but they need more help that’s less standardized,” she said.

Herrgesell said some students accidentally take multiple classes when completion of one class would fulfill the credit they need. She said she suggests students in her First-year Interest Group utilize the interactive degree audit, an online progress report of class requirements, when they cannot meet with an advisor.

“I think what would really help students is less software and more one-on-one time, but if [MyEdu] were to establish a more intimate connection to your advisor it could be helpful,” Herrgesell said.

Another dimension of the platform is a “credit management system” to allow incoming students see the impact of AP credits and check transfer credit options for other academic institutions or online classes. Herrgesell said this feature could improve the credit petitioning process.

“It’s kind of a convoluted process at the moment,” Herrgesell said. “If they take you through the process then that’s definitely helpful for a lot of students.”

At the meeting, UT System Board of Regents Chair Gene Powell said MyEdu will help improve graduation rates by making the advising process more interactive.

“When a student signs up for a course that doesn’t fit into their course schedule, it flags their advisor,” Powell said.

He said he expects it to improve career opportunities because companies can better communicate which degree plans they would like students to complete in preparation for a job with their company.

“Employers are tracking kids now from their freshman year to graduation,” Powell said.

The state Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency met on Monday with current and former chairs of the state university systems. Committee co-chair Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said four-year graduation rates need to increase across the UT System.

“If you guys don’t improve this in a rather dramatic fashion in the near future, I fear for our state,” Branch said.

MyEdu will also offer a “college financial planner” to calculate the monetary effects of changing a major or attending a specific school and a “schedule planner” which will use class evaluations and availability to help students plan their schedules, according to a UT System press release. Another aspect to the platform is a “student-faculty workspace” for online collaboration.

Printed on Thursday, October 20th, 2011, as: Online advising enables efficient degree planning