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10/03/2017 News Release Image

The Chronicle of Higher Education: "Can a 20-Minute Test Tell Employers What a College Degree Cannot?"

Goldie Blumenstyk from "The Chronicle of Higher Education" interviewed Pace President Marvin Krislov at their offices in Washington, D.C. She quotes him in her article about whether hiring practices should include tests and whether those tests can be more of a determining factor of employment readiness than a college degree. 

While sympathetic to the goals of these efforts, he worries that the tests, however well intentioned, could screen out good candidates too. "I would hope employers would have holistic hiring practices in the same way as colleges do in admissions," says Mr. Krislov, who was general counsel at the University of Michigan during its legal fights over affirmative action. Colleges teach in many ways, he adds, and "you can’t replace the set of experiences with a one-shot test."

 

From "The Chronicle of Higher Education:"

Can a 20-Minute Test Tell Employers What a College Degree Cannot?

By Goldie Blumenstyk 

OCTOBER 03, 2017 

 

When it comes to hiring, many employers still lean toward graduates from name-brand institutions. Yet those employers don’t entirely trust what a college degree represents. Does it really mean you can get the job done?

More and more, their answer is no.

That’s a problem, and some education groups and companies think they have a way to fix it. Their idea: simple tests that employers can use to measure whether college graduates and others are really ready for the jobs they apply for.

Few of the backers of these tests say — not publicly, at least — that their assessments would replace the degree and everything it signals. But they do argue that the assessments, often taking no more than 20 minutes to complete, can make up for information that the degree doesn’t seem to communicate. And, they say, the tests could also help to level the playing field in hiring.

Too many graduates "don’t get a shot at the high-value jobs they should be getting," says Roger Benjamin, president of the Council for Aid to Education. "That’s a big deal in a liberal democracy."

Fifteen years ago, the council created the Collegiate Learning Assessment, now called CLA+, a standardized test that measures graduates’ thinking and communication skills. Now the group is one of several educational organizations working to develop a screening test to assure employers that job applicants have the critical reasoning and writing skills employers want from applicants with a bachelor’s degree. At the urging of Mr. Benjamin, who has been quietly crusading on this issue for several years, the council is studying whether it could adapt its CLA+ into a leaner, employer-friendly version.

"It’s not a direct attack on the institutions or the B.A.," says Mr. Benjamin. He sees it instead as a way to open up opportunities at less-selective institutions "and the human capital they represent."

A short test is essential. The CLA+ takes 90 minutes to complete, and it is scored by humans. The council is weighing a version, scored by machine, that would take about a third of the time to complete.

That’s because most employers won’t consider requiring anything longer than about 20 minutes at the first stage of hiring for fear of alienating potential applicants, says Monica Herk, vice president for education research at the Committee for Economic Development. The 75-year-old organization, now part of the business-focused Conference Board, is promoting the use of an easily administered screening test that it hopes will be "a game changer for low- and middle-income job applicants, for employers, and ultimately for the postsecondary sector."

"We’re not claiming to measure everything that colleges teach by any means," says Ms. Herk. The experiment is known as the Essential Competencies Project and is backed by several education-focused foundations. The project has begun to enlist employers who will administer an existing assessment and then measure whether it is a better screening tool than standard information, including academic credentials.

The project has already identified the online test it will ask employers to use, but Ms. Herk declined to name it. The test measures what the companies consider foundational skills, "not whether you can program Python," says Ms. Herk, and will be used by companies hiring for so-called middle- and high-skill jobs. (High-skill jobs are those in which 80 percent of the current occupants have a bachelor’s degree; middle-skill jobs are those in which 80 percent don’t.)

The goal is to see if the assessment "provides a more precise signal" than a degree would in identifying people who perform well in their jobs and stick around for a while, Ms. Herk says. "Is it a complete assessment of what they learned? No, it isn’t. But right now, employers are judging on much less."

Like Mr. Benjamin, she sees the screening test as a way to bring more fairness into the hiring system. When employers rely on the prestige of a college to determine who gets considered for jobs, says Ms. Herk, it "reinforces all sorts of socioeconomic inequalities in our country."

Holistic Hiring?

None of this activity is taking place in a vacuum. Companies and others already spend $1 billion a year on hiring assessments. But most of that testing identifies whether applicants have skills for a specific job, not whether they are critical thinkers. And those targeted tests come into play later in the hiring process, not at the screening stage. That’s because under fair-employment laws, employers can’t use tests unless they are relevant to the job.

The interest in finding an ideal pre-hire screening test comes because companies and public-policy groups are concerned that employers rely too heavily on the bachelor’s degree as a screen for filling jobs, even when the jobs themselves don’t require that level of skills. It also arises from a broader societal push for more hiring based on proven competencies rather than academic pedigrees, with companies like Google and Ernst & Young having famously declared that they would no longer require a degree. A 2015 survey from Gallup found that only 13 percent of Americans strongly agree that college graduates in this country are well prepared for success in the workplace.

At the same time, higher education has begun rethinking the way it recognizes students’ skills. More institutions have turned to competency-based degree programs or the use of badges and other new forms of credentials to signal students’ skills to employers and others.

Still, the idea of using simple tests from outside parties as a check on the college degree opens up a potential new challenge to the value of a college education, even if the test advocates insist they’re not looking to use these assessments as a stand-in for the degree itself.

To be sure, the degree still matters. Employers pay a premium in salary for people with bachelor’s degrees, says Sean Gallagher, who studies credentials and hiring issues as executive director of Northeastern University’s new Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. But the interest in these tests, he says, is another sign that "people are trying to break the monopoly" higher education has in certifying job candidates.

The move toward general pre-hiring screening tests has drawn a mixed response from some education leaders and others who study the employment scene.

Marvin Krislov, who was formerly president of Oberlin College, is now president at Pace University, which is less selective. While sympathetic to the goals of these efforts, he worries that the tests, however well intentioned, could screen out good candidates too. "I would hope employers would have holistic hiring practices in the same way as colleges do in admissions," says Mr. Krislov, who was general counsel at the University of Michigan during its legal fights over affirmative action. Colleges teach in many ways, he adds, and "you can’t replace the set of experiences with a one-shot test."

But in this era, by some estimates, job openings attract an average of 250 applications, and employers spend about six seconds reviewing each one. Digitized applicant-tracking systems and automated keyword searches for screening résumés do much of the initial dirty work. If there’s holistic hiring taking place, it often comes much later in the process.

And winning over employers and applicants won’t be easy.

"There’s a lot of appeal to the notion of a leveling across brands" of colleges, says Matthew Sigelman, chief executive at Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job-ad data. But Burning Glass hasn’t seen much interest in tests that aren’t skill-specific.

He points to the National Career Readiness Certificate, or NCRC, a credential that students can earn through ACT’s WorkKeys program, which is used primarily by high schools and community colleges. In 2016, only 4,831 job postings called for the certificate, out of nearly 26 million unique job postings analyzed by Burning Glass.

(An ACT spokesman says much of the demand for the test comes from employers working directly with ACT and local colleges to fill particular employment gaps, so many of those jobs don’t necessarily appear in the Burning Glass analysis.)

"Skills are more easily evaluated in context," says Mr. Sigelman. He questions whether tests of general college-level skills can gain currency in the hiring marketplace. They’ll have to crack the chicken-and-egg cycle, he says. "Employers aren’t going to ask for something for which there isn’t a lot of supply," he says. And "learners don’t want a certificate no one asked for."

Corporate Upstarts

None of that is discouraging to advocates like Mr. Benjamin of the Council for Aid to Education. Two-thirds of the jobs that call for a bachelor’s degree require the kinds of problem-solving, critical-thinking, and writing skills that the CLA+ has reliably measured for 15 years, he says. The Italian version of the CLA+ has already been used in hiring there, he notes.

It’s hardly alone. Indeed, Suzana Delanghe, chief commercial officer at ACT, says that the number of people passing the three 40-to-60-minute tests required for the NCRC credential has grown steadily over the past five years. (More than 488,000 people earned the certificate in 2016.) "There is a huge demand to find a standardized test" that communicates applicants’ skills to employers, especially overseas, she contends.

Several newer companies on the hiring-assessment scene say they are trying to deal with the same hiring-preference issues that Mr. Benjamin’s and Ms. Herk’s efforts aim to address.

These newcomers include:

  • Koru, a "predictive hiring" company, sells an assessment to companies that it says can evaluate potential employees based on seven competencies. Josh Jarrett, a co-founder, says its "grit over grades" evaluation is a way to test if a candidate will "be effective when there’s not a syllabus anymore."
  • Pymetrics, a company founded by two neuroscientists, provides a series of 12 online games, taking one to three minutes each, that companies can use to screen applicants’ suitability for jobs. Pymetrics now works with more than 40 companies, and at least one, Unilever, is using the gamified testing system as a first screen for all of its entry-level hiring, rather then visit a select number of college campuses. Frida Polli, a co-founder, says she created the company after seeing "the mess that was recruiting" while at business school, to bring more "objectivity and fairness" into the process.
  • EquitySim, a start-up, provides students and others the chance to simulate the experience of investing a multimillion-dollar portfolio, while underlying software evaluates them on the steps they took in making their decisions. Now used in more than 220 college classes, EquitySim is both an educational tool for professors and a screening tool for several investment banks that work with the company to identify promising job candidates. Justin Ling, a 29-year-old recent graduate of Simon Fraser University, says he co-founded the company in 2016 because he was frustrated that the "brand name of your school matters a lot when comes to investment banking." Mr. Ling says he hopes to expand EquitySim’s scope to other industries and eventually create a simulation that would allow students to demonstrate their skills directly to employers.

All of these efforts bear watching, says Northeastern’s Mr. Gallagher. "It’s a hot market right now," he notes, and while the ramifications for colleges are not clear, there’s no doubt that there will be some.

"It’s hard to say the degree is completely broken and going the way of the dodo," he says. But this movement shows, he says, that "there are some cracks in the foundation."

Goldie Blumenstyk writes about the intersection of business and higher education. Check out www.goldieblumenstyk.com for information on her new book about the higher-education crisis; follow her on Twitter @GoldieStandard; or email her at goldie@chronicle.com.

Read the article on the website of "The Chronicle of Higher Education."

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Press Release: Pace University Announces Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients: Leaders in Law, Education, the Arts, Business and Philanthropy

05/07/18

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"San Francisco Chronicle" featured Dyson Assistant Professor Anne Toomey's piece "Redefining 'impact' so research can help real people right away, even before becoming a journal article"

05/07/18

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"New York Post" featured Alumn Bruce Barish in "The craziest Tony goes to a Bronx dry cleaner"

05/07/18

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"Daily Voice" featured Seidenberg's director of Development Deth Sao in "2018 Rising Stars Unveiled By Business Council of Westchester"

05/07/18

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"The Associated Press" featured Dyson Professor Anne Toomey's piece in "Redefining ‘impact’ so research can help real people right away, even before becoming a journal article"

05/07/18

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Producing the Documentary travel course featured on Tiempo on ABC 7

05/06/18

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"Study Breaks" featured Pace University student Sammi Li in "Sammi Li Brings Asian Representation to Pace University"

05/04/18

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"Bloomberg" featured Haub Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Ex-Goldman Sachs Programmer’s Conviction Upheld in New York "

05/04/18

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"The Evolllution" featured Assistant Vice President of Continuing and Professional Education Christine Shakespeare's piece "Managing Siloes: How Non-Traditional Divisions Can Innovate from the Fringes"

05/04/18

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"Fios1" featured Dyson Professor Dr. Maria Luskay and senior student Kelly Whritenour in "Pace University students find hope amid devastation in documentary on Puerto Rico"

05/03/18

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"The Examiner News" featured Dyson Professor Maria Luskay in "Pace Student Documentary Highlights the Suffering in Puerto Rico"

05/03/18

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"Washington Examiner" featured law professor Bennett Gershman in "Mueller questions 'leak' could mean trouble for Trump lawyers: Experts"

05/02/18

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"Hudson Valley News Network" featured the Pace Immigration Law Society in "Bracco Receives Immigrant Advocate Award"

05/02/18

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"The Examiner News" featured Biology Dyson Professor Dr. Melissa Grigione in "Coyote in Thornwood Park Attack Had Rabies"

05/02/18

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Press Release: Pace Student Awarded Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant

05/02/18

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"The Hill" featured Law Professor Miriam Rocah's opinion piece "In the Cohen case, don’t buy the ‘vast government conspiracy’ defense"

05/01/18

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"New York Business Journal" featured Lubin Professor Bruce Bachenheimer in "Jopwell helps track down minority talent "

05/01/18

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Pace President Marvin Krislov and Dyson student Gabe Rivera on Fox 5 NY

05/01/18

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"Associated Press" featured Lubin Professor Larry Chiagouris in "Royal wedding mania: $50,000 hotel package, Union Jack condoms and more"

05/01/18

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"Our Town" featured Assistant Vice President of Cultural Affairs at the Schimmel Center for the Arts Martin Kagan in "The man behind the scenes"

05/01/18

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"Autism Support Network" featured student David Sharif's piece "I have autism, and I'm in college"

05/01/18

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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured Dean Johathan Hill's piece "Jonathan H. Hill: A workable cybersecurity solution for Westchester"

05/01/18

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"The Chronicle of Philanthropy" featured Gary Laermer in Other Notable Appointments "Raikes Has New Racial-Equity Leader; Disney Foundation Names Executive Director"

04/27/18

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"The Chronicle of Higher Education" featured Gary Laermer in "Transitions"

04/27/18

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"Inside Higher Ed" featured professor of computer applications Gregg Ramsay in "Online Students Don't Have to Work Solo"

04/27/18

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"Tri County Sentry" featured Lubin Professor Larry Chiagouris in "After Facebook Scrutiny, Is Google Next?"

04/27/18

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"Columbia Daily Tribune" featured Dyson Professors Matthew Bolton and Emily Welty in "Progress toward peace"

04/27/18

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"Westchester Rising" featured the College of Health Professions in "Pace Opens Health Center on Pleasantville Campus"

04/27/18

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"New York Law Journal" featured Law School Assistant Dean Jill Backer's piece in "What Is Diversity in the Legal Market? Or Is Everyone a Special Snowflake?"

04/27/18

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"Pleasantville Patch" featured Dyson Professors Michelle Land and John Cronin with Pace University students, faculty and staff in "High School, College Students Walk For World Water"

04/26/18

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"Community Health" featured dietitian nutritionist Christen Cupples Cooper, founding director of the nutrition and dietetics program at Pace University in "Is a plant-based diet right for you?"

04/25/18

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"Movie TV Tech Geeks" featured Lubin Professor Larry Chiagouris in "Will Google, YouTube soon be getting the Facebook treatment?"

04/25/18

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"The Westchester Business Journal" featured Pace President Marvin Krislov and Gary Laermer in "Pace University names Gary Laermer as VP for development and alumni relations"

04/25/18

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"The Business Journal" featured Lubin Professor Larry Chiagouris in "After Facebook scrutiny, is Google next?"

04/24/18

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"Inside Higher Ed" featured Lubin Professor Larry Chiagouris in "Facebook Says Au Revoir to Student Group"

04/24/18

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Press Release: Pace University Hosts Westchester Walk for World Water to Raise Awareness about Clean Water Scarcity Around the World

04/24/18

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Pace students Walk for World Water on News 12

04/24/18

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Press Release: Pace University Names Gary Laermer Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations

04/23/18

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"ABC News" featured Haub Law School Professor Mimi Rocah in "Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is facing 'epic battle' by prosecutors for his cooperation: Alan Dershowitz"

04/23/18

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"The Washington Post" featured Lubin Professor Larry Chiagouris in "After Facebook scrutiny, is Google next?"

04/23/18

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"The New York Times" featured Dyson Professor George Picoulas in "Special Elections in New York on Tuesday Will Decide 11 Races"

04/23/18

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"Daily Voice" featured Pace Students and Professor John Cronin in "Pace Students Travel To DC, Advocate For Hudson River"

04/22/18

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"NY1" featured Dyson Professor Darrin Porcher in "Restoring the Right to Vote"

04/22/18

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"The Washington Post" featured Pace University in "The midlife doldrums are a social crisis. Now there’s momentum for some radical fixes."

04/22/18

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"Broadway World" featured Pace University alumn's Scott F. Davis and Dana Greenfield in "Emerging Directors Deconstruct Reality TV In THE REALITY PLAYS"

04/19/18

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"Dover Post" featured School of Education Alumnus Jessica Lynn in "Jessica Lynn to perform national anthem for ‘AAA 400 Drive for Autism’"

04/19/18

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"News12" featured Haub Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Gov. Cuomo orders voting rights restored for all parolees"

04/19/18

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"The Examiner" featured Pace University's University Health Care in "Pace Celebrates 40 Years of Health Care With Opening of New Center"

04/19/18

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"Nyack News & Views" featured Haub Law Professor Karl Coplan in "Earth Matters: Life on a (Carbon) Budget"

04/18/18

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"Times Union" featured Haub Law Professors Michael Mushlin and Bennett Gershman piece "Is justice best served by never-ending punishment?"

04/17/18

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"The Broadsheet" featured The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in "Legendary Actors Studio Offers Free Plays in FiDi Now Through May"

04/17/18

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"Retail Dive" featured Law Professor Paul Rafelson in "What's at stake in the e-commerce sales tax debate"

04/17/18

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FiOS 1 News interviews Pace students and Professor Melissa Cardon about Relay for Life

04/16/18

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"Staten Island Real-Time News" featured School of Education Alumnus Jermaine Cameron in "Young men of Eagle Academy are soaring to new heights"

04/16/18

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"Pride Publishing Group" featured Pace University's professor of Environmental Law Robert Kennedy, Jr. in "Ambassador Andrew Young visits Nashville for screening and program with Robert Kennedy, Jr."

04/16/18

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"Real Estate Weekly" featured Lubin School of Business Alumnus Andrew Essick in "2018’s RISING STARS OF REAL ESTATE"

04/16/18

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Press Release: The BFA Acting program at Pace University’s School of Performing Arts debuts new work with alumnus and emerging writer, Keelay Gipson

04/16/18

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"Broadway World" featured alumnus Keelay Gipson in "BFA Acting Program At Pace University's School Of Performing Arts Debuts New Work With Alumnus And Emerging Writer, Keelay Gipson"

04/16/18

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"Westchester Magazine" featured Pace University and Law Attorney Anthony J. Enea in "White Plains Law Firm Ranked Among the Best in New York"

04/12/18

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"The Daily Orange" featured YouTube sensations Damon Dominique and Jo Franco who met while studying at Pace University in "Get tips for traveling on a budget from YouTubers Damon And Jo"

04/11/18

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"Nyack News & Views" featured Law Professor Karl Coplan in "Earth Matters: Polar Ice (And Why You Care)"

04/11/18

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"Pleasantville Patch" featured freshman student Igby Rigney in "Ossining Teen To Guest Star On CBS Show"

04/11/18

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"The Seattle Times" featured Pace University's Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship in "When internships don’t pay, some colleges will"

04/11/18

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"The Journal News" featured freshman student Igby Rigney in "'Blue Bloods' guest star is Ossining H.S. grad"

04/11/18

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"Westchester Rising" featured Pace Students in "Pace Students Film Documentary in Puerto Rico"

04/10/18

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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured Students from Pace University in "Pace Students Film Hurricane Recovery"

04/10/18

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"Women in Higher Education" featured Dr. Harriet Feldman of the College of Health Professions, Pace University in "Nursing Educator Builds Future Generations"

04/10/18

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"Daily Voice" featured freshman student Igby Rigney in "Northern Westchester Teen To Star On CBS Show 'Blue Bloods'"

04/10/18

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"Broadway World" featured Pace University in "Photo Flash: Broadway Dance Lab Hosts 2018 Gala"

04/09/18

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"The New York Times" featured Alumna Haoran Yang in "Finding a Place (and a Decent Kitchen) to Call Her Own"

04/09/18

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"Broadway World" features Pace University's Schimmel Center in "Schimmel Center With The Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra Presents 'The Struggle To Forgive'"

04/09/18

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"Poughkeepsie Journal" featured Pace University in "Marc Molinaro: A Timeline of his career"

04/09/18

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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured Pace College of Health Professions Health Center in "Pace opens expanded university health care center in Pleasantville"

04/09/18

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"Daily Voice" featured Dean Harriet Feldman and Associate Director of University Health Care Karen Martin in "Pace Opens New Health Care Center On Pleasantville Campus"

04/09/18

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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured School of Education Professor Janet Mulvey's piece "Pace University offers an OASIS for students on the autism spectrum"

04/09/18

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"Study Breaks" featured Pace University Student Douglas Dillon in "From the Stage to the Sea, Douglas Dillon Is Reeling Them In"

04/06/18

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"Engadget" featured Dyson's Dr. Martina Blackwood in "What educators think about Apple’s new iPad"

04/05/18

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"American Theatre" featured Dyson Professor Amy Rogers and Pace University in "Want to Develop a New Musical? Take It To School"

04/05/18

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"Fios1" featured President Krislov and Pace University in "President Krislov - Cafeteria Karaoke on FIOS1 News"

04/03/18

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"Washington Examiner" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Could Trump lawyer Michael Cohen get disbarred thanks to Stormy Daniels?"

04/02/18