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Is Penn State a Real University?: An Investigation of the University as a Living Ideal by [Novak, Ben]
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Length: 129 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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About the Author

Ben Novak, born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on February 15, 1943, graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in 1965. As a student he served as president of the Undergraduate Student Government in his senior year and as a brother at Tau Kappa Epsilon. In 1968 he graduated from Georgetown University Law School. From 1968 to 1970 he served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, Infantry, including a year in Viet Nam where he won the Bronze Star. In 1968 Novak was admitted to the Bar of Pennsylvania. He practiced law in Pennsylvania for more than 30 years, with his own firm in State College and Bellefonte. While living in Centre County for more than three decades, Novak was widely involved in the community. He was, at various times: founder of the Mount Nittany Conservancy; president of Lion’s Paw Alumni Association; a Ph.D recipient in philosophy, history, and political science from Penn State; and an adjunct professor and assistant dean of students at Penn State. From 1988 to 2000 Novak served on Penn State’s Board of Trustees. In 2000 he retired, moving to Bratislava in Slovakia, his family’s ancestral home. In 2008 he returned to the United States to advise students at Penn State, and has earnestly sought a renewal in University life according to the vision of Evan Pugh and the Founders of Penn State for many years.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2592 KB
  • Print Length: 129 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: The Nittany Valley Society, Inc.; 1 edition (March 10, 2012)
  • Publication Date: March 10, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007HZKCBS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,817,106 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Paperback
Written in simple language, Penn State alumnus and local attorney Dr. Novak's "Is Penn State A Real University" was not just a curious intellectual, social and institutional history, but a thought-provokingly inspiring journey for all Penn Staters and anyone concerned with higher education's purpose, meaning, mission and reform. One must thoughtfully and contemplatively read and reread this short, yet profound collection of essays, and will discover new and different nuggets of wisdom each time.

His writings reveal a wealth of historically present yet now forgotten ideas of how students learned at a university and were molded and shaped by it, and a framework in which to make sense of them. They establish a basis of understanding and reflecting on what a real university meant, in light of both classical institutions and Penn State's land grant history, as well as on a deeper level of the human experience. The surprising revelations will seem so unheard of yet so obvious, so ordinary but so profound, so radical but so traditional, and so straightforward yet so deeply holistic, that it lures one to constantly keep re-engaging them.

Before being elected to its Board of Trustees in 1988, Ben Novak observed how the role and experience of Penn State students had changed, and what affect that had on their education and development in every sense, as well as on their institution and community as a whole. He challenged the widely-held contemporary idea that the institution's purpose was simply to impart knowledge and information (or even supposedly skill) to attain a better paying job. Refuting the static notion that "it was always that way", he alludes to how these ideas were lost over prior decades.
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Format: Paperback
I didn't go to Penn State, but I was pointed to this by a friend who did and loves the place. I've visited State College a few times, and definitely understand why people say "Happy Valley" must have something in the water. Well, Ben Novak's short book did a lot to explain Penn State and Happy Valley. Novak describes the "real University" by leaning on John Henry Newman's work The Idea of a University.

Newman's idea is that a college's reason for existing is to bring together young people in a shared physical place and then letting them interact for a set period of time, even if no specific curriculum or programming takes place. Novak uses Newman's concept basically to say that college should be more about uniting great people to learn from one another than it should be about having faculty and administration control and dictate the experiences students are supposed to have.

Later Novak gets out of the philosophy and into the history of the town and school which was less directly relevant to me but interesting because he explains why land-grant colleges were founded, and what prominent educators in the Ivy League and across the country think could help the college experience focus more on people and less on programs. It was a short surprisingly fun read. Requires a bit of an imagination. Recommend to anyone with a decent attention span.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection of essays is definitely worthwhile for every Penn State alumnus. It's an enlightening perspective on the history of the university and its purpose. In light of the troublesome times that PSU has been through, this provides direction for us as we rebuild and restore our Dear Ol' State. Thank you, Ben!
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Format: Paperback
Reading this book was a really revealing experience. I bought on Kindle based on a friend's recommendation and finished it in a day. I didn't really know what to expect going into it. The title is a little jarring. But I was drawn in almost right away and just kept going until I was done. Novak's whole question over whether Penn State is a "university" is really about defining and understanding what a university really is. Is it more about buildings and books and credits or is it truly about a community and the experiences people learn from when they come together at college? What makes the book great is that he gets you thinking about that question while also teaching you about the history of Penn State. By the time you're done, he's got you thinking about your Penn State experience in a whole new way. One of my favorite things was how it helped me understand why I care about my university so much and think more about how becoming a Penn Stater changes your life. I already gave a few friends and family a heads up about this book and I recommend it to anyone who really love Penn State
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was not aware of Dr. Novak's essays, which as indicated in the Afterword are incredibly prescient given the challenges the University has faced in the past year. A look into the history of the University and the history of student governance is a great way to help us determine what is the best path forward as we think critically about what makes up a "real" University. I highly recommend this quick read for any Penn Stater to help understand more about our past.
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