Flying Cars: The Future Is Now

Image of bright yellow flying car taxi.As I was driving in congested freeway traffic last weekend I realized that one of the benefits of autonomous or self-driving vehicles is they won’t have to slow down to gawk at accidents. Eliminating that human impulse alone should help smooth traffic flow. I have been thinking so much lately about autonomous vehicles that I was unaware of the development of other new types of cars until a colleague prompted me to take a closer look at flying cars. What I found just might send me to my local airport for flight lessons.

Flying Car School

The first flying car school in North America recently opened in Roosevelt, Utah. Students will learn in the PAL-V Liberty which is produced by Dutch company PAL-V. This particular vehicle can drive on a city street and then go airborne after taxiing down a short road or runway. The company is securing FAA and European approval to introduce the first commercial version in 2018. Flying one will require a full pilot’s license because of the weight of the vehicle. A thrust engine powers the flying car, along with gyro blades that help with lift and to keep it airborne. Once on the ground, the blades and rudder fold up so that it can navigate city streets and highways.

I am not sure of the maximum distance this flying car can travel on one tank of gas, either on the ground or in the air, but I am starting to think about personal applications of this technology. It would be nice to reach a rural site without having to navigate miles of gravel roads. You could also shorten a city commute considerably if you could take off from the road in front of your house and land in front of your office.


Another flying car in testing or limited production is the AeroMobil, based out of the Czech Republic. They have been flying/driving prototypes since 2014 and are close to introducing a production model. Another option is the Terrafugia Transition which is being developed by a private company out of Woburn, MA. The company expects the first production vehicle in 2019. The Transition is described as a folding-wing, two seat, roadable aircraft. Even more exciting is the Terrafugia TF-X, which is billed as a four seat plug-in/hybrid electric flying car with vertical take off and landing capability and computer controlled flight. It is not expected to come to market until 2023 at the earliest.


I am very excited about the possibility of flying cars in the near future, but there are a lot of infrastructure questions still to be answered. First of all, what classification are they given by the various world flight administrations? Are they airplanes or sport aircraft? Flight certification and licenses are different for each. At what elevation do they fly? Just above the ground or at 1000 feet? Are there particular areas that will be set aside for takeoff and landing, or can you launch anywhere? Will you have to check in with the nearest control tower before leaving for the office? These and many more questions require answers before we can start flying to work. I am hoping that brilliant minds are working on these issues so that the infrastructure is ready when the first cars are launched.


“The Jetsons” and “Back To The Future” have formed my view of the flying car. In both of those depictions, vehicles traveled in lanes in the air, just as we do on the ground. I think we can get more creative than that but it will take a lot of thought to make personal air travel safe and feasible. I am already thinking about the combination of flying cars and autonomous vehicles. That would be the ultimate in efficiency and convenience.

Are we ready for flying cars? They appear to be coming soon to a road or grassy field near you. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Data Nationalization: Drawing Borders in the Cloud

Photo of clouds forming map of the world.Moscow, Russia city government last week announced that they will move 6,000 government computers off of Microsoft Outlook to a Russian-produced application called MyOffice Mail. If successful, they will move 600,000 more systems next year. Cost savings is cited as one reason for the migration but nationalism is also a big factor. In an interview, Communications Minister Nikolay Nikiforov told reporters “We want the money of taxpayers and state-run firms to be primarily spent on local software.” The Russian prime minister has called for a migration away from foreign software out of security concerns over tensions with the west. Russia is not the only nation and Moscow is not the only city to move in this direction.

The internet was meant to be global but from recent announcements and actions it appears we are drawing borders in the cloud. This post is an update to a 2014 post highlighting the beginning of this movement. From recent developments it appears the trend is accelerating.

LiMux—The IT Revolution

Munich also moved to a proprietary platform in October 2013 when they finished the rollout of LiMux, a version of Ubuntu Linux. The almost decade long migration off of older Microsoft systems and applications was marked by the rallying cry “The IT Revolution.” That migration was about cost containment and control. They felt that they could not regulate the pace of required operating system and application updates. The jury is still out on whether this move delivered the intended benefits for the city or whether it has created a bigger headache for the technology department as they deal with compatibility issues. This is an example of reigning in control of technology and storage as traditional vendors move to cloud based systems such as Office 365.

 Legal Boundaries

Russia’s data nationalization law requires all personal data about citizens be stored and processed on servers inside Russia. The routing of such data is a point not completely worked out yet. That may be much harder to keep within the borders. Australia has a similar law specifically covering electronic health records of citizens and their storage and transport.

In a 2015 paper published in the Emory Law Journal, the authors highlight a number of countries that implemented regulations to restrict the storage and movement of data inside and outside of borders. Some of these were a reaction to the 2013 NSA surveillance revelations concerning data collection on countries and heads of state. Countries are moving to protect their citizens by regulating at least their portion of the cloud. This will most likely escalate and present difficulties for internet companies large and small.


My objective in this post is to speculate on the future of the cloud. We already have a private cloud and public cloud and now a hybrid cloud. Will these be followed by a Russian cloud, and a Chinese cloud and a U.S. cloud? Will that hamper the open nature of the internet or will it simply serve to provide information security for each nation, state, or municipality just as physical borders provide personal safety? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Data and Science of Irrigation

Photo of pivot irrigation system.I recently spent time among wheat fields and continue to be amazed at the advances in farming, particularly irrigation. I have moved a few irrigation pipes in my life, but my experience is a far cry from the automated precision technology used today. I set out to find out how technology and water mix and how the combination enhances crop production.

Crop Metrics

I have covered farm technologies in past blogs, specifically soil moisture probes. The use of these probes is only the beginning of the process for increasing crop yield. Several of these probes can be used per acre to collect data wirelessly on the moisture content in a particular area of the field. All of this data is combined into a visual map that shows the dry and wet spots. Topographic maps can be added to show the high and low spots of a field. All of this data acts as input to the irrigation system. Companies such as CropMetrics analyze all of these data points and create a comprehensive plan for covering the most ground with the least amount of water.

Precision Watering

Crop irrigation has evolved from a hose to hand lines to wheel lines to the modern pivot. A pivot pumps water through one point to several sprinklers radiating out from the axis. The pivot then swings across the field powered by a variable speed drive mechanism on each tower. The further the distance from the pivot point, the faster the wheels have to move in order to cover a larger arc. If you have ever flown over the Midwest in the summer you have most likely seen a grid of green circles, which is the result of pivot irrigation. One of the largest of these sprinklers is 1300 meters long, covering over 1300 acres of sugar plantation in Brazil.

Companies such as Lindsay and Reinke have transformed simple plant watering to a science by applying data analysis technology. They input the data mentioned earlier and create a series of water maps for a field. The GPS equipped irrigation pivot can then apply precisely targeted moisture to the field. Over an area of several hundred acres, there can be a lot of variability in soil type, existing moisture, runoff, and terrain. All of this information is factored in when watering the crops. The sprinklers can be automated, or adjusted manually through a touchscreen control or  an app. The goal is twofold: water conservation and maximum yield. This is one example of how technology is improving production while enhancing sustainability of a limited resource.


I see technology used in traditionally low tech areas such as irrigation and crop production and wonder what other applications are waiting to be enhanced or automated. It is a brave new world and it will take intelligent workers to make the most of it. Let me know your thoughts

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Trends in Education: Information Availability

Adult students in a classroom.I have been thinking about changes in education. Some are due to technology advancements, but some are from social changes as we discover new ways of teaching and learning.  This blog post will explore some of those trends and how we might take advantage of shifts to improve higher education.

Information At Your Fingertips

Scott Miller, PhD, president of Wesleyan College, said in an article: “Some faculty voice concerns that the prevalence of information has negated the inclination to learn it.” Some may see improved information access as a threat to their teaching but I think we can use it to our advantage to improve the learning process. I liken this new information availability to the introduction of the printing press. Before then, students relied primarily on their instructors who could read the few texts that were available. Teachers guarded the writings so they alone could dispense knowledge. Written texts were laboriously copied by hand. After the advent of printing, there were more texts available so the general population could learn to read and could synthesize the information for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

In 2016, information is available at our fingertips through smart devices and the internet. My students and I have access to the same information, so my responsibility is to create the learning space and pose questions that will prompt further learning. We share the task of gathering information so that we can synthesize it through discussions into knowledge or even wisdom. Rather than feeling threatened by this, I believe it frees us to focus on ideas and insights.

Experiential Learning

Some disciplines still require experience to fully synthesize information into understanding. Chemistry students can read about the reaction of two mixed chemicals but it’s not the same as personally experiencing the outcome. Civil engineering students can read about load calculations and design principles but until they experiment with models and see the resulting success or failure, do they really understand the principles and can they apply them to real designs? Disciplines that require experiential learning will still need a classroom with the materials to experiment with. But are there other ways to augment classroom learning?

Many employers have onboarding programs to welcome and train new employees. Some of these programs are extensive, lasting weeks, if not months. Would it not be more efficient to shorten the onboarding process and instead bring students in earlier as part of a hands-on expanded internship?  I believe that since we now have so much valuable information available to students and faculty, we can be much more efficient in how we use that information. With the time created by that efficiency, students should be able to apply that knowledge in a real world setting. Students would win valuable experience and potential employers could hire employees with advanced thinking skills and practical experience.


We can take advantage of greater information access by making learning more efficient and effective. At the same time, students take a greater part in their learning and can apply that experience to a successful career. Those are my thoughts but I would love to hear from you.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Finding Our Roots: The Technology of Genealogy

Vintage photo of books, journals, pens, and other tools of research circa 1930.There seems to be a resurgence of interest in history, particularly personal history and genealogy. Popular television shows such as “Finding Your Roots” and “Who Do You Think You Are” explore ancestry. and similar websites provide a platform for discovering your lineage. I wonder if part of this interest is because we now have technologies that help us discover who we are and where we come from.

Document Scanning

The ability to scan and catalogue large numbers of documents has been a boon to genealogy research. We can mine the data from those documents to connect family lines. However, old documents are not always easy to read or access. A recent report from MIT highlights work that allows us to read fragile texts that cannot be touched or opened. Researchers are using terahertz radiation scanning and character recognition software to scan multiple pages at once. So far they are able to read through nine pages at once but hope to soon read through a whole book. This might someday enable us to read through ancient papyrus. They could one day unlock the information that links you to Cleopatra.

DNA Testing

Advances in DNA analysis have led more people to seek out testing, which adds more people to databases, which increases your chances of making family connections., mentioned above, sells a DNA collection kit for $99. Return a DNA sample and they will test it, add the information to their database and return the analysis that shows your ethnic mix and identifies possible relatives based on a match of DNA markers. This can be eye opening for people who do not know a lot about their past.

Record Matching

Advances in data analysis have improved the ability to match old documents in order to construct a family tree. Birth, marriage, death, and burial registries contain many errors that make them hard to reconcile. The town clerk in 1895 may have misspelled a name or recorded a date incorrectly so that it doesn’t match other official records. With modern data analysis, we can compensate for those errors and develop a “best guess” match for such records. has proprietary matching algorithms that increase the chance of a correct records match.

Translation Software

Many of us do not speak the language of our ancestors, so when looking for records, we need translation. Researchers and technologists are developing applications able to translate names and other information from one language to another. offers what they call “Global Name Translation” that breaks down the barrier of language. They describe this recent breakthrough in a press release in their blog:

“The new technology will now accept searches in English, automatically increase their scope to cover Russian and Ukrainian as well, and conveniently translate all results back to English.”

Such technology opens up a lot of possibilities that were once closed but can now help link family trees from different countries and cultures.


Technology can help bring people together and can aid our search for who we are and where we come from. It might even turn up a surprising connections to long lost family members. Have you used genealogy tools? Did they work? Let me know your experiences.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Star Trek Technologies: 50 Years Later

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner post as Spock and Captain Kirk in a vintage black and white photo from the Star Trek series.The original Star Trek television series is celebrating its 50th anniversary so I have been thinking about some of the technologies they depicted that have become reality. Unfortunately, we still are not able to beam each other through space, but some of our current devices and applications have already surpassed the imagination of science fiction writers.

Set Phasers to Stun

In the TV series and the movies, characters always carried a phaser, particularly when they were exploring new worlds. This device had different settings and worked presumably by emitting a phased particle beam to either stun, freeze, or kill their opponent. Our equivalent is the taser, which I highlighted in a recent blog on law enforcement technology. It is different in that you need to make physical contact and it will only stun and not kill, except in rare cases. There is news that scientists are working on a real-life phaser, but that may just be wishful thinking from Star Trek fans.


This is an area where I think we have surpassed the writers’ imagination. In the original Star Trek television series the characters used a cell phone type device to talk to another person on the ship. Nextel developed something similar in 1996 with their push to talk service over a standard cell phone. In subsequent franchises, the crew needed only to touch the logo on their uniform and they could start communicating. Fast-forward to 2016 when people walk down the street seemingly talking to themselves while communicating with someone not just on the proverbial ship, but possibly in a foreign country. How far we have come from the mythical communicator of 1966.


In the TV shows, the characters could communicate with each other via a telepresence video screen. They could even communicate with alien ships if their systems were compatible. Video communications were fairly foreign in 1966 but I think we now take it for granted. I was fortunate to be part of a pilot for HP’s Halo teleconferencing systems, now part of Polycom. The aim was to create identical rooms so that it appeared that your colleagues in Tokyo were just across the table from you. Now video communications have come to the smart phone through Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, or Tango. That means our version of the communicator not only lets us speak to each other but also lets us do full video conferencing. Take that Captain Kirk.

Universal Language Translator

In a large universe it is necessary to be able to translate between many different languages. The crew of the USS Enterprise had a universal language translator they used to communicate with alien cultures. It somehow could translate any language. Our version is a bit more limited in the number of languages and I don’t think it currently translates Vulcan. Voice translator apps for smart phones are still in their infancy but work fairly well for about 50 languages. They feature speech to text or text to speech, and some have the ability to use the camera to capture and translate an image such as a road sign. I am excited about a new earpiece in development from Waverly Labs that allows you to hear and translate a foreign language. They are taking pre-orders now through Indiegogo.


Science fiction series such as Star Trek are a great catalyst for spurring our imagination about technology. An anniversary event is a great opportunity to reflect on our progress. Are there other Star Trek devices that we have already nailed? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Automotive Tracking Technology: Intrusive or Practical

Photograph of smiling teen boy sitting in a car, flashing a key and a thumbs up. Students are heading back to school. New college students on their own for the first time face a lot of challenges and nervous parents back home face fears of the unknown. If parents are sending their student off with a car, there are technologies that help limit the speed and other functions or even track the whereabouts of the car in real time. While these technologies are not new, they can allay some of the fears of the parents of young drivers. Let’s take a look at some.

Limiting Functionality

The folks at Ford have developed what they call MyKey. One key fob becomes the administrator key and the other inherits limited functionality. The administrator key can limit the speed of the car, cap the volume of the radio and keep it muted until the seatbelt is secure, ensure that all safety features are automatically turned on, and can set nagging seat belt chimes and deliver an earlier low fuel warning. The non-administrator key receives these settings. Although, I can see an enterprising young student in Engineering 101 or Computer Science 101 figuring out a way to reverse the settings in order to enjoy unfettered driving. This system also could keep a spouse with a lead foot out of trouble, but in that case, their partner holds the administrator key.


A lot of modern vehicles have satellite navigation and many are also equipped with a GPS tracker for locating the car. This is important when a car is stolen but can also give peace of mind to a worried parent. General Motors has developed Family Link to be used in conjunction with their OnStar system. A family member can access Family Link online through their account and see the current location of the vehicle. They can also set up alerts to show when the car has arrived at its destination or where the car is at a specific time, curfew for example. I assume and hope that the folks at GM have built in a very strong security layer to prevent stalkers from accessing that same information. The technology is similar to that used by outdoor enthusiasts to broadcast their location in case they get into trouble and cannot communicate.

Some may see this technology as intrusive, but tracking a new driver or a family member driving in inclement weather might lessen the anxiety.


These technologies exist today, both as standard equipment or after-market. They can be plugged into the on-board computer and give early warning about failing mechanical or electrical systems or limit functionality. All of these technologies are designed to provide information or to ensure the safety of drivers, particularly first time drivers. Do you think these devices limit freedoms or promote more freedom for young drivers? I guess it partly depends on whether you are the one holding the administrator key or the other key.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Risk and Security of Connected Healthcare Devices

Photo of a pile of pills and medical devices.A recent Forrester Research report highlighted the security risks of connected healthcare devices and some of the implications of lax policies of manufacturers and care providers. This brings to mind for me all kinds of doomsday scenarios so I want to highlight some of the best practices in the report. These apply to the healthcare industry and other businesses.

Internet of Things

Part of the allure of the internet of things (IoT) is that many devices can be connected, including medical devices. In a recent article, author Yash Mehta highlighted some connected and potentially connected devices. On the list are monitoring devices which allow patients to be at home instead of a hospital. He also mentions companies that are developing edible IoT “smart” pills that will help monitor health issues and medication. This is an area where I would want the tightest security.

Steps for Security Planning

Start from the inside when thinking about security. Is everyone in your organization following best practices? Are you requiring passwords be changed regularly? Is everyone following this requirement or have they developed a workaround? Are there any shared accounts with a shared password? One of the biggest security holes has to do with social engineering. A hacker will pretend to be someone trustworthy to secure passwords or entrance into secure systems, then launch a widespread attack. Make sure everyone in your organization is educated and prepared for such an attempt.

Verify that the new devices have security built in from the manufacturer. This applies to health care IoT and other connected devices. It is hard to build security with no foundation. Push manufacturers to install a minimum level of threat protection in every device.

It is necessary to separate device information from actual customer details. In the case of health care, that means storing data collected from the connected device in a separate data structure than the patient data. In a retail establishment this means storing credit card information away from personally identifiable information such as customer name and address. The two can be linked via a separate ID but it should be difficult for a hacker to connect the two sources of information.


It is exciting to think of all of the possibilities with IoT devices but it is sobering to contemplate the security risks. All of us must consider and mitigate the risks, either as consumers or as part of an IT team building the tightest security possible. IoT devices are coming. Are you ready?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Avoiding Disasters: The Value of Continuity Planning

Server room represented by several server racks with strong dramatic light.The recent technical problems with the Delta Airlines network got me thinking about the value of business continuity planning. We teach an AIM short course dedicated to business continuity and disaster recovery planning and stress the importance of thinking through all potential scenarios. Consider this a friendly reminder to update and test your plan to make sure it is still valid. Has anything changed since your last test and could it halt your business? What is the worst-case scenario and how will you deal with it?


Delta is just the latest example of a sophisticated network of hardware and applications that failed and caused disruption to a business. In the case of Delta, a power control module failed in their technology command center in Atlanta. The universal power supply kicked in but not before some applications went offline. The real trouble began when the applications came back up but not in the right sequence. Consider application A that requires data from a database to process information to send to application B. If application B comes up before Application A, it will be looking for input that does not exist and will go into fault mode. In the same vein, if application A comes up before the database is online, it will be looking for data that does not yet exist and will fault.

Any of these scenarios will affect business operations such as ticketing, reservation and flight scheduling processes. Once flights are canceled due to lack of valid information, then the crew in San Francisco cannot get to Atlanta to start work and even more flights are canceled or delayed. In this case, it took four days before flights were fully restored. That is a lot of lost revenue and goodwill just because one power control module failed in a data center.

Disaster Recovery Planning

Information systems and networks are complex and getting more so all the time. In order to develop a plan to cover a potential interruption consider the following steps:

  • Map out your environment. Understand what systems you have, their operating systems, how they are dependent on each other, and how they are connected to each other via the network. Is it critical that all these elements come up in sequence? This map will be crucial in the event you need to rebuild your systems after a disaster.
  • Understand risks and create a plan. Understand your risk for each system and application. A small application that only runs once a month may not need attention whereas a customer order fulfillment application that runs 24/7 should be able to failover without interruption. Create a plan to keep the environment running or to restore it quickly.
  • Test the plan. This may be the most important part of the process. Testing the plan on a regular basis ensures that you have accounted for any changes to the environment and ensures that all people are up to date on their part in the event of a problem. Periodic testing also keeps the plan active and not something that becomes “shelfware.”


Businesses increasingly rely on sophisticated technology in order to sell product, service customers and communicate with partners. Any break in that technology can have a real impact on revenue and the long-term viability of the business. Have you tested your business continuity plan lately?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Congratulations 2016 AIM Program Graduates!

Kara McFall, UO AIM Program director, speaks at commencement.This week’s post is the transcript of AIM Program Director Kara McFall’s 2016 commencement address. Commencement took place Saturday, August 13 on the University of Oregon main campus in Eugene.

To our 2016 AIM graduates, their families and supporters; our AIM faculty and staff; and all others who are here to join in the celebration of our 2016 AIM graduating class—welcome. I’d like to start by asking the graduates, faculty, and staff to stand or raise a glass and join me in honoring the families and friends who supported our graduates throughout the AIM Program. Every one of our AIM graduates has worked hard to achieve the right to stand here today as a graduate of the program; but every graduate also had the help and support of their families and loved ones, who agonized along with them over proper APA citations, assignment deadlines, and their nitpicky Capstone 1 instructor. The role that each of you played—as supporters of our AIM graduates—is an important one, and I would like to say thank you.

You are here today with no looming paper deadlines, no assignments that are due, no need to meet with your classmates to complete a team project. I hope you’ve had time to enjoy your new role as AIM alumni and the transition from your previous role as AIM students. I’ve spent the time since your newfound freedom writing and rewriting this address. I struggled honestly with how to frame my message to you, and I finally decided to take inspiration from the 2016 presidential race. Please bear with me.

The fact is, I love politics, and every election cycle I find myself caught up in the campaigns. As a political fanatic of many years, I’ve noticed over time that while each campaign is different, there are some parallels that are universal. In particular, political candidates have a set of terms that they’ve coopted and, in every election cycle, you’ll hear these terms lobbed at the opposition. For my address today, I will be applying those terms to you, our latest AIM graduates. My fellow Americans, I present you with the following indisputable facts about the AIM graduating class of 2016.

First, I would like to state for the record that AIM graduates are flip floppers. In a political campaign when you hear the term flip flopper, it comes when one candidate accuses the other of changing positions on an issue, oftentimes with videotaped evidence showing a candidate proclaiming to take one side of an issue, and at another time proclaiming to take the exact opposite side. I believe that flip flopping is a virtue, and it is my sincere hope that you as AIM alumni live up to the name. There is a reason why we asked you to research and write so many papers exploring various topics during your time in the AIM Program. The intent was not to encourage you to take a rigid stance, but rather for you to learn to gather evidence from sources; examine the sources critically to ensure they meet the five criteria of being of high quality, authoritative, timely, relevant, and lacking in bias; and then, based upon the information you’ve gathered and assessed, make a determination of your position on a topic. We gave you similar opportunities in discussion boards, where our hope was to provide a forum for the exploration of important and timely topics and to foster debate with your classmates and your instructor. I know through working with all of you that some, if not all of you, are emerging from the AIM Program having changed your positions on different topics – you have engaged in flip flopping, and I am proud of you for doing so. The opposite of a flip flopper is someone who is rigid and refuses to learn and grow, someone who clings to a belief despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I hope that you will continue to base your positions not on what you believed yesterday, but rather that you will continue to gather information, examine what you find critically and, when warranted, that you will change your stance and embrace your role as a flip flopper.

Next, I would like to point out, ladies and gentlemen, that AIM graduates are uninformed. This may seem like an odd statement for the director of a master’s program to say to a group of graduates who have spent considerable time and resources in obtaining their degrees, so let me explain what I mean. I hope that your time in the AIM Program has taught you that, however much you think you know about a topic, there is always more to learn. I sincerely hope that each of you who leaves the program as an AIM graduate has nurtured or developed a love of learning. Once you have settled into your role as AIM alumni, I want you to continue to fuel your desire to learn by embracing the fact that you don’t know everything—that there are topics on which you are uninformed. I can think of no worse fate than knowing everything—to be stripped of the opportunity for the joy of discovery. I hope that saying the words “I didn’t know that” come to mean not the admission of ignorance, but instead to represent the opportunity to indulge a continued love of learning.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to talk about failure. Before you get your backs up, let me share my philosophy on failure. Everyone—everyone—fails in achieving a goal at some point in their lives. Those who fail the most are those who have tried the most. Most of us have a hard time when we fail to reach a goal—it’s a horrible feeling and, for goal-oriented people, having to admit that you’ve failed at something can be devastating. Reactions can range from defensiveness—explaining why you didn’t actually fail or why the failure was someone else’s fault—to feelings of negative self worth. I have students every year who view a less than perfect grade on an assignment or in a class as failure, and I understand—grades and what they represent are important, and most of you came into the AIM Program with goals related to your grades. But I hope that one of the lessons you take from the AIM Program is to look at failure to reach a goal as a gift. I want to repeat those words, because the lesson is the single most valuable lesson I have learned in my own life: Failure is a gift. Failure gives you the opportunity to honestly assess why you fell short in your efforts and identify opportunities for you to hone your skills or alter your approach, or even to sometimes let go of one goal for the opportunities represented by another. I want to encourage you to approach failure with grace and with gratitude, and to treat each failure to reach a goal as a gift that provides the opportunity to learn something new about yourself or the world, to improve, and to move in a new direction. I challenge you all to embrace your failures.

To sum up—I hope the AIM Program has provided you with the skills and confidence to pursue the knowledge that will enable you to flip flop on issues rather than remain rigid in your stances, that you will continue to seek out topics on which you are uninformed so that you can indulge a love of learning, and that you will embrace your failures for the opportunities they present. I also hope that you are able to embark on your post-AIM journeys without CNN chronicling your every step. AIM Class of 2016, I am proud of each one of you, and I don’t need an exit poll to tell me that all of you are winners. I hope you will take the opportunity to keep in touch with us as you move into your next phase as AIM graduates. Congratulations to you, AIM Class of 2016!

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