Returns On Education: Should Schools Be Evaluated on the Financial Success of their Alumni?

In the latest US News Ranking of the Top 100 universities from a previous blog, there was actually a missing variable: the expected income of graduates. One website,, measures the rank of school on this metric, but what are the repercussions of valuing education strictly in terms of monetary advancement?

The New York Times critiqued this measurement, noting that Ivy League and engineering-oriented school receive more value while schools that specialize in liberal arts, humanities, and the social sciences suffer in PayScale. Ultimately, while economic security is important, the emphasis on contributions to humanity and student fulfillment is lost.

Caltech, third on Payscale’s List (Photo Source: Tobin

It is very possible that students who choose their universities based on their career projections will suffer the same problems as students who choose “fashionable” schools. These students will find themselves in classes they have no interest in and struggling with coursework that is outside their aptitude.

Washington & Jefferson College, a liberal arts college ranked 437 on Payscale’s list. (Photo Source: Jon Dawson

It is not just students who suffer either. A shift of enrollment towards career-geared degrees robs academia of the bright minds that perpetuate and advance enlightenment that cannot be anticipated through strictly profit-driven incentives..

Does the estimated value of PayScale’s top schools somehow make up for that loss? Can that loss even be fully quantified? Let Scholar Hero hear your thoughts!

Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.

Daft Punk and the Introverted Celebrity

Rising above the fray of the MTV Video Music Awards, the enigmatic duo of Daft Punk offered an alternative presence to the confluence of celebrity.

Daft Punk somehow tows the line between immense notoriety and well-guarded secrecy. Some have compared their use of theatricality to that of Lady Gaga, but the mechanics are completely opposite. Lady Gaga’s music is heavily reinforced by her theatricality. Daft Punk’s theatricality is introverted, meant to shield themselves allow their music to stand alone.


(Photo Source: Fabio Venni

Despite their frequent attempts to remain cloaked from the limelight, most recently balking on an appearance on The Colbert Report, Daft Punk has been wildly popular team since the mid-1990s. Yet there are no public demands for them to discard their robotic exteriors and explain their actions. People only care about the music.

Daft Punk’s unique example of celebrity shows that it is possible to separate one’s personal identity and artistic craft in order to be popular. Of course, there are a confluence of other factors that influence celebrity, such as gender or race, but there’s comfort in knowing that some groups can exist solely for their musical talent.

It was even their lack of appearance on The Colbert Report that left an impact:–013—daft-punk-d

Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.

Continuing Culture: Engaging Events Coming to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is no stranger to revitalization. We even wrote an in depth blog post about it. Three major initiatives are arriving in the Pittsburgh this fall continue the city’s great strides in artistic and cultural growth. These events stand as a celebration of how far Pittsburgh has developed and as a testament to the city’s future as an international center of culture. Here is what you can expect:

The Rubber Duck Project

On September 27th Pittsburgh’s rivers will become reminiscent of a very large bathtub. A four-story rubber duck designed by Florentijn Hofman and assembled in Pennsylvania will float from the West End Bridge, around the point, and down to Roberto Clemente Point.

Carnegie International

From October 4th to October 6th  Pittsburgh will be home to 34 artists from around the world. This citywide exhibition and the art that it brings will celebrate community and humanity.

(Photo Source: Desiree Williams

(Photo Source: Desiree Williams

The Remaking Cities Congress

        October 15th-18th will bring 300 urbanists together for discussion, presided over by none other than Charles, Prince of Wales.  These speakers will talk about the future of industrial cities, all with one of greatest examples of transformative success as their backdrop.

The Pittsburgh of today. (Photo Source: ctj71081

The Pittsburgh of today. (Photo Source: ctj71081


 Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.

Giving Back To Education: The Largest Contributions of 2013

We often hear about how much universities have to offer, but there is rarely mention of what has been given back. Amidst recent debates regarding rising tuition costs, let us not forget that these institutions are grand centers of knowledge and enlightenment that require supporters. Luckily, there are people who have a passion for supporting education and who have the means to do so. Here are the top five largest contributions to universities in 2013:

$350 Million From…

Photo Source: Ralph Alswang

Photo Source: Ralph Alswang

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Given to Johns Hopkins University.

$250 Million From…


Centre College (Photo Source: Sodexo USA

A. Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust. Given to Centre College.

$200 Million From…

(Photo Source: Zennie Abraham

(Photo Source: Zennie Abraham

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. Given to the University of Michigan.

$151 Million From…

(Photo Source: Sandip Bhattacharya

(Photo Source: Sandip Bhattacharya

Real estate developer John Arrillaga. Given to Stanford University.

$133 Million From…

(Photo Source: Manuel Arenas

(Photo Source: Manuel Arenas

Qualcomm Inc. co-founders Irwin Jacobs and Joan Klein Jacobs. Given to Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

 Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.


Scholar Hero’s Presentation at Google Pittsburgh: Thrival Innovation 2013

Founder Lee Ngo pitches to an audience at Google Pittsburgh on 9/7/2013. Photo courtesy of No Typical Moments (
Founder Lee Ngo pitches to an audience at Google Pittsburgh on 9/7/2013. Photo courtesy of No Typical Moments (

Has it really been a week since our company’s first major presentation to the Pittsburgh technology
and entrepreneurial community?

After several all-night preparations and collaborations with other teams incubated in the Hustle Den, an incubator owned and operated by Thrill Mill, Inc., we pulled off what felt like the impossible: a concise 5-minute pitch at Google Pittsburgh demonstrating our proof of concept. Here’s a clip of the presentation (scroll to the 1 hour, 17 minute, 36 second mark for our presentation):

Video courtesy of Thrill Mill, Inc. (

Lamentably, the video does not do the presentations justice. It is amazing how much our companies have grown over the last several months. In our case, we were little more than a handful of good ideas that needed to be refined into a bona fide company. For our successes, we must thank Thrill Mill for the opportunity they’ve given us as well as the countless people who have contributed to our development along the way.


Founder Lee Ngo poses with founders Rachel Bane and Jimena Quan of Mix: a salad-themed restaurant for the Pittsburgh community (photo courtesy of Scholar Hero)

Still, we have a long way to go. A few more milestones ahead include:

  • Overhauling the landing page to reflect our new direction
  • Creating a public beta version of our product
  • Securing some early seed funding to help us support that beta
  • Expanding our network via social media (especially this blog)
  • Solidifying our core founding team
  • Generating that first dollar of revenue

How we do after a long day of pitching: The Thrival Music Festival (photo courtesy of Scholar Hero)

Keep an eye on this blog and our landing site for more updates!


Lee Ngo is the founder and executive director of Scholar Hero, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Remember, Remember, the 7th of September: Thrill Mill’s Thrival Innovation + Music Festival

Scholar Hero has been excitedly preparing for this upcoming Thrival Innovation + Music Festival on September 7th, our first opportunity to show off some of our hard work to the Pittsburgh public. As members of the Hustle Den’s inaugural cohort, we have been invited to join other startups and entrepreneurs to talk openly to attendees and potential investors about our products and future plans.

The Origins of the Thrival Festival

The Thrival celebration is actually an annual celebration organized by Thrill Mill, Inc., featuring several musical acts and festivities, all towards raising money for The Business Bout. Thrill Mill co-founder and chairman Luke Skurman originally came up with the idea in 2005 to strengthen the Pittsburgh entrepreneurial community and reduce the pattern for the city’s young talent to emigrate to other larger cities. Years later, it is now one of the biggest networking events in the city.

Ultimately, The Thrival Festival is meant to close out the summer strong with entertainment and connection with the Pittsburgh entrepreneurial community. There will be food and drink available for attendees as well as live-performing musical artists such as De La Soul, RJD2, and Frightening Rabbit. Proceeds will go to Thrill Mill, Inc. to further support and incubate the next cohort of brilliant entrepreneurs.


Scholar Hero’s Thrival Role

Scholar Hero will be one of the 13 Hustle Den companies to be stationed in Innovation Row at Bakery Square and delivering a brief pitch to potential investors at Google Pittsburgh. We will be showing prototypes of three products, all designed to assist scholars in creating and sharing their work:

·      Amino – A document assistance service helps structure ideas and data, preventing the writer’s block that comes with “blank page syndrome”

·      Synthesis – A document sharing service designed for acquiring rich community feedback.

·      Fusion – A mobile solution to “crowd-reviewing,” involving a gamified, ranking system.

You can read about all of the Hustle Den companies here.


The Thrival Innovation + Music Festival is September 7th from 12:00pm to 10:00pm. More information can be found here:

Help us celebrate those that choose make a difference. As Thrill Mill co-founder and CEO Bobby Zappala said: “You can’t change the size of Pittsburgh, but you can change how people think about it.”

Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.

Preparing For Progress: Digitally Advanced Schools

In 2008, produced an article that found and rated the top 20 “wired” universities in the United States. While slightly dated, it provides an interesting look into which schools had the technological foresight prepare for our current Age of Progress. To determine the overall strength of each school, and The Princeton Review looked at four digital categories:

  • Academics

    • This encompasses the school’s ability to provide courses that specialized in emerging technologies as well as the accessibility of online lectures.

  • Student Resources

    • What digital services do colleges provide? Do they offer their students an e-mail address and access to the school’s network? Do they offer their students software, such as anti-virus? What about hardware?

  • Infrastructure

    • This looks at the ability of the students to access digital resources. This includes wi-fi coverage and the availability of modern computers labs.

  • Tech Support

    • How easy is it for students to get help? Is there online support available, or has the school merely settled for an online FAQ?

With these factors in mind, here are the five schools with the greatest foresight (you might be surprised by the list):

(Photo Source: ilovebutter

(Photo Source: ilovebutter

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


(Photo Source: Russell Feldhausen

Kansas State University

(Photo Source: Edgar Zuniga Jr.

(Photo Source: Edgar Zuniga Jr.

University of Utah

(Photo Source: IK's World Trip

(Photo Source: IK’s World Trip

Bentley College

(Photo Source: The Marmot

(Photo Source: The Marmot

Pomona College

What colleges do you think should be in the top five? Sound off!


Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.