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April 2011
Volume 4, Issue 9 Our Mission: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a student-centered and diverse learning community that engages in critical inquiry extending knowledge to enrich and enliven individual and public life. CLAS College Office Monthly Newsletter for Faculty
        What's ooVoo? Check out the clip to find out! Unlimited 6-way video conferencing Desktop sharing, file sharing Record video calls Send video messages instead of emails Absolutely no commitments and NO fees     Sabbatical Showcase & Spring College Meeting Wed., April 6, 2011
11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Grand River Room (2250 KC) Menu and topics are posted on the CLAS Sabbatical website. Grab a colleague and come join the excitement.
        For Your Advanced Planning:

CLAS Distinguished Alumni-in-Residence Celebration The event is scheduled to be held Thursday, October 27th - Friday, October 28th

IT seminars that are currently scheduled for the month of April   Windows 7 & Office 07
April 11, 2011  3:00pm - 5:00pm  204A DEV This seminar is a demonstration of the Windows 7 operating system and MS Office 2007. There are many excellent new features and new procedures for general tasks. This demonstration is designed to quickly get you working in Win 7 and Office 07 with an overview of the new features.  

Blackboard's Grade Center & Assignments Thursday, April 14, 2011  2:30pm - 4:00 pm Friday, April 15, 2011  12:00pm - 1:30 pm 111 HRY (both sessions) The Grade Center enables the instructor to record, post course grades, and calculate the totals.  This hands-on workshop will include:
• Set up the Grade Center - add, modify, and remove grade items, change item order, modify display options • Retrieve and review grade details by item or by student • Enter and modify grades • Provide comments to students • Upload grades from an excel spreadsheet • Customize letter grade scheme • Weight grades  

Getting Started with Blackboard 9.1 Wed., April 27, 2011  1:30pm - 4:00 pm
111 HRY Fri., April 29, 2011 9:30am - 12:00 pm, TBA DEV Are you new to Blackboard or just need a refresher? Join us at this hands-on workshop where participants will learn the basic features of Blackboard 9.1.  Along with clearly covering the basics this seminar will provide an overview of the most commonly used elements. Pardon our blooper!  Correction on March issue feature article: Darren Walhof chaired FDC for 2008-09.            

FROM THE DEAN'S DESK Frederick J. Antczak, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain.   ~T.S. Eliot (from The Wasteland)

In the zero sum game that the public mind sometimes assumes our economy to be, even the lean running of our university with its small percentage of state funding and rising student numbers comes under media scrutiny.   Our salaries are all a matter of public record, and other "facts" regarding our budgets are receiving, without much context, an airing in the news.  At Grand Valley, we should not worry too much about that.  We accepted last year's salary freeze with grace, we continue to economize in sustainable ways (and have for a very long time), and we produce more with less than any organization I can think of. In your role and mine as ambassadors to the public, it may help you to be aware of the information in the annual accountability report and to know a few additional facts.  We continue to run our operation with a lower percentage of administrative staff than all but two other Michigan public universities and that's about ¼ of what it takes to run U of M.  Clearly, as we have more undergraduates in high impact research experiences, we can't do without lab safety personnel.  Similarly, to seek external funds, to tell our story accountably to the public, to plan sustainably, to keep the technological house in order, to be compliant with complex state and federal regulations, to serve the needs of increasingly diverse students, to grow more inclusive, and to allow faculty's focus to remain on teaching, administrative staff have a significant role to play.  So while this April may be the cruelest month we've seen in a while, I invite you to buck the trend by sharing with me (and at least one of our Trustees) one of our most collegial events of the year, the 2011 Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration (April 6; Grand River Room, KC; 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.).  Thirty faculty members will display the fruits of their sabbaticals (that time honored practice in academe that reaffirms and fuels our mission to teach and learn).We certainly have some wonderful things to learn from one another that day, and we'll take a little time to present some deserved awards for service and for me to address you on the year we've had and what I think it means.  The menu and other details are posted on the website.  We've found some ways to trim our paper use to make this our most sustainable Sabbatical Showcase so far.  And while deans' words are a renewable resource, I think I've even managed to shorten my speech. Commencement will soon be upon us (April 30 in GR and May 5 in Traverse City), but before that we have many annual events which put our achievements into sharp focus. CLAS governance election results will be forthcoming.   The summer film ("Horizontal Accidents") premiers on April 6. Student Scholars Day falls on April 13 this year. Banner opens for grading (Mon. April 25- Tues.- May 3 at noon). The Grants Roadshow will be held on April 27. Many honor society ceremonies and departmental events fall in this month.  I hope to see many of you on these important touchstone opportunities.  Before we let March slip into the past, I'd like to say "hats off" to Cindy Laug and Pam Kellogg for their work on the EqualiTea, to Laurel Westbrook for  producing the Queer Theory Seminar which CLAS sponsored with Allies & Advocates, to our Faculty Niemeyer winner Diane Rayor  and our student Niemeyer winner Annie Hakim (IR/Spanish), to everyone celebrated at Grants on the Grand, to the 14 Teaching with Technology presenters from CLAS, to the student PR firm getting national affiliation, to the CLAS students who were inducted into ODK,  to the three GPY majors presenting at the Michigan Academy conference and the inductees into the International Geographic Honor Society, to a great year in the CLAS Research Colloquium, to all the faculty who stepped up to run for elected office, to Michigan History Day, to Shel Kopperl who gave a distinguished "Last Lecture", and to our alumni career panel (watch for the DVD and web version of this event).  Hard to believe that was a month with a Spring Break in it! If an academic year has a bell lap, this is it.  So here's what I wish for you before we hit the finish line: many students who make the breakthrough in time, end of term projects that remind you why you do this work, and some opportunities to appreciate those with whom we get to collaborate.  Let's make this a great last month!  

What Deans Are Doing in April

Dean Antczak describes the work he'll be doing this month, "In April, we'll greet our external consultants for Russian Studies, and celebrate the head honcho on our summer film, Tom Seidman.  The Sabbatical Showcase will again be a scene for taking pride in our colleagues' work, hearing collegiate governance reports, and getting my chance to offer a few reflections about this eventful year and our (bright) prospects going forward.  I'll be signing the Spring/Summer contracts, welcoming the Classical Association of the Mid-West and South at their first visit to Grand Rapids, and attending two Deans' Council meetings and a University Leadership Team meeting.  I certainly look forward to Student Scholarship Day, and Ken Burns's lecture.  I'll take part in a webinar on evaluation, a meeting of the Hauenstein Center Leadership Cabinet, and present the Behavioral Science proposal to the Board of Trustees when they gather at the end of the month." "Last year there were 19 events on my calendar relevant to graduation; three of my favorites among the 20 so far booked are the Student Awards Banquet, the annual AP Awards Lunch, and of course Graduation, here on April 30 and in Traverse City on May 5." AD Mary Schutten will continue to coordinate the alignment process of units' existing strategic plan objectives with the CLAS strategic plan  and collaborate with university personnel and processes to support the units. Gathering data on high impact practices such as service learning, internships, capstones etc. will be a major undertaking for April. She will also continue to implement and assess degree cognate substitution requests; facilitate the incomplete grade and dusty course review process, support the timely reporting of final grades; support the CLAS Curriculum Committee; continue to develop processes that will support transfer student's progress at GVSU through participation in the Transfer Research Committee; and serve as an academic advisor in the exercise science program. AD Gary Stark  will be finalizing visiting positions for next year, assisting the Faculty Council with the Winter election, monitoring enrollment in summer courses, assisting with the visit of the external consultants for the Russian Studies program, and preparing data for new position requests. In April Jann Joseph will focus efforts on the spring meeting, Sabbatical Showcase, preparation for summer remodels, and serving effectively on the university's  high impact practices implementation committee.      


Demystifying Key Governance Processes

CLAS governance committees participate in some of the highest stakes activities of the college, such as prioritizing of hiring lines and personnel evaluation.  It is understandable that faculty are curious about how these processes work and that from time to time some misunderstandings approach the standing of college lore.  In the spirit of transparency and in the interest of helping faculty to navigate the systems we have, we've asked two of our governance committee chairs to speak to two of the most frequently asked questions involving their work.  We asked Grace Coolidge, chair of the CLAS Faculty Council, to describe how Faculty Council prepares a prioritized list from the submitted applications for a hiring line received by the College Office.  We asked George McBane, chair of the CLAS Personnel Committee to describe how that committee considers teaching evaluations in the personnel recommendations it makes. Faculty Council and the Prioritizing of Hires Grace Coolidge describes the process, "When the CLAS Faculty Council considers and ranks the hiring requests put in by the CLAS departments every spring, we focus on the rationale provided by each department.  Rationales are the strongest if they can prove a clearly demonstrated need. Since not all departments are represented on the Faculty Council, it is very helpful if the department writes a rationale that is clear for faculty members outside their own field.  Our strength in this process is that we provide a faculty perspective that is focused on CLAS-wide concerns." "We tend to find the department rationale most useful when it includes concrete numbers and objective information about enrollment, the students served, classes covered, faculty to student ratios, and faculty-taught student credit hours.  Information on how the hiring requests fit into a department's strategic plan is also very helpful.  The Faculty Council looks for other issues that can have an immediate impact on department planning such as changing requirements of other colleges (i.e. the College of Education, Health Professions) and accreditation issues.  We also look at departments' commitments to other programs such as Honors or the General Education Program, and we take into account issues such as the needs of a new or growing program which is depending on resources that have been promised to them.  The Faculty Council favors tenure-track lines over adjuncts whenever possible.  While we do take retirements into account, it is often difficult for us to distinguish when a line is actually lost (especially when dealing with phased retirements) unless the unit provides a clear explanation of the process and its impact on their classes." Dean Antczak solicits prioritized lists from the Associate Deans in addition to the Faculty Council and applies his judgment to these recommendations in light of strategic plans and an overarching concern for fulfilling our mission responsibly.  His recommendations are then proposed to the Provost.   

The CLAS Personnel Committee View of Student Evaluations George McBane understands that all faculty coming up for a personnel action are interested in knowing how their teaching evaluations will be handled.  Student evaluations are present in all personnel dossiers at GVSU.  All instructors, even the very best, get some complaints on these evaluations, and faculty naturally worry about how they will be interpreted during personnel reviews." He goes on to say, The College Personnel Committee reads student evaluations carefully, looking for consistent patterns of student comments.  When these consistent patterns appear, the committee members try to use the evaluations and the other information available in the dossier to place the evaluations in an appropriate pedagogical context. The committee pays attention to positive evaluations as well as negative ones; if students consistently comment that the instructor has "contagious enthusiasm," the CPC reviewers will notice."  One of the purposes of the student evaluation system is to give faculty opportunities to reflect on their teaching and improve it.  When a consistent pattern of complaints appears, the CPC looks to see whether the applicant has recognized the pattern, offered an interpretation, and described a response if one seems appropriate. For example, an applicant might write "In my first two semesters teaching this course, many students complained that I was too harsh grading their papers and that they couldn't tell what I wanted, despite extensive classroom discussions of the source material and its interpretation.  In response, I have collected two examples each of A and C papers on a single topic, distributed them as a reading assignment, and spent half a class period in a discussion of what characteristics made the first pair better than the second.  Since I introduced that exercise, student complaints of unclear standards have diminished to about one per semester." Student complaints of "the course is too hard," "the exams are too difficult," "there's too much reading," "the standards are too high," etc., appear frequently.  In these cases the CPC looks for evidence in the file that the instructor is making a conscious effort to make sure the level of the course is appropriate, explaining to the students what the expectations are, and offering guidance about effective ways to meet those expectations. Consistent student complaints that the instructor is unprepared for class, disorganized, or disrespectful to students elicit close attention.  Sometimes these comments indicate a mismatch between the instructor's style and the behavior expected by the students; for instance, an instructor who heavily uses inquiry- or discovery-style instruction may appear unprepared to students who are accustomed to sitting and listening to lectures.  Other times they may indicate genuine problems.  Again, the CPC looks for interpretation and responses by the candidate in the integrative statement and supporting documents. It is not necessary for faculty to lower their standards or pander to students out of fear of negative student evaluations.  It is necessary for faculty to show that they take the evaluations seriously, reflect on what they have to say about the effectiveness of the instruction, and respond when changes are appropriate.  The CPC looks for evidence of that reflection and pedagogical evolution, not for an absence of complaints. The College office staff hopes that these explanations are helpful.  If there are other college processes that could use a little demystification, please feel free to contact Monica Johnstone.