CLAS Acts April 2014

 April 2014
Vol. 7, issue 9

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.      


Frederick J. Antczak, Dean

"The possible's slow fuse is lit by the Imagination."

Emily Dickinson

We were all waiting for the thaw, weren't we? But for whatever reason, March is looking implacably leonine throughout.  But we have a ferocious number of events to feast on-- starting with April 1 (no fooling), the College hosts its annual Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration in the Kirkhof Center, Grand River Room (2250 KC) with the Showcase from 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., the Spring Celebration (Awards, Dean's address, lunch): 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m., and more of the Showcase from 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.  We are also marking the close of our official observance of our 10th anniversary year so come and share your favorite memories.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the 35 (!) presenters in the showcase have accomplished and rewarding some good deeds with the CLAS service awards. We're also marking Gary's transition from the Associate Dean position with a reception on April 16 4:30-6pm (you've had an invitation by e-mail).  Please join me in celebrating Gary's wide-ranging contributions to our faculty and our college over all of its ten years.  Please do see the CLAS Happenings poster for a fuller listing, but here are some of the events going on in our college in April:          
Vietnam Veterans Share Their Stories--Vietnamization and Withdrawal   April 9 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Comics in the Classroom--graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang   April 11 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Peirce and Royce 100 Years Later   April 11 3:00 - 4:30 p.m.
Ott Lectureship in Chemistry: Dr. Richmond Sarpong, Berkeley   April 15 6:00  - 7:00 p.m.
Chemistry Seminar with Dr. Richmond Sarpong   April 16 1:00  - 2:00 p.m.
English Capstone Conference   April 18 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
That last item you can read about in the feature article of this newsletter.  What we do with our capstone courses really matters as our graduates make the transition from their college life to their next chapters. This is also the month of commencement (April 26) which is an occasion to celebrate our students and not incidentally the excellence of our two college marshals English's Amy Masko and Ed Aboufadel of Mathematics.  If you are still catching up to governance election results, they can be found here.  Two positions are vacant, so if you would like to have your voice heard in CLAS and university decision-making, please consider contacting the Faculty Council about these opportunities. One final call for service pictures (high res only, please!) and suggested service features for our upcoming CLAS annual report.  We will draw from Digital Measures, but you can also highlight particular projects to Monica. Part of the work of the year was hiring-thank goodness.  In the most recent report on our hiring for tenure track faculty we have 16 confirmed, 2 offers pending, and 3 still in the interview process.  For affiliates we have 1 confirmed, 1 offer pending, and 6 in progress.  That is the fruition of work by many people not to mention a life-changing opportunity for those we hire. Speaking of life changing, I'll end this month's column with the story we have received from an alumna which reminds me that we help our students every day to become versatile and resilient people for whom more is possible and for whom the entire world is open.  Our graduate Cheryl Elliot is certainly one of those. I graduated from GVSU in December of 1989 with a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry and began working as an environmental chemist assisting in the remediation of several hazardous waste sites throughout the U.S. Eventually I was doing this type of work as a contractor to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. EPA work brought me to several of the high profile Superfund Sites from New York to Hawaii, including the anthrax remediation at the nation's capital in 2001. Finally at age 44 I decided I needed a change in my life and joined the United States Peace Corps. I was awarded a volunteer position teaching science subjects in the remote African village of Keryo on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. For three years I taught Chemistry and Physics at a village secondary school where I lived without electricity. My fourth year of Peace Corps service was in a less remote area where electricity was available part of the time. Following my four years of teaching as a Peace Corps volunteer, I was offered the position as the Head of School at an international school in the town of Arusha, Tanzania. Now I run the school overseeing student activities, discipline issues, academic issues, and teacher related issues. I also keep my fingers in teaching by teaching one class each of Chemistry and Physics.  I have taken in an orphan girl whom I call my daughter and have found a new life in this simple African culture. Special thanks to the estimable Lisa Kasmer for putting us in touch with Cheryl.  As things get hectic toward the end of the term, remember that you are mentoring someone like Cheryl right now-it's just that neither of you know it yet.  

Reminder: Sabbatical Showcase  April 1 The Unit Spring College meeting, lunch, and some great displays of sabbatical outcomes. Come show your support for the importance of sabbaticals.       

How Have You Been Innovating in Our New Library? I'd love to hear about it if you've been making inventive use of our new library for your teaching or student co-curricular activities.  If I receive critical mass of these initiatives, you'll read about them in a summer issue of CLAS Acts.  Thanks! ~Monica (    

Reminder: Great Service Pictures Wanted As announced in the Unit Head and Faculty Weekly Mailing, we'd love to have some great photos of your service endeavors.  

ECS/UAS News by Douglas Montagna and Felix Ngassa At the UAS meeting on February 28th, several motions of importance to CLAS were passed and/or supported. The UAS supported the overload compensation policy; a new affiliate faculty policy; the new maternity leave policy; and the Graduate Withdrawal policy. On March 26th, the ECS and several other campus organizations held a teach-in entitled "Power, Privilege, and Difficult Conversations" in response to the 2011 Campus Climate Study and several subsequent incidents of hate and bias. The teach-in provided a forum for a dialogue on how best to deal with and prevent "hostile acts based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and class." The workshops and presentations scheduled at fifty minute interval began at 8am and went to 10 pm.                

Wrapping Your Head Around MOOCs Writing's own Charlie Lowe has just participated in a project that resulted in a book ( Invasion of the MOOCS: The Promises and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses) available as a PDF under a Creative Commons license. As Charlie explains, "Last year at the Conference for College Composition and Communication, Steve Krause of Eastern Michigan (my co-editor) and I were talking about how there needed to be some critical reflection published ASAP in response to all the hype about MOOCs in Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle, as well as the regular media. So we invited faculty members
--many from writing studies--to write and contribute essays."             


Empowerment of the English Capstone Conference

Assistant Professor Ashley Shannon shares a passion for the success of graduating students that is characteristic of those who teach the capstone course.  In English, attention to this critical juncture has the added charge of helping students navigate the public perception that humanities degrees may not be 'job oriented'.  The capstone course is asked to not only prepare students but also to make them conscious of that preparation. In English, students can take the capstone course in either Fall or Winter terms in any of the 4 or 5 sections offered.  Ashley, the department capstone coordinator, notes that students in the education, linguistic, and literature studies emphases may take any one of these sections.  No matter which professor runs a given section, students are encouraged to work with a mentor in their concentration in addition to their teacher. "You have to be able to communicate fluently to do the full job of a scholar," Ashley points out so the capstone courses culminate in a conference at the end of Fall and Winter terms so that students meet the challenge of presenting their culminating projects.  Arranged into panels in top areas such as English as a Second Language and 19th C literature, the students present their work for 10 minutes, take 10 minutes of questions, and receive a written evaluation by a designated faculty evaluator which is digested by that student's section teacher.  The students are evaluated on their presentation skills, mastery of their material, and the coherence of their argument.  "In general, the outcomes for students have been fantastic," Ashley explains.  "Even the initially terrified are beaming with pride afterward.  They feel the mastery, the confidence.  So many of them have this experience and express this."  In fact, Ashley considers helping her students to blossom under the pressure of the conference to be among her most rewarding teaching experiences. The benefit is to more than just the individual professor and her students though.  The department gleans an accurate record of student interests from the abstracts document produced each term. "We see where we could be stronger and that helps us to build a better scaffolding for research skills.  We saw that we wanted to have some new 400 level courses to allow for more research experiences.  And we realized we could include the teaching of research actively in our lower level courses.  The capstone has become the department's assessment course for ESAR (State) and campus assessment activities because in it the faculty can most clearly see how they have done by the students.  In fact, the capstone course is the product of their earlier assessment cycle and was revamped while some other parts of the curricular sequence were rearranged.  Indications are good that their students are making the most of the capstone experience.  Student Graham Liddell gave an outstanding presentation, for instance, on the rhetoric of hip hop in the Arab Spring.  In conjunction with his MLL professor he did work that was of vital interest to him.  In fact, the student went on to become a reporter with a Palestinian beat.  The inspiration of the conference is being harnessed by the faculty who often require their non-seniors to attend.  Seeing their aspirant peers performing so well helps to make this leap more manageable for them, makes research seem more accessible.  The English faculty would love to have a wide array of GVSU faculty attend and encourage their colleagues to make a note of the April 18 Capstone Conference in the Kirkhof Center in four rooms from 9-11am and 1-4pm. Teachers from local high schools use the Capstone Conference as part of their professional development activities. "You can take an English degree and with these skills turn it into meaningful work, a great career," Ashley sums up.  It is not hard to imagine that these polished writers, analytical minds, and now experienced presenters will do just that.