Newsletter for Tenure Track CLAS Faculty CLAS Acts April 2015 April 2015
Vol. 8, issue 8 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.
FROM THE DEAN'S DESK Frederick J. Antczak, Dean FROM THE DEAN'S DESK "A daffodil bulb will divide and redivide endlessly. That's why, like the peony, it is one of the few flowers you can find around abandoned farmhouses, still blooming and increasing in numbers fifty years after the farmer and his wife have moved to heaven, or the other place, Boca Raton." ~ Cassandra Danz, Mrs. Greenthumbs: How I Turned a Boring Yard into a Glorious Garden and How You Can, Too As winter begrudgingly gives way to spring, I find myself looking for the green shoots that promise renewal. I also like the sorts of things you can't help but overhear in the hallways as we head toward the end of the term, signs of the propagation of knowledge, such as the cluster of three students in MAK so fully engaged in a conversation about the implications of base 10 vs base 2--and whose cultural contributions those systems were--that they were audible at 20 paces (or 1 0100 paces, depending). You have a feeling that long before your move on to heaven or Boca Raton, the next generation will have a firm grip on the baton you've spent your career passing. The cycle of academic life. The theme of renewal is apt this month as we congratulate Shaily Menon on being an Ace in our pack, that is, becoming an ACE fellow. Though it will spirit her off from us for an academic year to learn at the side of an administrator elsewhere (where is still TBD), we will at least know that she's only getting better, and we will be holding the fort down here in such a way that some other people will have some interesting opportunities to stretch some new muscles. But perhaps more on that in my speech at the Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration today (April 1).
We are seeing a new incoming crop of students to our CLAS Student Advisory Committee to soften the blow of graduating some stellar seniors (including both Niemeyer award winners this year!) who have been with us for a few years and have contributed a great deal. I'm sure you feel similarly about your students as you bestow those honors customary to your discipline and prepare to watch them stream past in cap and gown at commencement on April 25. Many departments have built traditions that are now thriving, such as the recent reception that bestows the juried student art awards which was a packed affair in only its third annual iteration. Some, like Carl Brown of the Speech Lab, are already looking toward future semesters. Carl wanted faculty to have access to blurb that can be used in syllabi to let students know about the services of the lab: The mission of the Grand Valley State University Speech Lab is to empower communicators to shape their lives, professions, and society through confident and effective presentations. Speech consultants, who are fellow GVSU undergraduates, are trained to assist with all parts of the presentation making process including, but not limited to, brainstorming, organizing thoughts, and practicing delivery. The Speech Lab is located in 154 Lake Michigan Hall (Allendale) and services are free for all Grand Valley staff and students. For more information about the Lab, its hours, downtown locations, and to make an appointment, please visit the Lab website at: http://www.gvsu.edu/speechlab. Though the focus of the lab is on our students, I've been known to practice there myself (first one with a good Fred and Hillary caption, let me hear it!). Thank you for all the support you give to your students every day and at this time of year particularly. I know you are advising many, helping students to hone major projects, gearing up for moves, making arrangements for family members' whose Spring Breaks do not align with ours, trying to figure out where you put your sunglasses last October, and much more. Your efforts redivide in ways that are often subtle, but sometimes are actually measurable as our retention gets even better and our reputation thrives. You make this a good place. I often think about the many people I could not do my job without and hope that you get a chance sometime soon to let those people who help you to tend your patch know just how appreciated they are. So until I see you next, may all the bunnies in your garden be chocolate, and all your daffodils keep blooming. No Foolin'--April 1, 2015 CLAS Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration Russel H. Kirkhof Center, Grand River Room (2250 KC) Showcase: 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Spring Celebration (Awards, Dean's address, lunch): 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. Showcase: 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m
The CLAS Student Advisory Committee is a great opportunity for students to have a voice, learn, make great connections, and help our college to thrive. We can take additional nominations.
Science on Tap Title:
To vaccinate or Not to vaccinate Speaker:
Dr. Suganthi Sridhar Date: Thursday, April 9 Time: 8pm Location: SpeakEZ Lounge 600 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 Thank you to all who served in Faculty Governance this year. Those serving on CLAS Faculty Governance committees were: 2014-2015 CLAS Curriculum Committee: Corey Anton (COM) Sheila Blackman (CMB) Amy Campbell (PSY) Todd Carlson (CHM) Dawn Evans (ENG) John Gabrosek (MTH) Beth Gibbs (MUS) David Linn (BMS) Charles Lowe (WRT) Darren Parker (MTH) Regina Smith (MLL, Chair) Jennifer Winther (BIO) Yan Yu (SOC) 2014-2015 CLAS Personnel Committee Fall: Rick Rediske (AWRI) Tim Fisher (ART) Shelly Smith (MTH) Donovan Anderson (MLL, Chair) Victoria Veenstra (COM) Chris Lawrence (CHM) Melissa Morison (CLA) Steve Hecht (BMS) Richard Yidana (SOC) Jason Crouthamel (HST) Mark Williams (MUS) Colleen Lewis (MOV) Winter: Alexey Nikitin (BIO, Fall Sabbatical) replaces Melissa Morison (Sabbatical) 2014-2015
CLAS Faculty Council Rob Franciosi (ENG) Steve Tripp (HST) Jennifer Gross (PSY) Filiz Dogru (MTH) David Kurjiaka (BMS) Stephen Matchett (Chair, CHM) Anne Caillaud (MLL) Pei-Lan Tsou (CMB) George Lundskow (SOC) 2014-2015
CLAS Faculty Development Committee Margaret Dietrich (CMB) Jason Yancey (MLL) Sally Ross (MOV) Rachel Anderson (ENG) Ester Billings (MTH) Heather Van Wormer (Chair, ANT) Michael Henshaw (BIO) James McNair (AWRI) Ronald Loeffler (fall, PHI) Arthur Campbell (winter, MUS) Carrie Morris (fall, MUS) Caitlin Horrocks (on sabbatical, WRT)
Faculty Feature Opening Doors through Cognitive Psychology with Jennifer Gross Though you hear more about classrooms that are flipped, hybrid, interactive, engaged with the community, hands on, inquiry-based or otherwise not merely the "sage on stage", there are also a few faculty who will admit that they retain a deep admiration for the lecture-done-well. Psychology's Jennifer Gross is one of these. As a past winner of a Teaching with Technology Award and a cognitive psychologist with a research interest in how we learn, you can hardly get to the follow-up question fast enough-to her mind, what sort of lecture would that be? The metaphors and adjectives fly. She wants to give students "their money's worth," "capture them with enthusiasm", and "shape their mental muscle." It means she must be highly informed, high energy, and ready to adjust based on their reactions to material. The picture that emerges is not in the least about passive vessels being filled by their professor nor does it assume that students have to accept what is explained. In fact, she counts on the tension between their operating assumptions and what she knows the evidence will show them. Even as she is describing the empirical processes that have led psychologists to their conclusions, she knows students will perform virtual laboratories in which they will experience these conclusions first hand. So what are these virtual labs? They are, she explains, like psychology itself, the scientific approach without the scientific trappings such as lab coats and benches. Students may think that psychology will be about what we learn about human behavior though introspection, but she shows them through demonstrations she makes available online that their own responses, when gathered in the form of scientific evidence tend to bear out just what the psychology researchers have found. For instance, in an internet-based, publically available self-test, students are able to investigate whether people really can drive and talk on the phone at the same time. For many, their own behavior suggests that they think they can do this at least well enough to continue doing so. But after a series of tests that measure their performance at an attention task while distracted, they see their performance measurably deteriorate. They have the opportunity to feel the phenomenon. Their results can be aggregated by this system, so Jennifer is able to use this data set for examination in class together. Her intro class has 15 such labs, such as hand preference in relation to brain hemisphere. Her Psychology of Language course has 21 labs. In addition to their very low cost and frequently even a "public service announcement" added benefit, her favorite aspects of these parts of her students' experience in the course is that she does not have to rely on anecdotes-which would be anathema to the standards of evidence in psychology and would give her students the wrong impression. Instead, she sees her students making a critical evaluation of their beliefs, and they use these critical thinking skills on themselves. In her Social Psychology class this term, her students are examining bias. They come to see how we all tap into associations, create judgments between harmless objects and harmful objects alike. She is able to have students demonstrate to themselves what she tells them in lecture that researchers have found about the speed at which we make judgments. They see how quickly a cultural association with "hoodie" can influence behavior. They also see that the gross exaggerations and distortions of stereotypes are something we can work against. For this, Jennifer likes to look at campaign ads in lecture to illustrate some of the associations we make (and are actively asked to make) in our culture. Then students test their biases, and by exposing them quite consciously to their own view are able to question their beliefs and start to overcome these biases. "Students decide which cultural notions they do not endorse," she notes. Another area of inquiry that works well with her students is memory. While they care what it means to be an effective learner, students arrive with many questionable assumptions about what works, such as writing out answers. They can be shown that the act of copying may not be the optimal kind of studying. This also becomes an opportunity to problematize things they may have heard about learning styles for which she sees no compelling evidence. She steers them toward research that comes from cognitive psychology which shows that re-reading a textbook is not as efficient a way to learn as is a read/recite/review process that is portable to many kinds of content. Since durable memory is not just about spending more time, but rather about finding the semantic hook to general knowledge of the real world and the episodic link to what is personally relevant, Jennifer shows her students that they can plug into two of the mind's memory systems and provide themselves with effective retrieval cues. As their teacher, Jennifer also wants to check the precision of their knowledge and finds that quizzing is a very powerful tool even when the stakes are low. Correcting misunderstanding is important to learning what is right and that is not dependent on even collecting the scores or even giving scores. It is all about finding out if you know the material or not. In her course, the students learn that working memory in humans is largely verbally encoded, a kind of speech-based storage. There is a progression from visual to spatial to verbal. Longer term memory is more semantic, it looks for meaning and relation to life. The lab makes this tangible for students while teaching scientific process at the same time. At the root of Jennifer's teaching is a desire to remove impediments to seeing the truth. Her own work in industry designing interfaces and looking at the human factors in military applications informs the way she navigates the world. For instance, she points out to her students the poor design of the MAK doors closest to Einstein's Bagels. The first set of doors opens in one directions, but the next ones open in the opposite way-and this is in no way signaled by the type of push-bar on these doors. This leads to pushing on the hinge side of the door and back-ups into the hallway. Reality and our assumptions are in bad alignment which points to poor design and leads to suboptimal results. Perhaps when students enter her class they expect cases and anecdotes about abnormal psychology or other erroneous expectations formed in less substantial high school psychology courses. What they get will be akin to rehanging the doors in their own mental house, aligning themselves with the evidence, learning how to identify and reconstruct their biases, and thinking critically and studying effectively by their own design.