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CLAS Acts April 2019


Monthly newsletter of the TT CLAS Faculty

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Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, 

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, 

And bathed every veyne in swich licóur 

Of which vertú engendred is the flour; 

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth 

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth 

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne 

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 

And smale foweles maken melodye, 

That slepen al the nyght with open ye, 

So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages, 

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages...

~ Chaucer


While the thaw may not compel me to walk to Canterbury, it definitely makes walking across campus a lot more pleasant.  I hope the longer days, more sunshine, and buzz of end-of-term events provides a tonic to you, too.

I’d like to congratulate our large group of presenters at the Sabbatical Showcase on their fascinating work. You are emblematic of the renewal that spring promises.  Congratulations, too, to our service award winners and the committees who have accomplished, as usual, a great deal this year. I enjoy every chance to celebrate publicly our superb faculty and staff.  My remarks at the Sabbatical Showcase are now available on the website.

We’ve just finished a round of four discussions on metacognition that will help faculty members to implement some of the compelling ideas that Saundra McGuire sparked in her presentations on March 12.  Faculty Council works hard to bring you programming that is of immediate relevance to you.

Congratulations to all of the CLAS award winners at the Faculty Awards Convocation.  Stephen Mattox for the Niemeyer, Deborah Herrington for Michigan Distinguished Professor, and Paul Cook for Undergraduate Mentoring.  Distinguished early-career recognition to Kyle Barnes, Katie Corker, and Beth Peterson. Janel Pettes Guikema for Outstanding University Service and Lorie Jager for Outstanding Advising and Student Services.  Teaching with Technology went to Julie White.  Pew Teaching Excellence Awards to Chris Haven, Ingrid Johnson, Ginny Peterson, and Mary Bower Russa.    One person’s many great years of teaching and service can’t be fully acknowledged by a single ceremony, so it helps when colleagues congratulate them, and it may mean more too.  

I want to thank all of the unit heads and faculty who are involved in following up with students who have not registered.  We hear many accounts of students who just needed a small impediment removed or process explained in order to successfully return—be the road grader of impediments!  Those of you who are involved in securing internships and other placements that may affect when students register, your timely work is also very much appreciated.

Kudos are due to the 35th anniversary Science Olympiad crew.  The ongoing commitment of our Regional Math and Science Center as well as our science faculty and staff is what makes this milestone possible.

Already revving up is the 25th anniversary summer film project.  Our filmmakers gain so much professional experience from this transformative program.  Like all films, post-production takes some time, so keep your eyes peeled for trailers and a debut in 2020.

But for now, let’s all dive into April and its many celebrations.  Wishing you all the sort of spring that has students clamoring to hold class outside.







Awards at Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration

CLAS Annual Faculty Service Award

Shannon Biros, Assoc. Professor of Chemistry

Amy Masko, Professor of English 


CLAS Lifetime Service Award

Robert Hendersen,  Professor of Psychology


CLAS Administrative and Professional Service Award

Joshua Stickney,  Biomedical Sciences

Rendering Narratives of Desire: An Unusual Collaboration

Caitlin Horrocks (WRT) met Renee Zettle-Sterling (VMA) at the 2013 CLAS Sabbatical Showcase, and they began chatting about Renee’s sabbatical project.  The kernel of an idea for a collaboration between the writer and the metalsmith was planted, but ultimately had to wait for Caitlin’s sabbatical and a baby before germinating in winter term 2019.

ART 346 “Intermediate Jewelry and Metalsmithing” teaches students, among other techniques, casting and mold-making.  Some of what the students cast are found objects.  The plasticity of form lends itself to translation into narrative.  Caitlin and Renee had their linkage.

“Narrative jewelry is a sub-genre of the jewelry field,” Renee explains.  “Books and essays are written about it.  It began in the US and took off.  I’d also been experimenting with having my students interpret and illustrate articles from National Geographic last winter semester in the same course—so it worked well. ”

These thoughts and experiences suggested to Renee and Caitlin that their collaboration could work.  They discussed core concepts such as “adornment” before settling on their theme: “desire”.  Caitlin prompted both her WRT 430 Advanced Fiction Writing and her WRT 460 Advanced Creative Non-Fiction class, about 36 students to write on desire.  The resulting pieces were curated down to 15 that were invited to participate in the project.  One later dropped out, so Renee herself stepped in.

Caitlin noted that there were some disappointed writing students, but that before long one was championing the collaboration of her friend in the course and helping to promote the show that would result from the collaboration.  

The jewelry and metalsmithing students picked these stories and essays out of a hat and used them as inspiration for works in metal.  Then the long process of designing, lost-wax casting, and finishing the pieces commenced. 

“Losing that week of classes [due to weather] was brutal,” Renee recalls.  “The process is labor intensive and many of the students have worked both in their studio time and weekends to be entirely ready.”

Those writers who could attend during the time of the metals class stopped in to meet their artists.  Those who had time conflicts were sorely missed.  All have done the proverbial deep dive into the writing as they strove to make art from them, so to meet the writer was like working with the subject of a portrait.  Renee notes that this accountability becomes a transferrable skill for taking on commission work.

Renee valued the perspectives that two non-traditional students who work at GVSU brought to the class:  Al Scott who works in Facilities Services and Libby Jawish of the Padnos International Center. 

Art Ed major Arianna Onesi is a junior who is interpreting a story about a young man who fancies himself a writer, buys the outfit that his mind’s eye tells him a writer would wear, but who ultimately procrastinates and lets mundane tasks get in the way of actually writing.  He manages to make the comparison several times that life is like a hot tub, but his motivation to write seems as insubstantial as the bubbles.  In fact, his own girlfriend manages to finish and publish a book while he fails to start.  He tries breaking up with her and moving to what he feels is the writerly city of Houston.  In the end, she tells him that she is pregnant which seems to shake loose some sense of responsibility beyond his usually selfish outlook. 

“I really don’t like this guy,” Arianna admits.  That did not stop her from interpreting the tale into wide-open bronze chain links fixed with small clear baubles that serve as a spray of bubbles.  She has also cast a small silver ball which will be affixed higher up the chain to symbolize the more substantial baby on the way.  She continued to add bubbles to the piece as she reflected on the story.

Renee is putting in the hours too. Excerpts of the story have been rendered in large vinyl letters by the students in the Digital Print Shop in Calder Art Center which Renee will be laboriously affixing to the gallery walls.  The writers picked some favorite passages which will appear in pink lettering. Meanwhile Renee selected some lines, produced in gold letters, with particular connection to the artwork. 360 linear feet in all, these excerpts will be on the walls of the Padnos Student Gallery in time for the exhibition to begin on April 1.  The metal pieces will be displayed on the walls, on shelves, and on disks protruding from the walls so the words will provide context for the artwork.  Hanging from ribbons, bound copies of the stories will be available so that the viewer may read more.  It will be a display writ large and made substantial.

The campus and wider community are encouraged to come to readings in the gallery by the authors Wednesday, April 3 at 1:30pm and Thursday, April 4 at 2:30pm.  The opening reception will be held Thursday April 4, 5-7pm.  This rare collaboration between three courses is not to be missed.