CLAS Acts April 2008

Lost wax bronze projects in process

students in safety gear for the pour

hot bronze

Professors conferring about patina treatment

April 2008
Volume 1, Issue 8

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

Dean Antczak's Office Hours Contact for a 15 minute slot. Please be prepared to supply an agenda.

Great News:  Chemistry major Kyle Schneider, was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship! 321 scholarships were awarded from a field of 1,035 applicants. From the Goldwater website: "The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields." Have a Success Story or newsworthy item to share?  E-mail .  

Academic Advising Nugget: Looking for transfer equivalencies for one of your advisees? Need information on FERPA? Need some help calculating a student's grade point average? All this information (and lots more!) can be found on the Registrar's web page. Visit the site at:
   SHRED FEST II Shred Fest II will take place May 7 and 8. Thanks to our department volunteers who helped us out last fall and are all willing to assist again. Please check with your departmental staff for the nearest location to dispose of confidential materials. It's a great time to  dispose of  unneeded materials and get ready for the summer shuffles. Further details of exact locations will be sent to departmental staff by Mid-April.            

From the Dean's Desk
Frederick J. Antczak, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences   

Cooler heads talked me out of starting this month's column with April Fool's Day headlines such as "Huge Increase in State Funding".  I eventually agreed that at this point in the term we can all use real good news. Happily, we have some.  39 people have had their sabbatical leave approved; 36 new faculty have been hired (and some searches are still in progress).  Since the College office sees all of the applications involved in both, and all the people involved in searches, we have a good idea of the sort of work faculty have done that went into making this happen.  This is labor, like much that we do, that does not supply instant gratification, but is vital to our longer term development and maybe even happiness.  Thank you for doing a great job, and for your energy, your generosity, your commitment. Which is not a bad transition into the upcoming end-of-the-academic-year festivities, namely the Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration.  In the afternoon of Friday, April 18, we are expecting over 20 displays of the work engendered by the last set of sabbaticals, updates on the accomplishments of committees and the college, a musical performance and, well, let's just say a fun surprise or two.  As usual, the food will be excellent and company will be stimulating (and the wine will be uncorked after the ceremonies).  Take a few faculty, AP and COT colleagues by the arm and enjoy a celebration of our diversity, creativity and scholarly output. We still have a few miles to go before we rest, of course.  This month, Associate Dean Cimitile will be working on some remaining candidate interviews, curricular matters, facilitating the implementation of the strategic plan with the Futures Committee, representing us in meetings regarding new certification standards in elementary education, overseeing the academic advising center and teaching her course.  Associate Dean Joseph will be teaching HNR 242, continuing her oversight of MAK moves and PAD remodels, tackling Teacher Preparation projects for revised minor and comprehensive major, providing oversight for the Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration, following up with our second year faculty, and supporting four grant writing groups including a full day at the end of the month.  Associate Dean Stark will be facilitating the college governance election and the work of the CPC, analyzing requests for visiting faculty positions, collecting requests for new faculty positions; monitoring enrollments for 2008-09, and working with units to finalize performance expectations.  My year-end duties include tenure and promotion, salary allocations, and looking forward to faculty line requests. This week you have a happy task, voting on your governance committee representatives.  All of the candidates have my gratitude for stepping up for this important work; I think we've had a very productive year of collaboration, and I look forward to much more.  See the CLAS Elections tab on our website to read the candidates' statements and access your ballot. And to finish off with some great news about our students, we really did win the national championship!  Our trumpeter ensemble under the direction of Associate Professor of Music Richard Stoelzel have done it again.  Against the best in the nation they have won first prize by unanimous vote at this year's National Trumpet Competition Trumpet Ensemble Division.  Congratulations, gentlemen. And congratulations on the year we're now drawing to a close. It was a year of great successes for our students, and increased visibility brought by the remarkable accomplishments of our faculty.  If they won't let me start with an April Fool's story, I'll end with a happy pun: with all this year's achievements, it was clear that CLAS was full of CLAS Acts!
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Featured Faculty  

Lost Wax, Forged Magic

Put very plainly, over the last year, in a project titled Lost Wax/Found History run by professors Melissa Morison and Norwood Viviano, students of Classics and Art & Design volunteered to make, by recipes ancient and modern, bronze statues in the classical style.  In the process, something special happened. Melissa Morison of Classics explains that, "genuinely interdisciplinary work like this always becomes more than just the 'sum of its parts'.  The creative synergy and new 'ways of knowing' that result when people with vastly different skills and training work together toward a common research goal are amazing." Perhaps it was the voluntary nature of the project that screened for students of special commitment and passion for the subject.  Perhaps it was the fact that faculty in different disciplines had entered into it so fully. Perhaps the support of the Provost for such an unusual undertaking helped to spur them on. Norwood Viviano of Art & Design thinks it may be a combination of factors, "Provost Gayle Davis's support for the project encouraged a liberal arts dialogue between faculty and students in the Department of Art and Design and Department of Classics.  A collaborative project like Lost Wax/Found History allows students to become leaders taking on teaching roles and sharing information between the individual areas." The convergence is also a key element in Morison's estimation of what took place: "It's meant a lot to me, personally, to watch an ancient process 'come alive' and to see our students inspired by that process. I know that this direct involvement with the challenges faced by ancient artists has helped our Classics students to better understand the daily lives and world view of the ancient Greeks. When we do experimental work like this, we're doing more than just studying artistic style -- we're examining the ways in which technological processes reflect cultural values and perceptions of the world." "We're very lucky to have had the opportunity to work on this project. One of the things that most attracted me to Grand Valley was the wide range of opportunities that faculty have to initiate projects like this.  More specifically, it is very rare for undergraduates anywhere in the country to have the opportunity to do experimental work like this, and we're lucky to have access to such great facilities." Over many weeks the students researched sources of inspiration, designed their projects, sculpted them in plasticine, took preliminary molds, cast positive images in wax, and formed ceramic molds able to withstand 1000 degrees of preheating as well as the heat of the liquid bronze.  On casting day they donned their leather coats, chaps, foot protection, heavy gloves, eye protection, and helmets with face shields and took in with rapt attention Viviano's instructions for how each team should lift, skim, transport and pour.  A modern day Hephaestus and worthy apprentices who had studied hard to somehow bridge the millennia.   A week later after sandblasting and fine cleaning, the forms are revealed, refined and turned a startling color like a paler version of blush champagne.  More heat and chemical processes transform them into the characteristic blacks and blue-greens of time compressed.  The initial sketch or photocopy from a book used for inspiration is now weighty and speaking of the ages. Though it is not hard to see that the faculty and students involved were the sine qua non of this enterprise, both Viviano and Morison are quick to note the support they received from the larger GVSU community including not only the Provost, but Dean's office support through photography, Charlie Cline and students in his Film Documentary course, Meijer Gardens and both departments. Magic has always been about the transmutation of materials and forms.  By connotation, magic seems to demand some accompanying wonder as well.  It was my privilege this academic year, by both of these yardsticks, to experience magic alongside those directly involved.  My part in it was only to document processes in pictures and eventually in words, usually a vicarious experience mediated through a lens or at a remove of time and place.  But somewhere along the line, the heat, the sound and the primordial glow of molten metal carry away professional detachment and I've caught the bronze addiction, grateful to all involved for an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Monica Johnstone
Director of CLAS Communications & Advancement