CLAS Acts December 2010

December 2010
Volume 4, Issue 5 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      

Frederick J. Antczak, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
~ Sir Winston Churchill

Whether inspired by the holidays or motivated by the imperatives of shopping, the last few weeks of the year are a season of giving.  A fine example of the sharing of gifts took place last week at the first CLAS Teaching Roundtables (see feature article below).  A complement to our Sabbatical Showcase, this gathering of CLAS faculty and APs was a successful testament to our fundamental commitment to teaching, and a great example of how we can inspire one another.  Almost 100 people attended, among which we were proud to have as our guests colleagues from the Van Andel Institute, IT, FTLC, and web managers from Institutional Marketing.  My thanks to Jann Joseph and Keesha Hardiman for their work to make it all happen.  My special thanks to all of our 12 worthy presenters.   Later this week we have in store for you a carillon concert, dueling trombone and tuba ensembles, a compelling menu, and best of all a chance to catch up and celebrate the penultimate week of the semester and the start of the festive season.   Everyone in CLAS is invited to the CLAS Holiday Open House on Friday, December  3, so please encourage your newest faculty and the support staff to make the walk across campus with you to the Pere Marquette Room (2204 KC) , 11:30 a.m. - 1:15 p.m.  How often do we overhear our colleagues saying, "I haven't seen you in ages!" or stunned to learn that the person just met has also been at GVSU for several years.  Part of preserving our small college feeling is making a point to be amongst one another when the opportunity arises.  I look forward to seeing you there. Before we know it, our thoughts will turn to grading.  I can't stress emphatically enough the importance of getting grades in on time (closes promptly at noon on December 21st ): in many cases, scholarships and students standing are at stake,  The Unit Heads and support staff have a very difficult time tracking down any stragglers at this time of year.  Also, please make sure that all appropriate steps are taken if you must assign an "Incomplete".   The CLAS office will close for the holidays at 5:00pm on Thursday, December 23 and reopens on Monday, January 3.   As we look back on 2010, a year of considerable uncertainty and challenge, most notable may be the way we, together, tightened our belts, and still celebrated our 50th anniversary as a university with style.  Plays were written and staged, music performed, art exhibited, ground broken, history revisited, and progress assessed. And it was a good year more generally.  In growing numbers, our students worked alongside us in research projects.   A record number of grant proposals were written.  We celebrated teaching, research, creative production, and service of every kind.  Several departments welcomed new faculty.  Art & Design launched its beautiful new website.  Faculty were named as journal editors, fellows of their professional societies, exemplary filmmakers, master educators, and national board members.  Kim Roberts and her exuberant team took us viral on YouTube with LipDub.  Our students won praise for their singing, playing and dancing, were named Congressional Fellows and DAAD Ambassadors, presented at conferences, and attended events in our nation's Capital.  And in addition to the new, we kept so many programs rolling along-from Science Olympiad to Act on Racism to the CLAS Research Colloquium to GIS Day to History Day, and the list goes on.  An abundance of riches and the best excuse to raise a glass of good cheer that I can think of.  You should take deep satisfaction from what we did with and for our students this year.   I wish you peace and joy with your friends and family in the coming weeks; and in the coming year, happiness, health, good colleagues, challenges worthy of you, and interesting times.  

What Deans Do in December

Fred reports, "In December, the highlight of course will be the CLAS Holiday Party (with dueling trumpets and trombones on holiday favorites afterward).  Of course I'll attend the University party too, as well as the University's Honors Program assembly prior to Graduation.  Also in December, we'll be doing intercultural training as an office.  I'll be finishing my class, of course, and getting my grades in by noon on the 21st.  I'll be talking with three departments about their unit head reviews, going to the Fall Arts performance of the Messiah, meetings with the Hauenstein Leadership Cabinet, the PSM program and the Deans Council, as well as the group working on a Clinical Trials certificate joint with MSU, and the Sustainability committee.  By that point, I'll be ready to celebrate the holidays!"   AD Gary Stark will be reviewing Round 1 schedules for 2011/12, preparing for the Faculty Activity Report submissions, arranging interviewers for the Student Scholarship competition days, and monitoring Winter enrollments.   AD Mary Schutten will continue to coordinate the alignment process for the alignment of units' existing strategic plan objectives with the CLAS strategic plan   and collaborate with the Provost's Office to support the units in this process. She will also continue to implement and assess degree cognate substitution requests; support the CLAS Curriculum Committee; resubmit a manuscript on body mass, socioeconomic standing, fitness and academic achievement, continue with other scholarly activities in progress, and teach motor learning concepts in HNR 243.   AD Jann Joseph will be supporting the new faculty seminar, developing the administrative structure for the CSAT major, and reviewing WK Kellogg,/ Woodrow Wilson applications.    



Many Voices of the Teaching Showcase Roundtables

In an often quoted line of the Faculty Handbook, the centrality of teaching at GVSU is underscored: "Teaching in the liberal tradition, whether in general arts and sciences or the professional degree programs, has always been at the heart of Grand Valley's educational mission."  The College's mission is no different; CLAS is "a student-centered and diverse learning community".  The nurturing of that community was at the core of a new CLAS event last week. One of the joys of teaching where teaching is truly valued is the opportunity to share techniques and take some solace in the common challenges of the profession with other passionate teachers.  On Monday, November 22, for two hours over lunch, just over 80 CLAS faculty, APs and honored guests were treated to roundtable discussions led by some of our most award-winning teaching colleagues. Almost a year in the planning, the teaching "showcase" was thought of as a companion event to the Sabbatical Showcase which features the fruits of faculty sabbaticals-some research or creative achievement focused and some with a distinctly pedagogical emphasis.  While all research and creative achievement can inform teaching, it seemed fitting that CLAS have a special day to share pedagogical expertise in a group discussion format. Though other designs were also considered, Associate Dean Jann Joseph decided that a roundtable format would provide the optimal degree of interaction as well as allowing discussion over lunch. Charles Pazdernik, chair of Classics, was asked to be one of the day's presenters. "I'll confess,"  he said,  "that I initially had apprehensions about the roundtable format, especially in light of the tech-centric topic we were discussing. But it turned out to be a very congenial and collegial setting and one that I think can and should be perpetuated." Ed Aboufadel, chair of Mathematics also presented and agreed that the design worked.  "Because we were sitting at tables and presenting informally to the participants, the format led to good conversation between presenters and participants."   In fact, the quality of the discussions came up in many assessments of the event.  David Eick, a presenter from Modern Languages & Literatures, commented, "The colleagues who attended our session provided thoughtful feedback. We had a stimulating and cheering discussion." Gisella Licari, also from Modern Languages & Literatures termed the event "a remarkable and inspiring experience that connects faculty in sharing active learning strategies." The participants seemed equally convinced of the value of  the exercise, despite a rainstorm as they made their way from their offices to the Grand River Room in Kirkhof.  Shaily Menon of Biology said, "Nothing focuses the mind like contemplating on a paperclip after coming in wet from a freak downpour into a room full of one's colleagues engaged in lively discussion about how to improve pedagogy."  Shaily was part of the discussion at Peter Anderson's table entitled  "Contemplative Pedagogy at Grand Valley State University".  Nearby, a very different sort of presentation, by Karen Libman of the School of Communications, was tackling vexed questions such as, 'What happens when you stop thinking?' and 'What makes something boring?' and "Is teaching performing?" in a lively session exploring the usefulness of acting techniques in teaching. Some of the sessions took a more technological approach.  Chuck Pazdernik described his use of Blackboard to encourage student preparation of the readings before class.  Tim Penning talked about how he is making use of social media in the classroom.  David Eick and Janel Pettes Guikema described their iPod Project. Others addressed themselves to everything from writing in SWS courses to grading to student engagement and inquiry methods.  Every topic  resonated with faculty from a variety of departments leading to a good mix of faculty at each table.  At the 45 minute mark, the participants stretched their legs and made their way to a buffet featuring seasonal foods such as turkey sandwiches, sweet potato salad and two kinds of autumn soup with pumpkin slices for dessert.  Table conversations resumed over lunch, many developing beyond the presentation to other productive areas of related pedagogy. Associate Dean Gary Stark noted , "We had a stimulating discussion about different approaches to teaching, one of the best discussions I can recall. This event is a great addition to our college."  His colleague Mary Schutten  agreed, "This was a wonderful opportunity to discuss ideas related to teaching with peers. The social interaction within small groups was key to the success of this event. I learned several new ideas that I can use in my own teaching." Grace Coolidge of History put the event into context: "I really enjoyed just having a chance to talk about teaching in the middle of the craziest part of the semester.  It was fun to talk to people from different disciplines, and it was a great format -- I loved being able to talk over lunch in small, focused groups.  I came away feeling more relaxed than I have in weeks!  David Eick and Janel Pettes-Guikema provided an interesting overview of their project on iPods in the classroom, but then the discussion went a bunch of different directions as we discussed many different aspects of including technology in the classroom.  The soup was really good too."   Peter Anderson made the observation that "I have never met another teacher at GVSU from whom I haven't learned something good and useful  and this meeting was no exception."