CLAS Acts December 2014


Newsletter for Tenure Track CLAS Faculty December 2014
Vol. 8, issue 5

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

Something about the late Thanksgiving seems to have brought us rather abruptly into December, and now the end of the term and all related festivities seems right at hand.  But before I let go of November, I wanted to remark on a few of the things we were thankful for. We are grateful for the talk by Chuck Pazdernik of Classics at the "Last Lecture" held on November 20.  Despite a wild weather night, students and colleagues packed the library's multipurpose room and many more listened as the talk was streamed live. Chuck has always been one to make his students and colleagues think, but in particularly rare form he had us examining themes of mortality and hope in the face of the unexpected in our lives as cast in classical narratives of Prometheus and Cassandra as well as the narratives we adopt for ourselves.  We are also grateful that our university is doing well by measures understandable to those outside the university (as we can see in the Accountability Report) and those measure which we know through our more intimate acquaintance with them, such as student collaborative projects (in film and jewelry); events such as the History reception for the authors of four recent books (and I understand a couple additional hot-off-the-press books just missed the cut off because you have to draw the line somewhere or was it that two parties are better than one?); wonderful theatre, dance, music, photography performances and exhibitions; milestones such as the Trustees' raising of two of our colleagues to the ranks of the emeriti (Patti Rowe and Bill Levitan), thriving CLAS traditions such as the Teaching Roundtables, and the declaration by a faculty member on social media that the very early snow day constituted the faculty version of a Fall Breather. In our office we decided, rather than to exchange gifts, we would contribute to the student textbook fund that supports the efforts by some of our most financially challenged students to set an excellent example of success.  Whatever your end-of-the-year practices are in your unit, I tip my hat to the organizers. December holds a few of the semester's mechanical necessities such as Getting one's grades in before noon on December 16 so that students do not needlessly lose scholarships or find their status in question, Checking that all grades were submitted successfully with all key information supplied, and  Noting the office closure schedule (College Offices close at 5pm Dec. 23 until January 2). The month also contains some excellent opportunities to reconnect: the university holiday celebration (with service awards) on December 4, Commencement on December 6 (I leave myself a reminder about taking my regalia home) On December 8, the very last of the Fall Arts Celebration-- "The Many Moods of Christmas: Celebrating the Traditional Music of the Holidays"   The CLAS Holiday Open House on December 9 (the menu is now on our website) May all your semester's culminating experiences be bright, your travels safe, your wishes for peace granted, and your grades in on time.  I'll probably get a chance to see you at the events this month, but in any case, you have my thanks for a great 2014 and my best wishes for the New Year.   New Advising Repository created by the Advising Task Force

CLAS Faculty Research Colloquia The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is sponsoring a series of six CLAS research colloquia again this year.   PAD 308 2:30 pm  refreshments followed by four or five 20-minute presentations (15 min plus 5 min for discussion). We especially encourage new faculty and faculty who have been on sabbatical recently to make presentations. Dates for CLAS Faculty Research Colloquia Thurs., January 22, 2015 Thurs., February 19, 2015 Thurs., March 19, 2015 Contact Mark Staves.  

Announcing the Digital Measures Fortnight  January 12-23, Gary Stark will be available and happy to help, individually, anyone who needs assistance with Digital Measures. "I'll come to their office, they can come to mine, or we'll consult over the phone. All they have to do is contact me," Gary explains.    

Teaching Anti-Violence through Theatre with Allison Metz

When you read the online bio about Allison Metz (assistant professor of theatre in the School of Communications) one of the phrases that leaps out as particularly telling is "she shares her passion for using theatre and drama as an educational tool".  From Russia to our own   Route 50 bus line, this passion is communicated in action. Alli's specialty is Theatre Education and Theatre Research.  At GVSU this often sees her teaching the Music, Art, and Theatre for Elementary Education Course, directing Bard to Go or -our subject today--what is known as CTH 400 Touring Theatre Production in its Winter term iteration.  Back in 2009, the GVSU Women's Center approached theatre faculty based on productive previous collaborations.  Alli was new to GVSU, but also the right person for the project that the Women's Center had in mind-an application to the State Department for a grant available as part of the Violence Against Women Act.  Alli's background in peer theatre education made her a natural to team with the Women's Center to pursue the 3 year grant of $265,000 of which a theatre project would be one component of the offerings through the Campus Violence Prevention Team. Their charge was to raise awareness of interpersonal violence, stalking and sexual assault.  The Women's Center encouraged Alli to dream big and her thoughts flew to a program run by a friend at The University of Texas called Voices Against Violence.  That program was run out of their school of social work, was a year long, and depended heavily on graduate students--but Alli could imagine ways to make the concept work in the GVSU undergraduate setting based on training that could be delivered in a single semester. That a class would be necessary became apparent-the grant stipulated that 80 hours of training must occur.  So in the pilot class during the winter term of 2011, 20 students (theatre and other majors) undertook the training and came up with the name the troupe still carries, ReACT!   The training covers both violence prevention and theatre technique.  When trained students join the actual ReACT! Performing group, they receive payment which aids accountability, enhances professionalism, and for some incentivizes the taking of the course in the first place. For some students, the attraction of the course is to add something a little different to the mix in their theatre major.  Others are actual survivors who want to make a difference in an area they experienced first-hand.  Adapted from what is known as the Theatre of the Oppressed championed by Brazilian Augusto Boal, this technique gives voice to the disempowered.  As with all kinds of awareness raising around the topic of sexual violence, victim blaming is assiduously avoided.  In Alli's interpretation, this presents something of a challenge in working with Boal's methods which are highly dependent on speaking up to take power back.  She works hard to make sure this does not slip into any suggestion that victims in some way allowed their own victimization in the first place.  She modified Boal's methods to avoid that possibility. In Alli's experience, such programs tends to see best practice as intensive multi-day training, but for undergrads that would be a non-starter.  She works within the 90 minutes of a class session and scales the objectives to that time-frame.  The focus is on raising students' critical consciousness so Alli works hard to avoid mere "teacher preleasing" behaviors by keeping the focus on students coming up with answers to their own questions. The scenarios they use are not drawn from students' direct experience in order to keep the environment safe, but they are realistic enough that students can relate to them.  Alli injects humor which she finds helps students to work in a way that is accepting of all audience answers as they work from where they are and avoids the idea of a "right" answer.  "People need to want to change," Alli notes. The course is structured as a team-taught by the Women's Center and the School of Communications hybrid of lab and discussion.  The students meet four hours per week and are initially made aware of aspects of domestic violence by hearing form speakers form groups such as Eyes Wide Open and Men in Action.  Then they use interactive theatre techniques drawn from what they have learned.  Later in the course, students create their own pieces on interpersonal violence or other social issues that are relevant to their interests ranging from societal images of women in media to PTSD.  Not all students intend to go on to work in the ReACT! performing group (due to graduation or other commitments in the following semester) so a range of topics are appropriate. "My challenge is to do as the grant requires to cover certain content, avoid just communicating correct answers in a presentation-like format, and raise questions (which is natural to theatre) while recognizing that this can be in some tension with what the grant specifies.  We are all about raising questions to get the audience to come up with their own answers," Alli explains. At the same time, ReACT communicates what our campus resources are so there is a degree of didactic sharing.  The thrust of a performance is to get the audience to really examine issues such as "what is non-consensual sex?"  Through the performance of live scenes by these student actors on our campus, ReACT! aims to help prevent incidents of dating and domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking by getting audience members to explore how they can engage in safe and effective methods of violence prevention.  "At GVSU we see increased reports of sexual assault which may not seem like a good thing, but it is.  Addressing under-reporting is important."  Alli notes that, "currently we are adjusting to demand for more action to be taken.  As faculty this is really about getting students to the right resources.  When someone discloses to an individual about an assault, lots of people tend to want to 'rescue' the survivor and give them a 'To Do' list that includes seeking medical attention, pressing criminal charges, etc.  Although that rescuer's intensions are good, the best and most empowering thing you can do for a survivor is simply listen to them, empathize, and support any action that the survivor wants to take." Similarly, Alli takes quite seriously her duty to her actors.  This sort of performance can present challenges for the actors, too.  The instructor balances artistic intensions, educational programming objectives, and the needs of the community of performers and the audience. Students never play roles that are uncomfortable for them.  They don't use their own personal stories as plotlines, opting instead for more general events made realistic.  Alli is very conscious that this is not drama therapy. Starting as early as the recruiting poster for the class, Alli makes clear the resources on our campus and beyond: Theresa Rowland of the Women's Center (1201 KC) -1-2748 or Campus Counseling Center (204 STU) 1-3266 The National Domestic Violence Hotline:  1-800-799-7233 The National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE