CLAS Acts, December 2017

Monthly newsletter of CLAS TT Faculty

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It has been a fascinating fall full of everything from Chemistry in the Mall to student broadcasters working in collaboration with WGVU to spectacular speakers in visual media, and debuts of music CDs.  Please join me on at the CLAS Holiday Open House December 5 from 11:30am - 1:00pm in the Pere Marquette Room so we can enjoy some food and music and well deserved mutual congratulation.  This event is also good morale fortification for end-of-term activities.

I have a particular holiday wish—that your end of term discussions with your students helps them to put your course into perspective of their education more generally.  Those integrative connections are the true stuff of liberal education.  I know you deliver high quality, but sometimes making that linkage for students helps them know how their Gen Ed contributes to who they are becoming and how they understand the context in which to see their major/s and minor/s.  Helping them to articulate those connections is a special teacherly gift.

This time of year there are a couple very important reminders to make.  First, should the weather become challenging around finals time, it is important for you to know how that is handled.  Second, it is important that everyone grading our students submit final grades in Banner by the deadline.  Make sure that all of your colleagues understand that this means Banner, not Blackboard, and that the deadline of December 19 before noon is firm.  Critical reports must be run almost immediately, and the status of financial aid, graduation status, good standing, etc. are in the balance.  Make sure your office coordinator knows how to contact you in the unlikely event that you leave one grade blank.  You may also want to review our Incomplete grade policy.

If this will be a first snow season for you, hit me up for driving tips at the Holiday party.  I learned on a frozen parking lot more than a few snowfalls ago, my mother teaching me how to do doughnuts left or right and still get back control of the car.  That actually came in handy decades later on an Iowa highway—but we’ll save the story and just leave the image of a perfect 180 and continuing on my way.

Wishing you all a great end of term, safe travels, perfect 180s and a restorative break.

Holding up the Sky with Dwayne Tunstall

By Monica Johnstone, PhD, CLAS Director of Communications and Advancement


On September 7, 2017, Dwayne Tunstall of Philosophy sat down to talk with me about his work on behalf of his professional associations.  Not only is he secretary (2015-2019) of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, since 2015 he has been a member of the American Philosophical Association and on its committee on the state of Black Philosophers.  He has also served since 2016 as the APS’s co-editor for the newsletter Philosophy and the Black Experience, and he is on the executive board for Philosophy Born of Struggle

And come to think of it, he’s on the editorial board for the online philosophy journal Marcel Studies (on Gabriel Marcel, French, 1889-1973) and for Acorn, Philosophical Studies in Pacifism and Nonviolence.

Professor Tunstall explains that this usually means reviewing six to eight articles and one to three books a year.  “I stepped into this work increasingly.  A decade ago I discussed with a mentor over lunch at a conference where I would be in ten years.  I had no idea.  My mentor asked ‘what about the organizations, how do they sustain themselves?’  I was afraid to answer then, but if you want these scholarly opportunities, people have to be willing to do the work.”

He began this work very close to his specialty—the Josiah Royce Society.  Over the course of five years, he went from an ‘at large’ representative on the board to vice president to President.  In 2011, he helped to organize a conference for 25 held at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

As president and with the executive board and members, he hosted a conference about Royce in Grass Valley, California, Royce’s birthplace.  It was at a Royce conference that Tunstall met Kelly Parker of the GVSU Philosophy Department.

Almost as an afterthought, he describes the work involved in reviewing submissions, and since that the public was welcome at the conference, he addressed a Rotary Club about Royce, and donated a book to the local library.  He also maintained the website, acquired the conference software to create the database, and fielded submission questions.  These support tasks freed the program committee to review about 80 submissions.

“I like this work, behind the scenes, even more than representing the organization—better to be secretary than president.”

So it is no surprise that Kelly Parker had a skillful and experienced collaborator in delivering the 2015 Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy conference at the Grand Rapids downtown Courtyard Marriott with 140 attendees.  The planning for this conference began a year and a half in advance and involved Experience GR.

“We even had an app for attendees,” Tunstall recalls.

Even as we talk he starts to appreciate the sheer volume of what he has worked on rather early in his career.

“I’d like to slow down a little,” he claims, noting that some of this work occurred even before tenure.  He also has some other service interests such as student retention and recruitment such as through the Oliver Wilson Freshman Academy Success Institute in late summer before move-in.

“These students are conditionally admitted based on their ACT scores.  I keep up with my team of students.”

He also did some work as an interim co-facilitator for the Recovery Camp as well as serving as a Faculty Mentor for two years. 

He notes that retention is not always about grades or academic competence.  “I see that time management, stress, the demands of college, family circumstances, finances and working all come into it, not just academics.”

He’s also involved in ED 180 “Academic Success Strategies” which is run as a May one credit class.  Students can resent being there so working through those emotions becomes part of the job. 

“The students see their grades become official on Banner and it hits home during this residential camp."

As the interview comes to a conclusion, Dwayne Tunstall thinks of a couple more things.  During the summer he taught Theories of Human Nature and he moved.  He’s working on a 2018 SAAP conference in Indianapolis and prepping a submission for anonymous review.

And I find his claim that he’s cutting down a little to be somewhat suspect.  By October 29, I received an email notifying me that Professor Tunstall is now the non-Pierce editor for the Transactions of the Charles Pierce Society.