CLAS Acts Feb.

February 2009
Volume 2, Issue 6
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, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences 

We are sick with the desire for the sun
And the grass on the mountain.

~  Paiute Late Winter Song

Perhaps it was the recent report of a 100-pound dog found frozen to the ground in the Upper Peninsula or the news that we just finished the snowiest January on record (but only the 8th coldest) that started me looking for the good news.  Optimists point out that two of the very coldest Januaries were followed by warm Februaries and early springs.  Hmm, two out of eight. For those who attend to the region and nation we serve, the economy may be adding to the darkness and the chill.  It's times like these that we should appreciate being at Grand Valley.  Our fate--I use the singular because our destinies are inextricably tied together, not just department to department or even college to college, but each of us to the others, each with the chance to be warmed and lit by the excellence of the next--depends on our efforts, more than any other state university.  Barring something unforeseen (and hey, when has that happened?) the College remain determined that departments will not feel the impact of state cuts this semester.  We still need to think about how to streamline what we do, but all those savings can be reinvested in our departments.  And I remain confident that we are, more than any of our sister institutions, able to determine our fate.  Continue to be excellent, innovative, deeply committed to your teaching; extend your scholarship to amazing new places; serve to the best of your ability the communities that need you.  We perhaps cannot "force the spring" as President Clinton put it in his first inaugural address.  But we can, together in the endlessly variegated and challenging work we love, make it until spring comes again.  Sooner, I bet, than the four-story snowbanks lead us to think I find myself drawing warmth and energy from what you do.   I'm reading John Kilbourne's account of President Obama's inauguration on our Web site Spotlight.  John, ever a source of renewable energy, recently forwarded to me a link to an interesting article on liberal education that appeared in the New York Times by David Brooks called "What Life Asks of Us". That takes the chill off.  Other sources of light in the winter darkness abound among us.  Join me in congratulating visiting history professor Jeremiah W. Cataldo his new book A Theocratic Yehud? Issues of Government in a Persian Province and School of Communications' Tony Thompson on his photography exhibit at the Carlson Gallery of the University of LaVerne.  History's Yosay Wangdi has recently published two pieces on Tibetan identity and immigrants.  Biology's Amy Russell is taking her knowledge of bats to Berlin.  And AWRI's Al Steinman is helping on the EPA's 2012 Report of the Environment. It's also easy to warm yourself on the future potential of the wonderful parade of candidates we've seen in the Dean's Office.  Jann Joseph, Gary Stark and I are doing our best to keep your candidate's day on schedule while getting to know these exciting potential colleagues.  In the moments between interviews, Jann is also working on second year faculty mentoring, the NIST grant preparation, and new faculty orientation.  Gary is working on the requests for visiting positions for 2009-10 and facilitating the salary adjustment process. It should be an easy month to keep our minds on higher things with the offerings of Black History Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, both of which CLAS helps to sponsor.  I'd also very much like to call your attention to an upcoming speaker.   All are invited to a university lecture with Vincent Tinto, a national leader in student engagement and retention in higher education.  Mark your calendar for February 20, 2009 at 1:30 pm in the Grand River Room, Kirkhof Center.  All of our unit heads have been provided with an article by Tinto that Paul Stephenson of Statistics graciously selected for us as the most relevant for our purposes of the several he surveyed. And finally, I'd like to thank all of you who have come out for the various kinds of consultation that have been going on over the last several months.  Your faculty governance committees paved the way for six very productive hours of discussion by faculty on how we can work together to improve your lives as scholarly and creative professionals.  In the last week, four more hours have been held with science faculty about the vision for a grant we are pursuing.  The Provost's town hall meetings continue; I encourage you to attend.  And through both the submissions of unit heads on the inclusion activities your departments engage in and also the first meeting of the enthusiastic Grass Roots Inclusion Taskforce (GRIT), we have an increasing stash of excellent ideas and practices that we will be able to share amongst ourselves and with the university as a whole.  I look forward to telling you in coming months of the actions we are taking to turn this creativity into improvements. Wow...I believe I can feel my toes again. CLAS Faculty Feature Optimizing Internship Opportunities It's a widely held idea that internships are valuable experiences for our students and improve their prospects for jobs and graduate school.  They can also seem like a hard mountain to climb from our students' perspectives.  They cite the opportunity cost of an unpaid internship or the difficulty of finding a placement in a particular field. Some new initiatives in the works will help remove the impediments and improve the opportunities for students in many fields. In fact, the impediments are being removed in a number of ways by the internship coordinators in individual units (such as Prof. Barbara Roos in the School of Communications), by the College's Alumni Board Internship Subcommittee (chaired by Prof. Cindy Hull), and by Career Services (Rachel Becklin and her colleagues).  Whether through improved communications, requesting directly that CLAS Alumni consider their employers as possible internship opportunities, or developing a website to highlight the experiences of previous interns, strides are being made.  And the parties interested in internships are now finding one another to pool their resources. One of the most exciting developments is being spearheaded by Political Science professor Kevin Den Dulk, who has been involved with internships in for students in his department.  Now his efforts are paying off for everyone.  With Kevin's help, GVSU has partnered with The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, an independent, nonprofit organization serving hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States and other countries by providing selected students challenging opportunities to work and learn in Washington, D.C. for academic credit. The largest program of its kind, the Center has 70 full-time staff and provides diverse, highly motivated interns to thousands of organizations in government, business and the non-profit sector. The attractiveness of such a resource to political science majors is obvious, but this program goes far beyond government placements and inside-the-beltway lobbyists.  This program involves nonprofit and corporate internships that would appeal to a very wide range of GVSU students. With scholarships available and terms that allow our students to keep their financial aid packages intact, these internships have added attractiveness for a wider range of students. Kevin is working on the website for the GVSU program which will have the URL when it goes live, he hopes, in time for a visit in mid February to our campus of Dr. Joseph Johnston, Senior Vice President of The Washington Center.  Details of the visit will be publicized on the CLAS Website and by mailings to our unit heads.  Until then, interested faculty are encouraged to look at the Center's website on