CLAS Acts January 2009

January 2009
Volume 2, 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, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences     

"You'd be so lean, that blast of January
Would blow you through and through.  Now, my fair'st friend, I would I had some flowers o' the spring that might Become your time of day."
-   William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, Act IV Scene 4.

This particular New Year, born of lean times and met with great expectations, is not like any I can readily recall.  I sense rhetorical differences in the new year's resolutions being made.  Opportunity is more tightly laced to challenges; for instance, companies look for "green" solutions that will also save them money.  Our own faculty governance committees' Out of the Box events have generated many ideas to address our research challenges in ways that spare faculty time and pare away some frustrations.  This winter we'll be hard at work implementing the most viable recommendations and sharpening our focus on the remaining impediments.  I'm very thankful for these ideas and the collegiality out of which they were generated.  Speaking of the new, CLAS Alumni now have their own Facebook page ( GVSU CLAS Alumni).  Assistant Professor Shannon Biros of Chemistry (who is an alumna on our Alumni Board) has built the page to help us communicate with our alumni in yet another way; thank you, Shannon!  About January 20, our alumni for whom we have e-mail addresses will receive our twice-yearly CLAS Alumni News e-newsletter.  Monica sends her thanks for all the great news tips received from our Unit Heads. During this time of renewal and greater effect for the effort we invest, I'll  be meeting with several units about self-studies and will continue to meet with candidates.  Gary Stark will also be interviewing candidates (for ANT, ART, HST, MLL, MOV), reviewing the schedule for 2009-10, and preparing for the Personnel Review process and the Salary Adjustment process.  Jann Joseph will be attending a National Science Teachers Association workshop to prepare for SPA reviews for our science programs, continuing collaborations with COE on the new elementary teaching minor, working on a NSF grant with collaborators in COE to increase admission and retention of STEM majors in the Graduate Teacher Certification Program, representing CLAS and GVSU on a NSF grant to develop an alliance with Michigan State to improve the admission and retention of students with disabilities in STEM disciplines, mentoring one student research project, and doing her share with several candidate interviews.  And Karen Gipson and Paul Stephenson will be getting the lay of the land in their shared duties as interim assistant deans while our new AD, Mary Schutten, is on sabbatical. 2009 has been proclaimed the Year of Science.  We'll have plenty to contribute.  We look forward to the 25th anniversary Science Olympiad, Ellen Yezierski and Deborah Herrington are reporting encouraging results from the first cohort in their Target Inquiry project (see the article below) , and work will be well underway on the NSF funded projects of Figen Mekik and Brad Wallar-to name a few. In the October CLAS Acts we welcomed Amanda Cuevas, the new Senior Academic Advisor for Pre-Professional Programs in the CLAS Academic Advising Center.  Amanda has been working closely with Rob Freidhoff to get up to speed on advising in CLAS and to ensure a seamless transition when he leaves Grand Valley for new adventures on January 2nd.  Amanda will be primarily working with students interested in pursuing careers in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry, pharmacy, podiatry and chiropractic.  Amanda comes to us from the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign where she served as Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and the Medical Scholars Program. Meanwhile, our students continue to do us proud.   Nicole Blanchard is among 40 of the American Advertising Federation's Most Promising Minority Students.  Michelle LeMieux should probably be named student spokesperson on time-to-graduation-this Classics and Biomedical Sciences double major studied abroad and will be graduating in a total of 8 semesters, and those on the Dean's List.  Here in the Dean's Office we are proud of our student worker Michelle Potgeter whose poem was selected to be one of three submitted from GVSU to the Association of Writers Intro Journals program.  And sometimes we have reason to be proud of students an entire class at a time.  Students from John Kilbourne's Ballroom Dance each semester donate children's books that are given to a worthy organization in Grand Rapids.  The books this term were presented to the Guiding Light Mission on December 8. I wish you a wonderful New Year full of promise, promise fulfilled in at least some ways you don't expect.  A good year together, that gets us through the blasts of January to the flowers of Spring, and beyond.       Wonderful send off for Sandi Bacon Mark Staves, Dean Antczak, Sandi Bacon, and Donna Larson at the ice cream and popcorn retirement social sponsored by Chemistry and CLAS on December 2, 2008.  Sandi was our Director of Lab Support .

Faculty Feature  

First Target Inquiry Cohort Enriched and Excited

Two years ago, chemistry faculty members Ellen Yezierski and Deborah Herrington made a splash with important grants to fund their work, Target Inquiry.  The media surrounding the grants, from NSF ($1,307,990) and the Dreyfus Foundation ($116,750) garnered some deserved attention for GVSU, too. Now the positive results are beginning to flow in. Target Inquiry (TI) is a new model for high school chemistry professional development that has been translated into a graduate program at GVSU.  In TI, teachers learn how to use inquiry-based teaching methods by learning how to do inquiry as scientists, by developing conceptually rich teaching materials, and by evaluating teaching reforms as education researchers. After an introduction to chemistry research, teachers conducted a 7-week chemistry project directed by a member of the GVSU Chemistry Department with an accompanying seminar to begin to translate the processes of science learned in the lab to their classrooms.  They presented their research findings at the American Chemical Society National meeting in Chicago.  In the next course, teachers explored chemistry education research as a field, education research methods, and action research (classroom research designed to improve student outcomes).  They spent the second summer in TI designing and testing 18 conceptually rich inquiry-based labs.  Over the course of the next academic year, the TI teachers implemented their new labs and carried out their action research projects.  The third and final summer, TI teachers analyzed their data and wrote up the action research projects for theses and/or publication.  Three teachers presented their action research studies and six presented their new inquiry labs at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education at Indiana University.  Many teachers have submitted their manuscripts to peer reviewed journals.  These teachers grew into science scholars and completed the program as education scholars. Now that the first cohort of teachers has made its way through this professional development experience, it is clear from their comments that something rather special is happening.   Teacher after teacher expressed a new view of him or herself as a scientist and professed to have new tools for giving students a more active, inquiry-based experience in the classroom and lab.  Perhaps most telling are the anecdotes that mention that the teacher held a positive view of inquiry to begin with but had no ability --previous to the program-- to implement that sort of learning.  The cohort even noted the effect on their students: they "just felt more comfortable and interested in chemistry as a whole". Teacher Brian Brethauer noted that "what TI did for me is bridge the gap between what I think and believe and what I practice... And it not only started to bridge that gap, it's given me the tools that I can see one of these days, they may actually meet each other, and that's exciting to me."  A delighted Debra Johnson put it rather vividly, "...Oh yeah, I'm a scientist.  Oh yeah, I can manipulate these numbers, I can match these concepts, I can learn new things.  I'm not just a high school teacher teaching the same old, same old over and over again.  So, it reawakened that inquiry in me and, you know, to make that happen for my students, it ... strengthened that..., I feel like this program is like the Marine Corps of chemistry teaching."   The "drill sergeants" are Associate Professor Ellen Yezierski, a former high school teacher, graduated from Arizona State University with a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction (Science Education - Chemistry Emphasis) and Associate Professor Deborah Herrington who graduated from the University of Waterloo with an M.Sc. in chemistry and Purdue University with a Ph.D. in chemistry education.    Their complementary backgrounds and high enthusiasm have earned them notice here on campus as well.  Ellen is recipient of a 2008 Pew Teaching Excellence Award, and Deborah received a Pew Teaching with Technology Award and was the runner-up for the Michigan Science Teacher of the Year in recognition of her work on using technology to improve student engagement and learning in large lecture sections. A second cohort is already involved in the program. The next step is to excite the business community about this project and keep the flow of funding coming.