CLAS Acts Jan12

January 2012
Vol. 5, issue 6

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.

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Faculty E-newsletter
Student Appeals for Readmission to the University following Dismissal The CLAS Academic Advising Center has developed a detailed outline of the steps students need to follow to appeal their dismissal from the university. In addition, guidelines for faculty to use when meeting with these students have also been created to eliminate some of the confusion and to assist in making the process more consistent across the college. The student outline is available on our website . The faculty guidelines are available on the CLAS website.


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

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.
~Henry David Thoreau

Happy New Year!  We are already off to a good start by all early indications. I can't name names yet, but CLAS has done very well in the teaching awards and awards for scholarship.  Congratulations to recipients of Office of Graduate Studies annual awards (see below).  And we just heard that Kingshuk Majumdar (PHY) will be working with Doug Furton on a project using time awarded on a supercomputer in Texas.  Several of you have been talking to me about your Winter teaching plans with inspiring enthusiasm.   So I'm feeling pretty confident we are poised for a great Winter 2012 term once things get rolling on January 9 (our office is open on Jan. 3). At commencement in December, I shook about 470 hands. As we have come to expect, the immediate future of our graduates ranges from the Peace Corps to international internships to graduate school to jobs in NGOs to producing a future Laker any minute now.  There are some on the job hunt, too. It is a good reminder that we are preparing these varied and vibrant people for just about anything you can imagine.  That's a good kind of pressure on us. The budget being developed in Lansing will no doubt keep us focused on delivering quality education using all of our rational faculties to their fullest.  That is not an invitation to any kind of panic so much as a call to support one another in creative solutions as the challenges arise.  I appreciate that many have been looking for better ways of using our capacity without damage to the educational values we hold. Our office has been preparing you for the long-imagined day that we can have FARs produced in Digital Measures by the faculty of the college. We appreciate your flexibility about working in this way which allows us to accomplish the work of our college while lifting some of the burden from the unit heads and office staff.  If you need a refresher, Gary is running another training session on January 17, 3pm in Henry 111.  The task of documentation isn't inherently fun for most of us, but the reflection on a year of your work can certainly be rewarding.  It is a time to consider your progress and to make your goals explicit-an activity which came strongly recommended by our career coach Kim Monaghan at the recent Out of the Box sessions. I wish you all the very best for a New Year that exceeds your expectations and helps achieve the dreams of our students-making them better in the process of achieving the goals you set.  

The Office of Graduate Studies has announced its annual awards. CLAS students and faculty were among those honored: Academic Excellence in the Major
David VandeWaa, English Kenneth Leister, biology Outstanding Master's Thesis
Whitney Nelson, biology Jonathan Whitmer, English Outstanding Master's Final Project
Mandalyn Keeler, communications Excellence in Service to the Community
Rebecca Black, English Graduate and Professional Student Award for Outstanding Faculty Mentor
Cory Anton, School of Communications

What the Deans are Doing in January

Dean Antczak reports that "I'll have two Deans' Council meetings and two unit head meetings, will be included in the discussion about a University strategic plan in health, participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day walk and festivities, meet on the new Program Council and begin our annual tradition of lunches with small groups of new faculty.  And of course, the great work of personnel begins." AD Gary Stark will interview candidates for Anthropology, Communications, History, Social Studies, and Spanish searches; oversee and facilitate Winter personnel reviews; monitor Winter enrollments; review the 2012-13 schedule; recruit for Awards of Distinction Student Scholarship interviews; run a Digital Measures training workshop; and prepare for the salary adjustment process. AD Shaily Menon will interview search candidates, visit department facilities in anticipation of external evaluator visits, attend a meeting on High Impact Experiences for students, attend MLK day events, help organize a Mediation Training session for CLAS unit heads, work with facilities to prioritize and implement facilities improvement requests, attend the CLAS faculty research colloquium and make a presentation on impacts of climate change at the colloquium. AD Mary Schutten will be supporting student success by continuing to work with Records to create efficiencies. She will continue to work on collaborative initiatives involving CLAS/COE related to the upcoming NCATE review, the pilot program for ED 431, and continues as a member of the PTEAC committee. She will be coordinating the curricular proposals related to the ED 431 pilot program.   She continues to implement and assess degree cognate substitution requests, support the work of the CLAS curriculum committee as ex officio, support the work of the CLAS Academic Advising Center, facilitate the curricular fast track process for prerequisite review, and serve as coordinator for the School Health Education minor for Movement Science.  She will present on the topic of the effectiveness of technology vs. text in the development of movement analysis skills at the Hawaii International Conference on Education and attend the AACU annual meeting in Washington, DC at the end of the month. Mary will also be interviewing search candidates.

Faculty feature

Concentrating on How with David Kurjiaka

"I think I'm passionate about everything I do," begins David Kurjiaka with characteristic energy.  The sort of professor whose Padnos office door is almost always open, he's ready to talk about his research or his teaching or his service.  Or all three. An assistant professor of Biomedical Sciences, David's particular specialty is physiology.  In particular, he's interested in what happens at the cellular level in our vascular system with bearing on the number one killer of Americans, cardiovascular disease.  Postdoc research at Arizona and Yale demonstrated to David that though research is important, he really values teaching, too.  "That's why I'm here." He likes the balance here and connecting with students to enable them to understand-even if that means the occasional nudge about their dietary habits.  He lets them know that plaque is already forming in their arteries both for their own health and so that they can make the leap from information to application.  "Physiology is about applying things.  The 'facts' are just part of it-application is key," David explains.  He wants his students to see how systems of the body interact, to come to a better understanding of what's happening in conditions such as hypertension.  To get the students to move beyond the gross anatomy to how a muscle contracts-at the cellular level-that's the real lesson of BMS 290 (Human Physiology).  As BMS 291 lab coordinator, David likes a hands-on approach.  He knows that his students often learn best by seeing processes working. He also involves students in his research.  Through experience, he knows that eight or nine at a time are about the number he can keep working productively, while acknowledging that the pace of each will be a little different depending on their individual circumstances and other commitments.   While helping to answer the questions of how vessels function and how they are affected by external stimuli, they are not only coming to understand how the body adjusts to the environment but also gaining valuable and transferable technical skills in the lab. Students are involved in cell culture work in vitro on endothelial cells which form a lining for blood vessels 0.5 of a micron thick.  Not just the smooth muscle cells of vessels matter in response to the environment; damaged areas of the endothelial lining are where plaques form. In their search for where the action is, it seems that gap junctions are important.  These gap junctions are sites where proteins connect the endothelial cells and the smooth muscles cells.  They can open and close.  When open, they allow diffusion and communication of information with neighboring cells.   Four types of proteins can be found in the endothelial layer.  When damage occurs in a region, there is a dramatic switch in the expression of these protein types.  The research addresses itself to why this occurs, why this is important in these cells' response to damage.  For instance, in hypertension the electrical communication at the gap junctions is reduced.  What conditions slow the cell division?  To look at what initiates plaques and other processes, the students learn to plate the cells and check them at three day intervals, making counts and establishing growth curves.  They isolate the proteins in the dish, pipet and centrifuge, solubilize and separate proteins using an electrical field in order to determine how many of each of the four types of proteins is present in the samples.  These cell culturing techniques are applicable in their work in biomedical sciences as well as cell and molecular biology.  Students adept in these techniques become quite valuable assets to the lab, but David acknowledges the inextricable march toward graduation means that the process of training his student scientists is ongoing. "This work indoctrinates students into the research culture.  It helps if they have a high level of interest, but I know it may not begin that way," David smiles, knowing his own role in their motivation is also ongoing.  "In science, things may not turn out as you expect.  That's the great part.  I've followed pathways I'd never have predicted, and that's a good learning experience." The same principal guides David's choice of service activities.  Having served as a sabbatical replacement for a semester on the CLAS Faculty Council quite early in his time at GVSU, David saw how things run and that faculty are brought into processes early here.  This led him to run for the University Assessment Committee, which he believes is a little misunderstood.  He sees its goal as to provide evidence and indicate where needs are.  In that sense, his work in assessment is a lot like his research. He takes a similar view of his work on IACUC, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.  "We're always trying to move the field forward."  David's guiding principle seems to be to enjoy the balance of research, teaching and service and to move each forward within realistic constraints of the people, animals, and resources involved.  "Here at GVSU you have to make the most of the resources that are here.  You make some changes from your R1 grad school labs, of course, but people do good research here."