CLAS Acts July 2009

filmmaking in progress

Eric, writer & director

Kim Roberts

July 2009 Volume 2, Issue 11

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  

Fall Arts Celebration Distinguished Academic Lecturer
Rashid Khalidi The Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University "The Great Powers and the Middle East: Yesterday and Today" Leading expert on the Middle East discusses how this region has been affected by external intervention over the past century and the region's role in world events. Tues., September 22, 7 pm L.V. Eberhard Center, 2nd floor Pew (Grand Rapids) Campus                                  

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

Oh, tenderly the haughty day
Fills his blue urn with fire.             

~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ode, Concord, July 4, 1857    

The beginning of summer finds many projects underway and plenty of news to report.  In this and every season, Grand Valley seems a great place to be. Now entering its second year, our CLAS Academic Advising Center has not only provided the many sorts of advising services you would hope for to an ever increasing number of students, they've also seen to fruition a important new program that has provided six GVSU students, all majoring in fields in CLAS, early assured admission to medical school at MSU. The team effort included representatives from MSU, Institutional Marketing, News & Information Services, the Director of Admissions, the Dean of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Vice President for Health, and the Director of our Academic Advising Center (Betty Schaner) and the outgoing and in-coming Pre-Professional Advisors (Rob Freidhoff and Amanda Cuevas respectively), as well as tremendous support and flexibility from our other advisors, Caroline Cascini, Jan Robinson and Destiny Vasicek.  Amanda and Joannie Hodson processed the applications for this competitive program and then supported the cohort through the program.  To learn more about the Early Admission Program, the CLAS Academic Advising Center is the place to go.  Start by having a look at their Web site:  You can learn more about the students in this year's program in this article: At the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts, two thirds of the films selected for competition were by GVSU faculty, students and alumni.  The Best Animation award went to "Imagining Olympics 2008."  This film was created by students in a workshop led by GVSU faculty Deanna Morse and Gretchen Vinnedge. It's hard not to be excited about a project to complete an "integrated assessment" of potential conflicts over situating industrial scale wind turbines in West Michigan that has been awarded a $139,912 Michigan Sea Grant. The wonderfully interdepartmental and interdisciplinary project team includes PI Erik Nordman (Biology/NRM), John Koches (AWRI), Kurt Thompson (AWRI), and Paul Isely (Seidman).  This project will explore the potential conflicts with locating wind power facilities in coastal areas of Muskegon, Ottawa, and Allegan Counties. CLAS Grassroots Inclusion Taskforce (GrIT) member Sam Andrus-Henry had her proposal "The Scholarship of Action: Making Diversity Count for Faculty" accepted for The West Michigan College and University Presidents' Compact Committee (WMPCC) conference on Diversity: Pedagogy and Scholarship Across the Disciplines--so we're making strides there even before our Inclusion Plan has been fully drafted. An international audience at the Sapperlot International Festival of Youth Theatre in Brixen, Italy, voted the Best Performance Award to Grand Valley State University students. The students performed "Bard to Go: Kissing and Courting," a production of the 2008 Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival which features love scenes from a selection of plays by Shakespeare. So the faculty and students are holding up their end.  Led by Monica Johnstone, we in the College Office have been preparing a publication on your collective scholarly and creative achievements.  Faculty have been very helpful providing updates and pictures--thank you!  Though it isn't possible to cover everything that all of you do, the many different kinds of readers we hope for with this publication should be pleased to see the depth and breadth of what we have accomplished just in the past couple years. Kudos to our excellent faculty! You may be wondering when salary increments will be known.  The Trustees meet on July 20 at AWRI and will consider this as part of their agenda.  I remain confident that, in the midst of other institutions' struggles, our financial situation will admit both of raises (you'll be able to brag about that to your friends around the state and country) and a tuition increase that will keep us affordable to our students. But since the Legislature is considering removing dollars from need-based scholarships, you might consider informing yourself on their latest plans and letting your representatives know your position on what pulling dollars from college students will do for the future of the state. In the month of July, I'll be concentrating on helping to push forward some faculty curricular initiatives, seeing almost all unit heads for goal setting, and of course writing hundreds of salary letters and fall contracts. Associate Dean Mary Schutten will be attending AAC&U "Engaging Departments Institute" in Philadelphia with a team of CLAS faculty. They hope to meet with similar universities to share ideas and develop new ideas related to student retention/graduation, faculty workload, and related topics. Mary will continue to work on initiatives related to student welfare. The S3 grant is continuing and data collection for Wii tennis and physiologic effects of exergaming from the NSF Advance-PAID grant is ongoing.  Data analysis and writing for the collaborative venture of the Kent Intermediate School District, Spectrum Health, local public schools and GVSU will keep Mary busy.  Mary will also be reviewing the proofs for an article about readability issues in health education which was just accept by the International Electronic Journal of Health Education.  AD Jann Joseph will continue to follow up on facilities requests, planning summer moves, and doing some scholarly writing.  She is  preparing for new faculty orientation and mentoring.  Jann is also part of a five person team applying for a NIST grant.  AD Gary Stark has returned from Poland to fewer e-mails than you might think (he's a wiz on that phone of his).  He'll also organizing the unit heads retreat, monitoring Fall course enrollments, and assisting units with visitor and adjunct recruitment issues.
Though we may have missed the intent of the term "Summer Vacation" somewhere along the way, we are trying to punctuate the productivity with participation in the Farmer's Markets here on Wednesdays, the Carillon concerts, the Picnics by the Pond and other seasonal perks on campus.  I have to say, for these and a variety of reasons, Grand Valley seems right now a particularly wonderful place to work--with a brighter future than many places could imagine.  Relax and recharge over the lush summer weeks ahead; the sense of a really good year is rising as high and shining as bright as the summer sun.  

Faculty Feature

No Negatives:  Students, Summer, and Exposure

Photography could be seen as the perfect expression of modernism.  Not only did it come into its own in the Modern period, it also has the innate reflexivity of a medium which may capture the image of photographer and camera in any shiny surface.  It can be self-referential by accident or intent.  And for most of its history, its very essence has been light coaxed out in a darkroom. The Darkroom, the 15th anniversary GVSU Summer Film Project, addresses the conflict in a photographer of the old school as he is confronted by the digital revolution.   The production will involve 28 film and video production students (enrolled in CFV 328 Intermediate Film Practicum) alongside professional actors and filmmakers to produce a 25 minute film.  In the Fall, the students  will undertake the post-production work. The story synopsis, without giving too much away, is about John, a divorced, old-school photographer, who has spent his life dedicated to the discipline of his darkroom and the art of photography.  He finds himself fighting for his craft and ultimately his livelihood.  When his young manager gives him an ultimatum, he is faced with a decision that will define him not only as an artist, but also as a father.

This film is the brainchild of its writer/director Eric Yang whose films have been showcased in various film festivals across the country as well as in his native China. Most recently, he received a Director's Guild of America Student Award and a Student Academy Award for his thesis film at Florida State University Film School, where he earned his MFA. Before he came to GVSU, Eric taught film and television at the University of Memphis, where he had started his film study under the instructions of such esteemed filmmakers as Craig Brewer ( Hustle and Flow, Black Snake Moan) and Emmy Award winners Steven J. Ross and David Appleby. He teaches 16mm production courses. Associate Professor Kim Roberts serves as Darkroom's Executive Producer.  In addition to general oversight, Kim's job to undergird the film has included applying to the New Filmmaker Program at Panavision to secure the use a Panavision camera for the 16 day shoot in Super 16mm.  Kodak donated 10,000 feet of film and Cineworks Digital Studios, Inc. in Florida will assist with color correction and other processing at a fraction of the usual cost.  The local community has also made donations of items such as food.  Big Lots got in the spirit when they heard that this was a student film, helping with paint.  The professional actors (Michael Richey [SAG], Eleanor Caudill) and Director of Photography (Julie Hotz) were provided low cost and convenient university housing for the period of the shoot.  Kim helped to outfit their lodging with household necessities. The production also caught a lucky break when a house was located that had the necessary original 1970s look in both decoration and furnishings. The only item that had to be changed was a clock. To avoid inconveniencing the owners of some of the locations, such as a Allied Photographic on 32nd Street in Grand Rapids and the lobby set in a shop in Muskegon, some of the filming will take place on Sundays and the 4th of July holiday when the shops are usually closed for business.  Kim points out that the flexibility, organizational skills, patience, and long days form the basis of a skill set that is useful for filmmakers, of course, but also for any other pursuit that students eventually undertake. To ensure that teaching is maximized along the way, Kim and Eric speak frequently.  Students are involved in each stage.  It's a different way of working than is usual in filmmaking, but Eric enjoys training students to take leadership positions.  For instance, after some training, students scouted the locations and determined what needs to be done by when.  The focus of their efforts is a fall premier.  But even as the very first feet of film fly past the camera lens, the students have assumed responsibility for all that is to come and have already learned many of the skills during this period of intense preparation.  And along the way the students are learning about what Yang calls "the notable divergence between generations of filmmakers" which parallels that in photography.  Tony Thompson, Director of the School of Communications and a Professor of Photography, calls the script a "poignant investigation of the issues that confront artists in their personal, creative, and professional lives".  The students making this film are sure to be making this personal journey along with the characters.   The Darkroom Web site: