Grand Valley State University

CLAS Acts July 2015

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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.   July 2015
Vol. 8, issue 11 Monthly newsletter for the tenure track faculty of CLAS


Frederick J. Antczak, Dean

Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.  

~Albert Camus

As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality. ~George Washington As you know, this month marked many transitions for us.  Associate Dean Mary Schutten left her work here in the able hands of Brad Ambrose (students), Janel Pettes Guikema (curriculum), and me (student issues such as grade complaints).  Mary is now ensconced in California and ready to take up her decanal duties at SJSU.  Meanwhile Shaily learned that her ACE Fellowship will be taking her to San Francisco State University.  (Maybe I should just look at this as having opened a west coast office.)  Shaily's responsibilities will be handled with aplomb by Kevin Tutt (strategic planning, assessment, outreach and community engagement), Merritt Taylor (space, resources, grant support), and Donovan Anderson (faculty and staff development).  While this is a fair amount of change for the college to absorb, it is perhaps more accurate to see that a huge amount of potential has been unleashed.  Careers are being propelled forward, and everybody is in a steep learning curve-or, in my case, a steep remembering curve because I did have this sort of portfolio in an earlier incarnation. If you find yourself not quite certain who to contact for what, please just give us a call, and we'll put you in touch with the appropriate person.  We will also have information about the new interim Assistant Deans up on our website so you have a description of their areas of responsibility where you can easily access it. Meanwhile, we are working on the financial year end, the AY 2015-2016 preparations, our annual report, laying groundwork for an Associate Dean search, filling out the detail in the CLAS Strategic Plan, making changes with the moves into the Kindschi Hall of Science (already begun!), and making ready for many things that recur in early fall such as our Unit Head Retreat, the Start Up meeting, the meeting of our Alumni Board, CLAS' participation in Homecoming, the Distinguished Alumni in Residence program, new faculty orientations, and more.  We are happy to report that our June CLAS on the Green golf outing added in excess of $5,500 to the endowed CLAS Scholarship Fund.  Thanks to our volunteers, golfers and sponsors. Speaking of creative ways of funding student success, I wanted to let you know that in the last three years, the grants our faculty have been awarded by external agencies have increasingly helped to provide indirects which allow more to happen here.  Certification, positions, research start ups, a graduate assistantship, and more have been funded by the increasing indirects coming from grants.  While not a huge part of our budget, I am delighted to have a growing segment of the budget.  As mentioned last month, we will be pulling our belts in a notch.  The college will take the brunt of it, but units will also need to trim a bit from the CSSM (Contract Services, Supplies, and Maintenance).  We'll provide as many cost-saving strategies as we can to assist our units in doing so. If you are looking for a little post-holiday excitement, I wanted to point out that Science on Tap is holding an event on Thursday, July 9 that will delight fans of murder mysteries and toxicology. And while you have your calendar open, here are some upcoming dates

New Faculty Social--by invitation                             August 19            6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

CLAS Faculty & Staff Start Up Meeting                   August 27            9:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

7th Annual Paleo-Olympic Games                          September 18   11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

CLAS Faculty Research Colloquium                      September 18    2:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

5th Annual James W. Carey Memorial Lecture    September 22    7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

And ArtPrize runs September 23-October 11.  Let us know at if you are among the artists competing, curating or participating in some other way.

But all that is down the road.  For now, my wish for you is that your neighbors' supply of fireworks diminishes in direct correlation to your bedtime.  It does seem to me to be an Independence Day particularly worth celebrating if by that we mean we recall the very best of American attributes, when we find our highest selves, and when we really live out the idea of liberty and justice for all.    

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.   July 2015


Gathering and Pathfinding for Success

Betty Schaner, Director of the CLAS Academic Advising Center, and her team of advisors know there are much worse things than mixed metaphors.  Whether they are helping students find and navigate along their paths, are providing a one-stop-shop, or are creating information repositories, they don't waver from their charge to help our students succeed. Faculty all want to be good advisors, but newer faculty may sweat the steep learning curve and more experienced faculty advisors know it can be hard to know about the latest changes or if the procedure that comes to mind might have been superseded.

We asked Betty to share some tips and resources with faculty whether they are new to advising or just keeping current. "I'd like faculty to know that a specific person in the Center serves as the liaison for every major," Betty explains.  "They are a great resource when you have a question -you can ask by phone or email.  Most questions can be answered right away and the rest we will track down." Something that many faculty may not realize is that freshman and transfer students receive a letter asking, "Do you know that you have two advisors?" so that they can start to understand how their CLAS and their faculty major advisor support them.   

Though it was announced in publications several times last year, some faculty may not have had a chance to visit the Faculty Repository that our Advising Task Force created.  This resource concentrates many faculty advising resources where they can be accessed anytime.  The repository can grow over time in response to faculty suggestions.  Whether the question a faculty advisor has is as mechanical as when to use a particular form or as nuanced as specialized information for a student population such as those seeking Teacher Certification, the site has information you can count on.  This site can be very helpful when a student asks a question a faculty member has never before encountered about a residency waiver or whether the Rec Center has a discounted rate for the families of non-traditional students.  The Advising Task Force also recommended that additional professional development opportunities for faculty advisors be offered.  This fall look for various topical workshops on subjects such as graduation audits, College of Education application requirements, and how to use the Student Success Collaborative in the unit.  Troubleshooting "brown bags" are planned to help convey the "tricks of the trade." When new tools are introduced to support advising and student success more generally, faculty can be reserved about adoption until the usefulness of the tool has been demonstrated.  One such tool is the Student Success Collaborative that is now moving well beyond the pilot stage.  This tool seeks to identify students who might otherwise slip by.  While the students who fully disengage or show distinct signs of struggling academically are easy to spot, some of the students with passing grades can be detected as being at risk when additional factors are taken into account.  Through use of this tool, the faculty of a department might find that an early indicator of success in their discipline might be a B+ or higher in WRT 150 and a strong showing in a particular foundational course in the major. A student with a C in both may not have a high likelihood of successful completion of the major and may be a candidate for a conversation about their interests and their options.  Having that conversation earlier can allow a student to regroup and succeed without incurring too many credits on an inappropriate path or debt that student associates with "wasted" coursework.  The faculty may find that once the relationship with success between some of the courses early in students' programs may lead to changes in strategy.  Perhaps those key courses should not be taken in the same term, perhaps additional tutoring can be offered to support the objectives of those courses.  Whatever the approach, the faculty can make informed curricular decisions with this added information. The relationship between the Center and the faculty advisor is never far from Betty's mind.  "When the student is in your office asking the hard question is the moment you are really going to learn the policy so having that liaison in our office available by phone or email is going to be key for faculty." But Betty doesn't discount the things we can learn from information tidbits along the way and recommends that faculty connect to the center through social media, too.