CLAS Acts March 2010

NRM students in the woods

March 2010
Volume 3, Issue 7 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  

From the Dean's Desk

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

As we enter March, I've had occasion to reflect on my primary goals for the year and on all of the ways that the very large team we call CLAS has been collaborating to achieve them.  In keeping with our value of transparency, a report will soon be posted on the web site to specify the work and highlight the progress I made. It has been a year in which we took big strides forward in inclusion, planning, sustainability efforts and optimizing efficiencies as well as the absolutely essential focus on supporting teaching and learning.  Some of that support has been hard won by faculty who applied for grants in greater numbers than ever before.  Some of it has been provided by our APs working on projects that make sharing resources easier.  Some of it has been provided by the wise counsel of our advisory committees of students, alumni, staff and faculty.  Some of it has been provided by our Unit Heads who this year have been sharing their best practices with one another.  And some of it has been provided by some amazing herculean efforts of the CLAS Office team.  And the first and second year faculty as well as the unit heads have participated in a 360 degree survey, a report on which is soon to be posted to Blackboard, for the purpose of helping me improve the ways we mentor our new faculty.  Thank you, everyone, for all you do to make Grand Valley such a great place to be, and to make CLAS better and better. And as is always true in a place dedicated to getting better, the work goes on. In March, I'll be devoting the bulk of my time to personnel.  Beyond that, I'll be working with "strategic repositioning 2015," bracing myself for the Statistics Chili Cook-off, working on new faculty seminars, learning MyPath with our unit heads, attending the Scholarship Dinner and working on some related Development projects, reminding people in CLAS about the Faculty-Staff campaign and our needs in this tough economic time, attending the Library's Author Recognition (March 18, 4 p.m., Steelcase Library) to honor our faculty, attending Grants on the Grand to honor still more of our faculty, and the Phi Kappa Phi ceremony--but mostly, personnel.  I'll also have to face the perils of my 40th High School reunion. AD  Mary Schutten will continue to support student welfare initiatives by serving on the CLAS Curriculum Committee, supporting programming from the newly formed Office of Fellowships, meeting with the CLAS Student Advisory Committee, facilitating student appeals, and advising students in teacher preparation programs in the Movement Science department.  She will also be developing and implementing procedures for degree cognate substitution requests [a new responsibility in the CLAS Dean's Office], expediting unit training on the new Banner software interface named MyPath, facilitating  the CLAS faculty writing group for strategic plan retooling, serving on a Movement Science department faculty hiring committee, continuing research activities by presenting a paper at the national health and physical education conference in Indianapolis, submitting a manuscript  for BMI, and revision of a collaborative grant proposal with the University of Hawaii. AD Gary Stark will be working with the Faculty Council on the Winter election and other issues, working with the CLAS Personnel Committee on Winter personnel actions and personnel policies, reviewing requests for visiting positions for 2010-11, and monitoring  enrollment and staffing of Spr/Sum 2010 courses. AD Jann Joseph is working with Facilities and Planning on plans for CLAS departments lab buildings, library committee, teaching BIO 104, on vacation for Spring break, new faculty orientation and mentoring, planning for the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships, NSF-STEM scholarship interviews and awards, and revising a paper for re-submission. I hope that you took a moment as you turned in your FAR to consider how much you achieved that made a difference to your students and your colleagues and your college.  You have my gratitude for your contributions on so many different levels.  

Faculty Feature

by Monica Johnstone, Dir. of CLAS Communications & Advancement

If You Go Down to VanZoeren Woods Today

In tight economic times, it can be difficult to finish what you start, or so thought the Zeeland Charter Township Board about a 34 acre plot of hardwood forest it purchased ten years ago with every intention to make it a nice place to hike or walk your dog.  VanZoeren Woods was not living up to the vision.  Enter the Natural Resource Management students of GVSU. First providing soil analysis as part of Mel Northup's NRM 281 class in 2000 and currently as part of Erik Nordman's 462 class on Forest Ecosystem Management, our students have been helping to turn this plot of land into a community asset. Erik explains that in 2008, township supervisor Glenn Nykamp contacted him to see if there was a way to do more to enhance the recreational and educational opportunities of VanZoeren Woods.  More analysis was needed, so in the summer of 2008, Erik worked with student Melissa Buzzard as an independent study on recreational opportunity analysis.  Melissa looked at the recreational opportunities of this primitive environment  without  paved trails.  Lacking was also educational facilities which are needed in our area.  Their  findings were presented  to the township board and as a poster at the National Foresters convention (2008).  Now the work is a lab and service learning opportunity for NRM 462.  The students interviewed the board members to refine the goals of the project.  Now the 19 students are studying species composition and age distribution of the trees found there.    This is no small feat in mid-winter.  The students are challenged to recognize the Basswood, Maple, Beech and Musclewood from the bark and other available characteristics when no leaves are present.  Though the term may be over before the students get to see them, the area is also known for its profusion of wildflowers.  "Lab Instructor Colleen Ortwine-Boes does most of the field and lab work with the students," Erik explains.  Sometimes the weather slows their progress, but they are determined to make their presentation on April 20 to the Zeeland Charter Township Board.    Based on the recommendations and options the students will present, the community will be able to enjoy the area in ways unavailable to them until now.  Signage will help define the several trains and trees will be tagged to identify the species.  Advertising could help the public understand how much VanZoeren Woods has to offer.  Whatever the township budget, the recommendations will help to guide their spending wisely. Erik is thankful for the varied backgrounds the students have brought to the course.  "One has a background in economics, several are strong in biology-they make a great team," Erik notes. The learning outcomes of the course include focusing students' attention on a concrete example to ground theoretical discussions.  They often talk about how the things  they are learning relate to the VanZoeren Woods, making it tangible and real.  Their skills learned in lab and lecture become relevant.  They are forced to stretch their identification skills to the realities of a Michigan winter.  They are better prepared for the uncertainties of data collection, increasing their flexibility and openness to discoveries.  Some of these discoveries include a wider range of tree species than expected and a particularly large individual Basswood tree.  Half the term is left to go, but the students are on track to learn valuable lessons and give back to the people of the Zeeland community at the same time.