CLAS Acts March 2014

March 2014
Vol. 7, issue 8

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.


Frederick J. Antczak, Dean

March 12, 1888 - The Great Blizzard of '88 struck the northeastern U.S. The storm lasted 36 hours with snowfall totaling over 40 inches in New York City where over 400 persons died from the surprise storm. 


Some signs are beginning to arrive hinting that this winter may in fact end.  We've had a couple days in which the forecast included pavement underfoot, and the call has gone out to RSVP for commencement.  OK, that's not exactly daffodils, but I choose to regard them as signs sure enough.  As academics, we rarely run out of indoor work to do (though the field biologists are probably getting a bit itchy and the water researchers would like some of it not to be frozen solid).  I suspect, though, that our first 70 degree day will tempt many of us to hold our class outside. If it's very soon, bring your waders.  I'm just here to tell you that that day is coming, as sure as-and possibly before-Commencement.   

We've been doing our part to—in President Clinton's first Inaugural's oddest trope—"force the spring."  Recent warm up activities have included a couple departmental chili cook-offs, the 2nd Annual Superior Awards which puts our current Ad/PR students in a room with alumni to help ignite and celebrate careers in their field, and registration opening for summer camps such as our great kids camp all about Shakespeare called Will Power and the third annual Grandparents/Grandkids/Grand Valley (G3) Camp.  Some collaborations have come to fruition in the last month or so.  For instance, Robert Rozema and Lindsay Ellis of English published their book Early Career English Teachers in Action while Steve Glass, Brian Hatzel and Rick Albrecht of Movement Science announced the soon-to-appear Kinesiology for Dummies. In the news were two of our sociologists. The first ever Faculty and Staff Service Award commemorating of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Jennifer Stewart, and Mary DeYoung was proclaimed the winner of the Student Award for Faculty Excellence by the Student Senate.  CLAS also was extraordinarily well represented at the annual Faculty Award Convocation on February 6.  Matthew Boelkins, Mathematics, received the Outstanding Advising and Student Services Award. Karen Gipson, Physics, received the Outstanding University Service Award. Deborah Herrington (CHM) and Figen Mekik (GEO) each received the Distinguished Contribution in a Discipline Award. Bradley Ambrose, Physics, received the University Outstanding Teacher Award.  The Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence presented awards to CLAS faculty Rachel Powers, David Stark, Shannon Biros and Amanda Dillard. The FTLC presented awards to CLAS faculty Timothy Evans and Mandy Menke.  

Congratulations to all our award winners-you represent us well, and make us proud! With the FARs recently behind you, I hope that you have taken a moment not just to mark your accomplishments, but to reflect on the inspiring colleagues (some of whom are staff and students) around you.  In my job (or via Facebook) I sometimes become aware that you are achieving these stupendous things in the face of all the slings and arrows of life.  So my hat is respectfully off to those of you who helped a colleague out when it was time to lay a parent to rest or sit at a child's bedside or undergo a treatment or even wait for the plumber while a freshet doused your kitchen.  Think about it this way: our college is the size of a small town. We have looked after one another in some ways that exemplify good neighbors.  They may not make it onto an activity report, but thank you for making our small academical village (Jefferson's phrase for the University of Virginia) so much more humane a place. 

And thank you, colleague to colleague, for all your extraordinary efforts to deliver the promise of education to your students in the face of all this meteorological challenge and personal complexity.  We may not force the spring, but who can deny that we bring to our challenging work a real warmth?  We are lucky to work in a place like this. I invite you to move from that reflection right into the great events planned for this month. 

Heidegger & Mereology   March 14 3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
2nd Annual Juried Student Exhibition   March 17 All Day
Vietnam Veterans Share Their Stories--Cambodia and Ripcord, 1970   March 18 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
CLAS Research Colloquium   March 20 2:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Suture Clinic   March 22 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
My Year in Vietnam: With the Cav   March 27 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Reading by Samrat Upadhyay   March 27 7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Skepticism, Realism and Transactional Pragmatism   March 28    1:00 a.m. - 1:00 a.m.

Monica Johnstone tells me she's going to be doing her George Plimpton participatory journalism thing by taking part in the upcoming suture clinic; bananas and pigs' feet, be very afraid.  Also on deck are music, lectures, and events related to the space photography exhibit too numerous to detail here but well described on the Arts Calendar. I'm afraid we may be discussing the relative merits of YakTrax and ICE Trekkers for a while longer. But I'm confident that in our college, there is a very good March to be had anyway.  Have a good break. Come back safe and renewed and ready for spring.       

CLAS Faculty Research Colloquium Schedule The CLAS Faculty Research Colloquia will take place from 2:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. in 308 PAD: Thursday, March 20th   Nominate! Nominations for Faculty Governance Elections Close March 3 and Voting begins March 5.   UAS/ECS Summary By Douglas Montagna and Felix Ngassa   The UAS during its January 31st meeting passed a motion calling for a standard university-wide student evaluation of teaching instrument and platform. The motion allows for each unit to supplement the standard form with their own questions. In February, the ECS began to put together a task force of faculty and other university professionals with relevant expertise to propose the instrument, platform, and consider policy. The UAS in February will vote on motions to adopt a maternity leave policy that is fair to both the faculty member and takes into consideration the need for continuity in the classroom and a new policy to make the workload for affiliate faculty more fair and consistent across the university.      Reminder:  Great Service Pictures Wanted As announced in the Unit Head and Faculty Weekly Mailing, we'd love to have some great photos of your service endeavors.      

Reminder:  Is Sabbatical Showcase on Your Calendar?  April 1 By the next issue of CLAS Acts, Sabbatical Showcase will be upon us.  Be sure to put it on your calendar so you won't miss the Spring College meeting, lunch, and some great displays of sabbatical outcomes.  Come show your support for the importance of sabbaticals.  


Finding Good Tools to Support Student Success

It is given that at GVSU we want to support our students so they can be successful in their academic endeavors and life more generally.  To have the best possible impact within the time, energy and financial resources of the university and its people, it is in our enlightened self-interest to use effective methods for assisting those students with discoverable need.  Some of our highest fliers have found exciting resources with the assistance of the Office of Fellowships.  Some of the students with the greatest circumstantial challenges have found the ESP program to be brilliantly effective in helping them persist and thrive.  But what about students somewhere in the middle who may not self-identify for assistance and whose signs of need may be very subtle? To help us ferret out what the real indicators are for success in our individual programs, GVSU has become one of the "beta-testers" for the Student Success Collaborative.  This program has already shown measurable improvement in persistence among the universities that served as its "alpha testers".  We are encouraged that using a evidence-based approach will allow us to identify the right places to apply our efforts. Among the tools in the package are what is known as predictive workbooks.  These workbooks show how students who graduated in a particular major fared in each of its courses-and it does this for the students over a ten-year period to provide useful numbers.  In the fall of 2013, CLAS unit heads and small groups of faculty liaisons were shown how these workbooks operate.  From this sort of data, success markers can be selected.  For instance, a prerequisite course or some other course taken earlier in a student's career may show promise for having predictive force for their overall success in a major.  It may not be the course faculty might at first imagine to be "make or break".  For instance, for Biomedical Sciences majors, it might be indicative of potential challenges if a student does not pass WRT 150 with a strong grade. Our Mathematics Department has been involved in the pilot program and found interesting and potentially useful analytics.  For instance, it was discovered that students become math majors via a different curricular route than they first assumed.  One might think students become math majors straight from Calculus, but instead found that a significant number of students started their journey to becoming math majors rather earlier in the curricular sequence.  This information could affect where the Mathematics Department supplies additional support and recruitment efforts. Mary Schutten, Associate Dean for Students and Curriculum, has been watching the progress of the university's adoption of this package.  All units in CLAS have submitted their success markers in all major programs and departments have requested refinements and enhancements based on their expertise to the vendor to customize the package for us. The predictive workbooks may prove to be a very valuable tool for advisors because they will help identify those students who can benefit from seeing everything from the statistics about others over time who have struggled in a particular marker course so they can be proactive and make informed decisions to parallel programs using the courses they have already taken that can prove to be options for students who are considering a new major path. What's next?  Professional advisors have already undergone training and in September 2014 individual faculty will be provided training so that faculty and units can start using the tools this fall. It is our hope that it will be easier to see which advisees could benefit most from an invitation to talk and that the package will strengthen our already good dialog between faculty and advising staff.