CLAS Acts May 2011


mold making

May 2011
Volume 4, Issue 10

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

The  Media Services Taskforce would like to know if you have purchased your own audio-visual equipment for use in your classes and/or the promotion of your program.  For instance, have you bought a flip cam with your own funds or grant money in order to record your lectures or document your fieldwork?  We are trying to get a sense of how prevalent this is and to quantify need for AV services. We'd appreciate your input.      

For Your Advanced Planning: CLAS Distinguished Alumni-in-Residence Celebration The event is scheduled to be held Thursday, October 27th - Friday, October 28th.                                                                                                 


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

"It's spring fever.... You don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"
-  Mark Twain  

It is one of the ironies of the timing of our commencement ceremonies that we still have a little bit of work left to do before we can pronounce the semester done.  Despite that, it was wonderful to see some of you gloriously gowned last Saturday as CLAS graduated some 1,400 students.  Quite a number of them have already checked in with us in our annual request to our 'almost alumni' to share with us their next steps in life.  You can see these on the website. Our office has had a sort of graduation of its own.  Associate Dean Jann Joseph has accepted a post at Eastern Michigan University as its new Dean of the College of Education.  As I said in a recent unit head mailing, it is with both a proud and a heavy heart that I wish her all the very best in this next stage of her career.  For five years CLAS has counted on her as we planned and expanded into new spaces, oriented more than hundreds of new colleagues, equipped new labs and studios, and adapted to new state-mandated education curricula.  We see the imprint of her work all around us, and we are so much the better for it.  On behalf of all the friends she's made at GVSU, and all those who are in her debt, I thank her for her contributions to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  We also wish Edwin Joseph, associate professor of geography and planning, all the very best in his new position at EMU and thank him for many things including his tireless championing of geography to hundreds of local middle schoolers.  A spirited internal search is already underway for Jann's successor, under the leadership of Deb Burg, Professor of Biomedical Sciences.  If you're interested in the position, please talk with Professor Burg or me.  If not, you'll be getting invitations to the interview events, and if you can, please do participate.  This academic year will be memorable for several reasons.  This was the first year of our Teaching Roundtables discussions. The 12 presenters led very lively discussion of their teaching initiatives which were quite popular with all who attended.  We intend to make this celebration of teaching a CLAS tradition on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving each year.  It was a year of steps forward on smaller scales too.  CLAS provided name badges to the faculty of the college which increased our sustainability and freed up staff time.  The Princeton Review has named GVSU a green campus once again, and we certainly have worked hard to do our part through these name badges, reduced paper use, recycling, and other streamlining practices--not to mention more substantive "green" initiatives like Dalila Kovacs' "green chemistry" curriculum. It was also a good year for our processes.  For instance, our CLAS Personnel Committee made 84 personnel recommendations that agreed with departmental recommendations in every case.  I accepted all 84 of these recommendations.  Now I can't guarantee that we will be so unanimously attuned every year, and I'm not even sure the extended lack of disagreement would be a good sign.  But for it to happen, on the scale of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is a remarkable thing indeed--not a chance convergence, but the result of CLAS faculty's hard work.  It  speaks to the productive labor our faculty did in last year's Out of the Box discussions on our Standards & Criteria for Personnel Evaluation, the work of our Faculty Council on that document, and the work of individual departments when they addressed their own standards and criteria in light of the college document, refining their own expectations while making them increasingly clear both internally and to CPC members.  The collegiality with which the college discussion and vote was conducted should be an inspiration to--and is the envy of--other colleges.  A college of our size and quality needs to have robust discussions like our planning processes. They have helped us to see some things through a shared lens (a delight to a dean whose first message to CLAS faculty was "Focusing a Shared Vision") and have enhanced our capacity to make changes through collegial and transparent discourse. Speaking of discourse, we had some wonderful conversations at our recent Sabbatical Showcase.  My remarks are available (as always!) online and so are the reports of our faculty governance committees.  It was also an occasion to honor our CLAS service award winners.  Congratulations to AP Service Award recipient Betty Schaner of the CLAS Academic Advising Center, Annual Service Award recipient Kevin Tutt (MUS) and our distinguished Lifetime Service Award recipients Barbara Roos (Sch. of Comm) and Roger Gilles (WRT).  As I said that day, I never forget the distinguished company I keep every day here.  Also last month was the premiere of the 2010 summer film Horizontal Accidents.  Monica claims that her elbow is clearly visible in the film, but I haven't been able to find it.  Much more clearly visible are the efforts of producer Kim Roberts and the wonderful film and video production students.  April was also the month of Student Scholars Day.  One can't help but be very proud of the college on that day when our students and faculty are out in force and the fruition of many highly anticipated projects is on display. At this time of year, I'm very conscious that great thanks are due to our Unit Heads.  Very literally, the work cannot be done without you.  Special thanks to those unit heads who are returning to fulltime faculty duty after leading their units: Gretchen Galbraith of HST will be succeeded by Bill Morison, Anne Caillaud (MLL) will hand off to Majd Al-Mallah, interim chair Stephen Rowe of PHI will be succeeded by John Uglietta, Brad Ambrose of PHY will hand the reigns back to Karen Gipson, Tony Thompson (Sch. of Comm.) will have his sabbatical covered by Toni Perinne, Ed Aboufadel (MTH) will have as his sabbatical replacement Matt Boelkins, and Al Steinman (AWRI) will be on sabbatical while Mark Luttenton holds down the fort.  Increasingly we are not only a team of great talent, but also one of considerable experience.  As we begin our search for a CLAS Associate Dean for Professional Development and Administration, I'm thankful for that depth and that our search committee's decision is likely to be difficult for all the right reasons.  We'll have a few new team members joining us next year.  15 of 16 tenure track searches were successful.  Some are replacements, some are conversions, all are needed.  Congratulations to their search committees and those who have been involved in searches for Visiting, Affiliate and Adjunct faculty.  Your work very directly sustains our mission. I wish you all a healthy dose of sunshine and the replenishment of good books and friends over the summer.

What Deans Are Doing in May

Fred reports, "In May, mostly I put my time to finishing up the semester, to beginning spring term, to getting the search for Jann's successor off to a good start, and to salary recommendations.  In addition I'll be going to Traverse City graduation (I'm speaking). I'll go to a Student Philanthropy Workshop, attend Deans' Council, participate in a multi-institutional plastination meeting, go to a meeting of the new program council, and will be meeting with representatives of local firms about internship opportunities. I'm going through the training that summer faculty advisors go through, just to know what it's like; I'll also do several Orientation sessions in May and early June. And I'll get the chance to meet Lt. Governor Calley, a GVSU grad, this month."  AD Gary Stark will be collecting, assessing, and helping prioritize position requests from units; monitoring enrollments for Summer II; assisting with Freshman registration and monitoring enrollments for Fall & Winter; organizing meeting on campus of Michigan Deans of Colleges of Arts & Sciences; planning August unit head retreat. AD Mary Schutten will continue to coordinate the alignment process of units' existing strategic plan objectives with the CLAS strategic plan  and collaborate with the university personnel to support the units. She will also continue to implement and assess degree cognate substitution requests; support the timely reporting of final grades; begin review of unit self-studies; continue to develop processes that will support transfer student's progress at GVSU through participation in the Transfer Research Committee; facilitate the curricular fast track process for study abroad course designations, and serve as an academic advisor in the exercise science program.  AD Jann Joseph will be completing space and facilities projects, research space allocation, and WKK-WWF teaching fellows implementation and evaluation.  Jann will be attending a farewell reception in her honor on May 25.      


Singing the body eclectic: Renee Zettle-Sterling teaching the alchemy of a liberal art

As an act of faith, in the liberal arts we hold as a truth, whether it is self-evident or not, that all of the disciplines contribute in their own unique ways to critical thinking.  In practice, we may only be able to speak to exactly how that works for a half-dozen disciplines which are usually related to our own.  So when teachers of art and design speak of problem solving, it can be a little hard for the uninitiated to imagine what that looks like in the studio.  A single hour in the Intermediate Metalsmithing and Jewelry (Art 346) classroom provides a vivid picture. Renee Zettle-Sterling begins the class in a way that is recognizable to teachers in many disciplines.  She hands out an article from an issue of METALSMITH that is germane to the day's objective .  Even photocopied, the images therein are compellingly organic and evocative.  As Renee prepares to project some additional images, the students alternately leaf through the article and ready their work areas.  Soon additional images fill the screen at one side of the room.  In a few moments everyone has a better idea of the breadth of possibilities for the current assignment, Project #4 "The Body Suspended".  In some work, like that of Lauren Kalman, unexpected places on the body are seemingly transformed into metal, such as a startling piece worn inside the lips, giving the appearance that the gums are now made of gold, with the teeth set into them like encrusted jewels.  Other images are offered of work that has been molded from other places on the body and then worn elsewhere, the eyebrow as a brooch, the edge of an ear as a pendant.  Still others take this suspension of the body to literal, performative extremes with the artist's body suspended by attachments to or piercings of the skin.  Then the screen goes dark and by unspoken tradition, the class is transformed into as many separate projects as there are students, each at a workstation fitted with drawers and other well worn accoutrements.  A blowtorch is ignited.  At the next station, a student bends over her hand stitching.  Another searches a storage cabinet for the right size container to make a mold.  Then the creative problem solving begins.  Small consultations spring up, discussions of the merits of one sort of molding medium versus another.  Renee discusses the different tolerances of the skin on an arm or the face for molding materials of different temperatures or toxicity.  It soon becomes clear that each decision is contingent upon several variables. What quality of detail is produced?  Is it safe to apply that material to sensitive places?  Is the intended medium something for which the mold is suited? What is the scale of the body part to be molded?  How expensive is the process?  Is the mold reusable?  For one option, the heat of the medium may be tolerable on an arm but not on the lips. For another, the mold will work for plastic but not for metal.  Yet another can be accomplished with the equipment present in the building, but would be prohibitively expensive for an artist early in his or her career after graduation.  And then there is the chemistry.  To illustrate, Renee hunts in a cabinet for an empty yogurt cup.  Over the roar of the ventilation system, she explains the process.  She pours in a white powder, adds water and stirs.  In the time honored method of masters with their apprentices, she shows the students the right consistency.  They talk in metaphor.  You want it to be like a fried egg white.  A sample is dribbled on the table and poked and felt.  Renee gestures with her expressive hands.  The bend in her finger should only go so far into the medium.  Voids are caused by too acute an angle or it becomes difficult to extract the body part in question without breaking the mold.  Nothing is completely ruled out; more difficult applications just call for other methods. She plunges her index finger into the stiff white soup.  For ten minutes she is the very image of multitasking, walking between the rooms of the studio with the mold in her hand, answering student questions and observing work in progress while the mold sets.  Then the time is right.  She extracts her finger and mixes a liquid form of plastic, adding pigments that turn it a blood red.  She pours it into her mold, tapping the sides of the yogurt containers and narrating the correct method.  She invites the students to observe the quickly changing color and the heat of this exothermic reaction.  She explains that this medium is good for small molds, such as for a finger, but not for one the diameter of her arm-the heat generated would melt the mold. The now fuchsia plastic finger emerges from the mold in a beckoning gesture.  The plastic digit is faithful to the original down to nuances of the skin texture.  At the finger tip, the surface is suddenly smooth, not because of a fault in the mold but because years of work as an artist has stripped the original of its ridge detail.  The truth in the thing made is a truth about the maker. Most of the students who are learning to articulate their ideas in these several ways are in fact art majors. But some are not, using every last elective to work in metal.  Anyone who has ever seen the elemental magic of the pour can understand their avocation.  In this particular class, they are all partners in the reanimation of the body.  They are answering questions about our most visceral humanity using an array of methods that call for concentration and consultation and care and critique.  They provide advice to one another and help each other form essential questions toward the production of their ideas in physical form.  If critical thinking has an embodiment, surely we see it here.