CLAS Acts November 2008

Monthly newsletter of the TT Faculty of the College

CLAS Acts Nov. 2008

Jodee Hunt & Stephen Matchett at OOTB

November 2008
Volume 2, Issue 3

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

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

The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.     
 ~ Lyndon B. Johnson

In retrospect, last month seems to have been holding its breath-on the NCA visit, the financial crisis, and the final weeks of the presidential campaign.  So November marks the beginning of finding out what the future holds and breathing again.  The month begins with the Michigan Undergraduate Science Research Conference.    On November 14, Theatre's production of Vinegar Tom starts its run.  On the 20th, Diane Rayor of Classics will be interviewed on the radio about her new translation of Antigone with will be published by Cambridge University Press. The Psychology Film Series is showing some absolutely classic films this month, and on November 21st you have another opportunity to enjoy the CLAS Faculty Research Colloquium.  Biology, Psychology, and Philosophy have colloquia this month, too. I want to thank everyone involved in bring out five exemplary alumni for the Distinguished Alumni in Residence program.  Though a much smaller luncheon than last year, the schedule's flexibility allowed each honoree to speak to us about the meaning of his or her GVSU experience.  Everyone in attendance emerged with renewed energy for our profession. Congratulations to Classics on an epic Homerathon that drew many passers by into the fun, and filled Cook DeWitt auditorium for translator Stanley Lombardo.  We should also tip our hats to Azizur Molla on the occasion of his new book, Water, Sewage,  and Disease in Bangladesh: A Medical Anthropology.  Special thanks too goes to School of Communications faculty and staff Jim Schaub, Barbara Roos, Kim Roberts and Deanna Morse who joined forces with the CLAS Director of Communications, Monica Johnstone, to produce Mindgating at Homecoming.  The WJC discussion was well attended and characteristically lively, the 19 alumni films and videos were of a very high caliber, and the chance for students to discuss careers with productive alumni was very valuable. This month my calendar shows that I'll be involved in Open Office Hours, the Staff Advisory Committee, and the Emeriti Advisory Committee meetings.  I've accepting some unit invitations to join their meetings, beginning with AWRI.  Much of my time will be spent completing the budget requests.  I'm on a committee that has begun working with the Provost Office to develop a more inclusive and thorough Dean Evaluation process.  I'm consulting widely on that.  In scholarship, I'm catching up with my duties on two editorial boards, commenting on several submissions.  And, of course, I'm working with my co-teacher Professor Wiese to make the post-election part of the presidential campaign course as exciting as the first 10 weeks. The Associate Deans are also hard at it.  Donna Larson will be busy with curriculum and faculty candidate interviews.  Jann Joseph will be working on prioritizing facility requests, facilitating the lab safety supervisor search, and several grant writing projects.  Gary Stark will be monitoring enrollment in winter courses and scheduling of 2009-10 courses, working with unit heads on staffing for next year and to finalize personnel criteria and scheduling interviewers for Student Scholarship Competition days. I wish you a Thanksgiving with much to be thankful for. 

Last Out-of-the-Box Event for 2008! You are invited to participate in the final Out-of-the-Box Lunch of 2008.  These workshops will facilitate our research efforts and productivity by helping CLAS faculty members help themselves.  Monday, Dec. 1       12-2:00 p.m. (lunch incl.) Register on the Out of the Box tab of the CLAS Web site. Come be part of the solution!

Faculty Feature

Lesson of the Arctic Summer

By Monica Johnstone, Dir. of CLAS Communications

"I see a polar bear almost every year," Assistant Professor of biology Bob Hollister says, describing his summer research in Arctic Alaska. Near Barrow and Atqasuk, Alaska, with four students, he monitors meter square plots that have been warmed slightly to see what happens.  Bob's expertise is vegetation change, and this is the focus of the data collection.  Leaves and flowers and plant height are counted and measured.  This work is a terrestrial contribution to a larger collaboration called ITEX (the International Tundra Experiment) that also gathers oceanographic and atmospheric data to produce synthesis papers on vegetation change, carbon flux and nutrient synthesis. Long before global warming was well accepted, in the early 1990s Bob and researchers like him from many places such as Canada, Europe, Japan, China and Russia began collecting data.  As they explore the energy balance of vegetation and peat-rich soil, some of the science is as simple and stark as black and white.  Bob explains that snow reflects solar radiation a great deal; bare dark soil or dark vegetation does not.  Some of the science is more subtle.  It involved the balancing act between the peat that readily gives up its carbon dioxide and the difference in various species of plants that are able to fix differing amounts of CO2.   When warmer times come, different species fail or thrive and the balance is changed. Barrow, a town of 5,000 is a Mecca for this type of research.  In fact, it's the biggest arctic research area in the US.   Half native and half non-native people make up its population.  Cinemas, ATMs, commercial flights and a fully functioning biology lab are among its amenities.  Bob and the students stay in a dorm-like hotel there and have use of a truck. Atqasuk is not so close to the Arctic Sea as Barrow, and its population of 300 to 400 residents are 98% native.  The mosquitoes are more of a challenge here.  The stores open at the shopkeeper's discretion.  Recent amenities include a sewer, flush toilets and running water, which are expensive to install in the permafrost.  In Atqasuk, the GVSU team stays in a house that Bob describes as similar to a nice hunting cabin in Michigan. Bob and the students don't come here to swap their summer for 40 degree temperatures.  They are here to add to the freely available data sets that are stored in permanent repositories funded by the US Arctic Observatory Network (AON) to add to our ability to monitor and forecast the effects of climate change in this environment. Perhaps it is Bob's long familiarity with the data that allows him to speak very evenly about what the research shows.  "The arctic is really changing", he begins.  "When I started out in the early 1990s people said the predictions would never happen--what Al Gore says in the Inconvenient Truth about the sea ice being gone by 2050--they called it 'Chicken Little'.  The early '90s predictions were blown away.  In 10 years there will be no sea ice.  Major changes." Bob mentions that he didn't see a polar bear this summer.