CLAS Acts November 2014


Newsletter for Tenure Track CLAS Faculty November 2014
Vol. 8, issue 4

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  

In October, the falling leaves started to look like a lot of work-raking and bagging and whatnot. But they're also useful metaphors for the deadlines, events and other claims on our attention that swirled past-they do tend to heap up in October.  The phenomenon has a beautiful side.  We hosted some wonderful alumni in our Distinguished Alumni in Residence program and at our annual meeting of the CLAS Alumni Board, and we reconnected at Homecoming and at our meeting of the CLAS Emeritus Committee.  But it also brings the raking that just must be done, such as ordering textbooks in a timely way for Winter term, so that our students get the best possible prices. In the midst of all this, we ran our experiment of having a voluntary Fall Breather.  I'd very much like to have your feedback on it.  And at the end of the month we learned how creative (and convincing!) our colleagues could be with Casual Costume Friday for Halloween.    Thanks for having been game for either or both of those. This month brings what seems appropriate for November-we acknowledge our good fortune to have one another at events such as the CLAS Teaching Roundtables.  At the Roundtables on Monday, November 24, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. in the Library's Multipurpose Room, we'll gather to share what's working for us and consult our colleagues on our common challenges.  Sign up information will be coming to you soon. It is also a month in which we can catch up to any of three offerings of the Classics Filmfest,  the Crispin Campbell Quartet playing as part of the Arts at Noon series, or a couple Philosophy lectures as well as our own CLAS Faculty Research Colloquium on November 14 at 2:30pm in 308 PAD. Please note a very special event that will take place on Thursday, November 20, 7:00 PM in the Mary Idema Pew Library  Multipurpose Room.  Chuck Pazdernik of Classics was chosen by the students to give a lecture in the style made famous by the "Last Lecture" of Randy Pausch.  As we know, there is nothing "last" about this lecture by Chuck, for whose presence we are already thankful.  I'm sure many of us will be very interested in hearing him speak. And so you can have it firmly planted on your calendar, please note that the CLAS Holiday Open House is Tuesday, December 9, 11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. in the Pere Marquette Room (2204 KC).  No speeches (!), just great conversation for faculty and staff with fun food to fortify ourselves for finals. I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving break.  Before you know it, you'll be telling your newest colleagues what sort of ice scraper you prefer, but until we get there, let's rake in what's so distinctive about this time of year, gather the rest of the fall harvest of learning, and give a second thought to those new in town who may not be traveling to see family or old friends this Thanksgiving.  May we all enjoy-notwithstanding the seasonal challenges--all the things that make us lucky to do what we do.   

New Advising Repository created by the Advising Task Force

CLAS Faculty Research Colloquia The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is sponsoring a series of six CLAS research colloquia again this year. To try to accommodate more schedules, the colloquia will be held on Fridays in the Fall semester and Thursdays in the Winter semester. They will all be held in PAD 308 and will begin at 2:30 pm with refreshments followed by four or five 20-minute presentations (15 min plus 5 min for discussion). We especially encourage new faculty and faculty who have been on sabbatical recently to make presentations.

Dates for next academic year's CLAS Faculty Research Colloquia Friday, November 14, 2014 Thurs., January 22, 2015 Thurs., February 19, 2015 Thurs., March 19, 2015 Each event will take place in 308 Padnos Hall. Contact Mark Staves.      


Regional Math & Science Center at 25-Science Olympiad and So Much More  

Most of the entities within CLAS are academic units, but the college is also home to some units that function a bit differently as institutes or centers.  One of these, the Regional Math & Science Center (RMSC) is one of the 33 such centers in our state of Michigan (which is unique in this regard).  This year the center celebrates its 25th anniversary. For many CLAS faculty, the RMSC is strongly associated with the running of the annual Michigan Science Olympiad or with the Integrated Science program which calls the center home.  It is both of those and much, much more.  In addition to providing many special opportunities to our faculty, the center also serves the needs of our areas K-12 schools by providing enrichment opportunities for teachers and programming for students. The center puts on Super Science Saturday, teacher professional development workshops, summer camps such as the Grandparents/Grandkids/Grand Valley Camp (G3) as well as producing the Interchange newsletter. The many ways that the center supports the mathematics and science community can be expressed through their six goals: To provide professional learning for teachers, To support the curricula of schools through various resources, To inform and motivate K-12 students, To lead collaborations and promote cooperation in the community to advance STEM education, To involve the community actively in partnerships and collaboration, and  To be a resource clearinghouse. While an infectious love of STEM fields is an occupational requirement for Director Karen Meyers and her team, the center manages to support a wide access to learning that often includes many other fields in CLAS and the university more generally.  For instance, the G3 Camp has been a great platform to expose young students to history, art, classics and culinary arts as well as mathematics, science and engineering. The center's close relationship with K-12 education also provides a window on educational trends that affect the preparation of the students who come to GVSU.  Pedagogical trends that they see emerging in K-12 often show up a couple years later as sessions in the FTLC teaching conference because GVSU faculty are also experimenting with some of these pedagogical approaches. Some of the trends that the staff of the center see are not related to pedagogical advances, and actually prove retrograde and worrying, such as the stressed K-12 system that is often forced by cost constraints to adopt testing that does not involve student writing or labs.  With only English Language Arts and Mathematics being tested in the lower grades, science is often not taught until it is tested in fifth grade.  Anything that is not part of the current testing may find itself on the back-burner. With changing standards for schools, the RMSC sees important opportunities to provide appropriate professional development.  For instance, they can show how inquiry-based approaches can deliver learning outcomes efficiently and effectively and are easier to implement than K-12 teacher may initially think. The center staff notes that the public may not always have a good sense of what good instruction looks like.  New standards may reflect research on learning, but may also look unlike what parents' remember from their own schooling or what legislators may believe to be effective practices.  And it is critical to remember that standards are not curriculum. The RMSC strives to build understanding of mathematics and science without getting caught up in concurrent politics surrounding sometimes heated conversations about the Common Core.  They must address themselves to the changing curricular environment which might suddenly emphasize wave theory where once it did not.  They also have a role to play in recognizing the research is available that might counter past practices, for instance, by helping educators appreciate that kids can grasp the concepts of physics earlier than we may have previously realized.  The center helps to connect teachers with scaffolding instruction and better engagement with the state of the research on learning.  In this work they receive a great deal of help from our faculty. The staff is thankful for the input of GVSU faculty such as Karen Gipson and Rich Vallery in Physics who helped to develop a full day teacher workshop on inquiry-based pedagogy based on the kit curriculum in use by the district.   Some faculty members are part of their Math Fellows program (e.g. David Coffey and John Golden).  Char Beckman and her students developed kits for schools plus professional development related to those kits.  Dalila Kovacs has held workshops for teachers interested in green chemistry.  The benefits point both directions as our university connects to K-12.  The staff sees the possibility in the current and future student coming to GVSU from our high schools to have large concepts, the big picture, with some missing pieces.  They hope that we will be in a good position to help these students make connections, and turn this large conceptual frame into a less siloed way of looking at mathematics and science.  With their increasing tech savvy , these students may represent a change in learning style and have expectations for a faster style of learning that may be increasingly screen-based. At the same time, programs such as the Science Olympiad will continue to close the confidence gap some students have.  The empowerment that comes when students start to think and act like scientists will help them in college and beyond.   These programs help to provide students with an education that addresses that which can't be googled-- the evaluation of the answer they get and the integration of multiple answers toward the solution to more complex problems.  Happy anniversary, Regional Math and Science Center, and many happy returns.