Last month ended with me raiding the costume shop for appropriate attire to participate in the Homerathon.  They let me do a part just before the slaughter of Penelope's suitors. OK, who’s got the funniest line about deans and typecasting?

I hope you too made it out of October in one piece.  If you have any reflections or anecdotes about our Fall Breather, please let me know.  November will be busy (we already have two dozen items on our event calendar) so I won’t say that things have changed pace, but we have a nice holiday to look forward to and one of my favorite CLAS events—the CLAS Teaching Roundtables.  The combination of faculty sharing with faculty and an autumn lunch really reminds us of the best parts of collegiality.  Interim Assistant Dean Donovan Anderson has given us a preview of the topics, and they sound like a compelling array of relevant subjects and cutting edge discussions.

Trying not to play favorites here since there are so many events this month, but the upcoming production of Twilight: Los Angeles 1992  provides us with theatre that will spark conversation on topics than many find hard to approach.  Many of our student do not remember what happened to Rodney King or in the aftermath of the acquittal of the LAPD officers who beat him.  This production has a multicultural cast performing roles both like and unlike their own experiences of race and gender in America.  I have to think that this must be a transformative experience for the student actors, those they consulted about their portrayals, and the relatively small audiences (limited to 150 each performance) who after the play will be treated to a facilitated discussion by people well suited to help them dig deeper (for instance, I’ve heard that Prof. Louis Moore of HST will facilitate one).

We are progressing in our searches for the Assistant Dean for Budget and Associate Dean for Curriculum, Pedagogy and Academic Opportunity positions and by this time next month may we’ll have more to report.  A big thank you to the diligent committees working very hard on those searches.  I’d also like to express my appreciation for those faculty who gave serious consideration to throwing their hat in the ring.  It speaks well of our college that we have rich pools and that the pool is ultimately even deeper than those individuals who decided to hit send.  I’m glad for the many leaders among us and I know you continue to serve us in many other ways.  Lots of oars in the water!

At this time of the term, some of your students might need a little extra help recognizing what they are thankful for.  A little extra attention goes a long way for a student feeling a bit far from home or a bit overwhelmed by the demands of college.  A suggestion you make or a bit of encouragement might be just the thing that helps them make the connection to college, or at least the work of the semester.

I’ll continue to be thankful for our wonderful students, great colleagues, and meaningful work. 

A Long Time in the Making and With a Little Help From Our Friends

When P. Douglas Kindschi Hall of Science (KHS) opened this fall, it was clearly a remarkable achievement.  The first campus building in 20 years to receive significant state funding, it helped to address the needs born of the rapid growth in multiple majors and the increased interest in student research. Donors to the Margin of Excellence Fund helped to provide funding for materials, technology and research opportunities necessary for its scientific use.  University Communications touted the basics, “The151,720 square-foot, four story building includes nine classrooms, 15 teaching laboratories, 14 faculty/student research laboratories, a computational research lab, study spaces, offices and conference rooms.”  And a tour told more of the story of a building that sports not only a greenhouse and spectacular art (including paintings by Art & Design Chair Virginia Jenkins and documentation of the metal work of Professor Renee Zettle Sterling), but also an array of displays and upholstered seating to delight those who pass through and those who stay a while.

Dig a little deeper and you learn that the building utilized Building Information Technology (BIM) significantly reducing construction waste.  Project Manager Shannon Sullivan notes, “By utilizing this technology for building ductwork and pipe was accurately cut and sized prior to installation.  In addition, BIM decreased installation timelines and increased quality control.”

This computer-based design technology allowed the builders to build quickly, adapt to changes, improve work conditions, build with greater sustainability, and produce ductwork that moves harmoniously through the building.

Shannon explains the benefits:

During the project, indoor air quality was thoughtfully planned for all construction workers.  Drywall dust and paint fumes were kept to a minimum and scrubbed from the air during these activities.  Prior to occupancy indoor air quality was lab tested for any contaminates.  Due to the work efforts during construction all lab results came back negative prior to faculty, staff and student occupancies.

Job site recycling was strictly enforced.  Separation of recyclables was executed by all trades.  Pioneer Construction has found this method is the most effective and produces the best results.  76.5% of waste was diverted from the landfill.

It is important to purchase both services and products regionally.  Although this impacts LEED credits, it also is a true indicator of local economic growth and the effects a construction project of this magnitude has on the labor sector of the economy.  42% of all materials used on the project were produced and fabricated within 500 miles from the project site.  In addition, there were 44 specialty contractors and subcontractors on the project with 40 of them being from West Michigan.

Over 1,800 tons of structural steel was erected over the course of one of the harshest winters in West Michigan.  With the use of BIM, fabrication errors were kept to a minimum, which eliminated any delay in this critical path work and kept the momentum of the project through the cold winter months.

The specified materials on the project were planned to maximize recycled content.  42.5% of material contained amounts of recycled materials. 

Finally, keeping with the University approach to storm water management and eliminating run-off to the Grand River ravines, all storm water on the project site was diverted to the west retention ponds.  And the majority of the solid surface (this once was a parking lot) was converted now to green roof and purposely designed landscaping.


The technological story is only part of what this new building represents.  In CLAS, faculty began work scoping the needs and opportunities of the proposed space with former Associate Dean Jann Joseph, the discussions progressed as Associate Dean Shaily Menon came aboard and plans started to appear as elevations affixed to display boards, eventually becoming an impressive hole in the ground, then foundations, girders, hard hat tours, and rapid progress on the highly specialized interiors that are key for the sciences.  Interim Assistant Dean Merritt Taylor took over at the point that final touches were going on, moves underway, and a huge sustained push by the lab support team leaned into a deadline to have the building ready for fall classes. More than four years of sustained effort by hundreds of faculty, administrators, designers, builders and project managers made it look easy.

At the heart of all this activity are the human stories.  Faculty were striving to get the space for their students to do the sort of work of which they know them to be capable, to plan better systems than the ones they succeed, to have a place for the vans to pull up that makes sense for field trips, and to address a host of other challenges.

Sometimes the newness of the space creates a sort of order out of chaos that presents opportunities.  Mark Staves, chair of CMB, describes how the newness labs makes possible a certified food safe lab.  Free of any legacy contaminants, these new spaces can aspire to meet standards that are very difficult for an older lab to meet.  Mark notes that in the past, some of the substances used in his field included mutagenic and carcinogenic dyes.  To avoid such contaminants, even refurbishments of labs in PAD will include the removal of old benches in order to decrease lingering contaminants. The new building provides a completely fresh start, making whole new areas of study and teaching possible.  For instance, Mark has high hopes for his Issues course CMB 380 which will look at civilization through the lens of beer making.  As one might imagine, to participate in the culminating course experience, one must be 21.

For Biology chair Neil MacDonald, the story of the building begins and ends with gratefulness to the student workers and staff such as Diane Laughlin, Star Santiago, Jodi Den Uyl, Jessica Schoenherr and Aaron Perry who made the difficult transition look seamless through a very high degree of coordination and dedication.  “A well distributed workforce,” Neil observes, “organized it extremely well.  A tremendous amount of work.”  He particularly liked the decision to require faculty to go into their lab and teaching spaces to test the fit out and notify the appropriate people about any glitches.  This made for a successful start to the school year.

“All I had to do was to make some decisions, okay some expenditures, and then do my field work all July,” Neil smiles.  “Fred [Dean Antczak] kicked in some more money to hire additional student workers to help.  The students took pride and ownership and were delegated substantial responsibility.”

Neil feels that his department got most of what they asked for in the labs and perhaps missed out only by forgetting to ask.  He calls KHS a beautiful facility that owes much to the great guidance the lab designers provided.  “The greenhouse is so visible that people want to know about it.  Jodi Chycinski of Admissions is asking to take student tours through it.  It’s great for public outreach.”

Neil punctuates his remarks with observations such as “easiest fall ever” and “happy faculty.”

And then Neil notes the soft spot in his heart he has for his upstairs neighbors in Movement Science.  Neil’s dad, George Macdonald was chair of the department that was a precursor to MOV, the Physical Education and Recreation Department.  Neil’s dad lived to see his son become chair, but Neil wishes he could have seen Kindschi Hall become a reality, too.  “He would have loved it.”

Upstairs MOV chair Chris Beaudoin occupies an office almost directly above Neil’s.  The recent move made her think about George MacDonald too, because as she packed, she came across a memorandum by none other than Doug Kindschi praising Neil’s dad for the extraordinary burden he was carrying in 1987 as simultaneously chair of Physical Education and Recreation Department as well as directing athletics and the Fieldhouse.  Chris notes, “It looks like we’ve always been very busy at Grand Valley!”

And it seems that recent MOV graduates have also been very busy building productive and thriving lives.  2009 graduate and Distinguished Alumnus-in Residence this year Kenneth Games, Ph.D. was inspired to give back to the department from which he received his undergraduate Athletic Training degree—he endowed the conference room at 4429 KHS. Ken noted matter-of-factly, “We wanted to start giving back.”

This room and other spaces in the MOV offices on the fourth floor provide well designed spaces for staffers to work and better places to meet.  Proximity to some of the faculty’s primary teaching spaces has been improved.  Chris and the department still have need for lab space suited to their field, but are very grateful for the step forward this move has made for the department.

The dream of faculty like George MacDonald was some time in coming.  An enormous team and generations of GVSU Lakers made it happen to the delight of faculty, students, staff, donors, and alumni.  It will be the backdrop for the discoveries and transformations of students for generations to come.

NOTE:  This issue of CLAS Acts did not fare well in the conversion to the latest version of our content management system and has been rebuilt.  Please excuse its unorthodox format.