CLAS Acts, November 2017


Monthly newsletter for CLAS tenure track faculty



Frederick J. Antczak, Dean


Before we get to full bore November, I wanted to congratulate all the event organizers of October.  While the Homerathon was literally epic, and the opening of the Linn Maxwell Keller Black Box Theatre gave a heady portent of great music and theatre to come, so many other events also benefitted our students and brought memorable experiences to our campus, bonded students to their disciplines and alumni to their alma mater. A whole lot of unsung work goes into these events and offerings, and I wanted you to know that I appreciate that work, especially the stuff that’s rarely in the spotlight, very much.

Some units have new colleagues who may not have experienced seasons quite like ours.  Please do make sure they know where to acquire an ice scraper (and, remembering a lesson I gave in the old lot where the Kindschi Hall of Science now sits, how to operate it), understand what our weather emergency plans are, hear about the 331-SNOW (7668) snow hotline for reporting places on campus that need extra attention on slippery days, etc.   I can’t promise an easy winter, but our support of each other can make it a warmer one.

Gratitude is on our minds with Thanksgiving approaching.  I’m grateful for the students in my WRT 150 class, my incredible able, hard-working and service-oriented office colleagues, family, friends, and the CLAS faculty and staff.  We live in challenging times, and they’re not likely to get much less challenging any time soon, but we persevere, we keep plugging, and often we punch significantly above our weight class, all with a little help from the smart, kind, creative and generous people with boundless reserves of compassion and humor who surround us.  So let me add to the list:  I’m grateful to work with YOU.

If you have not already done so, please make a calendar note that November 20 is our annual CLAS Teaching Roundtables.  You won’t want to miss this opportunity to talk with your colleagues about pedagogy and to break bread together.  Information about registration is on our Teaching Roundtables webpage.

In Loco Parentis and the Fabric of Student Lives

Faculty and staff intuit that about midway through the term many students are a bit frayed.  This phenomenon sparked a collaboration between CLAS and Housing[1] to pilot the first ever free Repair Clinic.  

With some enthusiastic volunteer labor, a few sewing machines, a box full of notions, and some trail mix, the Repair Clinic was conceived to overtly address the torn shirts, lost buttons, stuck zippers, and detached backpack straps that many students have neither the experience nor materials to address.  At a deeper level, it was intended to be a place where a little on-the-spot advising could happen and the restorative effects of home could make a short visit.

“We had no idea if it would work, if students would come, but we had a hunch,” Monica Johnstone (CLAS College Office) said.  “We wanted to provide a little ‘mom energy’, to make professors easy to approach, and to mend what needed mending.”

In the Holton Hooker living center room 109A at 6pm, the students started to stream in laden with clothes, backpacks, shoes, and eyeglasses that were often metaphors for the rigors and the privations of student life.

“The first item I worked on was a backpack that had a ripped bottom.  It was nice to know we could help a student keep the bottom from falling out,” Johnstone said.

Anthropology’s Heather VanWormer’s favorite repair came with a great story of how the damage occurred; she also particularly enjoyed covering the Ferris State embroidery on a woman’s jacket with a new GV patch.  Meanwhile Biology’s Jodee Hunt super-glued glasses back together and sewed on button after button while providing career advising.  Assistant Dean Betty Schaner restored two toy hedgehogs and replaced a novel attempt by a student to hem his own pants--all while providing advising.  Amy Russell of Biology taught two students to knit and was asked by the RAs assisting at the event if she could teach them.

“One of my favorite fixes was the couple darts we were able to put in the hood of a student’s winter coat.  She told us it was too wide and the wind gets in.  Once the darts were finished, she tried it on, zipped the coat up, snapped on the hood, hugged herself, and declared, ‘Now I will be so warm!’” Johnstone recounted. 

The event was popular with the first year residents of the living center and also a surprising number of international and graduate students.

In all, over 60 repairs were made in just over two hours.

“Can we do it again next month?” Danielle the RA asked. “And can you teach the RAs to do this?”


[1] Special thanks for the organizational and advertising work by Housing Associate Director Colleen Lindsay-Bailey.