CLAS Acts October 2008

Monthly newsletter of the TT Faculty of CLAS

CLAS Acts October 2008

Jim Penn & students in the rainforest

Joe Burns with a piranha he has caught

October 2008
Volume 2, Issue 2

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  

Dean Antczak Declares Casual Costume Friday on October 31 On Halloween, feel free to come in costume.  Treats available in the College Office.              

WGVU Morning Show With Shelley Irwin Presents Assistant Professor of Geography, Jim Penn  Talking about taking students to the heart of the Amazon rain forest this summer. CLAS is featured each Third Thursday of the month at 10:30 a.m. Interviews are posted on the CLAS Web site when they become available.                                                  .  

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

For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. 

For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad. 

~Edwin Way Teale 

This October finds us gathering together in so many ways.  Last week we gathered for the open house of Mackinac Hall.  Today, the Arts at Noon Series brings us the Kapell Trio in the Cook-DeWitt Center. Tomorrow, I'm "going Bollywood" with a bit part in the Shakespeare Festival production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  On October 9 and 10 the Distinguished Alumni-in-Residence program is bringing five fascinating alums back to campus for the enrichment of  our students.  Then we will be gathering for Homecoming (Oct. 11) including a wonderful Alumni Film Festival called Mindgating.  Just after that, the NCA accreditation team will visit us on the 13th-15th.  Later that week, on October 17 the Homerathon will "reload" for the Odyssey--once again I will be reading an appropriate action sequence.  At the same time, the Great Lakes History Conference will be held on the 17th and 18th.  The CLAS Research Colloquium returns on the 24th with some really interesting topics.  There is so much more that I urge you to have a look at our monthly poster (CLAS Happenings) for more details and all the other wonderful offerings in and by the College. Our faculty colleagues continue to impress and gather kudos for CLAS.   Teresa Castelao-Lawless of Philosophy has accepted an invitation to serve on the Editorial Board of the Romanian journal Cultura: An International Journal of Philosophy of Culture and Axiology and she's already on the editorial board of Brazilian Cahiers Gaston Bachelard.  Associate Professor Carol Kountz of Writing spent some time this summer unearthing dinosaurs in the Badlands in preparation for a course she will be teaching in scientific writing.  Figen Mekik, Associate Professor of Geology, has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant of $84,029 to look at one of the big mysteries in climate science.  Bob Hendersen, Chair of Psychology, was named professor of the year by the psychology honor society.  Our political science and communications faculty are a regular feature of the TV election coverage.  There's plenty more to tell, so I hope you look at our news items on the Web site and in The Forum. Though this narrative does not quite reach to Thanksgiving, I already find plenty for which to be grateful.  I thank you for the warm reception you've given the College's Quadrennial Report; I hope this becomes another CLAS custom, one that reinforces transparency in my office, and accountability to you and all of CLAS's constituencies.  We're indebted to the leaders of the wonderful art tours and LEED features tour conducted at the MAK Open House.  Kudos to the ad hoc committee advising Gary and Monica on improvements to our Unit Heads section of the Web site.  I'm thankful that Aaron Perry is able to turn his attention more fully toward his new position as Director of Lab Support now that his previous position has been filled.  We are delighted to welcome aboard new Lab Supervisor, Michelle DeWitt, and to welcome, at the end of October, an absolutely wonderful new pre-medical advisor in the CLAS Academic Advising Center; we've stolen Amanda Cuevas away from the University of Illinois, so all you Illini grads, please stop in to C-1-140 MAK during the week of Halloween and welcome her.

We receive schedule and equipment requests in October.  I'll be going on some student recruiting and fundraising trips, working on accreditation,  reading a pile of midterms, and working with the Associate Dean appointment process that Gretchen Galbraith and her committee have done such a great job setting up.  Jann Joseph will be working on preparation for the NCA accreditation visit, prioritizing space and facilities requests, participating in a NSF Grant review and representing us on Elementary minor revisions and comprehensive major development.  Donna Larson will be continuing to work with the Curriculum Committee as our ex-officio representative, providing Deans' Office support and assistance to CCC as they review proposals.  She will review Assessment Progress Reports, participate in review of program self studies, look after student issues,  assess emerging student issues, participate in NCA site visit and participate in conducting faculty candidate interviews.  Gary Stark will be involved in periodic unit head evaluations, monitoring low enrolled Winter courses, assisting with course scheduling for 2009-10, and facilitating the Fall faculty governance election. That's perhaps not a bad way to transition into some thoughts on what else we are doing to make our future even brighter.  Faculty governance is trying some truly innovative experiments this term, and I hope you'll be participatory and supportive.  You'll see in the box below that there is still time to join an "Out of the Box" event.  I understand that the first was fast-paced and generated plenty to think about, and I hope to act on.  Certainly, the same can be said for the CLAS Alumni Board meeting held last month.  These alumni adore GVSU, and so they are willing to tackle issues in internships, PR and alumni events that emphasize the life of the mind in the liberal arts and sciences.  Our Student Advisory Board is meeting monthly and helps me enormously to identify what we do best (and by whom; they are full of praise for CLAS faculty) and what could be done better from a student point of view.  This fact makes me feel how quickly time passes: Philosophy welcomed to its adjunct faculty this fall a member of the first Student Advisory Board, Daniel Stephens.  Given the number of members with further academic ambitions, he's the first of many. For October 31, I have declared a "Casual Costume Friday".  We'll have some trick-or-treat candy ready in the Dean's Office (B-4-232 MAK), if you'd like to come by.  It would be great if faculty and staff could help Monica to compile an electronic photo album. And please read on.  For the first time since this publication started just over a year ago, we have two features to bring you.  You could say they share themes of sustainability and widening our students' horizons.  Best wishes for a dazzling autumn.  

Save the Date: Announcing Out-of-the-Box Events! You are invited to participate in one of the Out-of-the-Box events being offered for the first time this fall.  These new workshops will facilitate our research efforts and productivity by helping CLAS faculty members help themselves.  Upcoming events are scheduled for:
Friday, Oct. 31        8-10:00 a.m. (breakfast incl.; costumes encouraged!)   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!

Two CLAS Faculty Features

Student Research in the Amazon: Supporting Community Conservation and Development Programs

By Jim Penn, Department of Geography and Planning During the summer, 5 GVSU students conducted research on forest resources in the Peruvian Amazon with Jim Penn, Assistant Professor of the Geography and Planning Department. The 24 day field course took place in the rainforests of the Tahuayo River and Quebrada Blanco located about 80 miles southeast of Iquitos, Peru. Students studied the distribution, abundance and population characteristics of forest species of high economic and ecological value, focusing on palm species such as Astrocaryum chambira, Mauritia flexuosa, and Oenocarpus bataua. These palms are exploited by rainforest inhabitants for their fiber, fruits, thatch and other materials. They are also key food sources for mammals such as peccaries, large primates, rodents and the lowland tapir. The students conducted forest censuses, measured and marked trees of different age classes and mapped the census quadrants and transects using GPS units with the help of several local assistants. This research is interdisciplinary in design and methods. Along with Dr. Penn, Geography and Planning alumna Malinda Vansledright and Ecologist Chris Miller (St. Leo University) participated, plus 2 students from the local university in Iquitos (Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana-UNAP). We began the course with training exercises including a visit to experimental agriculture sites in a Nanay River community and an island in the Amazon River with Agronomist Mario Pinedo of the Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana -IIAP. The purpose of this research was to provide the results of our study to rainforest communities that struggle to conserve these resources and their large community forest reserve. For example, women rely heavily on fibers harvested from the chambira palm that are woven to make hammocks, handicrafts and artwork that they sell in order to support their families. They are very concerned about the amount of chambira that is harvested, and without precise knowledge of the population density and harvest levels in the forest, they cannot manage the use of this species or sustain their trade. The results of the study will also be given to the government conservation agency (PROCREL). During the field course, the students were able to watch monkeys in the forest canopy, catch and eat piranhas, and sample many local dishes such as grubs from the rotting trunks of dead palms. The intercultural experience of the course was greatly enjoyed, and the villagers have invited them back! We will be selling chambira crafts in Kirkhof Center during October.

And now, our second Faculty Feature  

Pollution Prevention, Green Chemistry and Green Engineering--a Pilot Foundation Course

There is no mistaking the enthusiasm of Dalila Kovacs, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, for spreading the message as widely as possible about the principles of pollution prevention.  She's part of a team that has developed a pilot course, aimed at students from all disciplines, not just those who might pursue green chemistry or engineering as their professions. She and her CoPIs, Min Qi and Andrew Lantz, want to spread the word to faculty so that they can make their advisees aware that the pilot course is intended to run in Winter 09. Supported by a grant from the State of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality and supported by the Retired Corps of Engineers, this course of about 30 students hopes to attract not only students pursuing degrees that incorporate sustainability, but also writers, artists, historians and anyone else preoccupied with these ideas. The course plans features such as site visits and top notch invited speakers.   

Approval for the pilot course came on August 29, and now the proposal to make the course a more permanent addition to GVSU offerings is at the department level for consideration.