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Roxanne and Mary holding thick Incompletes report

October 2011
Vol. 5, issue 3

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.

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Faculty E-newsletter

CLAS Out of the Box Events-- Thriving through a Sustainable Career: Getting Your Groove Back Tues., Nov 8
1:00-3:00 2270 KC
or Fri., Nov18  
10:00-12:00 2266 KC
or Wed., Nov. 30      9:00-11:00
2270 KC
Register online                            

Mindgating at Homecoming Saturday, October 29, to the theme "GVSU, You Put a Spell on Me", the GVSU community will celebrate Homecoming.  CLAS contributes some intellectual content and a welcome to our alumni at the Expo.  This year, featured are Anthropology and Archaeology.   

Awards of Distinction Scholarship Competitions The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences needs faculty members (tenured/tenure track or affiliates) to help interview scholarship students on the following Saturdays: December 3, January 14, January 21, February 4, February 11 I hope you will take this opportunity to serve the college by volunteering to interview students on one or more of these dates. The day begins at 11:30 a.m. with a brief orientation. Interviewers are invited to have lunch with the students and their parents. Interviews follow lunch with faculty working in pairs to interview 3-5 students (First-time interviewers are always paired with more experienced ones.) The interviews begin at 1:00 p.m. and conclude at approximately 3:30 p.m. ~Gary Stark Parking Permits for Guests If you  have a guest or visitor coming to campus, please visit and click Faculty/Staff Requests under PERMITS.  Permits are now quick and easy!         F


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

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
~William Blake

To enter a supermarket these days is to run a gauntlet of startlingly yellow mums, clove-scented pinecones, and pumpkins, perhaps fewer than in a less rainy year; it must be October.  In the CLAS harvest, at least one crop is in: we are happy to announce that our annual report is available (Teaching and Learning in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences 2011) in a highly sustainable online version and in limited hard copy (to request hard copy just go to: We're very much looking forward to sharing this publication with the CLAS Alumni Board in about a week and have already sent it to important outside constituencies of the college to help them understand our work and appreciate our diverse and vibrant students and faculty.  This annual report is one of the ways we sow the seeds that eventually grow to become support of many kinds for our college.  Thank you to the more than a dozen people who generously participated in interviews, and congratulations to the many people cited therein for their work with McNair Scholars and in our new Teaching Roundtables, as well as to all of the award winners of whom we are justly proud.  Though no report could hope to mention everything praiseworthy that happens in a year in our college, I hope you'll agree that the report suggests a larger and incredibly impressive whole. As I mentioned in my speech opening the academic year, and again to our unit heads, this is a good year to work on making things run better where we can in order to have those extra resources for redeployment.  This month's feature article (below) is steeped in that spirit, and we are also exploring efficiencies with our advisory groups.  While it is great if we can save dollars-- time, energy and sanity are also resources worth saving and reinvesting. You are likely to see indications of this effort throughout the year.  For instance, as requested our unit head mailing is now the Unit Head & Faculty Weekly Mailing with separate sections dedicated to "Faculty" and "Unit Heads" to help you scan to the material important to you.  Speaking of time, energy and sanity, your elected Faculty Council will soon be contacting you about this year's "Out of the Box" series.  For those of you  who are new or managed to miss OOTB in the past, this faculty-constructed CLAS tradition is a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues from all over the college (over dean-purchased lunch or refreshments) for two very fast-paced hours of discussion on topics important to your academic life.  Past topics have included solving impediments to research, consultation on the composition of the CLAS Standards & Criteria for Personnel Evaluation, and academic integrity.  This year, the topic is Thriving through a Sustainable Career: Getting Your Groove Back.  On three dates in November (see sidebar) faculty will have the opportunity to learn about resources already in place and to hear from some thriving faculty about the practices and resources they've found helpful.  I wish you an October rich in honey crisp apples, ArtPrize, and exams and papers that startle you with excellence.  Blake had it right: could we have anything better to do in harvest than to teach?  

What the Deans Are Doing in October

Dean Fred Antczak notes that "October will keep me busy.  I'll have a couple Alumni Association events, including our annual Alumni Board meeting.  I'll continue my regular meetings with six of the unit heads, attend a couple of Faculty Council meetings and lead a couple unit head meetings.  The student advisory committee will meet with the CLAS deans, and the academic deans will get together to talk about our personal and college goal statements for the year.  Later in the month, the deans' Academic Advising Group will meet, as well as the PSM group, the transfer registration group, the SCDI committee, Fall Arts will have both its Argentinian art event and its Dance event, and that will send us barreling into the many events of Homecoming." AD Mary Schutten will be collaborating with the College of Education on a series of initiatives involving CLAS/COE related to student teaching, teacher tests, secondary admissions, etc. A series of information sessions will be provided jointly for COE/CLAS faculty two sessions on the MTTC tests: October 19, 3-5 pm in B-2-226 MAK or October 20, 9-11am in EC 902.  She will continue to coordinate the submissions for the alignment process of units' existing strategic plan objectives with the CLAS strategic plan. She continues to implement and assess degree cognate substitution requests, support the work of the CLAS curriculum committee as ex officio; participate in GVSU recruitment activities in Lansing, facilitate the curricular fast track process for study abroad course designations, and serve as coordinator for the School Health Education minor for Movement Science. She will participate in the CLAS student advisory meeting, the CLAS alumni advisory meeting and the Alumni in Residence program. AD Gary Stark will work with unit heads on scheduling for 2012-13, work with CLAS Personnel Committee on Fall and Winter personnel reviews, work with Faculty Council and facilitate faculty governance election (if necessary), review sabbatical eligibility, supervise the unit head evaluation process, and  assist with orientations for new unit heads and with first- and second-year faculty. AD Shaily Menon will continue tours of the facilities and meet with representatives from different departments, attend meetings and facilitate discussions related to the new building proposal due for state approval by the end of October, continue work with a graduate assistant to collate college-wide data on strategic plans into a database, conduct orientation sessions for new faculty as well as 2nd and 3rd year faculty, teach a graduate course on landscape ecology, and conduct research with undergraduate and graduate students.

Is Our Vision for Student Centeredness Incomplete?

A student struggles in his student teaching placement. The classroom teacher uses the word "incompetent" and asks that the student teacher be removed. Inspection of the student's transcript shows that he has "I" in the grade column in four key courses in the major. Neither the student nor the reputation of the institution is served well. Improbable? Does the system let such a thing happen? What about prerequisites? Unfortunately, this scenario is based on a true story. Much more common are scenarios in which a student receives an "I" and remains registered in a succeeding course while some other student waits for a seat. Or a student finds out at a graduation audit that an old Incomplete stands in the way of graduation or that "I" resolved very late in her time at GVSU takes her GPA below the 2.0 needed to graduate. Associate Dean Mary Schutten is exploring ways to solve systemically inappropriate registration for the next course in a series caused by the current coding that treats Incompletes as "in progress". She is also working with Records to reduce backlogs of Incompletes and eventually automate the conversion process for those "I" marks that have gone beyond the end of the following semester (in all but extraordinary cases). Faculty can help to reduce misunderstandings, inappropriate course registration, and last minute senior year angst by heeding strong criteria for Incompletes and holding students accountable for the work they have contracted to do. First stop is the catalog: Incomplete Grade This is a temporary grade given for work that is lacking in quantity to meet course objectives. It may be assigned when illness, necessary absence, or other reasons generally beyond the control of the student prevent completion of the course requirements by the end of the semester. This grade may not be given as a substitute for a failing grade or withdrawal. Unless changed by the instructor, the I will be changed to an F (NC when appropriate) according to this schedule: fall semester incompletes, end of winter semester; winter and spring/summer incompletes, end of fall semester. Deferred Grade The grade of X (deferred) is a temporary grade that may be given only in a course that cannot be completed in one semester. Such courses are usually research projects. A department that wishes to assign the grade of X must receive approval for such courses from the University Curriculum Committee before students enroll. This grade is given only for work that is satisfactory in every respect but for which students need more than one semester to complete. An X grade must be removed within two calendar years from the date of assignment. If not, it will be changed to NC. In other words, if you have been giving Incompletes to buy time to turn in "real" grades (these turn into NR, no report , which can hurt students' financial aid status). blur distinctions in situations where a withdrawal (W) would have been more appropriate, or plug a hole for a course that does not conclude on the usual schedule (for which X is a better choice), then you have added pages to the report that Mary Schutten and Roxanne Mol are holding in the photo.  You may have inadvertently disadvantaged students, too. When faculty leave, retire, go on sabbatical, or fail to keep complete records from courses with outstanding Incompletes, it can be very difficult to resolve the Incomplete appropriately.    Some faculty in CLAS have less than a 55% resolution rate after six months for Incompletes they have given.  While they may intend to be kind, the results may not be. Mary Schutten will continue to work with Records to reduce unresolved Incompletes, plug the loopholes, and make that report a whole lot more sustainable.  Faculty can do their part by assigning the most appropriate grade and being very clear with students about the work they have contracted to complete in the case of every "I". Faculty support student success when they help students to bring their course grades to a resolution in a timely fashion.