CLAS Acts October 2015

CLAS Acts October 2015

E-newsletter for tenured and tenure track faculty of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences 

From the Dean's Desk

Frederick J. Antczak, Dean

October may just be the most fun month on the academic calendar.  The month begins with the Shakespeare Festival "mod" offering of All's Well that Ends Well, and rolls on with Bard to Go, a student competition and other delights. On October 3 we host our CLAS Alumni Board; we'll get to show off Kindschi Hall and provide them with information vital to their role as community ambassadors and "real world perspective" advisors.  Until October 11, you can catch the many CLAS faculty, staff, students and alumni in ArtPrize.  From October 23-25, Homecoming, Distinguished Alumni in Residence and the Fall Breather coincide.  And then on October 27-28 there are 24 hours dedicated to Homerathon. And that is just a spot-check on October! 

You won't want to miss these events either:

Prep for the Professional Readiness Exam   October 1, 2015 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Grand Valley Writers Series--Marcia Aldrich   October 1, 2015 4:00 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Science on Tap: Dr Anthony Chang   October 8, 2015 8:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Poetry Night 2015   October 15, 2015 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Ecology of single stranded DNA viruses in aquatic invertebrates   October 16, 2015 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
CLAS Faculty Research Colloquium   October 16, 2015 2:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
5th Annual International Archaeology Day   October 17, 2015 All Day
Arnold C. Ott Lectureship in Chemistry: Dr. Geraldine Richmond   October 20, 2015 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Going Nonlinear to Study Molecular Assembly at Oil-Water Interfaces   October 21, 2015 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Ecosystem and Career Transition Zones Along the Laurentian Great Lakes Co   October 22, 2015 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Performance Studio (P.S.) Series   October 25, 2015 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Performance Studio (P.S.) Series   October 26, 2015 7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

As Professor Ham's chicken wrangling (immortalized on page A7 of the 9/21 Lanthorn) attests, CLAS faculty around here put on some pretty not-to-be-missed events (Yes, chicken wrangling). I'm also kin6 of thrilled to see the way our units are capitalizing on opportunities.  BMS is seizing the chance to have an out-of-state member of the Alumni Board Dr. James Rook and his spouse Elizabeth Rook, D.O talk about medical careers on October 2.  Many units will have events tied in with the presence on campus of their Alumni-in-Residence awardees (Keesha is developing a poster to promote these).  These connections with our alumni can be valuable for our students in a variety of obvious ways, but I wouldn't underestimate their potential effect on faculty. It's an unexpected lift at a demanding time of the semester to see the wildly successful lives these people--our students--have achieved based on their time here. I urge you to take a break from carving your pumpkins (and those inspired to do chicken wrangling might take a break too) to carve out some time to partake of the festivities that October brings.  If April is the cruelest month, maybe 6 months later we get paid back in a harvest of fun.

Pardon our Glitch This week's unit head mailing had a sentence from the Study Abroad Fair dragged into info about the Great Lakes History Conference.  Thanks for figuring that out.  We apologize and invite you to see these two events in all their glory in the corrected online version here in the Unit Head and Faculty Weekly Mailing Archive:
For Your Calendar--CLAS Teaching Roundtables  Date:  Monday, November 23, 2015 Time:  11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Location:  Pere Marquette Room (2204 KC) More info coming soon in the Unit Head and Faculty Weekly Mailing and on

Mixing it Up and Making It Stick with Tom Pentecost  

If you engage a GVSU chemist in conversation, you are likely to learn that our department has the largest Chemistry Education faculty in the country.  Together they delve into how we learn best, how best to teach, what sort of cognitive models best describe what is happening, and how to develop useful assessments. The vitality and size of the program are what attracted Associate Professor Tom Pentecost to GVSU.   His own work is at the interdisciplinary juncture between psychology and statistics.  He describes it as "course design that focuses on conceptual understanding and development of assessment tools that measure student understanding".  

Tom notes that he began participating in Pew Teaching and Learning Center (FTLC) programs since he arrived.  He's served as a first year mentor leader, a role he very much enjoys. And he was awarded the Pew Teaching Excellence Award for 2015.   In fact, this year he is taking up an even larger role with FTLC as Director of Part-time Faculty Support[TP1]  and Faculty Fellow.  In these roles he will build on the work of his predecessors.   Tom explains that Kurt Ellenberger provided the groundwork by starting a committee so that Tom can build upon that foundation.  A climate survey of first year courses is in hand (all 119 pages of data) and  a literature review was performed so that our faculty will have the benefit of what others do[TP2] .  He wants to have completed the data analysis by the end of the year so that between what GVSU faculty and the literature say works can be shared to promote retention by including those things students need to succeed in their first year.  His findings will be run by the committee and they will help him to plan how best to move forward with what they discover.  

He'll also build on the work of Dana Munk to support part time faculty.   Tom also has plans to work with Scott Grissom, a professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems.  [TP3] If the grant is not forthcoming, he plans a "grassroots approach" because he is highly motivated to get greater uptake among instructors of what is known to work.  "We might roll it out a bit like the exploration of liberal education was conducted a few years ago," Tom muses.   With the quality of the education for students, especially in the first year very much on his mind, Tom is interested in exploring ideas such as "staffing backwards".  He'd like to see wonderful teachers in those critical early courses as a priority which may mean staffing those first rather than after the high level courses have been considered.   It is no wonder that the first year experience is on his mind.  On the day of this interview, Tom had just moved one of his sons into the Niemeyer living center.  His other son, a senior is a great reminder of the eventual educational outcomes all faculty seek.   Among the FTLC experiences Tom would recommend to others is the Faculty Learning Community program.  He participated in one last year which read Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel (Belknap Press, 2014) which he found helpful.   

"Students can actually be poor judges of what they know," Tom observes.  He liked the book because it urged talking directly to students about the results they are getting and not falling back on just urging them to "study harder".   

"That's educational malpractice," Tom stresses.   When it comes to studying, what might not feel like it is working actually does.  For instance, studying, then leaving it for an hour and returning to it later has been shown to work and explains why cramming does not.   Perhaps part of what motivates Tom is that he remembers hitting the wall his first year and only figuring out how to succeed later.  He feels for students who have been successful in the past and then suddenly struggle.  He sees that they need help in order to know what to do differently. "It is more about learning than it is about remembering chemistry-I want them to be successful when they move onto the next thing."   His new three year appointment with its reassigned time will allow him to maintain research work he is engaged in with students plus his FTLC duties. 

He's thankful for his department's value on supervising undergraduate research.  In his case, his students (some form CHM and some from BMS) are doing research in areas directly applicable to his FTLC duties.  For instance, students interview faculty and students on how they are using a textbook, learn research design and how to structure an investigation learn the IRB process, experience Rasch modeling, learn statistical analysis and qualitative data analysis, and refine interview techniques.    Tom has also been fortunate to work with a colleague at Portland State who has graduate students.  This fruitful collaboration has resulted in publication and allowed him to look at a chemistry concepts inventory in a new psychometric way to see through pre and post testing if the students really learned anything.  Tom notes that some of his colleagues have had similar fruitful collaborations with psychology faculty at GVSU.  

This fall Tom is teaching two sections of CHM 115 and explains that he misses General Chemistry when he's been away from it   He's also leading first year faculty group through FTLC, which he calls "fun service."  "I encourage others to do it so that you can meet others outside your area and learn about how other areas operate."    Tom's strong instinct to vary his experiences and listen to not only his chemistry colleagues but also those in other disciplines even has a special component:  "I'm currently on the second floor of Padnos with a mix of departments and I feel I need that."  This intrepid streak is clearly productive for Tom, his colleagues and his students.