CLAS Acts September 2009

Matt Altenritter with juvenile sturgeon (watch out for the thorny spines!)

September 2009
Volume 3, Issue 1

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  

Information about GVSU procedures related to the H1N1 virus is expected later in the week.    

Have you checked your media profile on the Sources Guide lately?  Might be time to update News & Information Services on your expertise.  

Student Fellowships GVSU now has an Office of Fellowships to assist students to apply for nationally competitive fellowships.  The deadlines for Rhodes, Marshalls, and Fulbrights (all for graduate study abroad) come up very early in the Fall semester.  If you know of seniors who should think of applying, please encourage them to go to  There are two Fulbright information meetings scheduled, both to be held in 148 HON (Niemeyer): Thursday, Sept. 3 from 5:15-6 pm, and Wednesday, Sept. 9, 12-1 pm.

Wondering How Your Favorite Fund is Doing?  Check out the Faculty and Staff Campaign Web Page

Homecoming 2009
Saturday, October 17 CLAS will hold a silent auction of art and photography in Alumni House from 2:00-6:00pm Fall Arts Celebration

Distinguished Academic Lecturer
Rashid Khalidi The Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University "The Great Powers and the Middle East: Yesterday and Today" Leading expert on the Middle East discusses how this region has been affected by external intervention over the past century and the region's role in world events. Tues., September 22, 7 pm L.V. Eberhard Center, 2nd floor Pew (Grand Rapids) Campus    

West Michigan Undergraduate Science Research Conference Date: Saturday, October 31 (costumes optional) Time: about 9am to 3pm What: A conference for all undergraduate science research. Students will present posters in one of two sessions. There will also be oral presentations by local faculty scientists and a national key-note speaker. This is a great venue for our students to present their research and for other scientists and academics in West Michigan to see the good work of our students. Cost: Free (including lunch and coffee) Location: Van Andel Institute, Grand Rapids Registration: Mandatory free online registration. Details will be coming. Questions:  stavesm@gvsu,edu                           

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

Lao Tzu wrote that "When the student is ready the teacher will appear".  If that works in both directions (and I'm not just affirming the consequent), the students must be ready because the new and existing faculty have been out in force since the end of last week with their characteristic energy and enthusiasm for the new academic year.  It was wonderful to get to see so many of you at the New Faculty dinner and the CLAS Faculty & Staff meeting.  So that you can hold me to what I said (and vice versa), the text of my speech is on the website under the Dean's Office tab. 

At our start up, we made available our new booklet on recent Scholarly and Creative Achievements of the College.  If you missed receiving a copy, please e-mail, and we'll put a copy in the campus mail for you. This is part of a kind of rotation of accountability that began with the The Teaching Art, continued with the first Quadrennial Report, and next summer will tell the stories of the important service that CLAS faculty lend to various constituencies.  In this the 49th year since the chartering that became the GVSU we know and love today, we have serious challenges, but we also have a great deal to look forward to.  The Fall Arts Celebration, the International Faculty & Friends Reception,  Archaeology Week, a conference on Africa in Contemporary International Relations, the Arts at Noon Series, a great line-up of Third Thursday interviews  on WGVU radio, and several other wonderful ways to begin the academic year. 

The best way to keep up with it all is to acquaint yourself with the monthly CLAS Happenings poster, to check out the events calendar on the CLAS Web site and to note the announcements in this newsletter.  The College Office is striving to minimize paper use and tailor communications as much as possible. 

As you have probably already heard, GVSU has again enjoyed the top rating as the up-and-coming university in the Midwest according to US News & World Report and earned a very high mark (98) in the Princeton Review rankings of sustainable colleges.  Both are a nice vote of confidence as we start the new academic year, but this year will not be one for resting on our laurels. In September, along with the Associate Deans, I'll be taking an Inclusion Advocacy seminar.  In addition to attending a couple of department meetings by invitation and starting the rotation of regular monthly meetings, I'll be MC'ing at the Fall Arts Celebration Distinguished Lecturer event (Rashid Khalidi, September 22), beginning to develop budget requests for 2010-11, visiting the School of Communication to discuss their External Consultants report, greeting and hosting Philosophy's Self Study External Consultants, welcoming the attendees at the conference on Africa in International Relations, attending the Faculty Colloquium, meeting with several departments to hear their ideas about the renewal of their unit heads, chairing the first unit head meetings, and attending a University Leadership Team meeting.AD Mary Schutten will be taking up her ex officio position on the CLAS Curriculum Committee (which meets weekly), supporting the CLAS Academic Advising Center programming, continuing service on a task force for new units and programs as well as the committee to review transfer student orientation programming, and serving as liaison to various other committees.  AD Jann Joseph will be working on new faculty mentoring and orientation.  AD Gary Stark will assist with preparation of Round 1 of the 2010-11 schedule, prepare the list of personnel reviews for 2009-2010 and sabbatical eligibility dates,  assist with governance elections, help organize new unit head orientations, and recruit interviewers for student scholarship competition days. And I'd like to say a special word of thanks to the Faculty Council that has managed to continue some of its work over the summer to prepare to consult the faculty on CLAS Tenure& Promotion Standards & Criteria and members of GrIT (our Grassroots Inclusion Taskforce, made up of student, staff and faculty volunteers) who are about to review a draft of the CLAS Inclusion Plan.  I'm also deeply grateful to the faculty who over the summer assisted our team in their work on a building grant.  I have the distinct impression that we lost no momentum over the summer and are hitting the ground running this fall.  True GrIT! I wish you all brilliant students and reservoirs of inspiration.  How lucky we are to do what we do in such an emerging place--and in such good company!

P.S. Since International Talk Like a Pirate Day falls on Saturday, September 19th this year, I declare CLAS Talk Like a Pirate Day to be Friday, September 18 ( Aargh).


Faculty Feature

Patience and Optimism for the Lake Sturgeon

By Monica Johnstone, PhD, Dir. of CLAS Communications & Advancement

Carl Ruetz likes to think of his work at the Annis Water Resources  Institute  as having the central theme of fisheries ecology.  Several concurrent projects at any given time come under this umbrella.  Some of these projects involve the study of Lake Sturgeon, a threatened species.  In the early 1800s, their numbers started to decline because commercial fishermen thought of them as a nuisance for tangling their nets.  They enjoyed greater popularity some years later when caviar was particularly in vogue, but have since declined again-victims of the effects of land use.  Since they swim upstream to spawn, dams and other man-made obstacles have decreased their numbers. And yet, some populations persist in spawning rivers.  Carl has a new grant to study, beginning this fall, the Kalamazoo and Grand River populations.  In particular, he's interested in the status of these populations and the use that juvenile sturgeon make of their habitat. To undertake this sort of research, as he is currently in the Muskegon River, sturgeon are caught and injected under a boney plate with a pit tag.  The tag is about the size of 2 grains of rice placed end to end.  Since sturgeon have been known to live 100 years, these hardy pit tags are designed to function approximately 80 years.  Some of the sturgeon can grow to 6 feet in length and weigh between 70-100lbs.  These mature fish, by removing a small part of their pectoral fins, have their age determined in almost the same way as reading the rings on a tree. Carl and a graduate student Matt Altenritter collect adults in the Muskegon River in the spring and sample downstream for larval fish.  This year Matt collected 20 larval fish.  They've also caught juveniles in gill nets, affixed ultrasonic tags to track their movement.  This is easier said than done.  To see where they go involves using a hydrophone from a boat.  The pinging of the tags can be heard and, once the researchers are close, they can measure depth.  With each individual tag emitting a different frequency, individual fish can be tracked.  The information about the movements of these fish will help to tell Carl and his colleagues about the habitats these fish use which then helps the Department of Natural Resources to focus its work to protect and restore these habitats.  With pressure to develop new marinas or allow more intensive use of certain areas of the lakes and rivers, this ability to focus is very valuable to an agency of understandably limited resources. Carl notes that anyone catching a sturgeon in our local rivers or Lake Michigan should let it go and also report the location of the catch to the DNR.  In Lake St. Clair and Black Lake, fishermen can harvest a single sturgeon a year, but it is illegal to take them elsewhere. Could the sturgeon make a come-back?  Carl is optimistic in the longer term.  Fishing limits, river restoration, and improving water quality are all good news stories relative to 50 years ago.  But we'll need to be patient since sturgeon don't reproduce until they are 10-15 years of age and don't necessarily spawn every year.  Years of data will need to be collected and the political will need to be nurtured so that the long term research can be successful. In the meantime, Carl will be working with another graduate student, Jordan Allison on Walleye in the Muskegon River.  Mid-way through a two year grant, the team is looking at the reasons that the spawning season for this species is not more successful.  60,000 swim up the river but reproduction is curiously limited. Egg deposition rates are studied using special filters which allow Carl and Jordan to estimate the number of eggs being laid.  Incubators of Plexiglas allow them to look at the survival rates over time and to monitor the physical environment. Is it the density of the somewhat aggressive Rusty Crawfish?  Are they eating the eggs or fry?  Cages impervious to crayfish with known number so of Walleye fry are helping the scientists to get a sense of whether crayfish predation is a substantial factor. With the help of U of M and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Carl is also looking at larva drifting in the water column.  Is the problem in a particular part of their range?  By starting at the beginning and tracing their movements, it may be possible to determine where the problem is.    In time, Carl hopes to work out why the mortality rate for the billions of eggs produced is so high.  That could eventually lead to striking a balance with non-native though desirable fish species (such as some salmon). These and other projects inform Carl's teaching of fishery biology and managements classes, grant writing, his advising of three graduate students, and the 3-6 committees ("depending on how you count") on which Carl serves.   Somehow Carl found the time for a little night fishing recently-and he has an impressive case of poison ivy to prove it.