CLAS Acts September 2013

  September 2013
Vol. 7, issue 2

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.


Frederick J. Antczak, Dean

With our start-up faculty and staff meeting the academic year and the 10th anniversary year of the college are under way.  At our meeting, I set the college some challenges: our processes should be trim and relevant so that the work we do is responsive to our needs and those of our students, and not just a reaction to the buzzwords and hot buttons of the moment.  As always, we've posted the speech so you can hold me to it. At our meeting President Haas and Provost Davis reiterated the university's commitment to seeking the sorely needed facilities for our performing arts and communications colleagues.  As we know, building for anyone benefits everyone because there is inevitably easing on the load in other places.  And we all benefit from the work of our colleagues in the arts as Rich Stoelzel and Robert Byrens demonstrated with musical excellence and great humor at our meeting. In what I hope will prove a sleek year, we got off to a good start with the lunch tent conveniently adjacent to our meeting and providing an excellent view of the work on Zumberge Hall in progress. It was only a couple weeks ago that I attended the opening of the AWRI Field Station (which in true GVSU fashion, AWRI was already busy using).  The summer saw a great deal of progress in other areas, too.  Our colleagues have had news streaming in.  For instance, Steeve Buckridge (HST) has a fellowship to Yale and Lindsay Ellis (ENG) will be guest researcher at Universiteit van Amsterdam.  As the 2013-14 Mawby Fellow, Michelle Miller-Adams (PLS) will be comparing the philanthropic cultures of Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.  "The White Bag," the 19th annual Grand Valley State University Summer Film Project was written and directed by School of Communications' Marie Ullrich.  Charlene Beckmann (MTH) received the Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Mathematics Education Award from the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics.  Matt Daley (HST) was interviewed on Take Five and Company (WZZM 13) about the history of Motown Records.  AWRI snagged NSF, C.S. Mott Foundation, and DEQ grants.  It was quite a summer. We do love to live vicariously in our office, and enjoyed bringing out the annual report which gives a snapshot of your scholarly and creative achievements in the previous academic year.  If you were part of the sample we were able to squeeze in, we have posted a copy directly to you in addition to copies sent to your department.  Anyone needing an extra print copy is welcome to e-mail  A PDF version is also on the website.  The college office distributes this publication to a wide variety of audiences including our Trustees, local government, our campus partners such as those in Development who help us seek funding, and other friends (for instance, our Alumni Board) who we want to gird with stories of our successes. I'd like to thank all of our unit heads for their work which spans the summer months and included a retreat which we held in the new library.  A tour with the art in place was made extra special when we saw the work of unit head Jinny Jenkins proudly displayed and that of other CLAS colleagues featured in several locations. That makes a good lead in to the Fall Arts Celebration.  This is a rather important and precious gift that the university gives to our community.  Please make it a habit to wade in to the stellar offerings which are well worth your time.  The art exhibit Cyril Lixenberg: An Artist's Journey is already open in PAC.  Laurie Garrett will be our distinguished lecturer on October 7.  And see the many posters around or the website for the poetry, music and dance performances that make this such a rich annual festival for liberally educated lifelong learners. On the Third Thursday of every month, CLAS has a slot on Shelley Irwin's morning radio show on WGVU.  In September, that interview will be History colleague James Smither speaking about a great series of lectures he is bringing to our campus on various aspects of the Viet Nam conflict.  Many of you know about Jim's work on the Veteran History Project and this series is a great manifestation of his commitment to that project.  You are sure to get caught up in your teaching, but I hope you will make time for some of these events which add to your schedule but also recharge your batteries.  Be sure to find your way to the Faculty/Staff Dining Room on some Mondays and Wednesdays (a hot meal for $7, 11:30am to 1:30pm, Kirkhof 0072).  And in that spirit I wish you a wonderful fall term full of new connections and the renewal of your best old ones.    

10th Anniversary Celebration Events

AWRI Seminar Series --Species interactions in a changing world Sept. 13
CLAS Faculty Research Colloquium Sept. 20
James W. Carey Memorial Lecture (3rd annual) Sept. 24
Vietnam Veterans Share Their Stories--Send the Marines! Sept. 25
Opening Night: GVSU Shakespeare Festival--Much Ado Sept. 27
Reading by Roxane Gay Oct. 1
HOMERathon 4: a twenty-four hour reading of Homer's Iliad Oct. 2
Vietnam Veterans Share Their Stories--The Army and Special Forces Go In Oct. 2

CLAS Faculty Research Colloquium  Schedule The CLAS Faculty Research Colloquia will take place from 2:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. in 308 PAD: Friday, September 20th Friday, October 18th Friday, November 15th Thursday, January 23rd Thursday, February 20th Thursday, March 20th    

College Office Profile: Associate Dean for Faculty Gary Stark

Gary Stark brings to the position of Associate Dean for Faculty a combination of wry humor and a life of teaching  and scholarship that earned him the university's award for distinguished contribution in a discipline (2011). In his position he is responsible for personnel policy and procedures.  This means making sure that university policies are followed in faculty reviews, that we adhere to the Faculty Handbook, and that questions about the process are answered.  He assists the CLAS Personnel Committee as a resource for personnel issues.  He helps faculty navigate the system when they make a special request such as for maternity leave, a leave of absence or an alternate teaching schedule. His position also holds the scheduling portfolio.  Gary figures out how to implement targets set by the Provost's office within the constraints of laboratories, staff, etc.  He constructs the annual schedule by balancing competing demands always with an eye to providing students with the seats they need.  This often involves taking care of the needs of students in programs outside of CLAS who depend on taking our courses in a particular sequence.  He must ensure that there are not too many low enrolled courses and those we do have are justified. Gary's responsibilities also include the listing of positions and recruitment of new faculty.  Working with Dean Antczak and Administrative Assistant for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Cindy Laug, Gary helps to assess how many tenure track faculty searches the college can afford.  He is also involved in prioritizing searches for Visiting Faculty and oversees searches for Visitors and Affiliates.


Responding to Gravity with Mark Staves

The more you know about Mark Staves, Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) and Biology, the more his long-time commitments make sense.  While his own research takes him to the insides of cells, his perspective is not a narrow one.  Mark is also a musician and a unit head.  Perhaps it is an appreciation of harmonious interaction that leads him to promote opportunities for students and faculty to share their wide-ranging work whether it is at a fall undergraduate research conference at the Van Andel Institute or CLAS's own Research Colloquium. For many years Mark has recruited participants and sent out notifications throughout the college to bring CLAS together to appreciate, enjoy, and occasionally prod the work of colleagues in all of the college's disciplines.  Whether the topic is the history of the African slave trade, South American urban sociological phenomena, medieval saints, the effect of wind turbines on bats, Victorian mourning jewelry, Italian music festivals, avian niches or Haitian hydrology, Mark has been there to introduce the speakers, police their speaking time with grace and humor, welcome participants to the refreshments, and encourage questions that know no departmental boundaries.  He has helped to make the colloquia models of the collegial--both safe and good natured.  Everyone comes away the wiser on some subject made all the more delightful because it is unanticipated. Mark's own work is in an area described as characterization of gravisensing in cells, which he will tell you is not a new line of inquiry.    He wants to know how single cells perceive their environment.  To look directly into the heart of the matter, Mark decided to seek to understand how gravity effects cellular responses, because, after all, gravity "is profound in its simplicity and influences all life on Earth."  This tends to be an area of science more basic than applied,  but the applications it does have are pretty interesting to any of us  who have ever cast their imaginations toward the red planet.  To know how gravity affects cells is to approach some of the fundamental biological issues associated with space travel, such as a decrease in disease resistance and bone loss in zero and low gravity environments. Which brings Mark to the unusual aquatic plant, Chara.  To study how cells perceive the environment, it helps to choose conditions to test that are relatively simple.  Chara has very large cells---centimeters long.  Gravity, unlike light or touch, has straightforward and reliable properties such being always "on" and at pretty much the same intensity in a given place.  One of the early theories of how cells perceived gravity was that they contained sedimenting particles and these would be drawn down through their cytoplasm toward the "bottom" in much the way that a water balloon with gravel inside thrown into a lake would soon have the gravel oriented at the bottom of the balloon, that is, toward the center of the earth.  Whether the balloon floated or not would be in part a function of the density of the lake-Lake Michigan giving a different result than the Dead Sea due to the difference in salinity.  In cellular terms, our gravel is what is known as statoliths.  Many cells have such particles, but Chara does not-making it a nice test case that sidesteps the statoliths. As it turns out, Chara seems to sense gravity by comparing the density of the surrounding medium with the density of its cells. The behavior of any intracellular particles is irrelevant  "Mark wanted to know just how dense the medium surrounding trickier, but even more relevant, plants cells such as rice would have to be to inhibit or reverse their usual gravity responses.  He had to find a denser medium that was also not too toxic.  He chose a sort of sugar-coated iodine that provided the right properties for his experiments.  He discovered that in a dense enough "lake" the "water balloon" could be made to reverse its usual behavior or in the case of rice, the gravicurviture of the roots could be made to grow out of alignment with gravity.  He reported these results at the CLAS Sabbatical Showcase in April 2013 and at the European Space Agency meeting ("Life in Space for Life on Earth) in Aberdeen , Scotland. The work is published, with an undergraduate student as co-author, in The Journal of Gravitational Physiology. Next he plans to use a Michigan Space Grant to do some genetic work on the multiple nuclei of Chara to see which genes are active in gravity and non-gravity conditions. Mark explains that, "There is currently no model available so this would be cool."  He is also interested in adding an additional variable, light.  With gravity constant, if you shine a light at the bottom of a cell how does it affect growth?  How many photons does it take to get that effect? In no danger of running out of questions, Mark has enjoyed working with students over the years and is currently in the process of recruiting a new student researcher with the intent of publishing with his student as he has in the past.  He hopes to identify a great candidate early so that student can stay with the project over a longer timeframe.  All CMB majors are required to do a significant research project and present it-which makes them strong applicants to graduate school-so a motivated student is probably already aligning with the gravitational pull of Mark's lab.

What the Deans Are Doing In September "September is busy," Dean Antczak explains, "even though it begins with a holiday.  Interviews about Fall Arts events will reintroduce me to many of the popular media figures in town.  We'll have a meeting of our Faculty Council, and many unit heads will drop by for a first meeting of the year.  There will also be a Provost Cabinet meeting early in the month.  We'll celebrate Archaeology Week and the first meetings of the Deans' Academic Advising Committee and the University's Transfer Committee in close proximity.  The Rector of our sister institution in Perugia will visit, the Paleo-Olympic games will occur, and then we'll enjoy the first Research Colloquium of the year.  Another unit head meeting, more meetings with unit heads and I hope some invitations to come visit department meetings, and then, poof, it's October!" Associate Dean Shaily Menon looks forward to attending the formal dedication of the new library in the beginning of September. She will participate in a search committee aimed at filling a Grants and Contracts Specialist position in the university's Office of Sponsored Programs and attend several university and college level meetings including a Provost Cabinet meeting, a meeting of Faculty Engaged in Graduate Education, a meeting of the Community Engagement Advisory Committee, CLAS faculty research colloquia, CLAS unit head meetings, and regular meetings with Julie Guevara for discussions related to strategic planning and Ruth Stegeman for community engagement. Shaily looks forward to teaching Environmental Ethics as a General Education Issues course during the fall semester. By way of outreach, she will attend a Board of Trustees meeting and Advisory Board meetings for Pierce Cedar Creek Institute. She will also work as co-chair of the newly formed Diversity Initiative of Northwest Ottawa County (DINOC). AD Mary Schutten will be collaborating with the College of Education (COE) on a series of initiatives involving CLAS/COE related to the full implementation of CLAS/COE supervision of student teaching, teacher tests, and the Professional Teacher Education Advisory Council (PTEAC). She will be participating in The Student Success Collaborative rollout to academic units and other student support initiatives related to orientation, academic advising, and admissions. She will support the work of the CLAS Curriculum Committee ex officio which this fall includes an expedited process to approve the new general education Issues courses; participate in fall start up activities including convocation, the fall teaching conference, and Transitions.  She will also continue to work with Records to create more effective and efficient processes for students and units. AD Gary Stark will in September be assisting the Faculty Council and College Personnel Committee, working closely with unit heads and the Provost's Office on building Round 1 of the 2014/15 course schedule, informing units about personnel actions in 2013/14 and ensuring that all personnel forms, instructions, and deadlines are correct, organizing new unit head orientations, overseeing the Fall CLAS faculty governance election, serving on the university's Internationalization Task Force, soliciting applications for the GVSU-PHSG faculty exchange program, and submitting a study abroad proposal to the International Education Committee