CLAS Acts September 2014


Playing the cactus

September 2014
Vol. 8, 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

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!

~Dr. Seuss  

As maybe you can tell, I do love the annual start up.  The leisure of summer is utterly disrupted, there is more than the usual rushing between events in tents, but there is also a crackle in the air from the energy of students on campus in large numbers, whipping by on longboards and sporting neon backpacks, and of faculty returned from their many adventures, flush with stories and energy.  We're not just better rested; we at GVSU and especially in CLAS are justified in our optimism as we begin a year with new colleagues in many units (welcome, every one!), a record crop of highly qualified freshmen, an average cost to students that has actually decreased from last year, renewed acknowledgement of our status as a green campus, the legislature has again noted our evidence of excellence with some increased funding, as a result of which the Provost was able to help whole categories of our salaries that were lagging to catch up.  Look at all our good news:  Associate Dean Galbraith has only been in our office for a few months but is already quoted in a recent article in Inside Higher Ed.   Ed Aboufadel (MTH) will be receiving kudos from high places for his novel approach to a wicked problem-and you know they must be cool kudos because I'm not allowed to tell you anything more just yet. Diane Rayor (CLA) has another book out from Cambridge University Press.  Rob Deaner's psychology research on marathon running popped up in the NY Times.   Al Steinman at AWRI put the Al in Algal bloom in just about every article that appeared on the subject this summer.  With the guidance of Executive Producer Kim Roberts and her colleagues in Film and Video Production, our students created a video for Homeland Security.  And as you will read in our feature article, Bill Ryan has taken the New Music Ensemble even more out of the (band)box-as if it were ever in one. Not all of what went on this summer was so high profile.  Many of you wrote grant applications, refined curricular proposals, painstakingly worked over submissions for publication, moved offices, reorganized collections, continued to perform committee work, labored in your studio, and many other important kinds of work that will come to fruition later.  That too is in the nature of our academic lives and, while not yet news, is very much appreciated by your deans and your colleagues and your students.  I am personally grateful to have such extraordinary colleagues. We are in the midst of the briefings of new colleagues with responsibility for all or much of CLAS in University Development (Leah Bekins) and University Communications (Matt Makowski).  Our complex college presents a steep learning curve for them, but we appreciate the structures that will allow these colleagues to specialize in our aspirations and achievements.  We enthusiastically welcome their help and collegiality. Speaking of aspirations and achievements, I think you will be inspired and appreciative of the CLAS annual report that highlights service work in our college.  When we ran the service report in Digital Measures, your service work for the year ran to 487 pages!  Our report is a more affordable 27 pages, so we had to suggest the breadth and depth of your activities rather than note every one.  Despite that brevity, we appreciate what each and every one of those projects do for our community and in particular the transformational experiences you create for our students through your service.  As Stephen Matchett (Chemistry professor, chair of Faculty Council and self-described adherent to the Pirate Code) so aptly reminded us, service is part of the job, and some very busy people on our campus are doing an excellent job of it.  Please do support your faculty leaders when the time comes to nominate for and vote in the faculty governance elections this fall and winter. Lots of fascinating offerings coming up-be sure to take some of them in yourself and encourage your students to make the most of the college opportunities to see free lectures, concerts and very affordably priced theatre.  ArtPrize begins on September 24. Here are a few events on campus in September: ·                                                        

September 15, 2014 Fall Arts--Music: Lost Operettas of John Philip Sousa ·                                                        

September 17, 2014 Carey Lecture: "Afraid of the Dark: Humanity at the Crossroads" ·                                                        

September 18, 2014 Grand Valley Writers Series --Lacy M. Johnson ·                                                        

September 30, 2014 Fall Arts: Art: Shared Passion--A Gift from the Padnos Foundation

The bounty of the offerings around here and of your mounting accomplishments makes it easy to dream big.  Perhaps that sense of possibility arises in the fall every year, but it's especially palpable in this year of gratitude and optimism.. In a year of strategic planning, we're liable to often hear phrases like "disruptive innovation." So let us plan to make this year one of innovating on behalf of our students, let's see as important outcomes the additional opportunities we offer for their success-and let us, in the proud tradition of liberal education in which we stand, work to disrupt the impoverished terms in which society currently understands the possibilities of a richly human life.  In the most productive way possible for our students and our state, let's us be the disruptors! What a great year that would make!  

New website to support faculty advising: Great work by the advising taskforce!     

  Research Cluster Grant The next deadline for a Research Cluster grant application is October 1, 2014. The five Research Clusters (Borders, Brain, Health, Urban, and Water) are intended to bring together interested faculty with scholarly and creative interests in these areas from any college. Successful applications will include faculty from at least three disciplines, involve students, demonstrate how a collaborative effort will help address the question under investigation in a way that individual effort is less likely to do so, and include plans for dissemination of results. Special consideration will be given to projects that include a technology transfer component or a community engagement component. For more information about the Research Cluster Grant, application guidelines, and an example of a funded project, please go to .    

CLAS Faculty Research Colloquia The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is sponsoring a series of six CLAS research colloquia again this year. To try to accommodate more schedules, the colloquia will be held on Fridays in the Fall semester and Thursdays in the Winter semester. They will all be held in PAD 308 and will begin at 2:30 pm with refreshments followed by four or five 20-minute presentations (15 min plus 5 min for discussion). We especially encourage new faculty and faculty who have been on sabbatical recently to make presentations.

Dates for next academic year's CLAS Faculty Research Colloquia

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thurs., January 22, 2015

Thurs., February 19, 2015

Thurs., March 19, 2015

Each event will take place in 308 Padnos Hall. Contact Mark Staves.

International Faculty & Friends Opening Reception Wednesday, September 3, 4:00 - 5:30 pm Pere Marquette (Room 2204), Kirkhof Center Refreshments including beer & wine will be served. For more information about International Faculty & Friends, please visit:   The

Regional Math and Science Center invites you to celebrate our 25th Anniversary! Tuesday, September 23, 2014 3-6pm  C-1-120 Mackinac Hall Please RSVP to              


Combining Passions for a Spectacular Journey

Since childhood, composition Professor Bill Ryan has loved the outdoors and camping.  He's worked to keep that in his life around teaching, composing, recording sessions, and trips to play at New York's Bang on the Can festival or Carnegie Hall with the distinguished New Music Ensemble.  One day it struck him that it might be possible to creatively blend his interests. The idea grew slowly over three years into a performance tour of five National Parks for ten days in late April and early May of this year.  Around the theme of music inspired by these sublime places, the students of the New Music Ensemble would help create a singular touring experience. "I had a particularly great group including several seniors, "Bill explains, "so the timing was just right." A trip of 4,000 miles took the eight students of the ensemble and one more for technical support through a challenging 13 concerts in the National Parks and a final performance at Colorado College in conjunction with the Bode Piano Ensemble.  Three mini vans transported Bill, the students and their equipment from hotel to park to park-in most case, to places they had never seen before:  Arches, Capitol Reef, Zion, Grand Canyon and the Great Sand Dunes.  At each park, recordings were made of the natural sounds of that place.  At each subsequent venue, one of their pieces, Red Vesper, made use of these recorded sounds -becoming  increasingly complex and layered as the trip progressed until the final performance featured sounds resourced from all five of the parks.    From early arrangement making through coiling cables after each performance, the students learned what it takes to perform on the road.  Though spectacular sunrises beckoned, they also learned they needed a good night's rest and to make some healthy food selections to stay in top form.  "yes, taking care of yourself on the road became one of the lessons," Bill explains.  "Musicians do often have to travel." The students also experienced a different sort of audience.  "We encountered audiences very much outside of music, quite unlike those who come to our usual concerts.  You explain things differently and are asked a different sort of question at the end-we got some great questions from them," Bill smiles. There was plenty to ask about, including a not-soon-forgotten performance by the percussionist playing a barrel cactus.  "This was the most well received piece," Bill notes.  "Solo, amplified cactus."  The instrument in question is now living happily in a pot on Bill's porch. If you are sorry you missed all this, the commissioned compositions will be performed in Detroit on September 13 as part of the Max M. Fisher Center's  New Music Detroit's Strange Beautiful Music VII ( An enterprise such as this one has many to thank including the FTLC for a teaching with technology grant allowing the ensemble to move to iPad-based music which in addition to being, as Bill describes, "incredibly slick" also stands up to wind much better than sheet music and negates the need for stand lights.  "Rain is a problem," Bill admits and tells the story of one performance outdoors which had an unscheduled 45 minute hiatus when the students had to cover their many electronics with tarps and wait with what turned out to be a very patient audience. "The team I put together of these mature students shows that chemistry is important."  Musicianship matters, but getting along is very important as they worked together for a year on everything  from budgets to routes. The successful tour has Bill thinking about the rest of the national parks as venues in subsequent years.  He hopes that his high level of documentation and the connections made at the five parks this summer will come in handy as he seeks funding  and shows students that in the life of the contemporary musician, you have to make your own opportunities.