CLAS Acts April 2018
Monthly e-newsletter for CLAS TT faculty
FROM THE DEAN’S DESK
Frederick J. Antczak
April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.
Gayle Davis once told me that my problem in April was that I allowed myself to count the events on my calendar. Be that as it may, April comes in like a lion and I’ve yet to see a lamb. 34 events at last count.
That is, of course, how it should be. This is our rite of spring. Our graduating photographers, dancers, thespians, filmmakers, painters, ceramists, and metalsmiths have so much to show us. Our ensembles are at their peak. Honor societies unveil their lists. Units present their laurels. Capstone projects give way to cap-and-gown.
CLAS had a few of its own daphne crowns to bestow on Wednesday, March 28 at the CLAS Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration. I was glad to see so many of you there.
Between tasks like taxes (Tax Day is April 17 this year) and all this celebration of another great academic year, I’m sure you are also doing the work needed to ensure the future—it’s a big advising month, too.
This is also a time to mark the transitions into retirement of colleagues to whom much is owed. They have our sincere thanks, and those who have done such a heartfelt job planning receptions for them have my thanks.
The Faculty Council did a fantastic job of energizing us to think about new collegial connections. We are working with them to have some impactful outcomes of the Out of the Box discussions on collaborative teaching (more on that before long). In the meantime, please know that our office is a resource for you when you need a hand identifying colleagues to collaborate with in your teaching and research. Never hesitate to ask.
Commencement for CLAS is on Saturday, April 28. As you no doubt know, we now have students graduating in two separate ceremonies. To find the one your majors attend, see this schedule. If the only thing keeping you away is the lack of regalia to wear, email firstname.lastname@example.org (we have a few spare robes to lend). Special thanks to Heather Van Wormer who donated an extra robe recently.
I wish all of you the magic moments that mark the end of the winter term. Enjoy every graduate school acceptance, job offer, fellowship, wonderful term paper, and any other bit of great news the students bring our way this time of year. These are our spring flowers to gather.
Sabbatical Showcase and Spring Celebration Dean’s Speech and Award Recipients
Good Times, Hard Times, Each Other (March 28, 2018, Sabbatical Showcase)
Taxes and Praxis—Service Mathematics Style
Feryal Alayont is a mathematics professor who will tell you straight out that she likes problems. By that she really means that she likes finding solutions. So while thinking about where her United Way contribution goes, she started to think about how she might be able to make a difference using her skills and time even more directly for those in need. Using her love of mathematics seemed like a natural, so she decided to become trained as a tax preparer and to help train interested students.
The School of Accounting runs a site of the federally supported program VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) with help from the Grand Valley chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, a national scholastic and professional honors society. Feryal made a connection and is now a reviewer who answers questions as they come up for the students in the program.
Their clients are low income families who could use assistance with local, state, and federal taxes. They sign up for one and a half hour slots with the volunteer preparers. While the number who avail themselves of the service changes from year to year, the volunteer preparers are kept busy from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays from February through mid-April, with the exception of Spring Break.
The volunteers’ initial training allows them to address straightforward taxes. Additional levels of training are needed to advise families with more complicated situations such as military, international, rental income, capital gains, retirement accounts or health savings accounts.
“Individuals don’t file income tax returns in my native country Turkey,” Feryal observes.
“The software packages also change,” Feryal notes. “And as with most things, the first year on a new one is always a little problematic, but it gets easier as you become used to it.”
Students interested in the program do approximately a day and a half of training in December and January and take qualifying tests at the various levels. They also study standards of conduct. For instance, VITA volunteers can’t accept tips on ethical grounds. Once their training and testing is complete, students can volunteer as many hours as they are able.
As she does her own training and testing, Feryal has become aware that it is easy to make a mistake on a question due to missing a “not” or making a small arithmetic error.
“It gives me compassion for the students in my mathematics courses.”