Archives—April 2017

Teaching by CSA faculty recognized

Universities have occasionally struggled in recent decades to achieve an appropriate balance between our two core responsibilities: teaching and research. Not surprisingly, this challenge has surfaced at Michigan Tech as we have worked to balance Tech’s traditional strength as an undergraduate teaching institution with the more recent strategic emphasis upon graduate education and research supported by external funding. But in the College of Sciences and Arts, our commitment to teaching and learning has never weakened and remains a crucial yardstick for measuring how well the college meets its mission.

Indeed the college and its faculty take pride in excellence in the classroom.  A significant part of CSA’s mission is delivering core foundational courses in calculus and statistics, physics, chemistry, composition and communication, global issues and other courses in the general education program to EVERY student in every major. For example, the Department of Mathematical Sciences instructs more than 7,000 students in its courses each year, at a time when the university enrollment is just over 7,000. Yet the math faculty also maintain a high level of scholarship and each authors an average of 2 research articles per year. That type of balance is found in every department, for the college’s faculty must be good teachers as well as good scholars. And many are excellent!

I consistently take pride in the efforts of our best teachers, and this is the time of year when those individuals are recognized. This spring, I highlighted the efforts of five college faculty for their exemplary teaching approaches and goals in the Dean’s Teaching Showcase. The showcase is a weekly event inaugurated by the Director of the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning, with each dean selecting exemplary faculty whose instructional efforts are less likely, because of the topic or the course, to achieve recognition through the regular teaching awards.

Beth Reed, Mathematical Sciences
Beth Reed, Mathematical Sciences
Raymond Shaw (2nd from left), Physics
Raymond Shaw (left), Physics
 Loredana Velenzano, Chemistry
Loredana Velenzano, Chemistry

 

 

 

 

 

 

The showcase continues the rich and valuable dialogue that has taken place among the faculty over the past 15 years or more about teaching and student learning. You can read more about the showcase nominees from CSA in Tech Today: Elizabeth Reed (MA); Raymond Shaw (PHY); Loredana Valenzano (CH); Donald LeFreniere (SS); and Steven Elmer (KIP); each brings something special to our students and is well deserving of this recognition.

Don LaFreniere, Social Sciences
Don LaFreniere, Social Sciences
Steven Elmer, Kinesiology & Integrative Physiology
Steven Elmer, Kinesiology & Integrative Physiology

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the Showcase unfolded this spring, the process of nominating the faculty to be inducted into Tech’s Academy for Teaching Excellence proceeded on its own pathway, culminating in a dinner on April 4 to honor the new inductees into the Academy as well as others nominated for a teaching award more than once.  This year the college was again well represented: 2 individuals were nominated in the Lecturer/Assistant Professor Category, and another faculty member in the associate and professor category.  The first nominee was Senior Lecturer Beth Reed from Math, who was inducted  into the Academy in 2012 and has since been nominated several times for the outstanding teacher award.  Beth’s repeated nominations reflect her intense dedication to help students succeed in her statistics classes.

Brigitte Morin, Biology
Brigitte Morin, Biological Sciences
MC Friedrich, VPA
MC Friedrich, Visual & Performing Arts

 

 

 

 

 

 

A first-time nominee to the Academy is Brigitte Morin from Biological Sciences, who is an integral part of the Medical Laboratory Sciences (MLS) program.  Her nomination highlighted the amazing enthusiasm she brings to teaching and learning.  A graduate of our MLS program, she returned to Tech several years ago and has made an an exceptional contribution from day one.  She mentioned herself how thrilled she was to be back here with the people whose teaching had made such a difference to her.  Now she is doing the same for another generation of Tech students! But the highlight of the evening may have been the comments from MC Friedrich in Visual and Performing Arts, nominated (again!) in the professor category.  MC chose to read a few comments from students she found posted on RatemyProfessor.com. They seemed to have a different idea about excellent teaching.

“The class was a little too slow for me but others needed the time.”

“Stop expecting us to remember and do what we learned earlier in the class.”

“In the future add in some more evil twists to the projects so we can brag to the following classes that we did not have to do that.”

“The projects are hard.  Make them simpler.”

“And I wish you wouldn’t give us a chance to fix mistakes for points.  That’s too much pressure.”

Behind the humor, however, we can see the commitment to preparing students for their future careers that is the mark of every good teacher.  It’s a hallmark of our faculty, and yet another reason for pride in what is happening here at the college!


Undergraduate Students and Research

Chemistry Lab Updates 201610130007The pace of the academic semester picks up in mid April, with students and faculty alike realizing that the end of the semester is looming.  Students hustle to complete projects and papers, but I am especially impressed by the number of research activities in which CSA undergraduates are involved.

Michigan Tech has sought to connect students to research as early as possible in their time here, believing that research, like other experiential activities, can transform their education. The following list of their work is, I believe, impressive.

In Biological Sciences, fourth-year Biological Sciences student Rebecca Hobmeier recently presented a department seminar on “Drosophila Gene Regulation in the Formation of Complex Color Patterns in Yellow Evolution of Guttifera.” Thomas Werner was her adviser.

In the Physics Department, a number of seniors presented summaries of their projects at a department colloquium. These included:

  • Floyd Johnson — “Free-standing and Substrate-Supported Cytosine Molecules: Molecular Dynamics Study, advised by department chair Ravi Pandey
  • Austin Hermann — “Quantum Confinement Effect in Silicon,” advised by Ranjit Pati
  • Colin Sheidler —”Unidirectional Emission from Microring Lasers,” advised by Ramy El-Ganainy
  • David Russell — “A Search for Exotic Particles Using AUGER Data”, advised by Brian Fick
  • Michael Foetisch — “Iron Electrowinning: Proof of Concept and Optimization,” advised by Timothy Eisele
  • Nick Videtich — “Pico-second Pulsed Laser System Using Neodymium-doped Yttrium Vanadate Crystal,” advised by Jae Yong Suh
  • Kelci Mohrman — “Searching for Emission from the Geminga Pulsar Wind Nebula in GeV Engines,” advised by Petra Huentemeyer.

And in Social Sciences, three students presented their undergraduate theses in anthropology to the department.

  • James Wezensky — Stamp Mill Technologies: The Industrial Past of Isle Royale National Park, advised by Pat Martin
  • Jakob Williams — The Party of Trump: Understanding the Rise of the Billionaire Populist, advised by Melissa Baird

This list could be multiplied many times, as faculty in the life sciences (especially Biological Sciences, Chemistry and  Kinesiology) eagerly recruit undergraduates to work in their labs, so that some of them leave Michigan Tech as co-authors or contributors to a publication in an academic journal.  These outcomes explain why many of us talk about the unity of teaching and research and see them as deeply complementary activities.  These student projects offer only the most recent example of effort to integrate these core responsibilities.

 


A busy season for Visual and Performing Arts

Perhaps it is because I share a building with the Department of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), but it is interesting that VPA activities have figured several times in my blog comments this spring.   Whatever the reason, I am impressed by the diversity and scope of their recent and upcoming activities. Those events show the full artistic talents of our faculty and students, and enrich us all.

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated 50 years of jazz on campus.  Don Keranan was the legendary faculty member who launched that effort, which Mike Irish has now guided for a long time! A good group of alumni journeyed back to campus to mark  this grand occasion, and joined the current students players.  Quite the event, as the image of the alumni jazz players shows!!

don keranen EDS                    Picture1

                                                                                                  Photo by Hannah Kowalewski

Last week two other notable events occurred.  The first was the VPA faculty and staff art exhibition, which opened with a reception on Friday afternoon.  Labeled Amusement Park Avenue, just about every person in the department contributed to the show.  These ranged from M.C. Friedrich’s historically accurate doll costumes to images and sound resulting from the Listening to the Parks soundscape project that showcases the Lake Superior National Parks (Kent Cyr, Christopher Plummer and Libby Meyer).  Anne Beffel’s Every Color of Eyes project (mentioned in my previous blog) also was displayed along with 13 other faculty and staff works, several in mixed media. The exhibit can be seen in the Rozsa Gallery until April 28, and for the last few days, student art produced this year will be displayed in an adjoining section of the gallery.

The second activity on Saturday April 1, was a very different kind of presentation. Musical performers from Vancouver, the Orchid Ensemble, offered their unique fusion/world music selections using traditional Chinese and other instruments.  They were joined for the second half of their program by conScience, the Michigan Tech Chamber Singers.  The results proofed very interesting for most of us.  For example, in the second combined number, Orchid Ensemble accompanied the Chamber Singers, while in the final number the singers served as vocal instruments accompanying the Ensemble. As always, considering there are no art or music majors on campus, both events were  superb. And a significant part of the success of the gallery exhibit and the musical performance goes back to the students responsible for the technical presentation, lighting, and sound. These students had an special learning experience with Orchid Ensemble

Amusement Park 2                    orchidensembleposter

And there is still more to look forward to, as the department is presenting its version of West Side Story, famous for Leonard Bernstein’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics.  There will be three presentations from April 13 to 15.  And that will not exhaust the end of the semester schedule, so check out the VPA calendar of events.  We are lucky to have such great opportunities to experience the arts in all of their forms.

west side story EDS