All posts by Amy Spahn


Langston and Gupta Radio Interview on DAPL Wins Best Feature Programming Award

Best Feature Programming Award.
Best Feature Programming Award.

A radio interview featuring Latika Gupta (SBE) and Nancy Langston (SS) won the Michigan Association of Broadcasting Award for Best Feature Programming. The Copper Country Today Segment discussed the Dakota Access Pipeline Controversy and initially aired on Dec. 18, 2016.

Gupta had provided her expertise as an energy economist and Langston had focused on sovereignty and environmental justice issues. The entire interview can be found on the Copper Country Today website.


Deans’ Teaching Showcase: Don Lafreniere

Don Lafreniere
Don Lafreniere

This week, the Deans’ Teaching Showcase returns to the College of Sciences and Arts, where Dean Bruce Seely has selected Don Lafreniere, an assistant professor in the Social Sciences Department.

Seely says that he nominated Lafreniere partly to highlight the area in which he is teaching — geographic information systems (GIS).

According to Seely, “Much of Don’s teaching helps students grasp the importance of geography generally and geospatial thinking specifically. This is what he cares about, and his enthusiasm and energy show in every discussion on this topic.”

But Seely says his primary reason for recognizing Lafreniere in this year’s Teaching Showcase comes back to his approach to student learning.

“In all my classes,” Lafreniere notes, “I strive to provide an environment in which students are comfortable questioning themselves and each other while facing the discomfort of challenging their accepted viewpoints. In small classes, I arrange the students in a circle, allowing for more intimate discussions and debates. I sit with my students, asking provocative questions and telling stories that push them to question their assumptions and inquire about how things are interconnected.”

Seely was intrigued by Lafreniere’s way of introducing the topic of homelessness. After assembling in the classroom, he told students to take off their coats and “follow me outside on a February morning. We stand in the snow, shivering, as I briefly outline the origins of homelessness in cities. We return to the warmth of the classroom to watch a short documentary in which homeless people share their experiences, then conclude with a discussion of the complexities of this social issue.”

This approach surely makes homelessness a more real situation to college students. For similar reasons, Lafreniere creates field experiences in every class, such as sending students to local grocery stores to “investigate the origins of fresh produce and to record all the manufacturers of a category of products, such as soup or cereal.”

This information informs a required report on how changes in the global food system are observed locally.

Lafreniere’s classroom effort also recognizes that “today’s university students live technologically-saturated lives.” Therefore he “embraces the use of technology to engage them.”

Lafreniere uses both Mentimeter and Poll Everywhere, two response systems that allows students to answer questions via their laptops or cellphones. The results are displayed in real-time on a PowerPoint slide and help gauge student comprehension.

Frequently Lafreniere brings online digital exhibits into courses. For example, he “illustrated the process of socially-constructed places with PhilaPlace, an interactive archive which allows residents of Philadelphia to map their own stories of places in their neighborhood.”

While Lafreniere spends much of his time helping students master the computer-based technology of GIS, he presents that tool as only a technique for continuing to question themselves about the natural and built environment that surrounds them.  His enthusiasm for that task is why he is part of this year’s Deans Teaching Showcase.

Lafreniere will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with 11 other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside-the-classroom  teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.


Industrial Archaeology: Capturing History

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Photo MTU Archives Once a thriving, profitable mine, the Cliff contained very few physical remains by the time this photograph was taken in 1905, presenting a challenge to archaeologists wanting to create an accurate map of the former surface plant. 

The Department of Social Sciences’ Industrial Archaeology Program was recently the topic of two stories featured in the Daily Mining Gazette giving an insight to industrial archaeology.  Click on the title to read more:

False move blows up history: Industrial sites often have complicated archaeologies

Industrial Archaeology: Field goes beyond record to find escaped history


Pischke Receives Graduate Student Leader Award and Graduate Student Service Award

PischkeAward3
Erin Pischke, Jessie Knowlton, and Jill Fisher.

Erin Pischke (EEP) received two graduate student awards at the Graduate Research Colloquium Banquet held on February 16, 2017.  Pischke won a Graduate Student Government merit award for Exceptional Graduate Student Leader and the Graduate Student Service Award.

Congratulations Erin!

Read more and watch the video at ABC10 UP, by Rick Allen.

Complete list of winners:

Oral Presentation Competition

  1. 1st Place: Kevin Sunderland, Department of Biomedical Engineering
  2. 2nd Place: Teresa Wilson, Department of Physics
  3. 3rd Place: Andrew Chapp, Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology
  4. Most Attended: Muraleekrishnan Menon, Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
  5. Most Attended: Niranjan Miganakallu, Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics

Poster Presentation Competition

  1. 1st Place: Matthew Kilgas, Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology
  2. 2nd Place: Brian Page, Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
  3. 3rd Place: Zichen Qian, Department of Biomedical Engineering
  4. People’s Choice: Mugdha Priyadarshini, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Graduate Student Service Awards

  1. Gorkem Asilioglu, Department of Computer Science
  2. Hossein Tavakoli, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  3. Kate Glodowski, Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology
  4. Erin Pischke, Department of Social Sciences

The GRC is held each year by the Graduate Student Government at Michigan Tech.


Map Your History! Trepal Explains

Dan Trepal
Dan Trepal

Dan Trepal, IHA PhD student,  recently had a post published by the Canadian Historical Geographic Information Systems Partnership titled:  Map Your History! Building and Sharing a Historical Spatial Data Infrastructure with the Keweenaw Time Traveler Project.  Dan discusses the historical GIS infrastructure underpinning the Keweenaw Time Traveler Project (headed by Co-PIs Dr. Don Lafreniere, Dr. Sarah Scarlett, and IHA PhD candidate John Arnold ) and describes some of the upcoming public outreach activities the KeTT Team has planned for this spring and summer.




Schelly Quoted in Article on the Inter-connectivity of Food Production, Energy, and Water Usage

Chelsea Schelly
Chelsea Schelly

Chelsea Schelly was quoted in the Sierra Magazine article Think Your Household Is Susatinable?  Think Again.   Schelly is a co- principal investigator on the project, “Reducing Household Food, Energy and Water Consumption: A Quantitative Analysis of Interventions and Impacts of Conservation.”,  that has received a $1,477,068 grant from the National Science Foundation.