Author: hrpowers

Deans’ Teaching Showcase

We return to the College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) for this week’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase nomination. David Hemmer, CSA dean has selected the team of Richelle Winkler and Don Lafreniere, both associate professors in the Social Sciences Department.

Social Sciences Chair Hugh Gorman recommended the two to Dean Hemmer for their “creative, out-of-the-box approach to providing students with an experiential/service-learning opportunity.”

Gorman described how their collaboration benefitted students in both classes:

“In Fall 2019, students in two classes, Dr. Winkler’s ‘SS4700 Communities and Research’ and Dr. Lafreniere’s ‘SS4050/5050 Advanced GIS’, worked together on a project to conduct research to inform decision-making related to applying the ‘Safe Routes to School’ program to Houghton. This is a national program that promotes walking and biking to school in conjunction with safety education, infrastructure improvements, traffic enforcement, and incentives.”

Gorman continued, “In the project, students analyzed current practices associated with students getting to and from Houghton schools, assessed the level of community interest in the goals of the Safe Routes program, determined potential issues associated with pursuing those goals. The goal was to provide community members with a solid base of data to inform decisions related to the Safe Routes program. Neither class could have conducted the research independently as well as they did through collaboration. Students in ‘Communities and Research’ could and did collect data through surveys, interviews, public meetings, and meetings with school and city officials (as that class focused on methodologies for accomplishing such tasks) but they could not perform the spatial analysis at a level needed to be useful. On the other hand, students in ‘Advanced GIS’ could perform the desired spatial analysis but they were not in a position to engage stakeholders at the level required to get this project going.”

Winkler and Lafreniere came up with the idea of collaboration well before the semester started. They proactively scheduled their classes in overlapping time slots, which allowed students in the two classes to meet together for 50 minutes each week. The small class sizes–seven students were enrolled in one class and eight in the other—meant the group was small enough to keep everyone fully engaged.

The end result, which Gorman asserts can be used as a model for creating similar opportunities for students in the future, has all data and the final report on a website. The project also resulted in the establishment of a group to address the actions in the report called the Houghton Safe Routes to School Core Planning team.

Dean Hemmer praised their work as “an innovative way to integrate the work from two different courses into an exciting community research project.” He continued, “It is wonderful when Michigan Tech can give back to the community while simultaneously giving our students interesting and relevant research opportunities.”

The instructors indicate their students also saw extraordinary benefits; in addition to the typical course work, they learned from each other. Students in “Communities and Research” learned a good deal about spatial analysis using GIS and the “Advanced GIS” students learned a lot about how to conduct community-engaged research. Because of this synergy, both see the potential for implementing these kinds of collaborations in a variety of disciplines.

LaFreniere and Winkler will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members, and, as a team, are also candidates for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

by Michael R. Meyer, Director William G. Jackson CTL


Distinguished Teaching Award Finalists Announced

The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning seeks input for its annual Distinguished Teaching Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions to the instructional mission of the University. Based on more than 50,000 student ratings of instruction responses, ten finalists have been identified for the two 2020 awards. The selection committee is soliciting comments from students, staff, faculty and alumni to aid in deliberation.

This year’s finalists in each of two categories are:

Assistant Professor/Lecturer/Professor of Practice Category

  • Nancy Barr (MEEM)
  • Mike Hyslop (CFRES)
  • Heather Knewtson (COB)
  • Sheila Milligan (COB)
  • Ulrich Schmelze (COB)

Associate Professor/Professor Category

  • Melissa Baird (SS)
  • Mike Christianson (VPA)
  • John Durocher (BioSci)
  • Julie King (ChE)
  • Amy Marcarelli (BioSci)

Comments on the nominees are due by Friday, April 3 and can be completed online. The process for determining the two Distinguished Teaching Award recipients from each list of finalists also involves the additional surveying of their spring classes. A selection committee makes the final determination of the award recipients in early May with the 2020 Distinguished Teaching Awards formally announced in late May.

For more information, contact Margaret Landsparger at 7-1001.


Social Sciences Launches New Undergraduate Awards

The Department of Social Sciences recently announced three new undergraduate awards:

  • The Outstanding Senior Award recognizes outstanding undergraduate achievement in accomplishments in academics, research, leadership, and/or service.
  • Two Undergraduate Research Awards recognize SS Students — a Junior or Senior — who engender exemplary research as evidenced in original research, undergraduate thesis, or creative project under the guidance of department faculty members or other mentors. The awardees are recognized for research that is original and substantive given the standards of the discipline.
  • The Community-Based Research Prize recognizes a Social Sciences Junior or Senior who is actively engaged in community-based research, a pillar of the department’s mission. The prize honor’s the student’s efforts to enhance community capacity, build relationships, and/or support community participation in research.

Call for Applications: Songer Research Award for Human Health Research

Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) have generously donated funds to the College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) to support a research project competition for undergraduate and graduate students.

Remembering their own eagerness to engage in research during their undergraduate years, the Songers established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students. The College is extremely grateful for the Songers’ continuing interest in, and support of, Michigan Tech’s programs in human health and medicine.

Any Michigan Tech student interested in exploring a medically related question under the guidance of faculty in the College of Sciences and Arts may apply. Students majoring in any degree program in the college, including both traditional (i.e., biological sciences, kinesiology, chemistry) and nontraditional (i.e., physics, psychology, social science, bioethics, computer science, mathematics) programs related to human health may propose research projects connected to human health. 

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4 p.m. Monday, March 30. Applications may be emailed to djhemmer@mtu.edu.

Read more about the Songer Research Award here.


Michigan Tech Research Forum February 12

Kathy Halvorsen (Research Development, SS, SFRES) will be featured at the Michigan Tech Research Forum (MTRF) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 12 in the MUB ballroom. Halvorsen’s presentation is titled, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Team Science: Lessons Learned from 25 Years of Transdisciplinary Research.” Additional details can be found on the MTRF website.

The MTRF is presented by the Office of the Provost in coordination with the Office of the Vice President for Research. The forum showcases and celebrates the work of Michigan Tech researchers and aims to strengthen discussions in our community. All are welcome, including the general public. Complimentary snacks and a cash bar will be provided.


Keweenaw Time Traveler Awarded Grant

Researchers with the Keweenaw Time Traveler project have been awarded a Digitizing Hidden Collections Grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) for $240,014 over two years.

Sarah Fayen Scarlett (SS), Don Lafreniere (SS) and Lindsay Hiltunen (university archivist) will hire six undergrads, one master’s student and a full-time digitization specialist in the Michigan Tech Archives to scan, transcribe and fully catalogue 40,000 employee records from the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company collections.

This new data set will be record-linked with historical data already mapped in the Keweenaw Time Traveler, an online historical atlas being built for research and public heritage in MTU’s Geospatial Research Facility.

This major addition will add rare and valuable information to facilitate research and public history programming into the lives of immigrant miners, their families, employment histories over their lifetimes and how their experiences continue to shape the Copper Country landscape today.

The CLIR grant program is made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. 


Green Film Series begins 10th Year with Name Change and $700 Donation!

2020 marks the 10th Year of the Green Film Series, renamed ‘Sustainability Film Series’ at the suggestion of two graduate students serving on the film selection committee. Jessica Daignault (CEE PhD candidate) and Ande Myers (CFRES MS student) suggested the new name as they felt it would sound more relevant to more people.

The Sustainability Film Series recently received a $700 donation from the Keweenaw Food Coop as part of their Bring a Bag Campaign which donates the savings from not having to purchase paper bags for customers, to local community organizations or programs.

“Purchasing public film screening rights can cost $250 to $500 for just one film, so this donation will be very helpful!”

—Joan Chadde, film series coordinator, and director of the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach

The film series is co-sponsored by the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, Michigan Tech Great Lakes Research Center, Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Keweenaw Land Trust, Michigan Tech Department of Social Sciences, and the Michigan Tech Sustainable Futures Institute.

Films are shown from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month,  in G002, Hesterberg Hall, Michigan Tech Forestry Building, January through May. Enjoy coffee, refreshments and facilitated discussion. (Save a dime, bring you own mug). There is no admission to the film but a $5 donation is suggested 

Film Schedule

  • Jan. 16 – “Saving the Dark” (57 min.) 80% of the world’s population lives under light-polluted skies. What do we lose when we lose sight of the stars? Excessive and improper lighting robs us of our night skies, disrupts our sleep patterns and endangers nocturnal habitats. Saving the Dark explores the need to preserve night skies and ways to combat light pollution
  • Feb. 20 – “Banking Nature” (90 min.) A provocative documentary that looks at efforts to monetize the natural world—and turn endangered species and threatened areas into instruments of profit. It’s a worldview that sees capital and markets not as a threat to the planet, but as its salvation—turning nature into “capital” and fundamental processes like pollination and oxygen generation into “ecosystem services”
  • March 19, 6 p.m. – “Saving Snow” (57 min.) and “Between Earth & Sky,” (58 min.). The World Water Day opening event follows skiers, snowmobilers, sled dog guides and others who love and/or depend upon winter across the Midwest and Alaska who are struggling with a warming climate
  • April 16 – “Seed: The Untold Story” (94 min.). For 12,000 years, humans have been cultivating seeds and building empires. In the last century, 94% of our seed varieties have been lost. As many irreplaceable seeds are nearing extinction, high-tech industrial seed companies control the majority of the world’s remaining seeds
  • May 21 – “Seven Generations River,” (27 min.). A new Great Lakes documentary reveals how a Native American tribe, the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians in SE Michigan, is adopting scientific methods to preserve and protect its traditional culture and the river on which it relies. While never removed from their ancestral lands, the Pokagon are seeing their way of life fractured by encroaching development and land-use changes.

Francophone Migration

Line drawing map of a cityUnderstanding how French-speaking people migrated throughout North America from the 1600s to 1940 means tracking them at work, school and home spatially and archivally.

Michigan Technological University is a partner in the $2.4 million “Trois siècles de migrations francophones en Amérique du Nord (1640-1940) (Three centuries of migrations by French-speakers to North America)” funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Sarah Scarlett, assistant professor of history, and Don Lafrenière, associate professor of geography, in the Social Sciences department, will use the Keweenaw Time Traveler and a combination of spatial and archival datasets to focus specifically on whether French-Canadians were socially mobile as they migrated from Canada to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during the period of 1860 to 1940.

Read the full story on Unscripted.