Category: Events

Amtrak Study Away is on Track for 2023

Amtrak passenger train in the mountains
Amtrak’s California Zephyr winds its way through the Colorado Rockies

Last summer, 18 Michigan Tech students boarded a train. They spent 18 days traversing the US practicing and learning about sustainable tourism. Amtrak Study Away directors Mark Rhodes, assistant professor of geography and heritage, and Kathryn Hannum, teaching assistant professor and Policy and Community Development advisor for the Department of Social Sciences, helped the students navigate the US passenger rail service off and on across 6 different cities.

For 20 days, students solely utilized public transit to explore the concepts of sustainable tourism and planning, landscape analysis, and urban deindustrialization. They spent two nights in independently-run hotels across each of the 6 stops and cities along the Empire Builder and California Zephyr Amtrak routes. Students saw firsthand how tourism has been incorporated and resisted from national parks to major metros, to deindustrialized small towns. Students frequently met with city planners, government officials, urban and sustainability studies scholars, and stakeholders in the heritage and hospitality industries.

“Amtrak is a great means for students to learn that not all places see tourism as a net gain. Some places, especially our national parks like Glacier are beginning to combat overtourism. Our students get to speak to local stakeholders to understand many different perspectives on tourism and sustainability,” Rhodes said.

The Community/Real World is the Classroom

Amtrak Study Away directors Dr. Mark Rhodes and Dr. Kathryn Hannum
Faculty directors, Dr. Mark Rhodes and Dr. Kathryn Hannum

In creating the Amtrak program, Rhodes drew inspiration from other geographers who suggest we need more community-based learning field experiences. Much of Rhodes’s thinking comes from Houston and Lange who aim to destabilize the idea of the “real world/campus and field/classroom” in favor of a more co-constructive and integrated learning experience. Rhodes was able to bring the program to fruition through funding from Michigan Tech’s Next-Gen Gen-Ed, the Institute for Sustainabilty and Resilience, and the Department of Social Sciences.
“It is exciting to give our students a truly immersive and hands-on experience. On the Amtrak program, classes were held on the train, in hotel lobbies, in restaurants, and in actual classrooms. Simultaneously, those spaces functioned as a living laboratory for engaging fieldwork. And the train serves as a mobile dormitory, with dining, recreational, and sleeping areas,” Rhodes said. “Interactions with communities were in dialogue, not scientific observation or one-way explanations. Students brought those experiences, observations, and perspectives back to campus and the Keweenaw via a public event. Students presented key findings, engaged in Q&A, and discussed ideas for how the UP can benefit from tourism, if done sustainably.”
“Being able to compare many different cities, places, and environments in such a short period of time was eye-opening,” said Nick Hatley, an Amtrak Study Away participant and mechanical engineering major. “It was also my first time on a train. It was a unique travel experience.”

Sustainability Science in Society

The Amtrak Study Away program offered other unique opportunities for students. Of the 18 students, three students presented on the possibilities of study away and Amtrak within the realm of sustainability and equity at the Global and Community Engagement conference. Four students will travel to the Annual Meeting of American Association of Geographers in Denver, Colorado to sit on a domestic study away experience panel while also presenting their original research.
The Amtrak Study Away program changed perceptions too. Following the program, 87% of the students stated their perception of public transit changed positively. Post-trip, students responded with a 4.6/5 that they were “extremely likely” to “seek out public transit in the future” and that they were also “extremely likely” (4.7/5) to ride Amtrak again.

All-Aboard for Amtrak Study Away 2023

Applications are now open for Amtrak Tourism 2023 (application and deposit deadline is January 13, 2023), where students can pay just $1000, plus tuition, and experience 6 unique landscapes and many tourism, sustainable planning, and governmental organizations. Program fees include all lodging, transportation, activities (such as a Portland Thorns soccer game, a Local Roots food tour, and the Glenwood Springs hot spring). Students will hike Glacier National Park, help keep Portland Weird, and receive a tour of Knox Farm’s sustainable urban agriculture. Follow all the Amtrak Study Away program exploits from 2022 on Instagram. Reach out to Mark Rhodes with questions.

About the Social Sciences Department

Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University helps students apply academic concepts to real-world issues. We use tools from anthropology, geography, history, political science, and sociology to help find sustainable solutions to complex problems. The department offers five undergraduate degrees, five graduate degrees, and one graduate certificate program in public policy. Regardless of the path you choose, our faculty will help you lay the foundation for a meaningful career.

Health and Society Film Festival

Students in Richelle Winkler’s Introduction to Sociology class are hosting a virtual Health & Society Film Festival, and invite the public to participate.

The students have selected 11 films ranging from documentaries to comedy and drama. Films address mental health, pandemics, social movements in response to AIDS, birth control, substance abuse, pharmaceuticals, stress, racism, eugenics, maternal mortality and death/dying. The films are all widely available and we ask folks to watch them on their own first, then to participate in Zoom discussions about them and what we can learn from them about health and society.

Discussions will be held between Nov. 16 and Dec. 6, depending on the film. See our website for film descriptions, where to watch, discussion dates/times and links to join the discussion. 
Information on the film festival is located here.

Michigan Tech Research Forum February 12

Kathy Halvorsen

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.

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

Solar Panel

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.

The 2019 41 North Film Festival Returns, Oct. 31–Nov. 3

41 North LogoThe annual 41 North Film Festival will be held Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. This year’s program features more than 20 films from around the world, along with music, events and special guests Anishinaabe filmmaker/producer Michelle Derosier and Michigan Tech alumnus actor/writer/producer Curtis Fortier.

This year’s highlights include:

  • Thursday, Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m.: HUMAN NATURE, which delves into the complexities of editing the human genome. Followed by a Q&A with Caryn Heldt (ChE), Paul Goetsch (BioSci) and Alexandra Morrison (HU).
  • Friday, Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m.: PICTURE CHARACTER (an Emoji Documentary). This informative and entertaining film covers everything from how emojis came into existence to how new emojis are added to the unicode system. To add to the fun, come in an emoji-inspired costume and you might win a prize. Stick around after the film for emoji cookie decorating and music in the lobby.
  • Saturday, Nov. 2, will feature a full day of programming about our relationship to the environment. Films include ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH, THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM, HONEYLAND, and our featured presentation of Michelle Derosier and her film ANGELIQUE’S ISLE, inspired by the true story of Angelique Mott, an Anishinaabe woman who, with her husband, was abandoned by unscrupulous copper miners and left to die during the winter of 1845 on an island off of Isle Royale (today known as Mott Island).
  • Sunday, Nov. 3. Michigan Tech alumnus Curtis Fortier will be on hand to present and discuss some of his work as an actor/writer/producer. Fortier will be followed by a new docudrama about the life of information theorist Claude Shannon, THE BIT PLAYER. The festival will close Sunday evening with MAIDEN, the thrilling and emotional story of the first all-female crew to compete in the Whitbread Round-the-World Yacht Race.

See the full line-up of films and events at 41northfilmfest.org. The festival is free and open to the public. Students will need to bring their HuskyCard. Tickets for everyone else can be reserved at tickets.mtu.edu or by calling 7-2073. They will also be available in the Rozsa lobby prior to each film.

Torch Lake Public Action Council Hosts Statewide Meeting at Michigan Tech July 16 and 17

The Torch Lake Area of Concern Public Action Council (TLPAC) will host the Statewide Public Advisory Council (SPAC) meeting in Houghton, Michigan on July 16 and 17, 2019 at Michigan Technological University’s Great Lakes Research Center in Room 202. Sessions are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. both days. In addition, there will be a tour of Torch Lake on July 16 after the end of the morning session. The Office of Great Lakes (OGL) staff who assist the SPAC will be in attendance to update the Council on Michigan and federal actions which affect the progress of cleanups in the Great Lakes.

Areas of Concern (AOCs) are highly polluted sites on bodies of water that pose a danger to their communities. There were originally fourteen AOCs in Michigan. The pollution problems of AOCs are specifically identified as Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) for each AOC. The role of a public advisory council is to identify the problems, do community outreach and develop a network of government and non-governmental groups to address the concerns of their communities. Torch Lake has recently been active in seeking solutions to the stamp sands dumped into the lake by former mining companies which have made it difficult to have healthy benthos, or aquatic life, due to the spread of sands throughout the bottom of the lake. New efforts are underway to revive Torch Lake’s benthos that could lead to a major clean up within the next decade. Along with the work being done by the state’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Remediation Division to remove toxic chemicals along the west shore of Torch Lake, funding is being sought from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to find ways to repair the damage created by copper mining companies since the latter part of the nineteenth century.

The public is invited to the SPAC meeting on both days to hear about progress being made by the advisory councils in the entire state. The OGL and the Great Lakes Commission will update council members on state, federal and international activities. Research currently being conducted at the University of Michigan and Michigan Technological University will also inform council members of effective ways to engage their communities. The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community will have its President, Chris Swartz, explain the importance of Torch Lake to their community under their treaty rights and the work they have done to improve water quality on their reservation. SPAC meetings are an opportunity for members to network and to find out not only what concerns an AOC has, but also to see the host community and its attractions.

For information, contact Horst Schmidt, Vice-Chair of the SPAC at horsthear@yahoo.com or 906-369-3797.

by Kelley Christensen (Social Sciences)

Diverse Dialogues: Unlearning and Relearning Truths: A Continued Conversation about Decolonization

As part of the process of decolonization in our Michigan Tech and wider communities, there is an equally important personal process of decolonizing ourselves. A first step begins with a process of unlearning “truths” – the information we think we know about Indigenous, Native histories and identities. Unlearning allows space for relearning truths – the missing, forgotten and invisible stories and identities that remain critical to creating socially just communities and doing social justice work.

In this dialogue, we will engage in unlearning activities to reflect on our common myths, biases and stereotypes about Native, Indigenous peoples. This will be followed by opportunities to relearn Indigenous and personal truths through dialogue with each other. The Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) invites you to join our final Diverse Dialogue for the Spring semester at 4:05 p.m. Thursday, April 25, in GLRC 202. “Unlearning and Relearning Truths: A Continued Conversation about Decolonization,” will be led by Valoree Gagnon, Amy Howard, and Kari Henquinet.

The Diverse Dialogues series aims to provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff to have conversations about relevant issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, social justice and much more. Be part of crucial campus conversations, help to highlight underrepresented voices, elevate the social justice work being done by our Michigan Tech community and engage and learn from difficult diversity and inclusion issues that affect us all. If you’re part of the dialogue, you’re part of the solution.