Category: Graduate Studies

US Peace Corps’ Peace Car visits Michigan Tech

Peace CarHOUGHTON — Michigan Tech’s mascot, Blizzard T. Husky, met the challenge of squeezing into the driver’s seat of the US Peace Corps’ Peace Car, which arrived on the Michigan Tech campus this afternoon — one of many stops on a Midwest Tour by representatives from the Peace Corps Midwest Region office in Chicago. The Peace Car enables Peace Corps staff to share their mission while limiting their carbon footprint.

Michigan Tech has the greatest number of Peace Corps Masters International programs in the US. The programs — from Forestry to Environmental Engineering, Geology and more — are now in ten different MTU departments that offer a Master’s Degree combined with Peace Corps service.

Kari Henquinet, Michigan Tech Peace Corps Master’s International Program director and senior lecturer in Social Sciences, was on hand to welcome the Chicago Peace Corps team.

“They’ll come back in the fall for recruiting,” Henquinet said.

Read more at Keweenaw Now, by Kari Henquinet.

Henderson Wins Award for Paper on Hunting Trends in Michigan

HendersonChris Henderson, MS student in Environmental and Energy Policy, won the Rural Sociological Society’s Natural Resource Research Group’s Student Paper Award for his paper entitled “A Quantitative Analysis of County Hunting Trends in Michigan.” Chris will present this paper at the Rural Sociological Society’s annual meeting in Madison, Wisconsin on August 9, 2015. The award comes with a $100 cash prize.

Social Sciences Participates in ISSRM 2015 and 2016

ISSRM 2015Members of the Department of Social Sciences and the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (SFRES) attended the recent 2015 International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM). The event took place in Charleston, SC, June 13-18, 2015.

Participants included nine graduate students in the Environmental and Energy Policy (EEP) program, Erin Pischke, Mayra Sanchez, Brad Barnett, Zoe Coombs, Aparajita Banerjee, Chris Henderson, Jenny Dunn, Erin Burkett, and Rhianna Williams, and Andrew Kozich of SFRES. Also attending were Professor Kathy Halvorsen, Associate Professor Richelle Winkler, and ISSRM 2016 Conference Coordinator/Ecosystem Science Center Research Scientist Jill Fisher.

The conference is the annual meeting of the International Association for Society and Natural Resources (IASNR). IASNR is an interdisciplinary professional association open to individuals who bring a variety of social science and natural science backgrounds to bear on complex environment and natural resource issues.

Michigan Tech students created the newest IASNR student chapter. The new student chapter, named the Association of Students for People, Environment and Nature (ASPEN), was represented by a team of EEP students in the ISSRM 2015 Quiz Bowl.

Michigan Tech will host ISSRM 2016 from June 22 to June 26. The symposium theme is Transitioning: Toward Sustainable Relationships in a Different World. The conference coordinator is Jill Fisher, and the co-chairs are Kathleen Halvorsen and Richelle Winkler.

ISSRM 2015 Quiz Bowl
Michigan Tech students participate in the ISSRM 2015 Quiz Bowl.

Walton noted for historic testing instrument

The original 17th-century gunpowder testing eprouvette of Joseph Furttenbach
The original 17th-century gunpowder testing eprouvette of Joseph Furttenbach

Asst. Professor Steven Walton (Social Sciences) was noted for his contribution to an ongoing project on the “Origins of Firepower” at the Royal Armouries and National Firearms Centre, Leeds [UK] in the Jan. 17-23, 2015 issue of New Scientist.  In “Do it Again: What can we find out by re-enacting the science of yesteryear” [paywall*] (pp. 31-35), Richard Webb reported on replication work with early gunpowder testing apparatus being undertaken by Haileigh Robertson, a Ph.D. student at the University of York, and one of Walton’s advisees. Robertson is exploring the philosophical and technical knowledge about gunpowder int eh early 17th century for a Ph.D. in the history of science, and Walton, an expert on historic gunpowder, built a replica of Joseph Furttenbach’s eprouvette from 1627 (see image) for her to use in testing. The New Scientist article says of their work:

Today Robertson is aiming to repeat the eprouvette work using a replica device built by historian Steven Walton of Michigan Technological University in Houghton. It has two vertical supports about 60 centimetres high, with a post suspended between them. Attached to the bottom of the post is a brass lid which sits atop a small powder chamber and priming pan. When gunpowder is ignited in the powder chamber, the force of the explosion should propel the brass lid and post up past a series of ratchets that flip up, and then catch the lid as it begins to fall. The height the lid reaches is a measure of the gunpowder’s relative potency. Robertson’s collaborator Peter Smithurst, an emeritus curator of firearms at the National Firearms Centre, first packs the chamber with modern “black powder”. Technician Trevor Weston approaches cautiously with a long lit taper. I stand ready with the video camera. “I wouldn’t want to stand too close,” says Robertson, “until we know what it does.” What it does, besides make an almighty flash and bang, is hard to discern at first. But when the smoke disperses, the lid is balancing 13 ratchets up, half a metre off the floor. So far, so good. Less successful are gunpowder mixtures prepared using old recipes by Smithurst, a trained chemist. There is the odd fizzer like a Roman candle, and quite a few proverbial flashes in the pan. No one is sure why these mixtures don’t work as well – perhaps the modern stuff is finer-grained, with a larger surface area to encourage ignition. Or maybe the samples have got damp somehow. Archaeologists and historians alike want to understand the factors affecting the potency of early gunpowder. The power and range of early guns depended on the energy it could generate, so gunpowder influenced not only the design of cannons and armour, but also the evolution of battlefield tactics. By reproducing these experiments we get a feel for what was possible – and an idea of the frustrations.

Further experimental and simulation work is planned.

* online this is part of a series of “Reliving five eureka moments lost in history”

SS Graduate Students’ Energy Plan Makes Semifinalist Status

Houghton_County_Energy_PlanThe energy efficiency and conservation plan for Houghton County, authored by four MTU graduate students, has made it to the semi-finalist level in the national competition for the Georgetown University Energy Prize of $5 million.  The primary authors were Brad Barnett, Brent Burns, and Edward Louie all graduate students in the Department of Social Sciences.  In addition, Abhilash Kantamneni, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science contributed.  The competition is limited to communities with a population between 9,000 and 250,000, and Houghton County is the smallest-sized semifinalist.

During the fall 2014 semester Barnett, Burns, and Louie were the given the assignment of writing the energy plan in Professor Barry Solomon’s advance seminar course on Energy and Climate Policy (SS6100).  The plan  focuses on energy efficiency improvements and was driven by community outreach efforts, receiving significant input from the community through public meetings.

The next step for Houghton is to hire a manager to lead the effort over the next two years (a foundation grant will fund the position).   Each semifinalist community will compete for two years to reduce their utility supplied energy consumption in a way that is likely to yield continuing improvement within their own community and replication elsewhere.  For purposes of this competition,  community energy consumption measurements are limited to energy supplied by gas and electric utilities directly to all homes and municipal customers in Houghton County.

To read the Keweenaw Now article on the celebration of semifinalist qualification for the Georgetown Energy Prize, click here.


Schneider receives grants to support his M.S.(I.A.) thesis project

Daniel Schneider at work
Daniel Schneider (MS-IA student) works on a measured drawing of a 19th-century border stamping machine that was used to manufacture wood type for printing decorative borders.

Daniel Schneider, a master’s student in the Industrial Archaeology program has received funding through two grants totaling $2,800 for his master’s thesis project at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, WI.  A grant from The Kohler Foundation, Inc. of Wisconsin supports a series of oral history interviews with workers who produced wood printing type in the type shop of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company. Another grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council supports a public archaeology component of Schneider’s thesis research, which involves the experimental operation of an 19th-century stamping machine that produced wood type for printing decorative borders.  These borders would have been used on posters and other large-scale printed matter such as flyers and handbills. He has made a number of trips to the museum to document and rehabilitate the machine, meet with former employees, and use the museum’s archives.  He also attended a Wayzegooze event there last in November where he interacted with leaders in the current wood type printing community.

Schneider will demonstrate the machine’s operation March 10-14, 2015, at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. The museum is in Two Rivers, WI, 40 miles southeast of Green Bay, and is the largest museum devoted to wood type printing in the country (and perhaps the world).  He is also in charge of the letterpress studio at the Copper Country Community Arts Center in Hancock, MI.

SS Talk: Valoree S. Gagnon on “Ethnography and Oral History in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community: Collecting Oral Histories as a Social Experience with Tribal Narrators”

Valoree12:00 noon on Friday, January 16th in AOB 201. 

Valoree S. Gagnon, Environmental and Energy Policy PhD candidate,  will present on “Ethnography and Oral History in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community: Collecting Oral Histories as a Social Experience with Tribal Narrators”


Several scholars have documented additional considerations for doing research in and for tribal communities to ensure cultural needs and protocols are honored. These guidelines include expanding legal and ethical responsibilities, understandings of memory and storytelling, and knowledge of power dynamics between researchers and tribal communities. This paper shares lessons from the field while currently engaged in ethnography and oral history projects with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, offering an alternative framework for teaching and doing Oral History within and for tribal communities. In the practice of collecting oral histories with tribal narrators, challenges to traditional oral history methods are overcome by using novel approaches. Collecting oral histories as a social experience—sharing stories while cooking, crafting, ‘visiting’, and harvesting together—has been employed. These experiences have the potential to transform and contribute to narrators’ comfort, enriched stories, strong memories, relationship building, and knowledge sharing in more traditional ways for tribal members. Like many other tribal communities, the foundation for protecting Keweenaw Bay Indian Community lifeways and culture depends on revitalizing the nation’s history. Thus, oral history as a social experience can significantly enhance the power of story for tribal nations.

Houghton County Energy Plan Entered in National Competition

Houghton_County_Energy_PlanFour MTU graduate students have authored an energy plan for Houghton County, which is a quarter-finalist in the national competition for the Georgetown University Energy Prize of $5 million. The prize challenges participating communities to tap their imagination, creativity, and spirit of competition and work together with their local government and utilities toward a shared goal of reducing their consumption of gas and electricity.
Houghton County’s plan, which was submitted on November 10th, focuses on energy efficiency improvements driven by community outreach efforts. The authors were Brad Barnett, Edward Louie & Brent Burns, all graduate students in the Department of Social Sciences and Abhilash Kantamneni, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science. Earlier drafts of the plan were reviewed by Professor Barry Solomon and Assistant Professor Richelle Winkler, and received significant community input through multiple public meetings. Winkler has also been a facilitator for the Houghton County Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), which is a community organization working with local utilities, public officials, and community organizations to help local residents save energy and reduce costs. There are currently 52 teams in the competition, and the winner will be announced in 2017.
For more information on HEET’s efforts, review the Houghton County energy plan, and to learn how you can get involved visit:

SS Talk: Sean Gohman, Eric Pomber, and Adrian Blake on “Industrial Heritage & Archaeology in the Copper Country, 2014”

Ft Wilkins 2014_CliffMAP update-212:00 noon on Friday November 7 in AOB 201.  Sean Gohman, PhD candidate, Eric Pomber, MS student, and Adrian Blake, MS student will present on”Industrial Heritage and Archaeology in the Copper Country, 2014″.

Abstract:  Join Industrial Heritage and Archaeology students Sean Gohman, Eric Pomber, and Adrian Blake as they discuss their involvement in two field projects undertaken this summer in Keweenaw County. In May and June, Gohman, Pomber, and Blake continued an ongoing mapping project at the Cliff mine, with a new series of interpretive maps the result. These maps document the rise and fall of an historic mining landscape currently the focus of environmental remediation. These maps are evidence of the evolving nature of mining’s impact on the land, as well as speak to the decisions of mining companies as they tackle illusive mineral deposits and accommodate the domestic needs of their workforce.

In July, the team conducted a Phase II survey of property belonging to Ft. Wilkins, in Copper Harbor. Several features associated with some of the earliest recording mining in the area were documented and in some cases excavated. These features expand the physical bounds of the park’s mission, and offer new interpretive possibilities for the park going forward.

SS Talk: John Baeten on “The Nature of Taking Things Apart: Industrial Disassembly”

JBaeten12:00 noon on Friday October 17 in AOB 201.  John Baeten, PhD student in Industrial Heritage and Archaeology, will present on The Nature of Taking Things Apart:  Industrial Disassembly, Where the Sum of the Parts are Greater Than the Whole“.

The process of industrial disassembly in the United States, seen in facilities such as slaughterhouses, created a shift in the interaction between humans and their environment.  This shift was evident in the increasing scales of production, a consolidation of ownership, and a centralization of processing within theses centers of disassembly.  Industrial disassemblers capitalized not only on the scale and speed from which they functioned, but also on the lower land rents of the hinterland from where they produced their animate commodities. This paper introduces a new model for interpreting the technological system of disassembly, and examines the environmental and social impacts of taking things apart.