Category: Notables

Sophia Ford– First Place Winner in the Copper Country Community Arts Center’s Community Art Exhibition

Sophia Ford- “Mine Waste: A quilt to mend”

Congratulations to graduate student, Sophia Ford (MS EEP), who was the First Place winner in the Copper Country Community Arts Center’s community art exhibition “Shaft Series” inspired by mining heritage.


First place – Sophia Ford “Mine Waste: A quilt to mend”
Second place- Charlie Eshbach “Delaware”
Third place- Tammy Gajewski “Champion Hen House”
This art exhibit piece links to Sophia’s larger research project that integrates anthropology, geography, environmental policies and GIS and indigenous research methodologies to connect the legacy of mining legacies to contemporary social justice, gender, environmental and sovereignty issues. One way in is that she is examining the history of these issues with ongoing processes related to mining property and law and she shows how the appropriation of lands and resources depends on the erasure of rights and access to lands. Drawing on her training in geology, and her insights into the process of mineral deeds and mapping – she layers these understandings to investigate the anthropology of erasures. That is, extraction is always about exclusion. Her approach weaves multiple knowledges/data sets – including this art exhibit where she create a  ‘quilt’ using mining waste, to investigate the multiple valances and impacts of mining on communities.


Keweenaw Time Traveler featured in American Quarterly

American QtrlyThe Keweenaw Time Traveler project is featured in the current issue of American Quarterly, the academic journal of the American Studies Association. This special issue, dedicated to Digital Humanities, highlights eight publicly-engaged projects using digital and spatial technologies to engage important issues in American culture today. The collaborative nature of this project is reflected in the group of authors: Sarah Fayen Scarlett (SS) and Don Lafreniere (SS); Dan Trepal and John D. M. Arnold, PhD candidates and recent graduate in Industrial Heritage and Archaeology; and Robert Pastel (CS). The article is open-access for three months, and the other projects are listed here.


Students Create Web Map using GIS

summer 2018

Student interns from Calumet and Houghton High Schools, under the guidance of Don Lafreniere (SS/GLRC), Ryan Williams (GISP/GLRC) and students from the Department of Social Sciences, recently launched a new WebGIS for the Calumet and Laurium region. The map can be found at calumetmap.com.

The WebGIS is the beginning of a multi-year partnership between many local organizations including Michigan Tech Social Sciences, the Geospatial Research Facility, Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR), Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) and local municipalities to create a regional geographic information system (GIS) for local planning, economic development, heritage management, tourism and health promotion.

The WebGIS is an output of the NSF-funded Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers, “GRACE- GIS Resources and Applications for Career Education” project. GRACE is a multi-institution collaboration to bring GIS technologies to Michigan’s high school educators and intensive community-based internship experiences to high school students.

More about the GRACE project at Michigan Tech can be found in Unscripted.

Summer 2018-2


Keweenaw Time Traveler Introduces GIS Technologies to 4th Graders as Part of the KNHP Copper Traces Program

CopperTraces1 CopperTraces2IHA PhD Student Michael Bleddynn and undergraduate students from the Historical Environments Spatial Analytics Lab used the Keweenaw Time Traveler to introduce 4th graders from around the region to how to use GIS technologies to see how communities change through time.  The activity was part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park’s CopperTraces program.


Robins Awarded Research Excellence Fund (REF) Scholarship and Creativity Grant (SCG)

Jonathan RobinsThe Vice President for Research Office announced the 2018 Research Excellence Fund (REF) awards and thanked the volunteer review committees, as well as the deans and department chairs, for their time spent on this important internal research award process.

This year we congratulate Jonathan Robins for receiving a Scholarship and Creativity Grant (SCG).

The REF Scholarship and Creativity Grant (SCG) provides support to encourage faculty to engage in scholarly research, learning, and creative activities to enhance professional development.


Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Roman Sidortsov

Roman Sidortsov
Roman Sidortsov

This week, the Deans Teaching Showcase recognizes Roman Sidortsov, assistant professor in Social Sciences. Sidortsov studied at universities in Russia, the US and Great Britain and his credentials include a JD, LL.M in environmental law, and a PhD in polar studies/geography. His research explores energy justice, risk governance, and comparative energy and environmental law and policy in the Arctic.

Dean Bruce Seely in the College of Sciences and Arts identified Sidortsov for accomplishments in Global Issues, a demanding first-year gen-ed course offered by Social Sciences. Seely’s interest was piqued by Sidortsov’s student rating score of 4.53 in a class where very good instructors average 3.8 to 4.0.

Global Issues fits a well-known pattern, in which students in large format, non-major, required courses rate faculty lower than teachers in smaller courses for majors. But Sidortsov, who joined Social Sciences in 2016, seems to have found ways to overcome the initial resistance students exhibited to this type of course. “Virtually every Tech student,” he noted, “comes with a desire to succeed” regardless of their major. So he begins class by asking students “about their vision of success in the classroom, upon graduating from Michigan Tech and several years after graduation.”

Then he works to reconcile his ideas of success with those of his students. “For the second year in a row,” he reported, “my search for the golden mean ended with developing a capacity to think critically in the global context.”

Importantly, this approach shows students the importance and relevance of the Global Literacy and Information Literacy learning goals his class addresses. Instead of wondering why the course matters, students come to see the value of critical thinking in the class, in their majors, in their professional careers, “and in terms of civic engagements, whether it be winning an argument in a boardroom or not falling for a false narrative on social media.”

Thus, his students understand not only why this course matters now, but also the importance of critical thinking as a life-long learning skill. He added that it is a “privilege to be one of the people who gets to start the bright women and men who come to Michigan Tech on this path. Thus, I do my best to make this process relevant, useful and entertaining.”

One strategy he employs are class exercises, such as a discussion concerning the risks associated with nuclear power plants from the points of view of three different stakeholder groups. In another exercise focused on different types of human migration, Sidortsov asks students to develop criteria for locating a research and development center. He added he is fortunate “to utilize my experience of growing up in a foreign country, as well as my professional experiences prior to joining academia. I draw on personal experience often, whether to excite students about study abroad or to save them from afternoon sugar comas.”

He concluded that “sharing a vision of success with your students and working toward it is perhaps the most important and enjoyable strategy that I have employed at Michigan Tech.” His insight matches the recognition that students respond to courses, exercises and faculty who engage with students enthusiastically, opening not only the course content but themselves as persons to the students. He certainly seems to be on to something.

Sidortsov will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with 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.