Category: Research

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


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. 


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.


Hazards Mapping, History and the Future of Rust Belt Cities

Line drawing of a city layout from aboveMichigan Technological University researchers have developed a GIS-based model to identify the persistence of industrial hazards in postindustrial cities and their impacts on modern citizens. Dan Trepal, a postdoctoral researcher and Don Lafrenière, associate professor of geography and GIS, both in the Department of Social Sciences, use spatial-temporal models to demonstrate human risk of exposure to environmental hazards in postindustrial London, Ontario, but the model can be applied more widely.

“When you’re talking about human health or cumulative hazards, these places looked very different when these places are created. In the Keweenaw, the mines aren’t really gone They’re very much still here. It’s about giving presence to things that are not here anymore to the casual eye.” – Dan Trepal

Read the full story at mtu.edu/news.


Notables: West Point Foundry

Arron KotlenskyThe West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, NY, the site of an intensive industrial heritage and archaeology (IHA) project by Michigan Tech faculty and grad students from 2002-2009, was designated an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Historical Mechanical Engineering Landmark on Oct. 5.

One of the largest integrated iron foundries and machine shops in the first half of the 19th century, the West Point Foundry is also one of the most intact industrial archaeological sites of its type in America.

The Tech IHA investigations helped lead to the designation. Arron Kotlensky (M.S. IHA 2007) wrote the nomination on behalf of Scenic Hudson, the property owners, and he and Steven Walton (SS) were at the designation ceremony to lead tours for the president of ASME, local historical society board members, the press and the interested public.

The story received coverage in the Cold Spring mediaFoundry Management and Technology and by the ASME.

Walton and Kotlensky also designed the brochure for the event.


In Print

Shan ZhouShan Zhou (Social Sciences) recently published “Environmental Justice and Green Schools—Assessing Students and Communities’ Access to Green Schools” in the journal Social Science Quarterly. This article investigates equity in the distribution of green schools in the U.S., what kind of student populations they serve, and what kind of communities host them. Leveraging national school enrollment data (2000–2014), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) data, and communities’ characteristics data from 2010 U.S. Census, Shan Zhou and coauthors estimate logit models to examine the association between green schools and student and community demographics. Results show that higher percentages of minorities in both student population and hosting neighborhood are associated with greater likelihood that new schools are green, and that new schools in more affluent and less educated communities are less likely to be green.


Digital Tools to Rebuild History

Hands on keyboardAn architectural historian advocates for more building documentation following Notre Dame.

Following the fire in Paris, more attention is focusing on the new technologies that will help people rebuild damaged or lost buildings. Sarah Fayen Scarlett, assistant professor of history at Michigan Technological University, says that an uncommon loss like Notre Dame reflects a universal need for documenting historical buildings.

Read more the full story on Michigan Tech News