Category: Uncategorized

New Social Sciences Chair Appreciates Multi-Disciplinary Approach

Dean Hemmer, Dean of The College of Sciences and Arts, said he was pleased to announce that Don Lafreniere has accepted the position of chair of Social Sciences.

“Leading a department housing so many different disciplines is a challenge and I am confident that Don is more than prepared for the task,” Hemmer said. “His extensive leadership experience, both inside and out of academia, together with his distinguished scholarly record, made him a clear choice for the position.”

Don Lafreniere
Don Lafreniere

Lafreniere (la-fren-YAY), an associate professor of geography and GIS, also directs the Geospatial Research Facility and the Historical Environments Spatial Analytics Lab. He holds BS degrees in geography and history from Eastern Michigan University. He earned his Ph.D. in geography from the University of Western Ontario.

He took a unique route to Michigan Tech — his first career was working for Marriott and Princess Cruises managing hotels, lodges, and portfolios. Lafreniere, who has been at Tech since 2014, answered a few questions about himself and his plans for the department.

Why Michigan Tech? What brought you here?
Growing up in the Sun Parlour of Canada, in Windsor, Ontario, I also longed to live in the north. I had a chance to live in Alaska for a few years and wished to return to a northern climate when I was seeking out a faculty position.

But the size of the institution played a large part. Tech is large enough to be a genuine research institution but small enough to be a community. Communication is easy here. “If I need to reach someone in another department, or say, the provost, It’s not hard.”

The other major factor was that we really have a robust heritage community. When I first flew into CMX, the landing path took us over the dredge (Quincy Dredge No. 2 in Torch Lake). Seeing the dredge and the stamp mill behind it I thought: This is a living, robust landscape that I want to live and work in.

The department is unique. What Social Sciences is to us at MTU, would be eight different disciplines somewhere else. That creates truly interdisciplinary scholarship because of how freely we interact across disciplines. What we do here is special.

Because geography is the scientific study of space, and everything is somewhere, geographers can study anything. In my research, I help my colleagues and students think about the impacts of spatial relationships in a different way. My expertise is in GIS (geographic information science) and using historical information to learn how populations and places change through time and impact society today.

I love it when a student realizes, through mapping some data, that the societal issues they have heard about in the news or in another class can be visualized.

What do you like about teaching?
We have hardworking students who are innately curious. And as someone who is not teaching to majors (as we do not have a geography program at Tech), I can take the best of my discipline and apply it to situations in our students’ everyday lives in ways students can understand.

I love it when a student realizes, through mapping some data, that the societal issues they have heard about in the news or in another class can be visualized. An example would be a student exclaiming, “I had no idea that racial segregation is so bad in my hometown” It connects the theoretical ideas to their actual lives. And generally what follows is a flood of questions.

You mentioned that you want to work on the department’s branding message to potential students and parents. What will your goals be?
We do need to get across the unique nature of our programs. A big focus of our department is how we work with communities in our research and teaching. This creates a unique, applied social scientific, signature experience for our students that we need to market more to potential students.

You have four children and live in Boston Location. But we need to know: What’s with the giant antenna?
I do have a 100-foot radio tower in the yard. I’ve been an amateur radio operator since I was a teenager. I met my wife of 23 years, Erin, on the radio. [Editor’s note: Immediately before this interview, Lafreniere was talking about the pandemic over his radio with someone in Micronesia.]


Rhodes Elected to CGSG Board

Mark Rhodes has been elected to the Executive Board of the Cultural Geography Specialty Group (CGSG). As the seventh largest of the 76 American Association of Geographers specialty groups, CGSG provides a network for its 500+ members while also organizing symposia, sponsored-sessions, marquee speakers and socials, granting awards and elevating the spatially of cultural perspectives throughout the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Rhodes will serve a two-year term as Nominations Director.


New Funding for a Study on Public Power Utilities and Solar Energy Access

Solar PanelA $63,000 grant provided by the American Public Power Association’s (APPA) Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Development (DEED) program will allow researchers from Michigan Tech University and the Western Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Region (WUPPDR) “identify strategies to help public power utilities provide their customers access to solar energy” in the Villages of Baraga and L’Anse according to the story by UPMatters.com published on February 22, 2018.  The research team includes Chelsea Schelly (MTU), Brad Barnette (WUPPDR), Bob Lafave (Village of L’Anse/MTU), Emily Prehoda (MTU), Roman Sidortsov (MTU), and Richelle Winkler (MTU).

Click here to read the full story.

 


Baird Publishes New Book- “Critical Theory and the Anthropology of Heritage Landscapes”

Baird BookMelissa Baird’s new book, “Critical Theory and the Anthropology of Heritage Landscapes” was published by University Press of Florida.

This book explores the sociopolitical contexts of heritage landscapes and the many issues that emerge when different interest groups attempt to gain control over them. Based on career-spanning case studies undertaken by the author, this book looks at sites with deep indigenous histories. Melissa Baird pays special attention to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and the Burrup Peninsula along the Pilbara Coast in Australia, the Altai Mountains of northwestern Mongolia, and Prince William Sound in Alaska. For many communities, landscapes such as these have long been associated with cultural identity and memories of important and difficult events, as well as with political struggles related to nation-state boundaries, sovereignty, and knowledge claims.

Retrieved from http://upf.com/book.asp?id=9780813056562

For more information or to order the book, visit the UPF website.


Papers Presented at Social Science History Association Conference

Social Sciences History Association
J. Baeten, D. Lafreniere, D. Trepal, S. Scarlett, and L. Rouleau

John Baeten, Don Lafreniere, Laura Rouleau, Sarah Scarlett, and Dan Trepal attended and presented papers at the 2017 Social Science History Association Conference in Montreal, Quebec. Papers include:

J. Baeten, N. Langston, D. Lafreniere. Navigating Impaired Waters: Water Quality Legacies of Historic Iron Mining in Minnesotas Mesabi Range.
L. Rouleau. Gendering Privacy: Public School Lockerrooms in the Early 20th Century.
D. Lafreniere, S. Scarlett, D. Trepal, J. Arnold. Capturing and Contextualizing History- Using Public Participatory Historical GIS to Build a Spatial Data Infrastructure of Historical Landscapes and Environments.
S. Scarlett, D. Lafreniere, J. Arnold, D. Trepal. Historical GIS and Public History: Engaging Todays Communities with Yesterdays Changing Places.
D. Trepal, D. Lafreniere, S. Scarlett, J. Arnold. Big Data for Industrial Heritage and Archaeology: the Copper Country Historical Spatial Data Infrastructure.


Baeten, Langston, and Lafreniere Publish Article: “A Spatial Evaluation of Historic Iron Mining Impacts on Current Impaired Waters in Lake Superior’s Mesabi Range”

AmbioJohn Baeten, Nancy Langston and Don Lafreniere published the article, “A spatial evaluation of historic iron mining impacts on current impaired waters in Lake Superior’s Mesabi Range,” in the international journal, Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment. The article compares historic mining intensity in Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range with current impaired waters data to show the utility of historical datasets to understand current environmental challenges at landscape scales. The authors present a novel spatial approach that lands managers and policy makers can apply to other landscapes to assess the effects of past mining activity on watershed health.
You can read the article at the following link:


Langston Interviewed on “Copper Country Today” Radio Program

Langston
Nancy Langston

Latika Gupta (SBE) and Nancy Langston (SS) discussed the Standing Rock Sioux and the Dakota Access Pipeline protests on Copper Country Today. The interview aired on Dec. 18 on WOLV FM, WHKB FM, and WCCY AM/FM.

Langston focused on sovereignty and environmental justice issues and Gupta provided an economic perspective. The entire interview can be found on the Copper Country Today website.