Michigan Tech Launches Second Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative

by Jennifer Donovan, director of public relations

Michigan Tech is launching its second Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative (SFHI). The initiative's successful first year resulted in the naming of three Michigan Tech professors to Robbins Chairs in Sustainability and the hiring of seven new faculty members whose research also focuses on sustainability. The second SFHI will center on advancing computational frontiers, naming leading teacher-scholars to several endowed positions and hiring new faculty.

Some of them will work to build Michigan Tech's capacity in core computing, including development of innovative computational hardware, software methods and tools, and algorithms. At the same time, others will explore novel computer applications such as the modeling of complex systems or projects involving complex calculations and predictions.

The new initiative reflects the Board of Control's commitment to enlarge the faculty by 10 positions each year in strategic, interdisciplinary areas.

Invitations to apply for the new faculty positions will be published this fall. The University expects to announce the names of those selected in early summer of 2009.

The hiring process will be similar to the innovative one used in the sustainability initiative. Panels of existing faculty whose research interests are close to those of the applicant will evaluate each application, scoring on measurable criteria and providing narrative commentary.

A University-wide SFHI committee will then review the scores and commentary of the review panels. Finalists will be invited to campus for two days of interviews, including visits with departments, centers and institutes related to their research. While here, each will make a presentation open to the University community and the public, and the entire campus community will be invited to give feedback on those presentations.

"Using this cross-disciplinary approach and innovative hiring process, our goal is to attract the very best, wherever they might be and whichever discipline they might regard as their home base," said Provost Lesley Lovett-Doust. "Many of the faculty hired through this initiative may not fit the traditional mold of any single academic department. Because they are involved in interdisciplinary research, they are valued as teachers in more than one of the traditional disciplines, so we will, where possible, share these new professors between two areas so that they can contribute to both academic programs."

WorkLife Advisory Group Forming to Address Michigan Tech Quality of Life

The quality of our work often depends upon the quality of our lives. While Michigan Tech already provides a number of programs that address quality of life, such as TechFit, tuition benefits and childcare, there are opportunities to explore other initiatives that may also enhance the quality of life of our campus community.

Michigan Tech is establishing the WorkLife Advisory Group, coordinated by Project Manager Becky Christianson. Members will identify work-life opportunities that are important to University employees and make recommendations to the administration.

"First, we want to look at what's already available, and then find out what other kinds of options people would like," Christianson said. "We need to find out what the priorities are."

The group has latitude to examine a wide range of topics: eldercare, childcare, financial planning, health and wellness, employee orientation, professional development, flexible work schedules, community involvement, organizational effectiveness and more.

"We have some wonderful offerings in place right now, but there are some great programs out there we can benchmark, both in business and in higher education," Christianson said.

Any faculty and staff members interested in the creation of a WorkLife Program for the University are invited to submit an application to serve on the advisory group, particularly employees who care for aging relatives, who have children or who have dual-career partner issues.

Studies have shown that happy, healthy employees are productive employees. Michigan Tech has done a great deal in recent years to introduce a variety of options for employees. Coordinating these efforts and providing additional alternatives for employees is a step in the right direction.

If you are interested in being part of the WorkLife Advisory Group, fill out the application form available at http://www.admin.mtu.edu/admin/Forms/worklifeapplication.pdf and return it to Becky Christianson by Sept. 20. The first regular meeting of the WorkLife Advisory group will be held the week of Oct. 13.

2008 Michigan Tech Sports Hall of Fame Class Announced

by Wes Frahm, director of athletic communications and marketing

Michigan Tech will induct seven new members into its Sports Hall of Fame during ceremonies scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 1.

The induction class of 2008 includes three hockey players, Al McLeod, Mike Usitalo and John Young; volleyball player Kim Hoppes; football player Don Lehman; men's basketball player Jerry Muff; and women's basketball player Carie Pejka (Tull).

The seven inductees will join the 165 members already in the Michigan Tech Sports Hall of Fame, which was started in 1985.

Below is a brief biography of each of the seven inductees.

Kim Hoppes
Kim Hoppes, who was a volleyball standout from 1991 to 1994, was one of the best female student-athletes to don a Huskies uniform in any sport. A two-time All-American and three-time All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection, Hoppes helped the Huskies to their first GLIAC volleyball title in 1994. Michigan Tech was a combined 56-10 in 1993 and 1994 with two trips to the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship match. Hoppes ranks first all-time at Tech in hitting percentage (33.8) and second in both kills (1,545) and blocks (437). She also played basketball her senior season, earning GLIAC All-Defensive Team accolades. Following her collegiate career, Hoppes played volleyball professionally from 1996 to 2004 in Finland, where she continues to reside.

Don Lehman
Don Lehman has made an impact on the Tech football program as both a player and alum. He lettered four times from 1959 to 1962 and was a part of the Huskies first football conference championship squad in 1959. He claimed the team's most valuable player award as a senior in 1962. Lehman has remained involved with Tech football since his graduation. He was an inaugural member of the football advisory council and is a major contributor to the program. Lehman currently lives in Davison.

Al McLeod was a member of some of the most successful teams in Michigan Tech hockey history. He lettered three times from 1968 to 1971 as the Huskies compiled a 65-27-7 record and two Western Collegiate Hockey Association titles. McLeod recorded 29 goals, 46 assists and 75 total points in 89 career games. Following his career, McLeod played professionally for nine years. He has served as a member of the hockey advisory council. He is also a member of the University's President's Club. The president and owner of Champion Sales and Service Company, McLeod resides in Phoenix.

Jerry Muff
Former men's basketball player Jerry Muff was one of the most prolific rebounders in school history. A four-year letterwinner from 1968 to 1972 and one of the first minorities in the men's basketball program at Tech, Muff finished his career with a then–school record 760 rebounds. He averaged a double-double of 11.0 points and 11.0 rebounds from 1969 to 1970 and tallied career averages of 8.2 points and 8.6 rebounds. In the current record book, Muff ranks third in both career rebounds and season rebounds (265). He resides in Ft. Wayne, Ind.

Carie Pejka (Tull)
Carie Pejka (married name Tull) was a standout women's basketball player at Michigan Tech from 1988 to 1992, helping start a great era for the program. Her teams posted four straight years of winning records and began a streak of winning seasons that has grown to 20 consecutive years through 2007-08. Pejka was the most valuable player on Tech's first two GLIAC Championship teams in 1991 and 1992 and helped the Huskies to the NCAA Great Lakes Regional semifinal each of those years. She finished her career with 1,199 points and 228 career assists, marks that were the second-best in school history at the time of her graduation. Pejka was named All-GLIAC First Team and was Tech's Raymond L. Smith Award winner as the school's top female senior student-athlete in 1991-92. She was also a three-time GLIAC All-Defensive Team selection. Pejka, now Tull, is a podiatrist in Hayward, Wis.

Mike Usitalo
Mike Usitalo had a stellar hockey career both at Michigan Tech and beyond. He was named the WCHA Freshman of the Year in 1970-71 after leading the team in scoring with 28 goals and 45 total points. The forward went on to tally 71 goals and 61 assists for 132 total points in 109 career games while helping the Huskies to two WCHA titles and a national runner-up finish in 1973-74. Following his career at Tech, Usitalo led the US National Team to a gold medal at the 1974 World Hockey Championship, where he was the tournament's third-leading scorer. Professionally, Usitalo was selected in the sixth round of the 1972 National Hockey League draft. He spent three years in the Los Angeles Kings organization and was the American Hockey League Rookie of the Year in 1975 playing for the Springfield Kings. Usitalo currently resides in Hancock.

John Young
Of all the great players in Michigan Tech hockey history, only three tallied more points than John Young. Young, who played for the Huskies from 1989 to 1993, scored 61 goals and tallied 149 assists for 210 career points in 155 career games. The forward was named All-WCHA Second Team in both 1990-91 and 1992-93 and was also selected as the team's most valuable player twice. Young participated in the US Olympic Festival in both 1990 and 1991 while a student-athlete at Tech. Following his graduation in 1993, Young played professional ice hockey for two seasons, spending time with four different minor league clubs. Young now works as an accountant and resides in South St. Paul, Minn.

Graduate School Seminar Sept. 10 on Submitting a Thesis or Dissertation

Are you planning to finish your thesis or dissertation during this academic year? Do you assist students submitting theses or dissertations? If you answered yes to either question, join the Graduate School for a seminar designed to help students, faculty and staff better understand the online submission procedure, from start to finish, for a thesis or dissertation.

Debra Charlesworth (Graduate School) will give the seminar Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 4:05 p.m.

Register for the event online at http://www.gradschool.mtu.edu/registration/events/ .

Once you register, you will receive a confirmation with the seminar location and a reminder of the date and time.

If you are unable to join us, you can view similar seminars taped this summer on June 5 (student focus) and June 19 (faculty-staff focus) at http://www.gradschool.mtu.edu/professional/index.html#past .

Teaching at Tech: One More Time

by William Kennedy, director, Center for Teaching, Learning and Faculty Development

Glen Archer, who supervises undergraduate labs for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is always kind enough to come to our GTA orientation sessions and share a few words of wisdom. One of the things he tells the incoming GTAs each year is that it is their attitude and their energy level that will "establish the maximum" in the sections that they teach. No one, he says, will care more, try harder, be more interested or show more enthusiasm than the GTA entering that lab session. If you demonstrate that you care, that you are excited, that you truly see the value in what you are teaching, he tells them, students will rise to the occasion. If you drop the ball, they are likely to follow with half-hearted efforts and performance levels.

If you're like me, you spend most of your preparation time focusing on the content of the courses that you teach. A constant temptation as we review our courses each term is to jam in one more idea or one more essential concept. The cumulative effect of adding one more concept each term is to wind up with courses that are so densely packed that many students have trouble distinguishing between the embellishments and what's essential. Students, it turns out, have widely varying capacities to ferret out foundational concepts from add-ons and various incidental enrichments and asides. The ability to sort out the essential from the unessential is called "saliency determination," and this mysterious mental capacity may explain why some students are better than others at figuring out what's going to be on the exam.

A raft of contemporary science education researchers argues that we should streamline our courses, trimming down the cognitive load and focusing more on foundational mastery and the application of those concepts rather than building courses that result in the short-term recall of a broader set of ideas with the associated details.

So, this term, I'm thinking about the affective dimension of my teaching, as well as reviewing and updating the course content. I've trimmed away some of the detail that appeals to me and am trying to provide learning opportunities for students to master and experiment with foundational concepts. And I'm thinking about creating more engaging ways for students to encounter course ideas.

It's been 30 years since I first entered a Michigan Tech classroom in the role of instructor. I must admit, I'm more confident and comfortable today than I was way back then. Over those 30 years, I've even had a few epiphanies about my role as a teacher. Some years back, it suddenly occurred to me that what happens in the classroom isn't about me, or what I experience. Rather, it's about my students and what they experience, and what they learn, as a result. I've come to see my role more as an architect of experiences and educational environments, rather than as a provider of facts. My job, as I see it today, is to create opportunities that will encourage students to think differently about the world. To do that, I must understand what makes them tick and what gets them engaged.

Thirty years ago, I was only 10 years older than most of my undergraduate students. In many ways, I was much more familiar with their worldview and life experiences. Though I could relate with them, I think I had a much more restricted sense of the goals of my teaching.

Now, I've got kids their age, and I realize that I am out of touch with what drives them and interests them outside of class. But I think I have a much richer sense of what can be accomplished when I use my experience and knowledge to create learning opportunities and environments that exercise their minds and their hearts.

It's not about me. It's about them. My job is to create challenges and opportunities that enable them to embrace better, more insightful, richer and more mature answers to the challenges they will face at work and in life.

John Adams observed, "It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our (students) and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives."

Have a good year . . .

Job Posting

Staff job descriptions are available in the Human Resources Office or at http://www.admin.mtu.edu/hro/postings . For more information regarding staff positions, call 487-2280 or email jobs@mtu.edu .

Faculty job descriptions can be found at http://www.admin.mtu.edu/hro/facpers/facvac.htm . For more information regarding faculty positions, contact the academic department in which the position is posted.

Staff Job Posting

Sports and Recreation/SDC
Regular, full-time position; includes weekends, shift hours; schedule will vary
AFSCME internal posting only

Michigan Technological University is an equal opportunity educational institution/equal opportunity employer.

New Funding

Assistant Professor Reza Shahbazian-Yassar (MEEM) has received $224,063 from NSF for a three-year project, "MRI: Acquisition of an In-Situ AFM/STM-TEM System for Interdisciplinary Nano-Research and Education at Michigan Tech."

In the News

A Detroit Free Press story features Tech's plans for new student apartments and the Wadsworth Hall renovations. PR Director Jennifer Donovan's story on MTRI's research on sleep and fibromyalgia was picked up by Science Daily and the UPI wire service.

And Gizmag mentions the Keweenaw Research Center's research on a new product called SnoBootz.

Read all about it here.