State Moves Ahead with Great Lakes Research Center

by Jennifer Donovan, director of public relations

The Michigan Legislature's Joint Capital Outlay Committee meeting in Lansing Thursday authorized Michigan Tech to seek construction bids for its planned Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC).

The $25.3-million facility will be built on the waterfront adjacent to the campus. The state will pay 74 percent of the cost. The University's share is 26 percent or $6.58 million.

"As Michigan moves toward a blue-water economy, this Great Lakes Research Center will play a vital role in helping the state understand and use its freshwater resources," said President Glenn Mroz. "It is a strategic investment in the future, for the state and for the University."

The GLRC will include aquatic laboratories, a hydraulics lab, coastal research instrumentation, boathouse facilities, offices and conference rooms--all of it providing a home for interdisciplinary research and education related to the Great Lakes. It will also house a research and educational partnership between Michigan Tech and the US Army Corps of Engineers' Research and Development Center Environmental Laboratory in Vicksburg, Miss. The Vicksburg lab is the Corps of Engineers' water resources research facility.

At the GLRC, Michigan Tech and the Corps of Engineers will conduct cross-disciplinary research and education focusing on protection and restoration of the Great Lakes. Vicksburg scientists will work collaboratively with Michigan Tech researchers and students in both locations.

"We are appreciative of the strong, continuing support of Sen. Michael Prusi and Rep. Michael Lahti," said Dale Tahtinen, vice president for governmental affairs. "They played a significant role in making this happen."

The Board of Control will now be asked to authorize the seeking of construction bids for the 49,466-square-foot center, based on a schematic design already approved by the state. Groundbreaking could occur in spring 2010.

AQIP Accreditation Work Progresses

The University has received the appraisal of its 2009 Systems Portfolio, a document that is key to the ongoing effort of maintaining accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

"We are on track to reaffirm accreditation in 2012," reports Donna Michalek, assistant provost and coordinator of the accreditation effort. "The portfolio is one piece of evidence that is used in the process."

The Systems Appraisal Feedback Report, returned to Tech in mid-October, was conducted by the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP), a unit of the Higher Learning Commission, which is part of the North Central Association.

AQIP's assessment of Tech's portfolio is being disseminated to the campus community in a variety of ways, including a Dec. 9 Academic Forum and a December 15 Tech Talks.

As well, says Michalek, there will be a May Strategy Forum of campus leaders who will "take all of the information, pinpoint areas to improve, identify areas to sustain, and decide how to move forward."

Preparation of Tech's portfolio--a 100-page summation of its processes, measures of effectiveness, and improvements--involved the work of more than 200 faculty and staff. AQIP's review of their work emphasizes a continuous academic assessment, rather than a strictly periodic one, such as a regime that recurs once every ten years. "It's a process of continuous improvement now," says Michalek.

Michigan Tech's "Systems Portfolio" was prepared by nine campus focus groups, each with a specific charge. AQIP reviewers commented on all the questions and issues raised.

In particular, the AQIP team said Tech has provided evidence that it complies with these five accreditation criteria:
* Mission and Integrity
* Preparing for the Future
* Student Learning and Effective Teaching
* Acquisition, Discovery and the Application of Knowledge
* Engagement and Service

"The AQIP evaluators are knowledgeable," Michalek says. "There's useful information here for Tech to go down a path of progress and success."

One aspect of the review will be to identify three undertakings that the University accomplishes really well; AQIP will share those "best practices" to benefit and guide other institutions.

The University was accepted into the AQIP program of evaluation in 2005.

AQIP intends that this comprehensive appraisal addresses "the greatest challenges and opportunities" for Michigan Tech—"ones you need to grapple with as you identify your institution’s strategies for confronting the future and becoming the institution you want to be."

For more information on the AQIP work, contact Michalek at donna@mtu.edu .

SRA Issues Addressed

submitted by Benefit Services

Employees must adhere to maximum contributions for the tax- deferred Supplemental Retirement Annuities (SRA).

Those who are currently contributing pretax dollars into an SRA must take into account there are 27 pays in 2009 to avoid contributing more than allowed by the IRS.

2009 maximum levels are $16,500 up to age 50 and $22,000 age 50 and over. Please review your contributions to ensure you do not exceed the maximum.

If you’ve elected an SRA and are contributing into the 403b, you must also consider your 2-percent contribution if participating in the matching program.

If you have questions about your SRA, contact the Benefits Office at 487-2517.

Mineral Museum Awarded Funds for New Exhibits

The A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum has been awarded $2,000 from the internationally recognized Mining and Metallurgical Society of America (MMSA), which cited the "museum's excellent mineral collection" in the award letter. Ted Bornhorst, museum director, requested support from MMSA to construct new exhibits in the museum on the use of minerals in modern society and aspects of sustainable mining. The new exhibits support the purpose of this professional organization which is "dedicated to increasing public awareness and understanding about mining and why mined materials are essential to modern society and human well-being." The museum plans to have these new educational exhibits open to the public by spring 2010.

Candidate Presentations for Student Life Positions

All members of the campus community are invited to attend public presentations given by candidates for positions in Student Life.

Lamont Sellers, a candidate for the African American Outreach Coordinator, will give a public presentation from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m., Monday, Nov. 16, in Rheki G06. Sellers is a senior academic advisor for Student Support Services at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. He holds a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from the University of Denver.

Melvin Norwood, a candidate for the African American Outreach Coordinator as well as the Assistant Director of Student Activities, Greek Life and Leadership, will give a public presentation from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18, in Rheki G05. Norwood is a business education instructor at Auburn City School in Auburn, Ala. He holds a Doctorate in Education in Higher Education Administration from Auburn University.

Biomedical Engineering Chair Candidate Seminar

Sean J. Kirkpatrick, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Oregon Health and Science University, will present a seminar, "Aspects of Coherent Optical Imaging and Sensing in Biomedicine," at 3:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 16, in Chem Sci 101. Kirkpatrick is a candidate for chair of BME.

Biomedical Engineering Seminar

Karen Roemer (Exercise Science, Health and Physical Education) will present a graduate seminar, "Biomechanical Modeling and its Applications to Human Movements," at 3:15 p.m., today, in M&M U113.

SFRES Graduate Seminar

Dominique Loque of Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville, Calif., will present a seminar, "Understanding Plant Cell Wall Synthesis to Improve Biofuel Production," at 4 p.m., Monday, Nov. 16, in Forestry G002. Loque is welcomed to campus by the SFRES Graduate Seminar Committee and Biotechnology Research Center.

His website is available at: http://jbei.org/feedstocks/people.shtml .

Biological Sciences Seminar

Michael Gretz (Biological Sciences) will present, "The Beauty of Algae Cell Walls," from 2 to 3 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, in Dow 642.

Item Needed

The Dean of Students Office is looking for a small table, approximately
22 inches by 28 inches.

Contact Debbie Forsell at 487-2951 or dforsell@mtu.edu .

University property may only be transferred between departments; it may
not be given or sold to individuals.

Giveaways

Electrical and Computer Engineering has an assortment of tan metal shelves to give away. There are shelves only, no upright components. There are an assortment of sizes. The most common sizes are:
* 1 1/2 feet by 3 feet
* 2 feet by 3 feet
* 1 1/2 feet by 4 feet

Call John Miller at 487-2134.

Mathematical Sciences is giving away a three-drawer, tan, Steelcase file cabinet--41 inches high by 15 inches wide.

Call Tori Connors at 487-2068 by Nov. 20.

University property may only be transferred between departments; it may
not be given or sold to individuals.

Teaching at Tech: Digital Professors

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

I've ordered several college courses from an outfit named the Teaching Company, which contracts with premiere professors from prestigious colleges and universities around the world and then produces professionally illustrated, high-quality, electronic versions of their most well-received, college-level courses. These comprise a series of half-hour lectures that you can purchase in a variety of formats--from audio files for your MP3 player to full video versions you can watch on your television or computer screen.

The professors employed typically hold endowed chairs, have published extensively, have achieved renown, and have received one or more teaching awards. Their lectures are excellent, they are highly polished speakers, and they illustrate their talks with first-class graphics. They even provide a lecture-by-lecture course guide, so customers can follow the logic of the course and retrieve topics of particular interest after the fact.

The Teaching Company offers sale items on rotating subjects, and courses run from about $100 to $200, depending on the format you choose.

Like the MIT OpenCourseWare project, which offers various degrees of access to over 1,900 MIT courses (all at no charge and without registration), the Teaching Company offers very high-quality course content to customers without providing any direct access to the professor, a graduate teaching assistant or a learning center. Both projects make it clear that getting any questions answered after viewing or listening to a lecture are definitely not part of the deal.

When you talk to teachers about teaching, they most frequently use language that suggests course content is king. We say things like, "I've got to cover so much material in such a short period of time, I hope they’re able to keep up with me!" We lecture, assign problems and then test students for recall of the ideas that we lay out and the practice drills that we assign. We talk about learning outcomes that typically come down to a series of marks on a multiple-guess test or quantitative answers to a series of problems that require application of a formula displayed in class.

When I've shown students the Teaching Company products, most say, "Why would I sit through a bunch of lectures if I'm not going to get any credit for going through them? That doesn’t make any sense!" I recall the amazement of a colleague, some years ago, when his students requested graded quizzes on assigned course readings so that they would feel motivated to do the readings. Many faculty members also bemoan how few students actually come to see them during their office hours, choosing instead to interact with them via email and then only when an exam or big assignment looms.

I wonder how we got here? How did we get to a place where we seem most comfortable responding to each other in this distant, rather adversarial, cat-and-mouse type of interaction?

I've been asking myself lately: What do I offer these young people that they can’t get on a DVD from the Teaching Company? A credential saying they’ve sat through the requisite number of courses and that they got enough test questions right to prove they’ve earned a college degree? The opportunity to interact with me in and out of class, which fewer and fewer of them seem to be interested in pursuing?

There must be something else. And I wonder: What it was, what it is or what it could be?