President Mroz Tells House, Senate: Universities are the Engine Driving Economic Recovery

by Jennifer Donovan, director of public relations

Testifying before the Michigan House and Senate subcommittees on higher education in Lansing this week, President Glenn Mroz painted a promising picture of the relationship between universities and a robust economy.

"This state and nation need the scientific and technological breakthroughs that cause dramatic increases in production and efficiency," he said, "and these breakthroughs are dependent on the faculty, staff, students and graduates of research universities. It is these people who, through excellent education and technological innovation, can attract the capital that will create the jobs that will change Michigan."

But, Mroz went on to say, there is a stunning disconnect between the state University's growth and its state support.

Michigan Tech has almost doubled its number of students--from 4,200 to 7,000--and increased its research spending nearly 50-fold since 1966, yet state funding corrected for inflation is exactly the same as it was then, he pointed out.

"Over the past 10 years, financial support from the state has decreased 32 percent, from a high of $55.2 million in 2002 to a proposed 2012 base of $37.4 million," Mroz said. Yet Michigan Tech produces graduates with the hands-on experience and entrepreneurial skills to command the highest average starting salary of any of the state's public universities. Even during an economic turndown, 87 percent of Michigan Tech graduates have found jobs within six months after graduation.

Tuition has gone up 33 percent in the past five years, Mroz said, "but financial aid has increased 100 percent."

With research expenditures pushing $70 million this year--most of it coming from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Defense and the US Department of Energy--Michigan Tech produces a high number of invention disclosures, and two-thirds of those invention disclosures include students.

"We work with business to commercialize technologies developed at the University," Mroz told the legislators. "We are partners with the SmartZone to actively commercialize technology, and just recently, we established another technology accelerator, the Michigan Tech Entrepreneurial Support Corp., to help faculty, staff and students take discoveries and developments to the marketplace.

The president mentioned two other funding issues facing Michigan's public universities: the rising costs of a state retirement program to which some University employees hired before 1996 belong and a proposal to turn community colleges into four-year degree-granting institutions.

All employees hired since 1996 have been on a defined contribution retirement program that requires an employee match. Employees hired before 1996 who chose the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) are not required to contribute to their retirement, and they receive retiree health care benefits, which employees under the defined contribution system do not.

"The costs are out of control," Mroz said. "In 2012, we will have to pay $5.2 million back to the state for our MPSERS employees. That is money that comes directly off the top of our state appropriation, and it's 43 percent of the MPSERS employees' payroll."

MPSERS is governed by a state board, and "no one from a public university sits on that board," Mroz noted. "We need your help with this," he said. "We've got some ideas, and we'd be happy to talk with you and your staff about them."

Mroz also objected to a proposal to turn the state's more than 30 community colleges into four-year public universities. "The missions of the community college should not be confused with that of the universities. You need both," he said.

The House and Senate higher education subcommittees hold hearings each year before passing budget legislation. They invite the 15 state universities' presidents to testify.

Huskies to Play for National Title after 89-78 Win over Northwest Missouri

by Wes Frahm, director of athletic communications and marketing

Michigan Tech will play for the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship today.

The No. 3 Huskies defeated a very tough Northwest Missouri State team 89-78 in the national semifinals Wednesday, behind a brilliant performance from sophomore point guard Sam Hoyt, who tallied team highs of 23 points and seven assists. The Huskies (31-2) were outscored 42-18 in the paint, but cashed in on 28-of-31 free throws and 9-of-19 3-pointers in the game for their 18th consecutive victory.

"We made big shots tonight," said head coach Kim Cameron, who became the first skipper in school history to guide a Tech team to the national title game. "We had a hard time defending their post players, but our offense came through."

Tech will make its first-ever appearance in the national title game. The Huskies will face No. 2-ranked Clayton State, which defeated Shaw 63-46 in the other semifinal. The game is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. and will be shown live on ESPN2.

Michigan Tech's 31 wins ties a school record--the school's previous deepest run in the NCAA Tournament was in 1993, when the Huskies lost in the national semifinal before winning the third-place game. The game can also be heard live on Mix 93.5 FM and on .

Friends of the Library Book Sale Today

The annual Friends of the Van Pelt Library Book Sale will be from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., today, in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

The book prices are phenomenally low: $2 for hardbacks, $1 for softcover and $0.50 for trade paperbacks. Even bigger bargains start at 3:30 p.m., with books at $5 per bag. Community members and visitors can receive a pass to park for free on campus at metered or visitor spaces.

All proceeds from the sale benefit the Van Pelt and Opie Library. For more information, visit the website .

Reminder: Dine in China at Khana Khazana

Chinese food is on the menu at Khana Khazana today. Rui Pan, a management information systems major from China, will make double-cooked pork, Di San Xian (sautéed potato, green pepper and eggplant, a typical northern Chinese vegetable dish) and tomato-egg soup.

A full meal costs $6 and includes a fountain drink, tea or coffee. Individual dishes are available a la carte for $2.

Khana Khazana is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Memorial Union Food Court and is a cooperative effort of international students and Dining Services

Michigan Tech Concert Choir Presents "Whimsy!"

submitted by the Rozsa

The Michigan Tech Concert Choir will perform its annual spring concert, "Whimsy!" at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 2, in the Rozsa.

The concert will feature light-hearted choral music, including selections from "Nonsense," by Richard Rodney Bennett; "The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard," by Benjamin Britten; the folk-song suite "Women on the Plains," by Alice Parker; and "O Schöne Nacht," by Johannes Brahms.

Assistant Professor Jared Anderson, who recently joined the Visual and Performing Arts faculty as the director of choral activities, will conduct the choir.

Anderson says, "I wanted to make a program around a theme that would be appropriate for the transition to springtime--when we move from the serious subjects of winter to the ideas that come with the new season. The idea of 'Whimsy!' seemed to be a perfect fit, a fun way to jump into springtime."

There are a few works with fantastic piano parts that will feature pianists Susie Byykkonen and Emily Fisher. There will be something for everyone, including a musical visit by the Swedish Chef.

Anderson has conducted ensembles at colleges and universities in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Utah, as well as an inmate choir at the Utah State Prison. He is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association and the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

Choir members include undergraduate and graduate students, active and retired faculty, as well as community members from throughout the Keweenaw.

"It really is a wonderful experience to conduct a choir that ranges in ages from eighteen to seventy-five, full of people who just love to sing," says Anderson.

Tickets are $10 for the general public, $5 for students and free for Michigan Tech students with an ID. To purchase tickets contact the Rozsa Box Office at 487-3200, the Central Ticket Office (SDC) at 487-2073, or online at .

Northern Lights Film Festival at McArdle Theatre

The Seventh Annual Northern Lights Film Festival celebrates original filmmaking with three days of independent film screening, from Thursday, March 31, through Saturday, April 2.

This year's festival will be held at the McArdle Theatre and will feature the recent documentaries "Gasland," "Erasing David" and "Waste Land," as well as a number of other independent features and short films.

Thursday, March 31

At 7 p.m., the 2010 Sundance Jury Prize-Winner, "Gasland," will be shown. When filmmaker Josh Fox was approached to lease his land for natural gas drilling, he embarked on a journey to find out how this drilling (or "fracking") was affecting people in other parts of the country. Liberal arts senior Wes Kolbe will provide an introduction to the film and moderate discussion following.

At 9:30 p.m., immediately following the discussion, is the science-fiction film "Zenith," written and directed by Vladan Nikolic. With its stunning visual style, the film explores a future where everyone is "happy"--perhaps at the cost of what makes them human.

Friday, April 1

At 5 p.m., the events begin with "In The Family," where documentary filmmaker Joanna Rudnick turns the camera on herself after testing positive for the breast cancer gene. At age 27, she must confront the emotional and medically complex question of whether to remove her breasts and ovaries or risk developing cancer.

At 7:30 p.m, the festival features the UK documentary, "Erasing David." As a citizen in a country with four million closed-circuit TV cameras, filmmaker David Bond attempts to disappear without a trace. An investigation into data collection and use, Bond attempts to evade capture by two security experts.

At 9:30 p.m., the art-house horror film "Heartless," starring Jim Sturgess, will screen. This psychological thriller follows a young man with a heart-shaped birthmark on his face through the troubled streets on the East End of London. The violent and disturbed neighborhood is not only ruled by gangs, but also by demons. The film will be preceded by recent Tech graduate Daena Makela's horror short, "Snowblowing Over the Dead of Winter."

Saturday, April 2

The afternoon's events focus on the work of new filmmakers.

From 1 to 2:30 p.m., the festival will offer a program of the 2010 Student Academy Award short films, including winners in the categories of animation, documentary, alternative, narrative and foreign film.

At 3 p.m., short films and documentaries produced by Michigan Tech students will be shown.

At 4 p.m., the festival will present Jeff Malmberg's "Marwencol," winner of the 2010 SXSW Best Documentary and two Independent Spirit Awards. After being savagely beaten, Mark Hogancamp builds a one-sixth-scale World War II-era town that helps him recover from the trauma of his attack. The Village Voice writes, "Exactly the sort of mysterious and almost holy experience you hope to get from documentaries and rarely do."

At 7:30 p.m., the festival will end with the Academy-Award nominated "Waste Land." The story of the awe-inspiring collaboration between Brooklyn artist Vik Muniz and an eclectic band of garbage pickers ("catadores") who work the world's largest garbage dump in Muniz's native Brazil. A testament to the transformative power of art, this film by Lucy Walker, João Jardim and Karen Harley recently won the Sundance Audience Award for Best World Cinema Documentary and numerous other festival awards internationally.

The Northern Lights Film Festival is sponsored by the Departments of Humanities and Visual and Performing Arts, and the Cin/Optic Communication and Media Enterprise Team. The festival is free.

For more information, see Northern Lights Film Festival , or contact Erin Smith, resource director, Humanities, at 487-3263 or at .

Library Workshop: Zotero with Mies Martin

Want to learn how to save your research time? How to better integrate citations seamlessly into your research process? Then come to the Van Pelt and Opie Library workshop on Zotero [Zoh-TAIR-oh], a fun, free, easy-to-use Firefox extension that helps you collect, manage and cite your research sources. It's designed to work seamlessly within your research process.

Mies Martin, coordinator of digital resources, Library, will give the workshop at 1 p.m., Tuesday, March 29, and again at 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 6, in Library 244.

Participants will create Zotero accounts, add information to their database, and learn how to organize material and create bibliographies, reports and references. The session will also cover a few advanced features like creating timelines and groups and linking with HuskyFetch.

Bring your laptop, if you wish, or use one of our computers, and we'll help get you started.

The Van Pelt and Opie Library now offers weekly workshops all semester long on different resources that will give you an academic edge or save you time. Workshops take place alternate Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1 p.m. in Library 244. Each workshop is offered twice to fit into your class schedule.

Teaching at Tech: Student Evaluations as Formative Assessments

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

In the assessment business, the most common functional distinction is formative v. summative. Perhaps the easiest way to think of this distinction is from a student perspective. A formative assessment tool can be likened to a quiz that teachers use primarily to assess a student's level of understanding. They would give such a quiz to amend their instruction so that the students can make better progress toward achieving course learning goals. Such a quiz might also generate a grade, or summative judgment, comparing the student's performance against some imagined standard or the performance of other students; but the primary purpose would be instructional improvement.

Because students have become conditioned to associate grades with ultimately landing a good job, they are likely to pay much more attention to the summative assessment of their performance and to minimize the instructors' formative comments and suggestions. You can gain a sense of this as students doggedly argue for a few more points on their exam score; they are much less likely to want to discuss what was actually missing in their thinking that gave rise to the wrong or incomplete exam response.

Students are providing summative judgments on our performance when they fill in one of the bubbles on question 20 of the student evaluation form. We average those student responses for a given class, and that average becomes a numerical grade on our teaching performance.

To arrive at their assessments, students employ some unspecified methodology in judging the quality of our teaching and comparing our efforts against the quality of teaching that they are currently receiving and have previously received in other courses.

If students have had, in their own opinion, a more fortuitous educational experiences--whatever that might actually mean (learned more, easy "A", more engaging)--my teaching grade will likely suffer. If they deem me the "best teacher" they have had--again for whatever reason--I would presumably receive higher grades.

Anticipating the ephemeral nature of capturing the unspecified zeitgeist of a particular clump of student opinions and employing those polling results to partially determine merit, promotion, and tenure recommendations, the University Senate, in its wisdom, proclaimed that, under no circumstances, should the assessment of the teaching performance of an instructor be based solely, or even primarily, on student evaluation scores. But, alas, it appears that in many academic units, it is indeed those student opinions that reign supreme.

Arguments against other forms of assessment, such as classroom visitations by peers or the unit head, or the periodic preparation and review of teaching portfolios, predictably fall into two categories. First, such efforts require considerable time and energy, both in short supply. Second, the additional efforts may be no better at assessing teaching quality than student opinion polls, themselves.

The second argument is based on historical data, collected by researchers, which suggest that when instructors, in addition to students, directly assess the quality of the teaching of their peers, their numerical assessments correlate quite positively with the end-of-the-term teaching evaluations performed by students.

Though this may be true, there are some problems with this notion. Such an argument is based on the false assumption that summative assessments--the number or letter "grades" commonly generated by evaluation forms--are the only meaningful assessment results that can be generated by classroom visitations or the peer review of syllabi, course exams, teaching materials, course delivery strategies, etc.

At the end of the day, it's important to realize that summative assessments, such as course grades, are not primarily intended to improve student learning. I won't bore you with a long diatribe on the effects of instrumental or operant conditioning, but suffice it to say that it's unlikely that I will become a better teacher because my students gave me a "C" in teaching, rather than an "A".

What does help is listening and responding to students' formative assessments of our teaching. A casual review of end-of-the-term teaching evaluation forms will demonstrate that far less than a quarter of students take the time to fill in the comment sections on the back of the forms. When they do take the time, their comments tend to be rather cryptic and unhelpful.


Students, like us, are quasi-rational, self-interested (some would say self-absorbed) critters who are not very forthcoming or generous in their comments on end-of-the-term teaching evaluation forms. After all, "What's in it for me?" When I point out to them that their comments may help future students, they look at me like I've just told them to eat their broccoli.

However, these very same students are quite expressive and descriptive on those early-term, open-ended evaluation instruments that ask students to respond to two basic questions:

What about this course is helping you to learn?

What could be changed to improve your learning?

Turns out, if you ask students early in the term, they will tell you their opinion about what you are doing that is helping them and what you might change to improve their learning. They will also throw in a few tricky suggestions that will make their lives easier rather than improving their learning; but you can talk through those clever gambits and have a substantive discussion with the class about why suspending all exams and giving all the students "A's" just won’t work.

Relying exclusively on end-of-the-term teaching evaluations for summative or formative purposes is, as the Senate suggested, an easy way to generate scores, but a very poor way of improving teaching and learning.

So far, everybody who has shared with me that they've tried the early-term, two-question feedback forms has said they saw some benefit to the practice. The students appreciate that you ask, and both parties get some good and helpful information. An unanticipated side benefit is that using the midterm forms, and discussing the results with students, have the effect of raising the numerical scores on the end-of-the-term evaluation forms. Go figure!

As painful as it is to give credit where credit is due, I am thankful, each term, when the provost takes the opportunity to remind all of us to use these midterm evaluation forms to see what we might learn.