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The Weekly Blab 5.6

The Weekly Blab

Volume 5, Issue 6—September 27, 2010


Welcome to the sixth issue of The Weekly Blab, where we overcome the middle of the term blahs with an issue that has a bit of humor in it.  First, the news:


The Week in Review

Not a good week for football this past week, with UGA, Georgia Tech, and beloved Chelsea all losing.  Chelsea dropped its first game this year, losing to Manchester City 1-0.  Manchester City was the team that managed to beat Chelsea twice last season as well, though Chelsea went on to win the Premier League title as well as the FA Cup.  Hopefully they’ll do the same this year.  SPSU’s soccer team had a game with Young Harris cancelled on account of lightning, which was the most positive result last week.  Yes, I know that the Falcons won in overtime, but I don’t follow them.


Tuesday, I met briefly with the folks working on the Faculty Advisor Training, and a fine job they’re doing!  The issue came up about whether staff could attend any of the training sessions, notably the sessions we’re running this term for the full-time faculty.  After some discussion, we agreed that while these sessions cover topics that are mainly of interest to faculty advisors, staff would be welcome on a space-available basis.  Different sessions designed for part-time faculty and for staff will be offered in the Spring Semester.  All full-time faculty are required to take one of the sessions in the fall, so if you haven’t signed up yet, please do so by clicking here.  We need there to be 100% participation.


Wednesday was the Deans Council meeting.  We did discuss two things of general interest:  some draft modifications to our summer pay policy (which will make it a bit simpler to understand, and fix a few small problems), and [in response to a request from the Faculty Senate] a draft policy on compensation for very large courses, and for independent studies/directed studies/etc.  There are still a few minor details to work out, but these drafts should be going out to the faculty in the next day or two.  We’ll schedule a few open forums to discuss them and to get comments and ideas.  Ultimately, they’ll go to the Faculty Senate for endorsement.


Thursday, we had the organizational meeting for hosting the Polytechnic Summit at SPSU this coming summer.  For those who don’t know, for the past two years representatives from the various polytechnics in the US have met at the University of Wisconsin—Stout (Wisconsin’s Polytechnic) to discuss issues of mutual interest.  SPSU is certainly a unique university within Georgia, but there are other universities that are fairly similar to us in other states and abroad.  I’ve been there both years, and Jeff Ray, Kit Trensch, and President Rossbacher have gone as well.  Anyway, about 25 people showed up, and another dozen have offered to help but couldn’t come to the meeting.  We’ve decided on a theme for the conference, “Why Polytechnic?” which will focus on the Polytechnic way of doing things.  Some of the parallel sessions will be such things as “What’s in it for the Students” [focusing on the polytechnic way of learning and the polytechnic curriculum]; “What’s in it for the Faculty” [focusing on the polytechnic way of teaching, faculty development, and research]; and so on. So—you have lots of advance notice to start thinking about what you might want to present as a paper at this conference, and what your students might present.  I hope we have a strong turnout of papers from SPSU.  The group also decided to start (and have SPSU host) a Polytechnic Journal, and start a Facebook page to begin exchanging ideas and best practices with our colleagues at other polytechnics.  The ever-intrepid Bob Brown has already registered the name domains PolytechnicSummit.org and PolytechnicJournal.org for us and put up a shell.  There are six committees, and if you’re interested in participating and haven’t let me know yet, it’s not too late.  More on the Summit and the Journal as we progress.


Later that night, it was off to Spelman College for a reception at the NSF Southeast Regional Technical Assistance and Information Workshop for Minority-Serving Institutions To Broaden Participation in the National Science Foundation's Division on Research Learning (DRL) in Formal and Informal Settings Programs conference (now that’s a title!).  Kind of at the last minute, we found out about this conference through the kind graces of Dr. Pearson of Georgia Tech, who was taking the same sociology class as our own Ron Dempsey.  The two began to talk about ways that we could work together, and Dr. Pearson suggested we attend this 2 ½ day conference.  Austin Asgill (ECET) and Russ Hunt (Extended University) were able to rearrange some things and go on short notice as our team, so they got to do the work and I got to go and eat.  Anyway, while munching on shrimp (very nice!) and eggrolls (not as good), we spoke to one of the NSF representatives about some significant grant opportunities for SPSU—of which there are several—and to Dr. Pearson about ways that GT and SPSU will work together.  We’re scheduling some meetings and a possible joint trip to Washington.  Some of you may be invited to join in some grant efforts in the near future.


Friday brought a meeting with a representative of the Career, Technology, and Agriculture Education (CTAE) group from the Dept. of Education, who certify engineering, computing, and agricultural aspects of teacher education.  As most of you know, SPSU is in the process of developing degree proposals in Biology Education, Chemistry Education, Math Education, and Physics Education with the various state agencies for submittal to the Board of Regents (our Letters of Intent were approved some time ago).  We hired George Stickel as our first Education faculty member and program director.  We also wanted to offer Computer Science Education and Engineering/Engineering Technology Education, but there are no state certifications in this area other than a general one in technology that was meant for another purpose.  The meeting was to begin to test the ground to see if there is interest in SPSU developing some stand-alone certifications in these areas (which would also likely involve developing some model high school courses that could be approved for credit as the “fourth science course” in the state high school curriculum).  Savannah State University is also interested in having a Secondary Education—Engineering Technology program, and we’ve begun talking to see if we can work together on this project.


Also on Friday, David Stone helped me set up Academics@SPSU, our academic affairs podcast channel.  We’ll be putting up stuff from time to time, the first item being a podcast of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus’ talk a few weeks ago.  To subscribe to Academics@SPSU, go to http://fac-web.spsu.edu/aa/minutes.html (for new faculty—this is the page that we keep all the minutes from the Deans Council, ALC, and archived Weekly Blabs) and click on the “Subscribe” button a little ways down the page.  You’ll need to have iTunes on your computer for it to work.  If any of you have any ideas for things to add to our podcast channel, please let me know or send them to me.  And yes, Alan, it works fine on a Mac—I tried it at home.


Student Excuses

It’s the time of the season that many faculty schedule their first exams or have their first assignments due to be turned in.  So, it’s time for grandparents to beware since they are the unwitting victims in a great number of student excuses—“I couldn’t complete my assignment because my grandmother died”.  Some students manage to lose four, five, or six different grandparents.  In honor of this, there was an article in the Chronicle this week on student excuses.  The most amazing one I got was actually true—when I was a graduate student TA’ing a General Chemistry class, one of my students (who had been doing “A” work) simply disappeared before the final.  He had done so well that even with a “0” on the final, he still passed the course with a “D”.  I tried to call him, but never got a response.  I came to find out that he had been in a motorcycle accident, and was in the hospital in traction for weeks.  As soon as he could move, he contacted us about his grade, and explained what had happened (which we quickly changed to an “A” when we saw the medical report).  So—what’s your best student excuse story?  I’ll come up with some fabulous prize for the best one.


The Future of the South?

“Save your Confederate money, sons, for the South shall rise again”—or not, according to the latest quarterly edition of the Oxford American.  The issue contains several articles and works of fiction on what the South will look like in 2050.  The Chronicle quotes publisher Warwick Sabin as making an interesting prediction:


“While Warwick Sabin, publisher, strikes a serious, economic-development note: “The parts of the South that have suffered the most in recent decades are the ones that have failed to most aggressively anticipate the future.” Those sites, Sabin claims, include states and counties that have been so intent on compromising their tax regulations to lure antiquated industries—oil, cars—that they have failed to imagine a better tomorrow. He writes: “The only way to control our future is to summon the courage and confidence and intellect and energy to create the South that we would like to see fifty years from now.” How? It’ll be through “a crazy idea that no one has come up with yet,” Sabin imagines.”  Hmm…


Other predictions (only slightly less likely) have the heat-crazed multitudes abandoning the South for Canada; or a Mississippi company developing new drugs so that you can “Be the person you wish you were”; or meeting lovers “the old-fashioned way”—playing poker at an online virtual casino.  To help prepare you for your future trip to Canada, see this week’s Trivia Contest (below).


Dance Your Ph.D.

The funniest thing I saw this week came courtesy of the ever-interesting Bob Harbort.  I really can’t add anything to it, so I’ll just reprint it as is, from gonzolabs.org:


The dreaded question: "So, what's your Ph.D. research about?" You could bore them with an explanation. Or you could dance. That's the idea behind "Dance Your Ph.D." Over the past 3 years, scientists from around the world have teamed up to create dance videos based on their graduate research. This year's contest, launched in June by Science, received 45 brave submissions.


Last week, judges—including scientists, choreographers, and past winners—announced the finalists in four categories: physics, chemistry, biology, and social sciences. Each receives $500. The overall winner will be announced at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York City on 19 October.”


Click here to see the winning videos.  And I expect to see SPSU entrants in next year’s competition.




Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest drew a solid number of responses, and the greatest number of correct answers (by your generously grading colleague) was 4 ½.  Several people got that number correct, so the earliest reply wins the Jazz CD.  The winner was David Stone (who took only 13 minutes from when the Blab was posted to win) and the correct answers are below:


1.  What is Superman’s dog’s name? Krypto

2.  What does red kryptonite do to Superman? Different things each time—it never affects him the same way twice.

3.  What studio produced the original (and excellent) Superman cartoons? Fleischer

4.  What 2006 movie was about the death of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on TV? Hollywoodland.

5.  What did Superman do in the first Superman movie (the one with Chris Reeves) that is expressly impossible by the “rules” of the comic books?  The popular half-right answer here was “go back in time”, but Superman did that every other issue in the comics.  The correct answer is “go back in time and change the past” by preventing Lois Lane from dying by being crushed by driving into the San Andreas Fault.   In the comics, whenever Superman tried to change the past, he’d find that some quirk would stop him from doing so, because it was impossible.


This Week’s Trivia Contest

As usual, the most correct answers take the swag.  This week’s topic is Canada.  On Yukon King! 


1.  What is the Canadian $1 coin known as?

2.  In what year was Canada’s centennial?

3.  In what city and province were Canada’s articles of confederation signed?

4.  Which Canadian province’s current area is the greatest multiple of its area when it joined the country?

5.  What female Canadian modernist artist was born in Victoria, B.C. and specialized in post-impressionistic art depicting the life of the coastal Indians of British Columbia? 


This case is closed!