When Teaching Becomes Art
Two Beloit College faculty members who are widely known for their skill in the classroom and dedication to students received formal recognition this spring.
Susan Swanson, associate professor of geology and Peterson Junior Professor of the Sciences, was recognized with the Phee Boon Kang’73 Prize for Innovation in Teaching with Technology.
Swanson has played a pivotal role in teaching students and colleagues how to utilize geographic information systems, known as GIS, in a wide range of research and academic projects. GIS allows users to integrate, store, edit, analyze, share, and display information that is spatially referenced to Earth.
“GIS allows the user to combine a variety of observations into one very powerful database,” explains Carl Mendelson, chair of the geology department. “Many of our students have learned GIS from Sue, which has given them tremendous advantages when competing for summer research experiences, graduate school positions, and jobs.”
Swanson’s research interests include wetlands hydrogeology, spring flow, and heterogeneities in sedimentary bedrock aquifers. She is also interested in the effects of urbanization on surface water and groundwater resources. Swanson also teaches a class on interdisciplinary applications of GIS under the auspices of Beloit’s relatively new environmental studies major.
Phee Boon Kang’73, a member of the Beloit College board of trustees, established the Kang Prize at Beloit in 1997.
Steven Wright, adjunct associate professor of English, is one of those professors whose name comes up repeatedly when Beloit College students are asked to identify influential faculty members. And students nominated Wright for the James R. Underkofler Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, an honor given annually to five teachers at Wisconsin’s independent colleges by Alliant Energy.
It was the second time in six years that Wright has received the honor. He teaches academic writing, expository writing, and courses in British literary tradition. His interest in and support for students in all their endeavors is legendary on campus.
“Professor Wright’s reputation as a caring, considerate, committed member of the faculty brings students flocking to fill and overfill his classes and his list of advisees,” says Cynthia McCown, chair of the English department. “His gentlemanly and deferential nature belies the ever-present and contagious energy with which he approaches his art—and Steve has indeed made teaching an art form.”
The Underkofler Award was established a decade ago by the Alliant Energy Foundation (Alliant was formerly Wisconsin Power and Light) to recognize outstanding teaching at Wisconsin’s private colleges. The award is named for the company’s former CEO.
Susan Swanson - Associate Professor of Geology and Peterson Junior Professor of the Sciences
Steven Wright - Adjunct Associate Professor of English
Crunch Time in Chamberlin Hall
Chamberlin Hall residents are on the move. At press time, inhabitants of Beloit’s old science building were sorting clutter before packing offices and labs in anticipation of their move to the Center for the Sciences, beginning on July 15.
Meanwhile, efforts to find homes for items that will not make the move or that are part of the old structure continue. One ton of Chamberlin’s solid wood office doors will go to Beloit Memorial High School this summer, according to Robin Greenler, the project’s sustainability coordinator. Students in the high school’s Construction Career Academy program will craft the doors into desks that will return to the College to furnish student offices in the new building. Madison Environmental Group, the company working with Beloit to find markets for Chamberlin materials, created the desk design.
Along with doors that are turning into desks, bricks from Chamberlin’s exterior will be crushed into road bed materials, and select scientific equipment has found a second life in Beloit Memorial High School science labs. A public sale of furniture, cabinetry, and other furnishings is being planned for early August.
Beloit’s goal is to salvage, reuse, or recycle 90 percent of Chamberlin Hall.
Every two weeks, Greenler posts to a blog about this and other topics relating to the new Center for the Sciences and deconstruction of Chamberlin. Called “Buzz from the Site,” it can be found on Beloit’s Web site (www.beloit.edu) under the Center for the Sciences tab.
Now that the new building is nearly finished, alumni are encouraged to take advantage of personalized tours of the Center for the Sciences. Contact the Office of Alumni Affairs (608-363-2656 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange a time to see the facility, which will be occupied by the time classes start this fall.
Center for the Sciences home page
A Sense of Place
| Greg Anderson
Emma Colburn’08 (Portland, Ore.) likes to create maps of strange and familiar places. Far from the kinds of navigational charts that take you from point A to point B, her watercolor sketches and box dioramas examine ideas about identity, physical and imagined space, and concepts of borders.
These interests inspired the art history major and African Studies minor to pursue a project that touched two communities on two separate continents.
Before departing for a spring 2007 semester abroad in Senegal, Colburn thought about ways she might facilitate cross-cultural exchanges between Beloiters and the people she would meet in Africa.
Her travels took her to the village of Keur Sadaro, where she served as an assistant at a local elementary school. Colburn and a group of schoolchildren brainstormed ideas about visual symbols that could illustrate the lived experience of villagers. “I asked them, ‘How would you describe your community to somebody who has never been here?’” she recalls. Together, they designed and painted five murals—a map of Senegal and four scenes depicting village life.
When Colburn returned to the College, she designed an installation for the Hales Gallery that incorporated photos of those murals along with artifacts from Senegal and pictures and letters from schoolchildren she had known there.
Besides conveying a sense of Keur Sadaro, the exhibit encouraged viewers to reflect on their own sense of place. A key part of the exhibit was an acrylic map Colburn painted of the city of Beloit. Visitors were invited to identify points on the map and post written anecdotes as to why they were significant.
“When people look at the map, they are not just seeing a bunch of color fields. They are better understanding the social histories written into that space,” she explains.
The exhibit attracted visitors from the College and surrounding communities, including several classes of high school students.
After graduating, Colburn is ready to extend the project. This fall, she will substitute teach in Beloit while working at a community center, where she will design murals with students that may be painted in public spaces. Colburn hopes to encourage Stateline-area residents to look at their hometown from a fresh perspective.
“What we know of a city often depends on what we look for along its avenues,” she says. “Harrison, Strong, Emerson—I will never live on these streets, but now when I ride my bike past the porch lights, I remember the descriptions written by people who do.”
Search is on for Beloit’s
| Trevor Johnson’08
|Life trustee Harry Hamilton’60 (right) speaks with Dick Niemiec’65
after Niemiec was introduced as Beloit’s interim president.
Only six weeks after John Burris announced his resignation as Beloit College president, the board of trustees named retired health insurance executive and Beloiter Dick Niemiec’65, of Minneapolis, Minn., to the post of interim president. Jim Sanger, chair of the Beloit College board of trustees, introduced Niemiec and his wife, Joan Gunther Niemiec, to students, faculty, and staff who gathered in Eaton Chapel for the announcement on April 25.
A retired senior vice president for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Niemiec has extensive leadership experience and a long and successful track record of supporting organizations that improve access to health care and education. He is a former member of the National Board of Governors of the American Red Cross and vice chair of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Foundation and of the international Kobe College Corporation. Niemiec’s undergraduate degree is in mathematics. He has a master’s degree in statistics from the University of Missouri.
Earlier this year, the Niemiecs established the Edwin Wilde, Jr. Distinguished Service Professorship at Beloit College, which honors Mr. Niemiec’s favorite former professor and mentor, who taught at Beloit from 1955 to 1976.
During the April board meeting, the trustees also announced the shape and timing of the search for Beloit’s 11th president. Trustee Steve Mahle’67, who is leading the presidential search committee, said the committee expects to have a short list of candidates by the end of the 2008 calendar year and a decision by the full board by April 2009.
The search committee is composed of six members of the board of trustees, four members of the faculty, one alumni representative, one student, and one staff member. Sanger and Niemiec will serve as ex officio members.
"From the President," Beloit College Magazine, Summer 2008
"One Good Turn," Beloit College Magazine, Spring 2008
Dick Niemiec - biography
Significant Gifts Put an Exclamation Point on
Beloit’s five-year Classic. Daring. Life-Changing. comprehensive fund-raising campaign is approaching the halfway point in time, even as it closes in on three quarters of its $100 million goal.
The 2008 fiscal year, just ended in May, concluded on a high point with a number of significant gifts to the College, setting the tone for another outstanding fund-raising year.
The Beloit Foundation, created from the sale of the Beloit Corporation in 1986, has supported every major initiative at Beloit College over the past 20 years. The foundation has again come forward, this time with a gift of $500,000 to support the creation of Beloit’s new Center for the Sciences. The new facility will open in August.
James and Wanda Peterson Hollensteiner’54 have helped the College realize the dream of a secure, climate-controlled main gallery in the Wright Museum of Art, a place where visiting and major permanent works of art can be exhibited, some for the first time. The $250,000 Hollensteiner gift also establishes a conservation fund that will focus on Albrecht Dürer’s St. James in His Study, one of the College’s most valuable works, as an initial project.
Former trustee Richard Black (P’89) has again enhanced the functionality of the Col. Robert H. Morse Library with a $100,000 gift to establish a sophisticated seminar room in memory of his daughter, Paula. This is a follow-up to his earlier support that created the Richard Black Information Center in the Library.
In April, Beloit lost one of the most significant figures in its history with the passing of former trustee and chair of the board William Keefer. As the fiscal year drew to a close, Bill and his wife Gayle continued to have an important impact on Beloit College. A $1.6 million bequest, directed to the endowment of the College, will support the Phee Boon Kang’73 Scholarship Fund and other projects to be designated by Gayle Keefer.
These major gifts, along with extensive support from the Beloit family throughout the world, set the College on a strong course for completing the campaign on schedule.
Giving to Beloit home page
Beloit College Library home page
Wright Museum of Art home page
Some Campus Trees at Risk
| Chuck Savage’76
In May, Professor of Biology Yaffa Grossman had the unpleasant task of notifying her Beloit colleagues about a gypsy moth infestation on campus. The leaf-eating caterpillars of this moth are capable of defoliating trees and, in some cases, killing them.
The highest density infestation was discovered in heritage oak trees on the circle drive between the Logan Museum of Anthropology and the Neese Theatre Performing Arts Complex, but egg masses were also found in trees as far north as Middle College.
Grossman organized several tree protection activities, which called on volunteers to wrap trunks of susceptible trees with strips of duct tape covered with Tanglefoot, a sticky material that stops caterpillar migration by creating an impenetrable barrier. The barriers prevented many caterpillars from climbing trees that did not already have egg masses, notes Grossman.
Also in May, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources sprayed the south side of campus with a bacterially based insecticide designed to kill the caterpillars. The control was “good, but not great,” says Mark Guthmiller, who coordinates gypsy moth suppression for the DNR in the Beloit region. At press time, some caterpillars were still feeding on bur oak trees in the affected area.
Gypsy moths were expected to continue feeding through June or July, before they pupate, Grossman explains. The female moths will lay eggs later in the summer. Guthmiller, Professor Emeritus Dick Newsome (biology), and Grossman are monitoring the egg-laying process with the help of Bruce Slagoski, terrace operations supervisor for the city of Beloit.
Gypsy moths were originally introduced to the United States in 1869 from Europe. They have been migrating west since then and first reached Wisconsin in 1971. In Beloit, the caterpillars were first spotted in 2005 in a city park, and egg masses were discovered on campus last fall.
"Our Campus Trees," Beloit College Magazine, Fall 2006
Yaffa Grossman - Associate Professor of Biology
Big Picture the Focus of New Economics Forum
What drives human progress? And why do some countries enjoy great prosperity while others remain in persistent poverty? These questions are at the heart of Beloit College’s The Wealth and Well-Being of Nations: the Miller Upton Forum. The inaugural forum will be held this fall.
The forum’s sequence of events will give students the opportunity to consider the ideas and institutions necessary for widespread wealth and well-being alongside a group of the foremost thinkers on the subject. Key among them this year is Douglass North, co-recipient of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Economic Science and the Spencer T. Olin Professor in Arts and Sciences at Washington University. North will initiate the program as the College’s first Upton Scholar. The public highlight of North’s Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 campus visit will occur on Oct. 31, when he is slated to deliver the Miller Upton Keynote Address.
The annual forum honors Miller Upton, the late sixth president of Beloit College, who was dean of the School of Business and Public Administration at Washington University before coming to Beloit in 1954 and serving as president until 1975. “He devoted his career to advancing the ideals of the liberal society: political freedom, the rule of law, and the promotion of peace and prosperity through the voluntary exchange of goods, services, and ideas,” says Jeff Adams, Allen-Bradley Professor of Economics and chair of the department. “In addition to these concerns, President Upton was firmly committed to fostering an open intellectual environment in which the great questions get asked and debated and the conclusions are not pre-ordained. These are the values that are at the center of the annual forum named in his honor.”
Emily Chamlee-Wright, Elbert H. Neese Professor of Economics at Beloit, is coordinating the 2008 Upton Forum. She explains that Beloit’s economics faculty are committed to helping students master the fundamentals of economics, but they are equally committed to engaging students in a conversation about the well-being of the world. The Miller Upton Forum will do that by involving students with leading scholars and by weaving the ideas of these intellectual figures into students’ experiences.
Each fall, senior economics majors will participate in a capstone course built around that year’s Upton Scholar. This year, in addition to North, Beloit will welcome panelists Peter Boettke, deputy director of the James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy and professor of economics at George Mason University; Barry Weingast, Ward C. Krebs Family Professor (in political science) at Stanford University; and John Nye, Frederic Bastiat Chair in Political Economy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Two additional panel discussions, led by Beloit alumni, will examine the process of doing business in internationally fragile environments and the trials and tribulations of institutional change.
The Douglass North keynote address, which is open to the public, will be held on Friday, Oct. 31, at 7:30 p.m. in the Moore Lounge, in Pearsons Hall. For additional details about the Upton Forum in the department of economics and management, visit www.beloit.edu/upton/.
Emily Chamlee-Wright - Elbert H. Neese Professor of Economics
Beloit Welcomes 20th Mackey Chair
Scott Russell Sanders, a writer widely known for his works of literary nonfiction, will hold the Lois and Willard Mackey Chair in Creative Writing at Beloit College this fall.
Sanders’ 19 books include novels and collections of short stories as well as nonfiction, and his work has appeared in magazines such as Harper’s and Audubon. Sanders has received a number of major awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lilly Endowment, and his work has appeared in numerous anthologies. His essay “The Force of Spirit” appeared in The Best American Essays 2000, the fourth time his work has appeared in this annual collection of outstanding nonfiction. Sanders’ most recent book is A Private History of Awe (2006), a coming-of-age memoir, love story, and spiritual testament. He is a professor in the creative writing program at Indiana University.
Sanders is the 20th distinguished author to hold the Mackey Chair at Beloit. Among his predecessors are Raymond Carver, Billy Collins, Bei Dao, Amy Hempel, and Denise Levertov.
Sanders will spend his time at Beloit working with students in an advanced course in creative writing. He will give a public reading in Eaton Chapel on Wednesday, Sept. 10.
The Mackey Chair was established in the late 1980s by the late Willard Mackey’47 in memory of his wife, Lois Wilson Mackey’45.
Mackey Chair home page
Connecting the Dots
| Jeff Woods
Rhiannon Roselle’09 (the student-artist’s pseudonym) put the finishing touches on a kolam on a patch of ground between Chamberlin and Mayer Halls last May. Creating a kolam by hand from rice flour is a daily tradition among some Hindu families in Southern India, where a woman of the house creates it as a prayer or meditation. The kolam is left on the home’s threshold to invite and share good fortune, while feeding insects and birds.
Like traditional kolam creators, Roselle started her pattern by carefully placing anchor points and measuring the distance between them using her own body—in this case, the span between her index finger and thumb. To subtly darken the dots, she mixed dry Kool-Aid with the flour.
The kolam is one of many culturally significant patterns Darrah Chavey enlists in an interdisciplinary course called Cultural Approaches to Mathematics. The associate professor of mathematics and computer science says that the design, in addition to its aesthetic beauty and spiritual power, is also an expression of mathematical ideas. For example, it achieves symmetry and exhibits self-similar patterns—that is, repetition but at different scales.
Roselle made the kolam to be photographed for Chavey’s course and as part of a poster he presented on ethnomathematics at the American Mathematical Association’s MathFest this summer. In his course at Beloit, Chavey has also used Celtic weaving designs, the colorful sand mandalas of the Buddhists, and sona geometry in the sand drawings of the Chokwe people of Northeastern Angola. “What we think of as ‘mathematical’ ideas may be viewed by other cultures within the contexts of art, navigation, religion, record-keeping, games, or kin relationships,” Chavey says.
Last year, Chavey received the Phee Boon Kang Prize for Innovation in Teaching with Technology for developing several interactive software programs that allow users to duplicate these kinds of line drawings and patterns.
Darrah Chavey - Associate Professor of Mathmatics and Computer Science