THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 8, Issue 4 – September 3, 2013
Off to Brazil
There probably won’t be a WEEKLY BLAB next week, because I’ll be in Brazil. Those of you who are Facebook friends will be able to follow along the trip, because I’ll post pictures from time to time. As I’ve mentioned before, the education delegation mission is organized by John Eaves, the Chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, and is being hosted by the U.S. Consulates in Rio and Recife, the governments of the States of Bahia and Pernambuco, and the American Chambers of Commerce in Salvador and Recife. The purpose of mission is to explore partnership opportunities with colleges and universities in the States of Bahia and Pernambuco, with a particular focus on the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program.
We are already involved with the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, through which we have four Brazilian students currently studying abroad at SPSU. The Program is sending a total of 100,000 students for study abroad, all expenses paid by the Brazilian government and various private sector funding partners. The large majority of the students being sent are studying engineering, the hard sciences, and the computing sciences, which makes SPSU an ideal partner for this program.
For those not up on their Brazilian geography, Pernambuco (capital Recife) is the state right in the middle where Brazil bulges farthest to the east, and Bahia (capital Salvador) is the state just south of that. Both have got beautiful beaches and lovely colonial architecture. The itinerary seems pretty full, with meetings with the universities and governmental agencies. Hopefully, we’ll also have some time to look around and see the sights too. From the pictures below, it doesn’t seem like it will be too hard to take!
Salvador, in Bahia.
One of the headaches of traveling abroad is that you need to get a visa in order to gain entry to some countries. In some countries, getting a visa is more involved than in others. When I went to Cameroon, for example, I had to submit a letter from the University promising to pay my airfare back to the US if I became destitute, as well as a copy of my bank account balance. To get an Australian visa, you only need to fill in a form (basically saying you’re not going to work while there) and pay a small fee. To go to New Zealand, on the other hand, no visa was required at all.
Brazil’s process for getting a visa was relatively straightforward, though I ran into an odd problem—there is a form you fill out online, print out, and submit, but the form was incompatible with a Macintosh computer. The file it produced gave me random characters when I opened it. After screwing with it for a while and getting nowhere, I got the bright idea of forwarding it to Bill Prigge, who was able to open it easily and print the form on his PC. The process did require me to send my passport, the form, and an additional picture to their consular office in Atlanta. Having to send my passport somewhere always makes me nervous, but I’ve never had any trouble the several times I’ve had to do it, and I got the passport back on Friday with no hassles. The visa has a plastic strip over the document which is pretty cool—it has the word “Brasil” embedded on it multiple times, as well as a holographic image of a map of the country. The visa is good for ten years, and allows me to enter as often as I like, for up to 180 days a year. If I don’t come back after the week’s mission is over, between the music, the beaches, and the multiple entry visa, you’ll know why.
One of the more pleasant things about being the Academic Vice President is being able to pull together ad hoc committees as needed. My favorite is the Cross-Cultural Communications Committee, which we started last year. The purpose of the Committee is to pull together the various cross-cultural efforts on campus, and to initiate additional events. Some of these events are meant to be thought-provoking, some to celebrate our diverse heritages, and some to just be fun. We have a nice variety of administrators, staff, faculty, and students on the committee, and the various perspectives they bring are always interesting.
The Committee had its first meeting for this academic year last Thursday, and some 25 people came. Lots of good ideas were suggested, most of which will take place this or next term. I’ve set up a Cross-Cultural Communications Blog, where you can get information about the various events. The Blog allows for a two-way conversation, since you can comment on any of the events, before or after, if you’d like. It also allows us to embed photos or videos so that people can get a better idea of what the event is about before it happens, and will allow us to post reports of how things went afterwards. Hopefully, everyone will find this to be useful and it will help us to build larger audiences and a greater sense of community on campus. You can find the Blog at http://spsudiscussionblog.wordpress.com. I hope you’ll visit there often, and become a follower of the Blog.
We already have a number of excellent programs scheduled for the fall:
- First up on September 9 at 6:00 PM in the Student Center Theatre is the Bollywood (India) movie “Three Idiots”. It’s part of the International Films Series, and is extremely funny.
- On September 12, at 6:00 PM in the Student Center Theatre, SPSU and the Africa Heritage Center are hosting Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. Dr. Zuma was elected to this position in 2012, making her the first woman to head the AU or its predecessor organization, the Organization of African Unity. The AU’s major goals are to achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the people of Africa, and to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent.
- On September 13, SPSU is hosting a conference on “Incorporating International Perspectives on Energy into the Curriculum”. This conference is sponsored by the University of Pittsburg’s Center for International Studies, and will run from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM in the Student Center Ballroom. There are a limited number of seats, so if you’re interested, call Raj Sashti for details.
- Next come a series of events for Hispanic Heritage Month.
- On September 18, Marianne Holdzkom and Al Churella (both teach history in SIS) will present “Travels to Spain” at 12 noon in J-130.
- On September 19, the musical theatre work “Los Valientes” (the Valiant Ones) will be presented at 6:00 PM in the Student Center Theatre. It’s a play about Mexican painter Diego Rivera, martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, and Mexican-American outlaw Joaquin Murrieta, put on by a singing actor and a musical trio. You can see a video preview on the Blog.
- On October 2, Pegah Zamani (Architecture) will present a lecture called “A Living Machine” at 12 noon in J-130. The lecture describes a project that she and five students carried out, comprising five architectural studies on the home that painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo lived in, representing different periods in their lives.
- On October 7, the 2012 Chilean film “No” will be presented at 6:00 PM in the Student Center Theatre. This film was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, and is about the use of advertising tactics in political campaigns.
- On October 17, SPSU will host Consul General Ajit Kumar, from the Indian Consulate in Atlanta. This is part of SPSU’s International Issues series, which international officials to campus to discuss current issues in their countries.
- On October 18, SPSU will host a conference on “Infusing Latin American Perspectives Across the Curriculum”. This conference is sponsored by the University of Florida Center for Latin American Studies, and will run from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM in the Student Center Ballroom. There are a limited number of seats, so if you’re interested, call Raj Sashti for details.
I’ll provide updates of additional events from time to time in the BLAB, but the best way to keep current on what’s happening is to become a follower of the Cross-Cultural Communications Blog.
Please encourage your students to attend these events, and please try to come yourself. All the above events are free.
One of the bigger issues we’ll be facing this coming semester and into the future is the need to schedule space more efficiently. Partly, this issue arises because we have grown. From 2005 to today, the number of students has nearly doubled from 3,600 to 6,500. There have been increases in the numbers of faculty and staff too. We’ve added space with Buildings Q and I-2 as well as rehabilitating Building I-1, but we’ve also lost Building K (which will be demolished soon). In any event, the amount of space added has not been proportional to the increased student numbers.
This spring, Building D (which houses Mathematics and part of Georgia Highlands) will be taken offline to be refurbished in a $2.5M project. The office block will be demolished and replaced with new offices, the classrooms will be upgraded, and the mechanical facilities (which are more than 50 years old now) will be replaced. The construction is expected to last through Fall 2014, but prudence indicates it may take a little longer than that. Swing space offices have been created for the Math faculty on the top floor of Norton Hall. The big issue will be “replacing” the nine classrooms that are heavily used by Mathematics, as well as three less-used Math classrooms and several Georgia Highlands classrooms.
Needless to say, we don’t have 12 classrooms sitting empty on campus that can be assigned to the Math department. After some analysis and discussion, we’re going to handle the issue in the following way:
- Plans for scheduling for Spring 2014 classes will begin immediately. Chairs will use last Spring’s schedule as a starting point, adding or deleting sections as necessary, and identifying days and times for each class. Sections absolutely requiring a particular classroom (due to unique facilities needs) will be identified.
- Chairs will move sections, where possible, from highly used timeslots (11 AM, 6 PM) to more lightly used timeslots, to try to balance our overall load.
- Leigh-Ann Soublis will meet with each department individually to discuss these issues and collect the schedules. She will then do a preliminary scheduling run using the Ad Astra software purchased a few years ago, to schedule classes as efficiently as possible, with a secondary goal of trying to keep as many classes as possible in or near their traditional locations.
- The Deans will review the preliminary schedule and adjust as necessary.
- The Spring 2014 schedule will then be finalized and posted.
While it may seem that our classrooms are already crowded, very few are actually scheduled for 50% or more of the basic hours of Monday-Thursday from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM and Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. In some cases, a larger classroom is taken up by a small class, because the room is controlled by the department offering the small class. According to Board of Regents statistics in a room utilization study, our overall room utilization was well under 40%. By balancing our schedules by time, and by scheduling classes according to their time and size, we will be able to use our space more efficiently, and accommodate the classrooms lost from Building D.
Does this mean that after Spring 2014, we can go back to business as usual? No, for several reasons. First, as mentioned above, it will take several terms for the Building D renovations to be completed. Second, we hope to receive funding to renovate Buildings E and G in future years, which will also result in temporary losses of classrooms and offices. Third, we plan to keep growing in the future. Given our current growth rate of 5-6% per year, even with increased fractions of our courses being taught in hybrid and online formats, we will need to use our space more efficiently.
Please work with your chair, dean, and with Leigh-Ann so that we have the maximum flexibility for dealing with our space requirements. While this time you may be lending assistance to another department, in the future you may be calling on them to lend assistance to you.
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Last week’s trivia challenge focused on children’s movies. Our winner was Leslie Hankey (ETCMA) with a respectable three correct. See—you don’t need to get them all to win! Here are the correct answers:
- His nose grew longer if he told a lie. Pinocchio.
- She is practically perfect in every way. Mary Poppins.
- Japanese animated movie directed by Hazao Miyazaki about a girl trying to rescue her parents and keep her identity, it’s the most financially successful Japanese film of all time. Spirited Away.
- Movie about Sara Crewe, left penniless when her father is missing in battle and declared dead. The three versions star Mary Pickford (1917), Shirley Temple (1939), and Liesel Matthews (1995). All are great, but the last is best. A Little Princess.
- Its license plate number is GEN-11. Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
Today’s trivia challenge focuses on the number eight. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- Eight, in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.
- Only Beatles song with “Eight” in the title.
- TV comedy-drama running from 1977-1981, it starred Dick Van Patten.
- Movie released in 1988 about the Chicago “Black Sox” scandal.
- Four examples out of 20 are: “You may rely on it”, “Outlook good”, “Reply hazy, try again”, and “My sources say no.”