April 22, 2013


Volume 7, Issue 29 – April 22, 2013



Meet and Greet

This is the time of year that there are a gazillion meetings and events that I’m running back and forth between.  Just to keep everyone up with what’s going on, here’s a recap of some from the past 10 days or so.  I’ll start with Thursday evening.  The list doesn’t include one-on-one meetings of various types, or 11 different new faculty interviews.

On Thursday, April 11, I had the pleasure of having dinner with Trude Jacobsen, Assistant Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University, and Julia Lamb, their outreach director.  The two were delightful individuals, both having traveled extensively (and lived) around the world.  They were here for a mini-conference that SPSU was hosting the next day on Contextualizing Southeast Asia and incorporating it into the curriculum.  The mini-conference drew about 50 participants, and the evaluations were excellent.  We had a similar mini-conference last October on Global Economy and Governance (with faculty from the University of Pittsburgh), and plan on having one every term.  The next one will be on Latin America.  Details will be forthcoming at the beginning of fall semester.  Thanks to Raj Shashti for organizing these important events.

Friday night, April 12, was the Student Awards Banquet.  It’s always great to see so many students dressed up and receiving awards.  Among all the students, Russ Patrick (Physics) was selected as honors professor of the year, and Rich Cole (Interim Dean, ACM) was selected as student government professor of the year.  Congratulations to both!

One thing surprised me though—some departments weren’t represented at all, and gave out no award.  When I raised the question as to why, I got an email from one department saying that their award is an “outstanding student” award, and there were no students who rose to that level this year.  I have no particular problem if a department wants to have such an “outstanding student” award and only give it out when someone is truly spectacular.  However, my view is that each department should, at a minimum, also have a “top student of the year award” (determined by highest GPA, strongest service to the department, or some combination of such things) and give it out each and every year.  If your department doesn’t have enough funds to endow such an award, contact my office and I’ll provide the funding.

After hurrying to do my taxes over the weekend (yes—I’m a procrastinator), Monday April 15 brought a visit from several colleagues from Georgia Military College, including their outgoing president, Major General Peter J. Boylan.  The folks from GMC were here to sign an articulation agreement with us, initially in Biology and Information Technology, with other areas to be quickly added.  GMC has some 8,000 students in their 2-year associates programs, and focuses on both intellectual and character development.  Our hope is that healthy numbers of them will complete their educations at SPSU.  With more and more jobs requiring a four-year degree, such articulations are critically important.

Later on Monday was SPSU’s Teacher of the Year Presentation.  As everyone should know, our Teacher of the Year is Deidra Hodges (Electrical Engineering), who gave an interesting presentation that was well packed with engineering, chemistry, and a multitude of other subjects, since Deidra is a firm believer in interdisciplinarity.  Deidra is also up for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education Professors of the Year Award, and I wish her the best of luck in getting it.

Tuesday brought a road trip down to Georgia Military College, so that we could sign the articulation on their campus as well.  They’re located in the old state capitol area of Milledgeville, and have a campus that is beautiful and historic.  Rich Cole did the driving on the trip for Tom Nelson and me, and all was well until we got into Milledgeville, when his GPS sent us to a back street off of a back street, and told us we had reached our destination.  I pulled out the ol’ iPhone and the maps app showed us the right way—we were about 2 miles off.  Joining up with President Rossbacher, Sam Conn, Ron Koger, and Jim Cooper, we went in to sign the articulation a second time in the same room as where Georgia signed the articles of secession from the union.  The room is quite impressive, with portraits of Washington and Jefferson hanging in the front, and one of Governor James Oglethorpe hanging at the side.  Oglethorpe was a great man, well ahead of his time on a number of progressive issues.

We got back to campus a little after 5:00 PM, so I headed down to Building J for the ETCMA Portfolio Open House.  I enjoy going to this event every year, because the portfolios prepared by our senior ETCMA students are both impressive and artistic, and the students speak with great eloquence about their learning experiences.  This year, in addition to the usual excellent portfolio presentations, students had also prepared examples of artwork, video work, and graphics.  Congratulations to the whole ETCMA faculty for their fine work.

Wednesday morning brought a meeting with Sam Conn, Bill Prigge, and Steve Kitchen, to make sure that we were all on the same page with the various space renovation and IT upgrade projects.  We’re currently involved in quite a few—upgrading space in multiple buildings on campus, and making some major improvements in campus IT infrastructure.  The projects are complicated by the fact that they often draw input and funding from multiple sources, so that a lot of coordination is required.  We agreed that the four of us should meet on a regular basis—perhaps monthly—to keep things on track.

Later on Wednesday was the weekly Deans Council meeting.  Among the topics discussed was how the Deans will deal with vetting future new degree proposals, the abovementioned student awards (and lack thereof by some departments), and a draft policy on summer camps.  Updates included that the BoR has passed a 2.5% tuition increase, that formula funds were supplied to SPSU for six additional faculty and for two advisors, that two new SPSU degree programs will hopefully be on the May BoR agenda for approval, and that the BoR is reviewing our past new degree proposals as to their enrollments.

Thursday evening brought a reception and a talk by the Brazilian Consul General, Hermano Ribeiro.  Brazil has made tremendous economic progress in the past decade or two, and now has one of the top 10 economies in the world, soon to be in the top 5.  Brazil will host both the World Cup and the Olympics in the next two years, and is making major investments in infrastructure and human capital.  The government and private companies are funding international study for 100,000 Brazilians, and we will be working with the consulate to explore partnerships with Brazilian universities and to make sure that some of these students come to SPSU.  I had the pleasure of having dinner with Ambassador Ribeiro afterwards, and he is an extremely well-informed, helpful, and down-to-earth individual.  This talk is part of SPSU’s Cross-Cultural Conversations Series, with plans to host two or three such receptions and talks on our campus every semester.  Earlier talks this semester were given by the consulates of South Korea and France.  Thanks again to Raj Shashti for organizing these events.

Friday afternoon included a subcommittee meeting from our University Institutional Effectiveness Group, with Sam Conn, Rich Cole, Han Reichgelt, and Dave Cline.  The subcommittee’s goal was to align our Strategic Plan with our Complete College Georgia effort and Mission Statement.  We had a really good discussion on how we might align these documents to clearly illustrate what our overall goals are for SPSU students.

Finally, Saturday morning was Open House, and the place was packed.  The weather started out a bit cold but quickly turned very nice, and the “SPSU Morning Show” was fun as usual.  Lots of parents prospective students had good things to say about the University and our programs, and a few even commented about how cool the band was.

Whew! I’m exhausted just typing about it.  Now it’s off to a new week, starting off with teaching bioinorganic chemistry in the morning, five more faculty candidate interviews, and giving a talk at the Earth Day Colloquium at 4:00 on “Sustainability in Chemistry”.



B Strong

Last week’s news events hit a little close to home for me.  As most people know, I lived in New England for most of my professional life, and the Boston Marathon was a huge annual event.  I know lots of people who ran in the Marathon—students, faculty, and friends.

Immediately, the news media speculated as to who the perpetrators might be and what their motivation might have been for carrying out this heinous act.  One newspaper even published a picture of the supposed perpetrator on its front page—only he wasn’t the one who did it.

As of now, the guilty parties seem to have been two brothers who immigrated from Chechnya (a region of Russia) some ten years ago, and their motives for this act are yet unknown.  One is dead, and after shutting down much of Boston for a day, the other was captured in Watertown.  I’ve been in Watertown many times, since my cousin Ifat lived there for many years until just recently.


Editorial cartoon by Jeff Darcy, the Cleveland Plain Dealer


Assuming they have the right parties, we’ll now be subjected to a bunch of self-serving explanations for why they did it.  Sadly, the world has all too many people who are so caught up in their own hatreds and outrage, that they don’t care how much suffering they cause to people who have never even heard of them.  Since they’re outraged, they believe, then everyone has to suffer.


Editorial cartoon by Nate Beeler, the Columbus Dispatch


Thomas Friedman wrote an editorial talking about what the right response is to such outrages, and I think he got it about right.  He wrote:

We still do not know who set off the Boston Marathon bombs or why. But we do know now, after 9/11, after all the terrorism the world has seen in the last decade, what the right reaction is: Wash the sidewalk, wipe away the blood and let whoever did it know that while they have sickeningly maimed and killed some of our brothers and sisters, they have left no trace on our society or way of life.

Terrorists are not strong enough to do that — only we can do that to ourselves — and we must never accommodate them.

So let’s repair the sidewalk immediately, fix the windows, fill the holes and leave no trace — no shrines, no flowers, no statues, no plaques — and return life to normal there as fast as possible.

Let’s defy the terrorists, by not allowing them to leave even the smallest scar on our streets, and honor the dead by sanctifying our values, by affirming life and all those things that make us stronger and bring us closer together as a country.

Let’s name a playground or a school after that 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard, who was standing with his father, Bill, mother and sister when the bomb tore through them all.

Let’s donate to the favorite life-giving charities of the other victims. Let’s pitch in to help the injured recover. But on lovely Boylston Street in Boston, a place normally so full of life, let there be no reminder whatsoever of what President Obama called this “heinous and cowardly act” of terror.

And while we are at it, let’s schedule another Boston Marathon as soon as possible.



Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Questions last time focused on people who were chemists or chemical engineers, but are better known in other fields.  The winner was Lance Crimm (Electrical and Mechatronics Engineering) with an unbelievable seven correct. Here are the answers:

  1. Star of “Two and a Half Men” and “That Seventies Show”.  Studied biochemistry at University of Iowa, but didn’t graduate (slacker!).  Aston Kutcher
  2. Director for “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  Chemistry degree from California Institute of Technology, 1918.  Frank Capra
  3. Author of “Cat’s Cradle” and “Slaughterhouse Five”.  Majored in Chemistry at Cornell.  Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  4. Science-fiction writer, best known for his “Foundation” and “Empire” novels, and responsible for the three laws of robotics.  Chemistry Ph.D. from Columbia in 1948.  Isaac Asimov
  5. First female Attorney General of the United States (1993-2001).  B.S. in Chemistry from Cornell in 1960.  Janet Reno
  6. President of Israel (1949-1952).  Ph.D. from the University of Freiburg in 1899.  Chaim Weitzmann
  7. Russian composer of the opera “Prince Igor”, and the “Polovtsian Dances”, as well as three symphonies and “In the Steppes of Central Asia”.   He was the chemistry chair of the Medical-Surgical Academy of St. Petersburg, and co-discoverer of the aldol condensation.  Alexander Borodin



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Today’s trivia challenge focuses on Boston. No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO zszafran@spsu.edu, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. The oldest major league baseball park still in use.
  2. The oldest fully-commissioned ship in the Navy, located in Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston.
  3. The official dessert of Massachusetts.
  4. Deepest tunnel in North America, named after “the Splendid Splinter”.
  5. The first to have this happen was the book “The Meritous Price of Our Redemption”, by William Pynchon, in 1652.
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