THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 8, Issue 7 – September 30, 2013
A Good Saturday
Soccer has moved from Fox Sports over to NBC sports, which is now carrying pretty much all the games from the English Premier League. On Saturday morning, I turned on the channel and much to my delight, found the Chelsea – Tottenham game there. It’s very early in the season (only six games have been played), and Tottenham was in first place and Chelsea in fifth. Tottenham got off to a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute of the first half, generally outplaying Chelsea, who seemed to be half-asleep. After the half, Chelsea came roaring back, and in the 18th minute, John Terry headed the ball in to tie the game. Chelsea was strong in the half and looked like it would take the lead, when the weirdness struck. First, at the 56th minute, Juan Mata scored for Chelsea, only to have the goal disallowed for being offside. Meanwhile, Fernando Torres and Tottenham player Jan Vertonghen had been picking at each other throughout the game, with Torres getting a yellow card for scratching/slapping Vertonghen’s face. Vertonghen then got a yellow card for a late challenge on Chelsea’s player Ramires. At the 81st minute, Torres and Vertonghen collided in the air, both going after the ball. The referee gave a second yellow card to Torres (unfairly, as the replay clearly showed), thereby throwing him out of the game. Chelsea hung on a man down for the tie, in a game they should have won.
Up next was a game between the 2012 top team (#2 in 2013) Manchester City, playing Aston Villa. ManC had beaten the evil Manchester United 4-1 in a thrashing the week before, so the only question was how much they would win the game by. As expected, Man C took the lead for the first half, only to have Villa tie it up at the beginning of the second. Man C took the lead a second time five minutes later, with Villa tying it up yet again in the 73rd minute. Two minutes later, it happened. Villa player A. Weimann was passed the ball and ran down the center of the field, catching ManC’s goalie off the mark. The goalie tried to stop Weimann, who than gave the ball a little tap, just enough to get it by the goalie and then roll sloooooooooooowly the remaining 30 yards into the goal with no one able to catch up with it, giving Villa a 3-2 win. I was laughing my head off, both for the cheesiness of the goal and the fact that Villa won a game that absolutely no one (including themselves) expected them to. To add to my pleasure at seeing a Chelsea foe go down to defeat, Manchester United lost again, 2-1 to West Brom, putting them in 12th place—their worst start in a very long time.
So, at the moment, it’s Arsenal in 1st place, Liverpool and Tottenham tied for 2nd, and Chelsea in 4th, separated by a total of 4 points. Not too bad.
Last Week’s Rundown
There were several events last week that are worthy of some comment, so here we go.
Cobb Education Consortium
Tuesday evening, I was up at Kennesaw State for the Cobb Education Consortium (CEC) Leadership Academy inauguration of the class of 2013-2015. Each class is elected for two years, so it always overlaps by a year with the previous class. This year’s class consists of Jan Nourollahi (U-Teach), Amanda Brown-Conway (Admissions), and Cheryl Martinez (Advancement), and joined last years group of Jon Preston (CS), Gary Bush (Admissions), and Stephanie Coleman (Web Services). SPSU has been part of the CEC since the beginning—in fact, our original member was SPSU’s then President Steve Cheshier, who now serves as CEC’s Executive Director.
For those who don’t know, the CEC is an organization consisting of the four universities and colleges located in Cobb County (KSU, SPSU, Chattahoochee Tech, and Georgia Highlands), as well as the Cobb County and Marietta City school districts. It’s dedicated to improving the quality of education among its members and in the county in general. In their first year, members of the leadership academy meet educational leaders throughout the county and state, become familiar with the education sectors (other than their own), and participate in leadership activities, such as a 3-day retreat scheduled for November. In their second year, the biggest item is participation in a research project to improve education. Several people in the leadership academy have gone on to major leadership roles. It’s a dynamic organization, and I’ve not seen anything quite like it anywhere else.
Anyway, the inauguration was at Jolley Lodge, a nice meeting center at KSU. Parking at KSU is generally a problem, but they had reserved some spaces across the street for attendees. A brief walk up the hill took me to the lodge, and I promptly ran into Jan there. New inductees trickled in, and by 5:30 the place was full. There was a light buffet, during which I had a chance to chat with Presidents Dan Papp (KSU), Ron Newcomb (Chattahoochee Tech), and Renva Watterson (Georgia Highlands), and with Superintendent Emily Lembeck, all of whom are old friends who I’ve worked with in one capacity or another. Then, representatives of all the member institutions got up to say a few words about their involvement in CEC and to introduce the members of both Leadership Academy classes. The ceremony ended with photographs being taken of both classes. Congratulations to all SPSU faculty and staff involved!
On Wednesday, I was invited to a luncheon with representatives of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from their headquarters in Washington DC and the Region II office in Atlanta. The luncheon was held in the Executive Dining Room, and it was pouring as I walked down there from Building B—the umbrella only helped a little bit. When I arrived, Mahmoud Ghavi (Director, Center for Nuclear Studies) was already there, as were some two-dozen students participating in SPSU’s nuclear program, all dressed up and lookin’ good. A little bit later, Deans Currin (Engineering), and Hunt (Extended University) arrived with our NRC guests, Joel Munday (Director of Construction) and Edith Sparks (Chief of Human Resources for Region II). Several faculty and staff who help support the program also joined the group. Mr. Munday mentioned that his son was a Mechatronics Engineering graduate of SPSU, and when asked if he had found a job, proudly announced yes—the employer called him, not the other way around.
SPSU’s nuclear program currently offers four courses every semester, and has about 40 students participating. The Systems and Mechanical Engineering Department offers a minor in Nuclear Engineering and lots of scholarship support is available. Workshops are also offered for people from industry. The students were clearly excited about the program, and happy about the opportunities it provides to them. The event ended with tours of our facilities, but I had to miss them because I had to rush back for the regular Wednesday Deans Council meeting.
The main topic of discussion at the Deans Council meeting was related to the initiative from the BoR regarding “low productivity” programs—those that graduate an average of less than 10 students at the bachelors level, or less than 5 students at the masters level. We have a number of programs that fall into this category. In some cases, it’s because these programs are small wherever you look (aside from R1 universities, no one has a large Physics program, for example), but to be fair, it’s also because our retention rates are not what they should be. Thus, our discussion focused on how to improve student success rates in key courses (which is part of the State’s Complete College Georgia effort), and improve retention overall. We have to do this for several reasons—because we owe it to our students, to improve the productivity of these programs, to improve our graduation rates, and to safeguard our budget (since the funding formula will be based on number of graduates, not enrollment, in the future). Each student who doesn’t graduate constitutes a loss of opportunity to themselves, a loss of talent to the economy, and a loss to the success of the university.
An echo of the discussion at the Deans Council showed up at the Faculty Meeting on Thursday, in the vote on a resolution from the USG Faculty Council regarding use of success rates in faculty evaluation. From the discussion, it’s clear that we (and other USG institutions) have faculty who are concerned that if they have a single bad semester in a given course in terms of student evaluations or course withdrawals, it will go badly for them at promotion or tenure time. The familiar anecdote was told about the faculty member who was denied tenure just because of this, despite the department and chair wanting them to be tenured.
As someone who started his career as a brand new untenured assistant professor back in the day, I guess I understand that concern. I’ve got to say, however, in my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s been my universal experience that Chairs, Deans, and VPAA’s aren’t looking for nits to pick or for single gotcha’s. People who are denied tenure are denied for strong reasons. If the problem area is teaching, it’s usually because of consistent and long periods of poor results, low evaluations, and little evidence of doing anything about them. If someone gets poor student evaluations or has a low success rate, by far the smartest thing they can do about it is to notice, analyze what went wrong (note: the problem may lie outside the class), decide what steps they plan to take to address the situation, discuss it with their chair, and write it up in their FCARs and annual reports. The worst thing they can do is say: “ah…it’s the students’ fault” and move on.
Construction Management Fund-Raising Dinner
Thursday evening brought the CM Department Fund-Raising Dinner. Khalid Siddiqi was kind enough to invite me to this event, as he does every year, and as always, it was a pleasure to attend. This year, the venue was moved to the Cobb Energy Center Ballroom (I didn’t even know they had a ballroom!) after many years at the Cobb Galleria. The new venue was very nice, and some 200 people or more were in attendance.
During the cocktail hour, I got a Corona and promptly got into a disagreement with the bartender (who was from Mexico) about whether one should put a lime in it. While we disagreed about that, we did agree that Guanajuato is the most beautiful city in Mexico. One nice surprise was that Steve Hamrick was there—I hadn’t seen him since he retired.
The dinner was very good and was followed by the presentation of various scholarships to students and awards to companies and persons supporting the CM Department. Then came the featured speaker, Anirban Basu, who was excellent. Mr. Basu is the Chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group, and gave a talk on “A Look into the Construction Economy”, which was more like a talk about the economy in general. Basu is one of the fastest speakers I have ever seen, and he interspersed his information and data tables with a lot of humor. His talk lasted some 40 minutes and I was sorry when it was over.
The CM Department is one of the best at raising funds to support its students and other endeavors, and this dinner was a fine example of how they’re so successful.
Speaking of Construction Management
Congratulations to Hussein Abaza (CM), principal investigator on a pair of $1M grants from the US Department of State that were awarded last week. The first is to establish a SPSU partnership with Indus Valley School in Karachi, Pakistan in Communication Design. Faculty from ETCMA and Computer Game Design are also part of this effort. The second is titled “U.S.-Afghan University Partnership with Kabul Polytechnic University in Geology and Mining, Establishing a Geographic Information System (GIS) Department”. Here, SPSU will collaborate with Georgia Tech to establish a Center for Geographic Information Systems. The Center will then work with KPU in establishing two GIS classrooms, developing four GIS courses, and organizing the ArcGIS (a mapping and analysis software) training for KPU faculty and technicians.
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Last time’s trivia challenge focused on the letter “Z” once again. Our winner was Kelli Tracy, secretary to the university counsel, with all five correct. Scott Larisch (ECET), my sister Drorit, and William Griffiths (Math) also got all five correct. Here are the correct answers:
- Animal that’s white with black stripes, or is it black with white stripes? Zebra
- Popular school of Buddhism. Zen
- He played Troy Bolton in “High School Musical”, and has starred in “Hairspray”, “The Lucky One”, “At Any Price”, and “The Paperboy”. Zac Efron.
- The nation formerly known as Southern Rhodesia, its president is Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe.
- Family of stringed instruments in which the strings do not extend beyond the soundboard. Zithers.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
Today’s trivia challenge brings back the “fill in the missing words in the cliché” challenge. The number of missing words is indicated. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO email@example.com, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- Casper didn’t even enter the race, because he didn’t have a (4 words).
- The baker was the richest woman in town because she was (3 words).
- The icthyologist never got married. When asked why not, she said because there are (6 words).
- The pie-maker was sentenced to 10 years for poisoning his customers. The newspaper headline read: Pie-maker gets (2 words).
- The crooked lawyer was able to get rich by stealing funds from deceased clients estates. When asked how he did it, he said (7 words).