March 26, 2014

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 8, Issue 28 – March 26, 2014

 

Go North, Young Man

As most of you have already heard, I have been nominated by the SUNY Chancellor, Nancy Zimpher, to be the next president of SUNY-Canton. The official final vote from the SUNY trustees comes next week. Plans are that I’ll officially be starting in that position on July 1, so I’m still around for some time yet.

SUNY-Canton is a college with 3600 students, located in northern New York roughly halfway between Montreal and Syracuse. The closest big city is actually Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Loyal readers of the BLAB will know that Syracuse is where I grew up, went to elementary, middle, and high school, and my parents still live there for half the year. SUNY-Canton was founded in 1906, offers both 4-year and 2-year degrees and much like SPSU, focuses on hands-on instruction in technological fields, producing graduates that can hit the ground running. The faculty, staff, and members of the College Council I met there were strongly engaged, forward-looking, and very welcoming. It’s a great opportunity, though leaving SPSU will be bittersweet.

I’m amazed and touched by the many congratulatory emails, calls, and personal messages I’ve received since the news came out, both from people at SPSU and from others I have met in other places. I appreciate the kind thoughts that so many of you have expressed (though enough with the long underwear jokes!).

 

NAAB

SPSU’s Architecture Department recently hosted members of the National Architecture Accreditation Board (NAAB) for an accreditation visit. I met with the visiting team last Monday at the beginning of their visit, but wasn’t there for the exit interview because I was away on a SACS accreditation visit out of state, leaving Monday afternoon and returning on Thursday. I have heard from those who were there that things went very well, and the department was well prepared. Jim Fausett, an emeritus professor from the program that many of you will remember, wrote “I have had the opportunity to serve on NAAB teams and can testify that the comments made yesterday to you, your faculty and your students were some of the most complimentary that I have heard.”

As nearly everyone at SPSU knows, preparing for an accreditation visit requires a massive amount of work, over several months time (not to mention the ongoing work needed to keep a program healthy). Congratulations to Tony Rizzuto (Department Chair), Rich Cole (Dean), and the entire Architecture faculty on a job well done.

 

Blowing the Whistle

Last Thursday, as part of the Business Administration Department’s all-day 3rd annual Accounting Conference, SPSU was host to Cynthia Cooper, former Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom. She was an accountant who was part of a team of auditors who in 2002 discovered the biggest corporate fraud ever to that point–$3.8 billion. Cooper has won numerous awards from accounting and auditing professional bodies, and was named as one of Time Magazines People of the Year in 2002.

Speaking before a rapt audience of about 150, she told the story of how good people were pushed and cajoled into making bad decisions. WorldCom accountants were asked to cook the books “just this once—it’s an error that we’ll fix” at the beginning. The lies then became larger and more frequent due to the need to cover up. Several of the key individuals wanted to quit rather than carry out the first false entries, going so far as to write up their resignation letters. Unfortunately, they didn’t send the resignation letters, since jobs were scarce and they needed to support their families.   In the end, thousands of people lost their jobs and several went to jail. This story is now used in business ethics course case studies around the country, posing a true ethical dilemma: what do you do if telling the truth will cost you your job, harm your family, and possibly destroy your company? Most people know what the morally correct answer is, but how many would be willing to pay the price for doing the right thing? A quick glance at any daily newspaper reveals the answer: not many.

The talk was quite interactive, with Cooper asking the audience lots of questions and fielding their questions as well. She has written about her experiences in a book, Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower, and did a signing after the talk.   Profits from this book are donated to ethics education. Thanks to Don Ariail (Accounting), I am now the proud owner of an autographed copy.

A big thanks to Don and the rest of SPSU’s accounting faculty for putting on the conference and arranging for such an important speaker.

 

Science Olympiad

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of giving out the awards at the annual Georgia regional Science Olympiad. After many individual competitions during the day, the students and their teachers assembled in the SPSU gymnasium to find out who won. It was a large and excited crowd, and there were tons of medals to give out to the winning teams at both the high school and middle school levels—each event had 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place medals, usually involving teams of two or three students. The schools take this ultra-seriously, with lots of teachers keeping “score” to make sure no mistakes were made. Since Georgia has so many students and schools participating, the top two schools in each division get to go to the national competition. In many states, it’s only the top one. The winners this year were J.C. Booth Middle School (Fayette county) and Dodgen Middle School (Cobb County); and Brookwood High School (Gwinnett County) and the Gwinnett School of Science, Math, and Technology.

Putting on a competition like this is literally the work of hundreds—lots of faculty, staff, and students donating their time to support this important event. Lance Crimm (Electrical Engineering) has led this effort for as many years as anyone can remember—I think it has been 15 years now. He is ably abetted by Susan VandeVen (Information Technology), who has been a member of the Science Olympiad Executive Committee for many years. Lance and Susan tell me that the staff from SPSU’s Development Office, the faculty and lab managers from the Chemistry and Physics programs, and the students from Theta Chi all deserved special thanks for the many things they did.

 

Upcoming Cross-Cultural Events

At 6 PM on April 10 in the Design II Auditorium (Building I-2) as part of SPSU’s International Issues Series, Consul General Christoph Sander of the Federal Republic of Germany will speak on “Relations Between Germany, Georgia and the United States”.  A reception will precede the talk.

At 6PM on April 14 in the Student Center Theater, we’ll be showing the film Nowhere in Africa.  This film won the 2003 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as five major awards in the 2002 German Film Awards including “Outstanding Feature Film”.  The film tells the story of the a middle-class German Jewish family that flees anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany by having the father take a job as a plantation manager in Kenya.  Each member of the family adjusts to life in Africa in a different way, while war swirls around them.

From 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM on April 18 in the Student Center Ballroom, the Office of International Programs and the Department of Social and International Studies at SPSU and the University of Pittsburgh Asian Studies Center are sponsoring a faculty development-curriculum enrichment Conference on Globalizing the Future:  Infusing International Perspectives on Contemporary China Across the Curriculum.   If you are interested in attending this conference, please contact Raj Sashti at 678-915-3266.

More details can be found at the Cross Cultural Conversations BLOG, here. Please encourage your students to attend these events, and come by yourself.

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with judges. Our winner with all correct was Mark Vickrey (SIS). Also getting all five correct was Norine Noonan (Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs) from University of South Florida—St. Petersburg.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr.  Judges on American Idol.
  2. 1961 movie having to do with the Nazi War Trials following WWII, starring Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster.  Judgment at Nuremberg.
  3. She wears a doily on the neck of her robe on her TV show.  Judge Judy.
  4. Tagline originally introduced by Pigmeat Markham, later used by Flip Wilson on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.  “Here come the judge.”
  5. Carrying his lawgiver and riding his lawmaster, he is the law.  Judge Dredd.

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s trivia challenge has all answers involving the word “horn”, probably indicating that I’m finally running out of new topics for the trivia challenge.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  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. SPSU’s mascot.
  2. He stuck in his thumb, and pulled out a plum.
  3. The giant rooster-like Looney Tunes cartoon character who spoke with a southern accent, for example: “You gotta—I say, you gotta keep on your toes. Toes, that is.”
  4. To bamboozle.  Also professional wrestler Dylan Postl in the WWE.
  5. Britt Reid, who fought criminals and drove a car named “the Black Beauty”.

 

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