Category: Society

'State of the Art' exhibition includes UGA professor, alumni

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crystal-bridges.jpg Imagine you're a major research university, with aspirations for rising in the ranks. Everything from your endowment to annual extramural funding dollars can be included in quantifiable metrics you use to measure your progress. But there are other aspects of your impact that can be more difficult to quantify. For example, how good is the history department? How strong is your art school? Clear metrics on those endeavors rarely pop up, but when they do, as in a survey of contemporary artists in a national exhibition, we should take notice:

A national exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, is highlighting the work of two alumni and one faculty member from the University of Georgia's Lamar Dodd School of Art.

"State of the Art : Discovering American Art Now," on view through Jan. 19, features more than 100 American artists selected as the result of over 1,000 studio visits by Crystal Bridges curators who traveled the country seeking to discover artists whose work had not yet been recognized nationally.

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"A large national exhibition featuring 100 prominent working American artists today provides a terrific survey of the creativity and inventiveness from across the country," said Chris Garvin, director of the Lamar Dodd School of Art. "To have three artists and one curator affiliated with UGA as part of this exhibition is a great distinction that places us at the forefront of artistic practice in the United States."

Just so, professor Garvin. What Crystal Bridges is attempting to do is very ambitious - create a national museum of international renown, deep in the heart of Arkansas - but what our art school is doing is no less ambitious. A very important constituent part of the learning environment in a major research university, a thriving art school would be missing if we didn't have one. But we do. 

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Hispanic Heritage Month

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choco.jpg Appreciation of the Hispanic culture that comprises such a great and growing part of the American fabric can certainly be an everyday ocurrence. But a monthlong celebration of rich cultural elements informing our campus and community is also in process, with events highlighting Hispanic Heritage Month:

The nationally recognized celebration is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 and honors the many contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the U.S. while highlighting the diverse heritage and cultures of Latin America.

The theme for this year's observance is "A Legacy of History, a Present of Action and a Future of Success." Unless otherwise noted, the following events are open free to the public:

Sept. 30-"Ask Me About..." Students for Latin@ Empowerment will give away Mexican candy and have information about their organization available from noon to 2 p.m. on the Tate Student Center Plaza.

Oct. 1-Hispanic Scholarship Fund Celebration. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar Chapter celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting some of the many HSF alumni who are making their mark on history. The program will be held at 6 p.m. in Room 350 of the Miller Learning Center.

Oct. 4-Fiesta. The Athens-Clarke County Library hosts stories, music, a Don Quixote skit, crafts and more from 2-4 p.m.

Oct. 7 and 9-Film Screening: Chocó by Jhonny Hendrix Hinestoza. The film tells the story of a young Colombian woman who raises her children alone by working in a gold mine. A question-and-answer session with the director will follow. Admission is $9.75 or $7.50 for students. Oct. 7 screening will be at 8 p.m. at Ciné. The Oct. 9 screening will be at 6 p.m. at the Georgia Museum of Art.

Oct. 8-Film Screening: Cesar Chavez. The film looks at the American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association. The screening will be held at 7 p.m. in the Tate Student Center Theatre.

Oct. 11-ALCES Open House. The Athens Latino Center for Education and Services showcases the various services offered to the Hispanic population in North Georgia. There will be food, music and door prizes from
1:30-4 p.m. at ALCES, which is located at 445 Huntington Road.

Oct. 11-Pueblos Originarios: Un Festival Artesanal. Arts and crafts inspired by the indigenous peoples of the Americas as well as food and music from all over Latin America will be showcased from 1-5 p.m. at the Pinewoods Library and Learning Center, 465 U.S. Highway 29 North.

Oct. 12-Book Fiesta With Lucha Libre. Share stories and make a luchador mask from 3-4 p.m. at the Athens-Clarke County Library.

More events at the the link. Franklin's LACSI and the romance languages department lead the way in planning these important celebrations and we are fortunate to have these vibrant organizations that both draw great students and faculty to campus and broaden the academic environment to more accurately reflect American values. Come out and enjoy some of these events, which cross into music, language, art, literature, food and film just like Hispanic culture does in real life. Voila, no boundaries at all.

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Jessica Kissinger: making research usable

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Jessica_Kissinger.jpg Great opportunity to feature not just one of our star faculty members, but also an emerging challenge for all researchers everywhere in this era of big data:

Jessica Kissinger is a molecular geneticist whose research on the evolution of disease and the genomes of eukaryotic pathogenic organisms—Cryptosporidium, Sarcocystis, Toxoplasma andPlasmodium (malaria) among them—has led her to perhaps the emerging issue among research scientists: managing data.

"To solve a complex problem like a disease, whether you're looking for a new drug target or just trying to understand the basic biology of an organism, how it interacts with its host, you have to bring together a lot of data sets," Kissinger said. "You want to be able to take the expertise of the community at large, with individually generated pieces of the puzzle, and then try to stitch them into a quilt that creates a better picture."

Kissinger's local community at UGA includes the genetics department, the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and the Institute of Bioinformatics, where she serves as director. But her focus is the wider world of scientists and helping make the data they produce more accessible, sharable and reusable.

"So many resources go into generating some of these highly specialized data sets, with very difficult to work with and hard to culture organisms, and publishing your results doesn't necessarily make the data usable," she said. "I work on that usability part-taking data generated elsewhere and integrating it to help others access it and use it well."

Our researchers and those around the U.S. world now produce mountains of publicly available data that must be managed and archived properly in order to be utlized by other researchers. It's the way we build on scientific discovery now - whether it is about DNA of nutirents in deep ocean plumes or T-cells in the body - and the shoulders of giants now include alot of 1s and 0s. Kudos to Kissinger for maintaining her own lab investigations while also giving full force attention to bioinformatics practices that are the steps to the next great heights.

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Heart, mind, and eye — the art of Lamar Dodd

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venice-reflection-rain_dodd.jpg Terrific appreciation of Lamar Dodd by Jamil Zainaldin at the Saporta Report:

Life in Depression-era New York was hard for Dodd, as well as for his family back home in LaGrange. He and his new wife, also of LaGrange, decided in 1933, against the advice of his teachers, to return to the South, where he took a position in a Birmingham art store. He continued painting with heart, mind, and eye, honoring the humble and dignifying the ordinary in settings that he seemed to understand in his deepest being. His reputation continued to grow, inside and outside the South.

At the age of 28, he received a summons out of the blue from the head of the University of Georgia’s fine arts division, who urged him to come to Athens as the university’s artist-in-residence. They were looking for “a live, recognized artist doing actual creative work” who would not only serve students but act as a cultural influence on “the people of our state.” If this agreed with him, then the university would up the visual arts budget from $50 to $5,000.

As we say whenever anyone asks, Dodd was a real ambassador for the arts, who believed with conviction in the importance of a cultivated citizenry. Let us resolve to never be shy about that, and that his legacy remains alive and well on campus.

Image: Venice Reflection, Rain (1958) by Lamar Dodd. Credit: Georgia’s State Art Collection, Georgia Council for the Arts

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UGA engineering enrollment grows

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Congratulations to the UGA College of Engineering, which is experiencing tremendous growth in enrollment. This growth was forecast long ago, forecasts themselves that were part of the rationale for offering a wider range of engineering degrees at the university in the first place, for which the Franklin College has long been an advocate and supporter:

The college now has UGA’s fifth-largest undergraduate enrollment after passing the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the School of Public Affairs this year.

“There’s a lot of demand for University of Georgia engineering,” said Donald Leo, the school’s dean.

As of Sept. 9, the college had enrolled 1,233 majors this fall, up exactly 300 more than a year ago. Adding in the 81 engineering graduate students and the 1,314 total enrollment is nearly twice what it was in fall 2012 ‑ 63 graduate students and 631 undergraduates in the college’s first year.

In undergraduates, the engineering college now ranks sixth in size behind arts and sciences (9.457), business (6,418), education (2,436), journalism (1,895) and agriculture and environmental sciences (1,488). Just behind engineering in size are family and consumer sciences, with 1,195 majors, and the School of Public and International Affairs, with 1,108.

There is a long history of engineering at UGA - long, very long, as in dating from the 1840's. All classes in the mechanical arts were once taught in Athens until those degrees were consolidated at the North Avenue Trade School in the 1930's. In the more recent era, Franklin College deans Wyatt Anderson and Garnett Stokes supported UGA engineering efforts with people and resources, funding joint-appointments between engineering and computer science, physics and astronomy, chemistry and other Franklin departments. These new, interdisciplinary positions allowed UGA to bring to campus some of the best young researchers in the country, laying the groundwork for innovative degree programs and building for the succes we see today.

And to digress a bit further, conventional wisdom has certainly coalesced around the idea that it is important for UGA to have engineering (and a medical school) for obvious reasons and these are not inaccurate. But it is at least as important for engineering to be offered in the context of a liberal arts learning environment, where future engineers can be trained alongside future historians, writers journalists, attorneys, artists, social workers and entrepreneurs of all sorts. Those are the people who will live the world they are going to design for, and the more engineers understand that world and its people, the better their design solutions will be. The folks who conceived of the UGA engineering programs, including the deans mentioned above, understood this quite well. All are to be commended.

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Changes in the Life Sciences

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Integrated_Life_Sciences_2dai.jpg Not the sciences themselves, but a new UGA graduate education approach. The Integrated Life Sciences:

giving entering graduate students in the life sciences one of the nation's broadest range of research opportunities through its redesigned and expanded Integrated Life Sciences program.

More than 50 students recently started their studies in the relaunched program, which allows them to gain hands-on experience in three labs before selecting a major professor and research focus. The students can choose those labs from among a slate of more than 200 faculty members and 14 participating doctoral programs in four different colleges.

Nancy Manley, director of the program and a professor of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, explained that the remodeled ILS program expands upon the concept of umbrella programs, in which multiple departments partner in graduate recruitment. Students in the ILS program can rotate through labs in fields as disparate as entomology, biochemistry, infectious diseases and plant biology, for example, or explore interdisciplinary topics such as cancer, climate change, evolutionary biology or neurosciences.

Distinguished Research Professor Allen Moore of genetics gets even more explicit about the issue:

"The problem with graduate education in the U.S. is that we are stuck with a format that was invented in the 1950s when we had botany and zoology. That is not what modern scientists do," Moore said. "What we really do is use techniques from all over the biological sciences and use model organisms anywhere from plants to insects to microbes. We're not stuck in those departments any more."

This is a good sign of response and evolution on the part of faculty leaders who design our graduate programs. As leading-edge researchers, they know where the science is moving and hence the kind of broad expertise they want to hire. Beginning a formal process of training our graduate students for success in the field today is a great acknowledgement of an institutional willingness to change. More opportunities for the most promising graduate students is a priority.

Here's a video of Dr. Manley and some of our students talking about the ILS program.

Image: Jin Dai, a first-year student in the Integrated Life Sciences program, speaks to Jonathan Eggenschwiler, assistant professor in genetics, during a meet-and-greet, courtesy UGA photo services.

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ASA Founders Award for Franklin

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ChristineFranklin.jpg Christine Franklin, that is. It seems that every week is awards week for Franklin College faculty, as the American Statistical Association honored one of our best with its most prestigious award:

[ASA] recently presented its Founders Award to Christine Franklin, the Lothar Tresp Honoratus Honors Professor in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of statistics.

The ASA is the nation's preeminent professional statistical society, and the honor is presented annually to ASA members who have rendered distinguished and long-term service to the association. Franklin was honored during the presidential awards session at the 2014 Joint Statistical Meetings in Boston.

One of three recipients of the Founders Award in 2014, Franklin was recognized for her leadership in curriculum development and teaching statistics, her research and her professional service in helping grow the field of statistics education. An active member of ASA, Franklin is a longtime leader and champion of national efforts in statistics education, particularly in the area of implementing statistics in K-12 education.

"Statistics integrated into the K-12 curriculum is key for students developing the statistical reasoning skills necessary to make sense of the massive data that surrounds them on a daily basis, much of which students generate themselves," said Franklin, who also serves as the undergraduate coordinator for statistics at UGA.

The era big data is fully upon us and Franklin has recognized the importance of statistics education in the K-12 grades. Educators whose research and teaching identify important refinements for our broader educational system see such outstanding contributions as part of their duty. We are lucky to have Dr. Franklin on campus, an inspiration to students and colleagues alike. Our best wishes to her during her upcoming Fulbright Fellowship in New Zealand, where she will continue to work on this very important issue.

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Franklin faculty honored with Regents awards

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Two Franklin College professors along with the First-Year Odyssey program, which if you remember also originated in the Franklin College, were honored with excellence awards from the USG Board of Regents:

• William Finlay, Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Sociology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded the Regents' Teaching Excellence Award;
• Paula Lemons, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College, is the recipient of the Regents' Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award;
• The university's First-Year Odyssey Seminar program has received the Regents' Teaching Excellence Department/Program Award, giving UGA three of the seven statewide awards.

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Finlay, Meigs Professor and former head of the department of sociology, has received numerous accolades for his work. He has been awarded many of UGA's highest honors for faculty, including the Sandy Beaver Award and the Lothar Tresp Outstanding Professor Award. Finlay also has been named a Senior Teaching Fellow by the Center for Teaching and Learning; a Research Fellow by the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts; and a Wye Faculty Fellow by the Aspen Institute.

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Imagining America

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Kandinsky-Tension-in-Red_1.jpg Connecting the arts and humanities to a democratic revivial in the United States is more than an intriguing idea - the future of the cultural and political ideals of a diverse nation hangs in the balance. And while that may sound like hyperbole, consider the headwinds of violence, apathy, low-voter turnout, politcal disillusionment and eroding trust in institutions into which American society has turned in recent years. As much as that 'decision' has been driven by choice, short-term corporate self-interest and a certain passive willingness, so to will solutions to re-engage be a matter of choice. And many of the leading voices in American arts and humanities education are making that choice clear: reviving the public square, where the work of democracy takes place, is the focus of Imagining America:

As a growing consortium of over 100 colleges and universities, IA’s central aim is to engage people in the work of democratizing civic culture in the United States and beyond. We place our primary focus on the transformational task of democratizing the culture of higher education institutions through scholars and practitioners who draw on the arts, humanities, and design in their work. As a means to this end, IA’s staff and NAB members have been developing a “Theory of Change” that represents our collective answers to three key questions: (1) What is our assessment of the world as it is? (2) What is our vision of the world as it should be? (3) What strategies can we use to close the gap between what is and what should be?

This is inarguably an effort of which we should be a part. In every crucial sense, the humanities and arts at UGA are fundamental to expanding our students' views of the world and helping them chart a course to engaged citizenship. Across disciplines, our scholars in the classroom take this role quite literally; and when a university education, even at a state flagship as in the case of UGA, equals a rarified, highly-sought experience, our graduates taking responsibility out in the world is a crucial part of the exchange. This elevated sharing of expectations is what the liberal arts learning environment is about - and ours is healthy and robust. What we learn about in literature, history, language, fine arts and all manner of cultural studies is ourselves. We build the world that we will inhabit and bequeath, and this work is never complete.

So UGA would also be an important partner in the concert of IA efforts. It is empowering to think of the future of our country being a product of what is happening right here on our campus, every day.

Because it is.

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New LDSOA director Chris Garvin

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garvin_chris.jpg Each fall brings many new faces to campus, but this semsester marks the beginning of a new era at the Lamar Dodd School of Art with the arrival of its new director, Chris Garvin. Learn more about Garvin, his background and vision for the school in this extended Q&A (an abridged version appeared in the Sept. 2 Columns):

Chris Garvin comes to UGA from The University for the Arts in Philadelphia, where he served as program director. An interactive designer and creative director in the private sector for many years, Garvin has written and spoken extensively on the complexity of contemporary design and business practice, and its implications on the future of design and education. He spoke with Columns upon his arrival to UGA this summer.

Alan Flurry: You are a professor and an artist, how do those two fit together?

Chris Garvin: There are parts of my life that I act as a designer, as an artist, an educator, an entrepreneur, and I embrace them all. I’m never scared to be a hybrid, to have ‘and’ be in there. Part of my experience is writing curriculum and programs at universities and getting them off the ground, building coalitions and curriculums so that things can happen. I’ve done that looking at those projects as a designer, and I’ve used those designer skills to help me become a better educator.

The thing that makes them part of me is that I use the same thinking processes in all of them. I think about audience differently in each, and I think about the group and the collaborations differently.

AF: That takes a lot of confidence, but also a lot of humility – it can seem like a contradiction.

CG: It can, and I have often said, “I have just enough ego to try this, but not so much ego that I need to own it.” And it’s helped me a lot in building things; many times in academia, the ownership is what can kill interesting projects and keep them from getting off the ground.

AF: You come to UGA from a big city setting, how is that related to your vision for the school of art?

CG: So I grew up in a formerly big city, Buffalo. I went to grad school at Ohio State, then I lived in New York City for ten years, and that’s an education in itself, then in Philadelphia. And those are two very different American metropolises, and they work very differently.

I moved to New York to be a designer, with a painting degree, so some of my vision comes out of my own experience. I was trained in a great art school in a large research university, where I gained the confidence to use those skills in a variety of different ways.

For example, I could talk to computer scientists; I borrowed projectors for my thesis exhibit from the football team; I had an office in a center shared between the art school and the computer science school, all very formative experiences. Being a painter and working in those critiques, I learned the idea of abstracting things, moving across disciplines, across mediums, and in a contemporary business world that would be called ‘knowledge transfer.’ It’s incredibly marketable. So I like to say I was accidentally marketable because of my education, but it wasn’t so much an accident as that academic environment.

For me, the most exciting thing about UGA is that the pieces of that same ecosystem are here. Helping to build those connections where our graduate and undergraduate students can excel in whatever they want to do, that their vision of success is not just the gallery show, not just working at a design firm, but it’s a variety of different things that they choose, we have the ability to do that here. Few places in the world have the academic ecosystem available to make that kind of malleable, exciting graduate that can go out into the world and do whatever they want.

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