Category: Society

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.

...

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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Reading by Philip Lee Williams

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Lo-res_p_williams.jpg A former Franklin colleague near and dear to many of us returns to campus this week to read from his new memoir, It Is Written. Welcome back, Phil:

Award-winning author Philip Lee Williams will read from his latest autobiography, "It Is Written: My Life in Letters." The book covers Williams' 30-year career and tells the story of his creative life in an open, jaunty and often hilarious autobiography. Presented by UGA Libraries.

Over a 30-year career as a published author of fiction, poetry and essays, Williams has become one of the South's most-honored writers.

A wonderful and prolific science writer for the college for many years, Williams was responsible for helping bring a lot of great research news out into the world. As my immediate predecessor in the college, I am especially indebted to Phil, the great work he did and that we try to continue here everyday. Congratulations to him on the new book and we look forward to this reading.

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Teaching Ferguson's lessons

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Hot-off-the-presses is not usually a part of lesson plans in university classrooms - unless it is. History, political science, economics... social sciences and humanities classtime can easily and sometimes should be convulsed in topical isses. Faculty at institutions in the immediate area don't have the luxury of remove and often need to incorporate the events for multiple reasons. The Chronicle of Higher Education shares some lessons plans from faculty in the St. Louis area and how they plan to address sensitive issues of race and policing that were ignitied on Aug. 9. Could be instructive:

We’ll also be talking about community policing as it relates to Ferguson. This became a buzzword in the 1990s as a way to build better relationships with the community. I want to look at a broader model of community policing that goes beyond neighborhood meetings and foot patrols. We’ll examine cities, like Cincinnati, that have collaborative agreements in which citizens have a voice in the hiring process and in the promotion and selection of the chief. We’ll also consider whether a more-diverse force might have been able to quell some of the unrest in Ferguson or build a better understanding and communication with the community.

We need to have a mix of people in law enforcement, and I hope more students of diverse backgrounds will see this as a career path.

There’s a lot we can learn from this situation about de-escalating tensions and the legal justifications for using force. Would people feel more confident if citizens could review use-of-force cases? When you have problems in the neighborhood, do you go to the community and say, "These are the strategies we have in our toolbox. What do you think we should do?" That way, when an incident happens, the response is something the community has agreed is appropriate.

Read the whole thing. In many ways, these discussions and expansions of the curriculum to broaden our understanding of contemporary events are what leading a classroom is all about.

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Welcome to the Class of 2018

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Official Class of 2018.jpg

The 5,285 freshmen who entered UGA this week, assembled into a Super G on Sunday in Sanford Stadium as part of the Freshman Welcome to the Class of 2018 sponsored by the Student Government Association and the Student Alumni Council. 

That's a lot of people - normally, you would have to be crossing 42nd Street and 7th Ave to see that many people in one place.

Welcome to everyone and do not worry: you will get lost, and then lost again. The bus will come. You will find your class. Snelling will still be open when you get there. You will get used to all of this - and may so many other wonderful things happen to you as you do.

#uga18

Image: Official Class of 2018 Photo, courtesy of UGA Photographic Services. 

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The Humanities: towards greater empathy

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News and current events today challenge us to be able to see the world from the persepctive of others. The more insulated we become - socially, economically, politically - the more difficult it can be to understand the broader issues and events swirling around us. Of course, an education steeped in the humanities can go a long way towards making us better people, better citizens who can relate to our fellow citizens constructively, who want to understand, who can access solutions outside of our own personal interest, experience or perspective. This connection is the focus of recent NYT opinion column:

Sir Isaiah [Berlin] argued for acknowledging doubts and uncertainty — and then forging ahead. “Principles are not less sacred because their duration cannot be guaranteed,” he wrote. “Indeed, the very desire for guarantees that our values are eternal and secure in some objective heaven is perhaps only a craving for the certainties of childhood.”

Second, John Rawls offers a useful way of thinking about today’s issues such as inequality or poverty, of institutionalizing what our society gravely lacks: empathy. He explores basic questions of fairness, leading to a compelling explanation for why we should create safety nets to support the poor and good schools to help their kids achieve a better life.

Rawls suggests imagining that we all gather to agree on a social contract, but from an “original position” so that we don’t know if we will be rich or poor, smart or dumb, diligent or lazy, American or Bangladeshi. If we don’t know whether we’ll be born in a wealthy suburban family or to a single mom in an inner city, we’ll be more inclined to favor measures that protect those at the bottom.

Though there is room and impetus to do so, it's not really necesary to try to re-position the humanities within the context of the 'Digital Age.' They are important in their own right and always will be as long as there remain any adherents to the first part of the word. Anyway, good essay, and we're always happy to see the humanities get some ink and pixels. They are important because we so declaim, because we decide we care about humanity. Classes are in session this morning in a variety of departments and programs, from anthropology and classics to linguistics, philosophy and religion, educating our students in the traditions on which stability, progress and justice in our modern world depend.

Thumbnail Image via.

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