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Friday, April 18, 2014 | Last updated: 10:27am

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Academics and Administration Blog

MSU Debate team placed in the top 16 in national tournament

By Olivia Dimmer          Last updated: 04/13/14 3:35pm         

The MSU Debate Team placed in the top 16 at the National Debate Tournament on April 7 as one of six schools in the country to qualify three teams to the nation-wide competition. A total of 80 teams competed in the tournament.

The last time that happened was in 2008.

During the competition, MSU lost to Northwestern University on a 5-2 decision in the octafinals.

It was the final debate for duo debate team members international relations senior Kaavya Ramesh and international relations junior Tyler Thur, who are also members of the Honors College.

International relations junior Jack Caporal and international relations senior Quinn Zemel finished in the top 32. 

International relations senior Aniela Butler and mathematics sophomore Margaret Strong also competed, but did not qualify for the elimination rounds. The pair were one out of nine women teams at the competition.

“After a hard-fought season, MSU debate put it all on the line and competed with the best,” Debate Head Coach Will Repko said in a statement. “This was an emotional end to the season because Kaavya is a senior and this is her last year of debate. We’re proud of our team and the hard work and dedication to debate they demonstrated all year.”

Nationally, universities spend on athletics faster than academics

By Simon Schuster          Last updated: 04/07/14 11:07pm         

Nationally, universities are increasing spending on athletics far faster than academics, a new report from the American Association of University Professors found.

In the report, the association did not shy from espousing their beliefs on the findings.

“Athletics and academics don’t have to be incompatible, but the trends documented here provide strong evidence that current institutional decision making places too great an emphasis on athletics, to the detriment of academics and student success,” the report said.

Of course, the primary focus of AAUP is academics, but the data they collected tells an interesting story. Schools in MSU’s athletic division increased the median athletics spending per student athlete more than 36 percent from the 2003 to 2011 school years, which they compare to stagnant faculty salaries and per-student spending.

The association also names a second blight on academic institutions — administrative bloating.

“Even more troubling, the pattern of substantial salary increases for a very few senior administrators noted in previous years continues while full-time faculty salaries stagnate; the overwhelming majority of our academic colleagues struggle to provide excellent instruction while mired in precarious contingent appointments; and staff colleagues face hiring and salary freezes, benefit cuts, and even layoffs,” the report said.

The association claims that american universities have reached a point of imbalance where their members need to insist they refocus on academic pursuits. 

ASMSU discussing a one-credit diversity course requirement

By          Last updated: 03/13/14 10:59pm         

ASMSU, MSU’s undergraduate student government, discussed the idea of requiring a one-credit course on diversity for all incoming freshmen at MSU at an Academic Affairs Committee meeting on February 27.

Lyman Briggs Representative James Conwell lead the discussion about the idea in order to help freshmen better acclimate to MSU’s diverse community.

“Some freshmen really adapt well and find new ways to experience new cultures,” Conwell said. “Some simply do not.“Conwell said his main concern was educating students to be more informed about diversity.

“(Freshmen) come from all walks of life,” he said. “They haven’t been necessarily exposed to ideas, diverse people or things.”

Conwell said this requirement related back to the Live It! initiative which was presented to ASMSU’s general assembly at a Feb. 20 meeting.

Deanna Hurlbert, director of the LBGT Resource Center, introduced the initiative as a way for Spartans to pledge to “connect with respect” with other Spartans of diverse backgrounds. The initiative is to encourage students to challenge demeaning behaviors towards students of different cultures and backgrounds.

James Madison College Representative Dolores Sinistaj said she liked the idea of having this requirement, but was concerned about the tuition that students would have to pay.

She said finding a way to educate students about diversity without requiring them to pay a credit hour would be more beneficial financially.

As an example Sinistaj said for James Madison she was required to participate in workshops about these topics.

“In Madison, freshmen have to do a day of diversity activities,” Sinistaj said adding that they had group discussions and break down of issues and topics surrounding diversity.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Mitchell Goheen said he agreed that students shouldn’t have to pay for a course, but some sort of diversity workshop or program should be required for all students before graduation.

Study: Countries who receive foreign aid less likely to form successful democracies

By Olivia Dimmer          Last updated: 02/24/14 9:01pm         

Professor of political science Michael Colaresi recently unveiled a new study that found countries that receive foreign aid from rival nations during civil wars are much less likely to form successful democracies after.

The study, which spanned from World War II to 2009, examined democratization in war-torn countries and came to the conclusion that groups who took foreign aid had a hard time gaining the trust of the citizens once the war was over. Since public consent is required for effective governance, this causes the democracy to fail.

“Leaders want to stay in power,” Colaresi said in a statement. “If they try to build democratic institutions, they would then need public support and trust to continue to govern, which is no easy task if you have received support from enemies the public does not trust.”

Colaresi’s study was published in the Journal of Peace Research and is the first to show which events within a civil war foreshadow the success of peacetime democratization.

Colaresi studies 136 civil wars from 1946 to 2009, 34 of which had rivals aiding the winning side. Of those countries, only Algeria was able to overcome the obstacles and and become slightly more democratic.

Colaresi’s logic also applies even if the public did not know about the aid during the time of war.

Colaresi said democracy often requires greater transparency, and what was done in the past is more likely to come to light after — giving leaders a reason to not fully democratize.

“If we want to build democracy and better human rights in the Middle East and other places, we have to understand why groups accept aid from rival nations and help to create incentives that drive it out or at least counterincentives to build new governance.” Colaresi said.

Bill to change math requirement for education majors

By Kary Askew Garcia          Last updated: 02/21/14 11:35am         

ASMSU’s Academic Affairs Committee passed a bill on Feb. 13 which would allow for education majors to change the curriculum for the math requirement.

The bill was introduced by Briana Sellers and seconded by Alexa Vanburen, both College of Education representatives.

The bill calls for a closer look at MTH 201 and 202 courses which focus on “proofs behind the mathematical concepts of high school level material.” The goal behind the examination is to allow for changes to be made in the materials taught to elementary education majors.

The main change to the math requirement courses would be to make the material more relevant to students who will be teaching in elementary schools, according to the bill.

ASMSU advocated through the bill the investigation of creating alternative sections of these courses specifically for elementary education students.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Mitchell Goheen said if the bill passes it would have to go through a long process getting passed through different committees of the university.

ASMSU has made changes to curriculum in the Economics Department in the past without having to go through the process, Goheen said.

He said one professor designed a summer course because there was student interest in having alternative theories and in the history of economics.

If the bill doesn’t pass, there is still an opportunity for students and ASMSU to go to professors and directly express their concerns, Goheen said.

The ASMSU general assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill during its meeting on Feb. 20.

Actress Ellen Page comes out as gay

By Casey Holland          Last updated: 02/17/14 10:09pm         

On Feb. 14, actress Ellen Page raised her voice at the Human Rights Campaign’s THRIVE event, where she also made a revelation about herself.

Page came out as gay to the gathered crowd, and her speech quickly went viral — Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr blew up with responses to the actress’s courage. When all was said and done, most of those responses were positive, especially from her fellow celebrities.

Indie rock duo Tegan and Sara tweeted, “Never underestimate the courage it takes to be yourself. Giant hugs to @EllenPage.”

Actress Anna Kendrick also tweeted her admiration for Page with a message that read, “Mad mad mad mad mad mad crazy love and praise for @EllenPage today. Congrats to you, you light, talent, and beauty.”

Page’s bravery when giving her speech was astronomical and something worthy of respect. Being a celebrity, Page already finds herself subject to scrutiny for every little decision she makes. However, this time her decision was met with awe and respect.

She didn’t only come out to a few trusted people — once news of her speech traveled, she came out to the world.

Maybe there are others out there who will be able to borrow some of her courage, just as she said in her speech.

“I’m here today because I am gay, and because… Maybe I can make a difference,” she said.

If the abundance of appreciative and proud responses are any indication, then Page has already made a difference for thousands of people.

MSU student's research may help contain oil spills

By Olivia Dimmer          Last updated: 02/16/14 7:58pm         

Graduate student Claudio Calderon recently received the 2013 Exemplary Summer Research Citation for his work in MSU’s Summer Research Opportunities Program.

Calderon’s project was titled “Fractal nature of viscous fingers formed during oil-water separation,” which studied how oil behaves as it disperses in water. This research might have practical applications in containing oil spills.

“I apply what I learned in the program to my graduate school work every day,” he said in a statement. “It’s great to know people appreciate what you do.”

The award is given yearly by the National Center for Institutional Diversity and Institute for Social Research. Calderon also received the award for his academic record and aspirations for graduate study.

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Calderon’s mentor during the summer program Volodymyr Tarabara, said in a statement that Calderon left a good impression on those he worked with.

“I was very pleased with Claudio’s work on the project and was impressed by his work ethic and focus,” Tarabara said.

As the recipient of the award, Calderon is included in the National Diversity Scholars Network. His name, undergraduate institution, host campus, and the basis of his research project will appear on the website, along with a brief biography.

As for the future, Calderon plans to get his Ph.D in environmental engineering after completing his master’s degree.

Faculty to discuss data security

By Olivia Dimmer          Last updated: 02/02/14 11:09pm         

As part of MSU’s Honors College Sharper Focus/Wider Lens program, faculty from various colleges will be participating in “Questioning Technology,” a conversation about data security breaches, on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m in the MSU Union second floor ballroom. The forum will attempt to tackle the issue that affected some companies in the recent past, including Target and Michaels.

The Sharper Focus/Wider Lens forum aims to allow the MSU community to tackle important issues or questions in a trans-disciplinary environment. The faculty panel will share research, teaching and writing experiences to explore these issues. The panel will consist of professors Lawrence Busch, Erik Goodman, Paul Thompson and assistant professors Tobin Craig and Logan Williams.

Sharper Focus/Wider Lens is sponsored by the MSU Honors College, with co-sponsors being the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, College of Arts and Letters, College of Engineering, College of Social Science, James Madison College, Lyman Briggs College, Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and the Department of Philosophy and Department of Sociology.

Sharper Focus/Wider Lens forums and lectures are open to the public and free of charge.

After this forum, one more is scheduled to be held on April 8 in the same location, entitled “What Divides Us/What Unites Us,” and is a part of the Project 60/50 conversation and events.

Broad College of Business MBA program rises in the ranks

By Kary Askew Garcia          Last updated: 01/28/14 9:12am         

The MSU Broad College of Business Master of Business Administration Program continues to climb in various rankings from previous years.

The program ranked 52nd in the Financial Times out of 100 schools globally. The Financial Times website data showed that the program leapt 10 places up compared to 2013 rankings, and 25 places since 2012.

It also ranked 22nd overall and 9th for public institutions in 2013 by Forbes, according to their website.

The Broad MBA website boasts that it only takes 3.3 years to pay back the cost of earning the degree after graduation which is the shortest period in the Big Ten, one reason it has climbed in rankings.

The Broad MBA career services center is another main reason that the program has been ranked so high, placing 2nd in the nation and 4th globally for placement success, according to the Broad website.

Currently 93 percent of graduates in the class of 2013 have found employment.

The full-time Broad MBA offers finance, human resource management, marketing and supply chain management concentrations. Students are also required to complete an international course requirement either by taking international business courses on campus or by participating in a study abroad, of which 25 percent participate in annually.

Sanjay Gupta, associate dean for MBA and professional master’s programs,ND voiced in a December article posted on the Broad MBA website, that MBA graduates were prepared to jump into a career after graduation and are ready to “make business happen.”

Fellows chosen for research program

By Olivia Dimmer          Last updated: 01/27/14 8:03am         

MSUglobal Knowledge and Learning Innovations has selected six fellows for 2013-14, who will receive support from MSUglobal as they create new research programs.

MSUglobal is an innovation and strategy unit in the Office of the Provost that assists faculty in making, facilitating and implementing projects that lead to new research and funding opportunities for the university.

Jeff Grabill and Julie Lindquist from the College of Arts and Letters were selected as fellows for their work using webinars and massive open online courses to help participants develop better writing skills. Their first class, Think Like A Writer, attracted 2,000 participants in the summer of 2013.

Assistant professor John Spink piloted The Food Fraud Initiative, which researches cases of food fraud, such as horse meat in beef products or country of origin labeling fraud. The initiative subsequently makes MSU the go-to institution in the world for research and expertise related to food fraud.

Hannah Distinguished Professor David Kramer and Research Technician Greg Austic, from the College of Natural Science, were also selected as fellows. The pair are developing Photosynq in hopes of building a network of plant health data.

A team of faculty from the College of Social Science and College of Law, including Associate Professor Ruben Parra-Cardona and Professors Cris Sullivan, Sheryl Kubiak, Amy Bonomi, Deb Bybee and David Thronson created the Research Consortium for Gender Violence.

The consortium was established to mentor the next generation of violence against women researchers.

Fellows selected will receive conceptual support, planning, marketing and impact analysis, as well as have the opportunity to participate in discussions hosted by MSUglobal.