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From the desk of Dean Kate Miller
May 11, 2012 

Sarah Bednarz brings you this week's message from the Dean's Office. As she says, the College and the University are undergoing many changes critical to curriculum, teaching methods and opportunities for high-impact learning experiences. 


Kate Miller 




Dear Colleagues:


One of my favorite songs is David Bowies' "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes." The lyrics include:



(turn and face the strain)

...Just gonna have to be a different man

Time may change me

But I can't trace time.


It seems an appropriate theme for this briefing since so many changes are taking place at Texas A&M and in the College of Geosciences. This briefing will focus on some of the academic changes that will affect faculty and staff.


Changes in Enrollment

This summer we will see a record number of first-time-in-college (FTIC) students entering Geosciences. The class of 2016 will include 58 students in Environmental Programs; two in Geography; 75 in Geology and Geophysics; and 33 in Meteorology. In addition, we are accepting additional transfer and change-of-major students. This influx of students may cause some strain in introductory courses and force adjustments in teaching assignments. We welcome the growth and remind you that faculty and staff are invited to the ice cream social that will follow Freshmen Convocation, 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 26, in the lobby of the O&M Building.


Changes in Pedagogies

A core group of faculty in the College are exploring new ways to enhance student learning and manage larger classes. One example is "flipping" classes, where students master core content outside of class through a range of mechanisms and then come to class to interact, discuss, solve problems, and apply what they have learned. John Nielson-Gammon in ATMO has "flipped" one of his classes while a colleague, R. Saravanan, is developing a tool called Mindmeldr to use common mobile devices to engage students in courses. He plans to pilot this in ATMO 201 in the fall. Later this summer I would like to organize a series of brown bag lunches to talk about teaching strategies. A vast amount of innovation can be found across the College in teaching and learning processes. We can learn from each other. But I also remind everyone that the Center for Teaching Excellence is offering a series of workshops in teaching and learning, including how to develop compelling syllabi. To register for a CTE workshop, please visit its registration site.


Changes to the Core Curriculum

These innovations may be needed as we face changes in the core curriculum. Although President Loftin has not signed off on it, the Faculty Senate on April 30 approved the new requirements for the Core Curriculum. The new core includes nine hours of science, six hours of mathematics, and limits core courses to 100 and 200-level offerings. In addition, new learning outcomes mandated by the State are associated with each component of the core. These changes will require revising any courses submitted for inclusion in the new Core. While a challenge to position courses in the core, this is also an opportunity to think innovatively about classes that we have taught for a long time. It will be a period of exploration to try new ways of teaching-with a focus on student learning.


Changes in Oral and Written Communication: 

Commit to Communicate

The University Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) calls for Aggies commit to learning for a life time. The goal is to create a culture, "...that makes intentional and thoughtful engagement in high-impact learning experiences the norm for A&M students." See here for the PDF. It is expected that all Aggies have at least three high-impact educational experiences before graduation. Using Reallocation funds, the College is supporting new high-impact education experiences in each department. The current funded projects are now on the website. The College-level QEP related to lifelong learning is Geoscientists Commit to Communicate (C2C). Seventeen geoscientists attended a workshop offered by Dr. Valerie Balester, director of the Writing Center and Professor of English, on May 3 to learn new ways of supporting and assessing writing in both introductory and writing-intensive courses. It is clear that we need to encourage more writing in all classes-and that we need innovation in managing this in the face of larger classes. The College is developing a team of geosciences students trained by the Writing Center to support faculty in their writing initiatives.


These are just a few of the ch-ch-ch-ch-changes we face. We will have to turn and face the strain and be different, to paraphrase the song. We in the Dean's office stand ready to help all faculty thrive in this period of shifting priorities. My second favorite song recently has the chorus line, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Not a bad thing to remember--



Dr. Sarah Bednarz

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs


For more information about university events, visit TAMUTimes.



A record graduating class-expected to total approximately 7,200-with five commencement ceremonies in Reed Arena May 11-12. Registrar officials say the number of degree candidates-undergraduates and graduate students- in the spring 2012 class will likely be about 400 more than last spring when the current record of 6,593 was set.  



The College of Geosciences' 133 graduates received their degrees Friday, May 11. The College awarded six doctors of philosophy, 19 master of science, and 108 bachelor of science degrees.


The College honored its graduates at the Commencement Reception and Awards Ceremony, Thursday, May 10 in the Halbouty lobby and auditorium. Awards included outstanding student recognition, based on grade point ratio, and departmental honors.


Dr. Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt (OCNG) received the Robert C. Runnels Excellence in Advising Award, and Christine Arnold, academic advisor for Atmospheric Sciences and Oceanography, was recognized for receiving the President's Award for Academic Advising.   



Dr. Chuck Kennicutt in his class on polar regions


Students from Dr. Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt's class, GEOS 401: Polar Regions, nominated their professor for the Robert C. Runnels Excellence in Advising Award. They cited his ability to bring the 21st century into the classroom through technology, for always having an open door to students, and demonstrating the importance of science in general and the polar regions in particular in relationship to today's world. 


As one student noted, "It is easily apparent that Dr. Kennicutt cares about what he teaches, and he passes it on to his students."



Dr. Don Conlee (ATMO) was one of the nominees for the ATMentor of the Year Award from the Dean of Student Life. Nominees demonstrate a positive impact on their mentees or students they interact with, are available and willing to assist students with any need, andencourage and challenge students to be better. ATMO student, Jonathan Rivas (left) nominated Conlee. 



The JAMSTEC and IODP Expedition 343: Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project, using D/V Chikyu, achieved a deep-sea drilling record Friday, April 25. Dr. Frederick Chester (GEOL) serves as co-chief scientist on the expedition. The previous drilling record was 7,049.5 meters below the sea surface in the Marianas Trench, set in 1978 by Deep Sea Drilling Program. The Chikyu crew drilled 424 meters below the seafloor in a water depth of 6,883.54 meters for a combined 7,308 meters below the sea surface.  



Researchers in the College of Geosciences can now add ResearcherIDs to their profiles. The ResearcherID website gives researches a unique researcher ID number. Users can then update their profile, build a publication list, and choose to make their profile public or private. Registered and non-registered users alike can search the ResearcherID Registry to find potential collaborators. Researchers can self-register for the ResearcherID service on the website. Once created, faculty can link their ResearcherID profile directly to their Texas A&M profile with a clickable graphic. Questions about this service should be directed to Jennifer Rumford at



NOAA awarded a $100,000 grant to Dr. John Jacob, professor and coastal communities development specialist with Texas Sea Grant, to use the Community Health and Resources Management (CHARM) model in conjunction with the innovative weTable during a series of development planning workshops this summer. The weTable combines a laptop computer, a projector, a light pen and a Nintendo Wii remote to transform an ordinary tabletop into an interactive computer interface. The Wii remote detects the pen's position on the table and sends the location to the laptop, turning complex data into a color palate that allows participants to paint different versions of future development. The resulting picture helps participants to see the impacts of their decisions in real time in terms of potential runoff pollution, flood damage, water consumption, and habitat loss.    




Photo by Michele Beal

The College gathered for a reception honoring the new and current Chair and Professorship holders. Dr. Jack Baldauf (Dean's Office) acknowledged their contributions with plaques for each position holder and a summary about their accomplishments.


Committee members were Sharon Alderete, Rachel Rodriguez, Jennifer Rumford, Michele Bealand Karen Riedel. The slide show was produced by Communications student worker, Kayla Slimp. 




Honors and Awards


Dr. Niall Slowey (OCNG) has been elected as vice chair for the 2012-13 CPI Council of Principle Investigators (CPI), effective Sept. 1. The Council is composed of Principal Investigators (PIs) who represent members of the Texas A&M research community. 


Dr. Ann E. Jochens (OCNG), was named editor of the Marine Technology Society Journal. The journal, a publication of the Marine Technology Society, publishes peer-reviewed papers on marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The journal publishes timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns and showcases general interest and student-authored works. Dr. Jochens was also named the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association. She will also be serving on the Board of Directors of the National Federation of Regional Associations for Coastal and Ocean Observing.


Dr. Matthew K. Howard, (OCNG), was selected as a member of the Board of Advisors for the IOOS Quality Assurance of Real-Time Ocean Data effort. The Board of Advisors is composed of technical experts in ocean observing and data management who will assist the project manager and project coordinator to determine how to implement quality control within the IOOS. The Board of Advisors will set the priorities for the annual work effort, guide the overall progress, provide recommendations for approval of QA/QC manuals, and identify appropriate subject matter experts for working groups and committees.


Crystal Wolfe and Kenneth Sherar, IODP production editors in Publication Services, were awarded certificates for completing course requirements for the Web Development Certification Program offered through Employee and Organizational Development.



Dr. Ann Jochens (OCNG) reports that the Third Annual GCOOS-GOMA Harmful Algal Bloom Integrated Observing System Workshop was a great success. The workshop, held March 26-28 in Pensacola, Fla., brought together more than 30 managers, scientists, and researchers from U.S. federal agencies; resource, health, and environmental protection agencies of the five U.S. Gulf States and two Mexican States; the Mexico-U.S. Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem Project; and academic institutions throughout the Gulf. The attendees developed an implementation plan for a user-needs-based three-phase plan for the HABIOS. "Much work remains to be done to complete the document that will come out of the workshop, but it promises to be ground-breaking in its innovative and creative approaches to advancing our abilities to predict, detect, track, and forecast HAB events," Jochens said.


The annual GCOOS Regional Association Parties Meeting and the 14th Meeting of the GCOOS-RA Board of Directors was held at the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., March 14-15. Dr. Ann Jochens (OCNG) and Ruth Mullins, Ph.D. candidate in oceanography, attended. At the meeting, the board engaged with regional federal partners from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to identify and pursue common activities. Highlights of the meeting include considerations of re-structuring the organization, GCOOS incorporation into a non-profit organization, and approving new bylaws. The group also considered changes to the councils, committees, and task teams to streamline the structure to address the challenges being faced by GCOOS.  


Depiction of Curiosity on Mars (Image courtesy of NASA) 



Dr. Mark Lemmon (ATMO) was recently featured in TAMUtimes for his involvement in the Curiosity project on Mars. Curiosity is a Volkswagen-sized rover that will document physical features on Mars.  


Dr. Robert Korty (ATMO) was quoted in an MSNBC article for his expertise on atmospheric sciences as it relates to natural disasters.  


Tony Reisinger (Texas Sea Grant) provided input about the recently growing giant cannibal shrimp population for a CNN article.  


Geology graduate student Lauren Holder was recently featured in TAMUtimes for her upcoming arsenic research in Taiwan.  


Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon (ATMO) was recently featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education highlighting his research about droughts, stream flow and ticks.  


June 1-8

GeoX, a one-week program for high-achieving high school juniors and seniors, will be on campus and traveling in the region. This is the second year for this successful program.   

The next issue is May 21. Please submit items of general interest to the College to Karen Riedel no later than Wednesday, May 18.   
 Featured Articles
Message:  Sarah Bednarz

Graduation, College honors
 and Programs