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From the desk of Dean Kate Miller
Sept. 3, 2012 


Dear Colleagues,

In this issue, Sarah Bednarz, associate dean for academic affairs, will describe our the key component for the College's Quality Enhancement Plan. 


Have a great week,


Kate C. Miller



Dear Colleagues:


Too often we get caught up in the minutia of our existence as university professors and fail to consider the long-term impact we have on the students we teach. We meet classes, hold exams, mark papers, assign grades-but few of us have the opportunity to step back to consider if what we are doing is making a lasting impression or what our students are learning about the endeavor of learning.


Lifelong learning and its correlate, integrated learning, are the focus of the University's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). Having a plan to enhance academic quality is a requirement for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and this year Texas A&M launches its plan, Aggies commit to learning for a lifetime. The goal for the University is to, "create a culture that makes intentional and thoughtful engagement in high impact learning experiences the norm for A&M students." For students, the goal is to, "improve student learning by developing habits and skills for integrative and lifelong learning." What does this mean for instructors and what is the College of Geosciences doing to support implementation of the QEP?


The foundation for learning on this campus are the student learning outcomes developed as part of the Academic Road Map process three years ago. These are simply statements of what we expect students to have learned by the time they complete their degrees. For undergraduates, outcomes include demonstrate critical thinking, work collaboratively, and master the depth of knowledge required of a degree. Graduate student outcomes feature expectations such as develop clear research plans and use appropriate technologies.


The outcome communicate effectively is common to both undergraduate and graduate learning outcomes. For this reason, the College of Geosciences has selected Aggies commit to communicate as our College-level QEP. Resources from the University Reallocation Plan are being used to enhance existing writing-intensive offerings, to expand the number of writing and communication courses in the College, and to infuse more writing and communication opportunities in all coursework. This semester the College, in collaboration with the Writing Center, is launching a program to train a cohort of Geosciences writing assistants to support writing intensive classes. We are also holding the inaugural Geosciences Student Research Week, Nov. 12-14. This latter event, designed to showcase the research being conducted by both undergraduate and graduate students in the College, will offer students a friendly and constructive environment to display posters and make presentations featuring a range of individual and group research. The goal is to develop communication skills and to increase participation in the University-level Student Research Week the following March.


Learning how to communicate effectively through writing intensive courses is a High-Impact Learning Experience (HILE). Other high-impact educational practices include first year seminars, undergraduate research, field- and community-based learning, capstone courses, and internships. Many of you are already fully engaged in HILE; this semester six Geosciences faculty and I are offering First Year Seminars (Thanks, Bob Bednarz, Dave Brooks, Debbie Thomas, Vatche Tchakerian, and Steve Quiring!). We offer many field-based and capstone courses, including GEOL 300, GEOS 405, and GEOG 450. More of you than ever before are supervising students in undergraduate research. Reallocation funds are being used to support HILE activities across the College including SOAP in ATMO led by Don Conlee, Shaima Nasiri, and Anita Rapp; RISE (Research IS Education) led by Debbie Thomas, and two programs for graduate students: SAS (Students At Sea) and Field Based Experiences for Graduate Students led by Dan Thornton and Julie Newman, respectively.


However, the University is setting ambitious goals for all students to engage in at least three HILE during their career here. In addition we are being challenged to contribute to the QEP goals of lifelong, integrated learning. This means we are being asked to offer students opportunities to develop the skills and dispositions of curiosity, initiative, independence, transfer, and reflection (lifelong learning) and to make connections across academic and real-world experiences, courses, and disciplines, to synthesize disparate knowledge and skills, and to be able to apply what they have learned to new situations (integrated learning). Two tools to help faculty understand more about lifelong learning and integrated learning are available on our website. They provide detailed indicators of student achievement toward the two goals and can be used to guide the ways you structure your teaching and learning outcomes. They are also useful to present to students with the challenge that they become more intentional in their own learning and to encourage them to reflect and self-assess.


So we have a fairly complex set of external forces driving instruction and curricular development. I have not even mentioned upcoming changes in the Core Curriculum, the focus of a future Biweekly Briefing. Between student learning outcomes, QEP goals of communication, lifelong and integrative learning and the focus on high-impact learning experiences as a way to achieve these outcomes and goals, there are many demands on your teaching and course development. But this is a perfect time for faculty to display the characteristics of lifelong learning by being curious about these initiatives, reflecting on their own practices, and showing initiative in trying new ideas and methods.


I welcome discussions with you, individually or in groups, about ways we can be strategic in meeting these goals, consider what students are learning long-term, and maintain our sanity. As First Lady Michelle Obama wrote recently, "Movements for real and lasting change are sustained by the relationships we build with one another."




Sarah Bednarz

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

College Announcements


State Employee Charitable Campaign 

The State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) kicked off Sept. 1 and ends Oct. 3. Rachel Rodriguez, administrative coordinator in the Dean's Office, is the SECC representative for the College. This year's goal for the College is $11,800.


Those who donate by Sept. 14 are eligible for the Early Bird drawing to win two tickets to the President's pre-game reception in the Memorial Student Center's Bethancourt Family Grand Ballroom and two, 50-yard tickets in section 107 for the Texas A&M vs. Arkansas football game on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. The reception and tickets are donated by the Office of the President.


Rachel says fundraising plans include a bake sale in the O&M lobby sometime in September. 


University Staff Council  

Debz Frietas (GERG) reports on the University Staff Council's Aug. 21 meeting. Debz rotated off as Geosciences representative, and Michele Beal (Business Office) is the new representative.

Ron Steedly of Transportation Services introduced a new safety awareness program, DIRC (Dangerous - Irresponsible - Reckless - Careless). To see DIRC-like behaviors visit The USC voted to support the DIRC program and to allow them to use our name and logo when citing program supporters. 

The full report of the results of the MGT of America, Inc. management review of the Texas A&M System Offices may be found at The company recommended to the Chancellor to consolidate all of the System human resource functions within the Brazos County into one structure. A committee chaired by Provost Karan Watson and B.J. Crain, vice president for finance and chief financial officer, will send recommendations to the Chancellor.

The Staff Scholarship Committee awarded individuals with scholarships for the 2012-13 academic year. Recipients received between $750 and $1500 awards. Recipient names are on the website. 

Barbara Bayer, assistant dean for finance and administration, represents the Council of Senior Business Administrators on the USC as an ex officio member.

August meeting minutes will be posted to the USC website after approval during the September meeting. Meetings are on the third Tuesday of each month. All staff are welcome and encouraged to attend monthly meetings. Details can be found on the USC website. The next meeting is at 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m., Sept. 18, room 401, Rudder Tower.  

Professional Activities



Drs. Ethan Grossman(GEPL) and Halbouty post-doc John Robbins were in Costa Rica and Panama in August to conduct sampling of fossil and modern gastropods and retrieve water samples as part of a study of the timing of Caribbean faunal turnover associated with the uplift of the Central American Isthmus. This isotopic study of environmental perturbation and evolution is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Aaron O'Dea of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. In addition to collecting Neogene fossils, Drs. Grossman and Robbins participated in sampling living gastropods by snorkel and scuba as part of a modern calibration study.




The National Science Foundation (EAR-1226918) has awarded a grant to Dr. Ethan Grossman (GEPL) and others: Constraining rates of C-O bond reordering in biogenic calcite: Implications for clumped isotope thermometry. B. Passey (JHU), E. L. Grossman, A. Pérez-Huerta (U. Alabama), 8/1/12-7/31/14, $274,879 (TAMU $71,048). 


Dr. Alex Orsi (OCNG) received a new (~$450K) 3-year award (1143836) from the NSF-Antarctic Integrated System Sciences. He is the main PI leading the Physical Oceanography component of a multidisciplinary "Collaborative Research: Totten Glacier System and the Marine Record of Cryosphere - Ocean Dynamics" with marine geologists, geochemists, geophysicists, and glaciologists from Colgate University, Hamilton University, University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, and University of South Florida. This is the third consecutive NSF-funded field program that Orsi conducts in the Antarctic involving technical support from GERG, through the construction/deployment/recovery of year-long mooring arrays and the collection of hydrographic station data. For the first time, taking advantage of new technologies (Underway CTD), an oceanographic cruise to the Sabrina/Banzare Coasts off East Antarctica will study this nearly unexplored and potentially unstable glacial system, and its response to environmental change.




Dr. Lisa Campbell (OCNG) reports that the Campbell Lab's new Imaging FlowCytobot was deployed in Port Aransas during August to replace the original that was destroyed by vandals in March 2012. Images from the Port Aransas site are used for early warning of harmful algal blooms. The cytobot will be the lead story for the opening episode of volume 26 of Science and the Sea, produced by the University of Texas Marine Science Institute. 




IODP Asian Monsoon Expedition 346

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) will host the
pre-expedition meeting for Asian Monsoon Expedition 346 Sept. 10
and 11. Scheduled to attend the precruise meeting are the chief
scientists, Dr. Ryuji Tada (University of Tokyo) and Dr. Rick Murray
(Boston University), the expedition project manager, Dr. Carlos Alvarez Zarikian (IODP), and the logging staff scientist, Dr. Johanna Lofi (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and Université Montpellier II, France). 


IODP Lesser Antilles Volcanism and Landslides Expedition 340

Twenty-two scientists from France, Japan, Germany, China, India, and

the United States who participated in the IODP Lesser Antilles Volcanism

and Landslides Expedition (340) spent August 13-17 extracting nearly 9000 samples for their postcruise research at the IODP Gulf Coast Repository at Texas A&M. 


Following this, 10 scientists spent August 18-22 at IODP to conduct the final editing of the expedition's initial proceedings. Expedition 340 sailed from February to March 2012 with the goal of documenting the processes and timing of eruptive activity along the Lesser Antilles arc and the mechanisms controlling triggering,transport, and deposition of submarine debris avalanches from collapsing island volcanoes. The shipboard reports from Expedition 340 are scheduled to be published in August 2013 in the Proceedings of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.



Dr. Ann Jochens


NOAA has announced that Dr. Ann Jochens (OCNG) has been appointed to the newly formed U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Federal Advisory Committee. Members will advise federal leaders on integrating the nation's ocean observing systems by evaluating scientific and technical information related to the design, operation, maintenance and use of the nation's IOOS entities. The first committee's first meeting was in Washington, D.C., Aug. 29-30.


Texas A&M hosts the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association (GCOOS-RA) Office, and Dr. Jochens is its executive director. 




Dr. Ethan Grossman (GEPL) has published a chapter on the oxygen isotope stratigraphy of four billion years of Earth history in the long anticipated The Geologic Time Scale 2012, the revision of the 2004 volume defining the record of geologic time: Grossman, E.L., 2012. Ch. 10. Oxygen isotope stratigraphy. In Gradstein, F.M., Ogg, J.G., Schmitz, M., and Ogg, G., eds., The Geologic Time Scale 2012, Elsevier, p. 195-220 (invited).
Former student Josiah Strauss (Ph.D., 2010), Drs. Ethan Grossman and Timothy Dellapenna (OCNG-TAMUG), and student Joseph Carlin have published their study of the isotopic record of drought off the Texas shelf as indicated by oxygen and carbon isotopes in benthic foraminifera: Strauss, J., Grossman, E.L., Carlin, J.A., Dellapenna, T.M., 2012. 100 years of benthic foraminiferal history on the inner Texas shelf: faunal indications and stable isotopes. Continental Shelf Research, v. 38, p. 89-97. 


Drs. Shari Yvon-Lewis and Tom Bianchi (OCNG), along with graduate students Lei Hu and Yina Liu have a new article published in Biogeochemistry Cycles: Hu, L., S.A. Yvon-Lewis, Y. Liu, T. S. Bianchi (2012), The Ocean in near Equilibrium with Atmospheric CH3Br, Global Biogeochem. Cycles, GB3016, doi:10.1029/2011GB004272. 




Calendar items are also posted on the College of Geosciences' 

Facebook page.


Sept. 4 

"The Planning, Realization, and Future of the Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) Field Campaign," Courtney Schumacher (ATMO), 3:55 p.m., 112 O&M 


Sept. 6

Texas A&M Academic Convocation, 4-6 p.m., Rudder Exhibit Hall. Faculty and staff are invited.


Sept. 7 

College of Geosciences Advisory Council Meeting, Hagler Center


"Two Hundred Hectares of Good Business: Brazilian Agriculture in a Themed Space," Christian Brannstrom (GEOG), 3:30 p.m., CSA 303 


Sept. 10 

"Clastic Sedimentary Petrology: The Control of Provenance on Reservoir Quality and Rock Properties of Clastic Sediments," Tobi Kosanke, Marathon Oil Company, Upstream Technology- Worldwide Petrophysics, 4 p.m., 112 O&M 


Sept. 11 

"Topography and the Influence of Deserts on Monsoons," William Boos, Yale University, 3:55 p.m., 112 O&M 


Sept. 14 

"U.S. Hegemonyu and Changing Civil Aviation Regimes on the Atlantic, 1944-2012," Alan Dobson, University of Dundee, 3:30 p.m., CSA 303 


Sept. 17 

"Zooplankton Growth, Phenology and the Dynamic Interactions with Fishes Linked to Environmental Variability," Hui Liu, Texas A&M- Galveston, 4 p.m., 112 O&M 

The next issue is Sept. 17. Please submit items of general interest to the College to Karen Riedel by Thursday, Sept. 13.
Featured Articles
College commits to communicate

SECC begins

Ann Jochens named to national NOAA committee
and Programs