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  • Suicide Prevention Training at VA Tech

    Posted on November 14th, 2013 sarahann No comments

    Recent class discussions have centered around the resources available to TA’s who may be approached by students who are contemplating suicide. This was advertised in this week’s grad opportunities newsletters, but I just wanted to re-post it here. If anyone is interested, there will be a 3-hour suicide prevention training course offered tomorrow (Friday, November 15).

    This is the information from the newsletter:

    Friday, Nov 15, 9:00am-12:00pm, Lavery Hall, SSD conference room

    This session is offered by a certified trainer to help graduate students who teach or work with undergraduate students. The training is called Gatekeeper Intervention, and participants will learn about college student suicide, working with distressed students in a gatekeeper, support, and referral role, not a clinical counseling role. Resources at Virginia Tech, as well as Title IX reporting requirements will be discussed.  Participants will receive a certificate.  Light refreshments will be served. Students should rsvp directly to the instructor, Robyn Hudson, at robynhud@vt.edu.


  • One Model for Crowdsourcing

    Posted on November 11th, 2013 sarahann No comments

    Arguably,  one of the greatest contributions the internet has made to research is the ability to crowdsource. Now, not only is information provided by well-known academics, but by people from a much wider pool. Contributions can be made by anyone with an interest, and can be rechecked by the community to ensure factuality.

    However, in academia, it is particularly important to have correct information. The peer review process was invented to this end. In order for crowdsourcing to reach its potential as a resource, online and open source resources will have to come up with some form of review to distinguish reputable information.

    One potential model for how crowdsourcing can work in an academic scenario has been presented by the Consumer Products Inventory, a compilation of information about consumer products that contain (or are advertised to contain) nanotechnology.

    In an attempt to maintain the integrity of the information provided by the site, all information is reviewed by a site curator. (Please keep in mind that this is not a formal peer review process.) In order to contribute to the site, one must first request an account, which requires having an institutional email address, and providing information about why you are requesting the account. Any suggested edits are also reviewed by the curators.

    Please note that this site is different from Wikipedia in that no one can write their own information. The only information that will be posted is previously published information, be it in a peer-reviewed journal, or on a manufacturer’s website.

  • History of Universities in America (it might not be what you expected)

    Posted on October 10th, 2013 sarahann No comments

    Each Thursday evening, Virginia Public Radio hosts a program called BackStory. It is produced by three professors of history, who collectively refer to themselves as “The American History Guys.”  In their own words:

    BackStory is a public radio program & podcast that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. On each show, renowned U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths. Over the course of the hour, they are joined by fellow historians, people in the news, and callers interested in exploring the roots of what’s going on today. Together, they drill down to colonial times and earlier, revealing the connections (and disconnections) between past and present. With its passionate, intelligent, and irreverent approach, BackStory is fun and essential listening no matter who you are.

    One recent broadcast entitled Degress of Freedom: Higher Education in America. The program explores the history of universities in the U.S., and how they have evolved from schools of primarily classic education (Latin, Greek, etc) to the liberal education institutions many are today. Segment 2 – “The Practical Humanities” (4:33-8:20), discusses the effects of the post-Civil War population boom on university structure and purpose. It was fascinating to learn how universities changed focus from looking to the past in order to provide for the present, to looking toward the future and how it may be shaped.

    If you are unfamiliar with the program, check out its archives. BackStory may be all about history, but it’s always timely.

  • ORI and Miller Case

    Posted on September 30th, 2013 sarahann No comments

    In class, we talked about several different cases handled by the ORI. One of them included a researcher who would later be responsible for their own supervision following reprimand.  This is a different case.

    While the researcher involved is required to write their own plan for supervision, it must then be approved by the ORI. What I found most interesting was that the researcher would then be supervised by 2-3 researchers at Miller’s home institution who were “familiar with the Respondent’s field of research, but not including the Respondent’s supervisor or collaborators”.  It does not state who is responsible for selecting the committee, but I expect it would be included in the plan for supervision supplied by the researcher involved.

    It would be very interesting, to the extent permissible, to here the perspectives of those involved in the supervisor. That cannot be an easy, or comfortable position to be in. In addition, it creates a significant burden for the supervising committee. They would now be (presumably) responsible for following ever step of another person’s research, just to assure honesty. Undoubtedly their own abilities to do research would be undermined.

  • On Spelling, Literacy, and the (Rapid) Evolution of the English Language

    Posted on September 13th, 2013 sarahann No comments

    Over the past few weeks, many of the in-class discussions have focused on the evolution of language and the decline of literacy, especially with respect to the rise of text messaging and email. One question that comes to mind is whether “textspeak” actually contributes to a decline in literacy. For example, is it detrimental to spell the word “you” merely as the letter “u”? Spelling is not the same thing as language. Spelling is simply a graphical representation of an idea.

    In a language such as English, with notoriously complicated grammar rules, it is important to remember that for every rule there are dozens of exceptions. How did these exceptions become rules? The history of the word “goodbye” comes to mind. This common farewell is a shortening of “God b’w’ye” (different sources provide different spellings), which is itself a contraction of the original phrase “God be with ye.”

    As I see it, language serves to convey ideas. The danger arises when students are not able to either express their own, or comprehend others’, ideas through language. If both “u” and “you” are understood to mean the same thing, then nothing is lost. Exchanging one spelling for another does not limit one’s range of expression.

        Of course, it is important to consider one’s audience when writing. It would be foolish to use textspeak in resume writing, but it might be perfectly appropriate to use when contacting a friend. However, with the evolution of both spelling and language, perhaps someday it will be the norm. And that might be ok.

  • Mission Statements

    Posted on August 30th, 2013 sarahann No comments

    In geosciences, the focus is on asking and answering questions that have to do with the natural world. To do this effectively, location of a university can be key. In addition to lab resources, it is important to have nearby field sites to illustrate to concepts learned in the classroom. Some of the most stunning geological sites in the world are within driving distance of the University of Idaho, and Montana Tech.

    The mission statement of the University of Idaho can be found here. It’s a longer one. The university has broad goals that hold open the door for creativity and interdisciplinary approaches to solving problems.

    The mission of Montana Tech is as follows:


    To meet the changing needs of society by supplying knowledge and education through a strong undergraduate curriculum augmented by research, graduate education and service.


    To be a leader for undergraduate and graduate education and research in the Pacific Northwest in engineering, science, energy, health, information sciences and technology.

    Guiding Principles

    • To honor our heritage as a premier engineering institution.
    • To attract and educate motivated and capable students.
    • To provide a quality education that blends theory with practice.
    • To recruit, encourage and enable faculty to develop regional and national reputations in teaching and research.
    • To collaborate with others to serve the needs of the community, the State of Montana, and the nation.

    Montana Tech was originally founded as the Montana School of Mines. Since it is a tech school with deep roots in mining and engineering, it’s mission is more specific than that of many larger institutions. At Montana Tech, the focus is more on sciences, specifically earth sciences and engineering.