From the Dean

You should be aware that Ohio State Mansfield has an exceptional faculty, with nearly all having the terminal degree in their field. They also are recognized frequently for their commitment to research and service responsibilities, both in the community and abroad.

Steven Joyce, associate professor of German, is one of 10 university-wide faculty members to be awarded the 2014 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching. Joyce developed a study abroad program in Corfu, Greece, Mansfield’s first study abroad with a humanities emphasis. Joyce joins Joseph R. Holomuzki (2011), John Thrasher (1999), Deborah Bainer (1996), Thomas Foster (1993), James McCleod (1991), Janet Torino (1990) and Ted Dahlstrand (1983) as past recipients of this prestigious award from the Mansfield campus.

Sergei Chmutov, professor of Mathematics, received the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Faculty Service Award for his work with Math Honors students in his summer program in Columbus entitled “Knots and Graphs.” Those students have given talks at prestigious undergraduate conferences, received Goldwater Awards and published their work in research journals.

Lee McEwan, Mathematics professor, and Terri Bucci and Michael Mikusa, Mathematics Education professors received a $203,789 grant from the Ohio Board of Regents to provide an Algebra Project-based professional development program for kindergarten through fifth grade teachers in the Mansfield City and Lucas Local School Districts.

Rachel Bowen, assistant professor, Political Science, was recently notified that she has been nominated for a Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. Students participating in the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum nominated Bowen for the award. She will find out later this month at the forum if she is an award winner.

These awards across disciplines demonstrate the commitment our faculty has to their scholarship and to our students and community. Congratulations!

Stephen M. Gavazzi, Ph.D.

Professors receive grant to provide math professional development to local school districts

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Teachers from the Mansfield City School District interact with math camp elementary students at last summer’s professional development training. Teachers learned to integrate Algebra Project-based curriculum into their lesson plans.

Three professors from The Ohio State University at Mansfield will be teaching math to elementary teachers this summer through a $203,789 grant from the Ohio Board of Regents. The grant will provide an Algebra Project-based professional development program for kindergarten through fifth grade teachers in the Mansfield City and Lucas Local School Districts.

The Improving Teacher Quality State Grants Program is funded under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The purpose of the program is to increase the academic achievement of all students by helping schools and school districts improve teacher, instructional paraprofessional and principal quality.

The funding comes at an opportune time for the Mansfield schools, who just declared a fiscal emergency.

“We’ve been doing professional development but on a shoestring budget,” said Betsy Alexander, executive director of state and federal programs for the school district. “This program will help us accomplish our main goal, which is to improve the academic achievement of our students.”

“CAMP: Collaborative Applications of Mathematics Pedagogy” is the collective effort of Lee McEwan, Mathematics professor, and Terri Bucci and Michael Mikusa, Mathematics Education professors.

“Most students think algebra is incredibly hard and utterly useless,” McEwan said. “We are working with elementary teachers to dispel that myth at an early age.”

In a recent report from the Ohio Board of Regents, 50 percent of Lucas Local School District graduates entering college and 48 percent of Mansfield City graduates required remedial math classes before they could begin college math courses.

The highly successful national Algebra Project, which McEwan has led locally for more than five years, works with high school students in the bottom quartile of their class, providing double the number of math classes throughout their four years of high school, with the goal to make them college-ready in math. McEwan’s first cohort is now entering college.

The recent extension integrates Algebra Project methods and philosophy into kindergarten through eighth grade curriculum. Bucci and McEwan expanded the high school work by providing professional development, lesson study, and working with Mansfield Mathematics Teacher Leaders in grades K-8. The MTL’s worked with Bucci last summer on a pilot of the camp and lesson study program. That work led to the successful grant for a continued and expanded version of the work.

This is the second year the summer math camp has been offered. The program has expanded to include a year’s worth of professional development with course credit through Ohio State.

Elementary teachers will attend one week of intensive coursework, followed by one week of summer lesson study connected to a math camp for district students. Teachers design lesson plans based on Algebra Project curriculum, then use the plan to teach during a summer camp, with other teachers silently observing. After the class, teachers discuss the interaction and offer feedback.

“The focus is to provide teachers with an opportunity to see the practices learned through their course in action with children,” Bucci said.

The professors will provide monthly follow-up professional development at the schools, culminating in a conference to showcase teacher growth and student work, with the goal to create inter-district professional learning communities.

“The camp was very successful last year,” Alexander said. “Our teachers who went through it really got to analyze a math lesson in its entirety and with that, they gained confidence. So to continue it with the money that Ohio State Mansfield has been able to retrieve through this Board of Regents funding is just phenomenal.”

Bucci is eager to work with Lucas schools this year. “There were 12 math teachers interested in the program in the preview session from such a small district. That just floored me,” Bucci said.

The key to preparing students for college, the professors say, starts with enabling teachers to create programs “where students can be mathematicians rather than receptacles of mathematics.” Local school districts make a huge investment in terms of time and training in Algebra Program teachers, McEwan said.

“It will take a generation of teachers to make this work,” McEwan said. “But the most phobic teachers are now the most passionate.”

Susan Delagrange: Digital Pioneer and Professor

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Her path to premier scholarship is not what one might call a traditional one. After earning her MFA in English, from Akron in 1971, Susan Delagrange went on to pursue a career as an architectural painter. A chance phone call almost 20 years later, would take her from painter to pioneer in an emerging field.

“Interestingly enough, I came to Ohio State Mansfield by accident,” laughs Dr. Susan Delagrange, “A friend called to say that the campus needed somebody to teach a first year writing course.” Dr. Delagrange joined the staff at Ohio State Mansfield in  1994 as Writing Center Director and Administrator of the First Year Writing program in 1996. Shortly after she began, she made a choice that would change everything. She took a course.

“It had been almost 30 years since I had done University teaching and I thought I would go back and take a course or two to refresh me on new ways of looking at and teaching of writing and rhetoric.” She notes, “And I’m afraid I was hooked. I applied to a graduate program and received my Ph.D. in 2005.”

Dr. Delagrange achieved a Ph. D. in English with specialization in rhetoric and composition. She moved from an instructor to become a member of Ohio State’s tenure track faculty and began to explore the area of digital rhetoric, which is writing created and distributed in digital mediums.

Shortly after joining Ohio State’s faculty, Dr. Delagrange set out on a unique project. The project was focused on rhetoric and the digital “I wrote it off and on for four years.” she notes, “As I was writing it, I knew that it was different from other things that I had read on the topic of visual of visual inquiry and argument. When I became a faculty member, I decided that I was not going to put off this digital project – this idea that we can use visual argument in a way that is as rigorous and valid as we argue with words.”

The study was new, and, in fact, the newly minted professor feared it might be too new.  Delagrange explains, “One of the problems images have always had is people think, ‘Well, it is an emotional argument, and therefore’ And yet it is. It can be and that is what I set out to prove.”

That apprehension was not to last long. Portions of work were presented as conference papers and were met with widespread enthusiasm. When her research was compiled into a digital book entitled Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World,  it was not just good by the field’s standards, it considered by many to be ground-breaking. “This is a rich, smart text and a delightful read;” reviewed Dànielle DeVoss, professor of rhetoric at Michigan State University, “It will offer much for us to wrestle with, consider, and attempt to enact in the coming years, as the field’s understandings of and approaches to visual rhetoric become ever more nuanced.”

Experts in the field have also taken notice. The book received Computers and Composition’s 2012 Distinguished Book Award, and The Winifred Bryan Horner Outstanding Book Award from The Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. In March, the book earned the 2013 Conference on College Composition and Communication Outstanding Book Award, which is considered the top award for scholarship.

In addition to her research, Dr. Delagrange also teaches students to produce visual arguments and how to analyze them. Her students on the Mansfield campus enjoy courses that are, in part, studio courses. In addition to writing essays and research papers, students find themselves producing public service announcements, and digital documentaries, and other digital projects.

When asked about the best part of her work. Dr. Delagrange is quick to respond. “ It may be cliché to say ‘the people,’ but I love the students at Mansfield. It’s one of the reasons that I stayed when I earned my Ph.D. I decided that the student population had been such fun to work with for the previous 15 years that I wanted to stay. Ohio State Mansfield is a great place to teach young men and women.”

STEMpowerment

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It began with a simple question: “What if a Big Ten university, a school district, and community worked together on healthy youth development?” The answer was a unique initiative called STEMpowerement.

One of the primary missions of The Ohio State University at Mansfield is to impact its local community by providing opportunity through higher education. In 2011-2012, Dr. Stephen Gavazzi, dean and director of the Ohio State Mansfield campus, charged a key group of faculty and staff to begin putting together a plan to provide access to success through science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

Program developers based their pilot program on the findings of Bob Moses, a noted civil rights activist, and founder of the Algebra Project. His book Radical Equations describes the power of youth movements, and necessity of access to STEM knowledge. The model he outlines in the book has been employed in dozens of cities in and around the United States and asserts that the STEM fields are gateways to social and economic success. With decades of economic upheaval in its rearview mirror, the city of Mansfield, Ohio seemed prime for such an initiative.

A few months later, STEMpowerment was born. Its mission was to provide a Learning Community for students who want to engage in opportunities for education and community improvement. Students come together in shared courses, lectures, group discussions, service learning, and study abroad opportunities. Students are also able to become mentors, and join off campus initiatives. Ultimately, students actively address real world issues, and build a better future.

Dr. Terri Bucci, an education professor who oversees much of the academic and outreach portion of the program, explains further: “This is a student-empowered learning community. The faculty provides guidance and instruction in the areas of our expertise and within the frame of empowerment of, by, and for youth. Faculty and community leaders work with STEMpowerment students in areas of leadership development, academic insights, understanding, knowledge creation, and advising for academic, research, and community organizing.”

The program’s pilot year has thrived upon a multi-disciplinary group of individuals from many academic disciplines. The program’s academic portion allows students to schedule the program’s classes alongside their major’s requirements. Such flexibility pools students from Ohio State’s 170+ majors, rather than any one major. The program’s classes brings them together in a dynamic learning atmosphere. Such a model enables the program to reach deeper levels of academic collaboration and individual skill building.

A portion of the program’s academic classes allows students to gain personal and professional development from Strengths Finder, a product of the Gallup, Inc. Strengths Finder is an interactive survey that categories abilities and characteristics of individuals into 32 key strengths areas. After completing the survey, students receive a report that identifies their top strengths. The report provides students with an understanding of their potential and further outlines action items that allow students to succeed in academic, work, and social environments.

“The first year of the STEMpowerment Leadership Gateway is focused on issues of empowerment and social justice for a community purpose,” says Director of Admissions and First Year Experience Shari Petersen, “Our goal is to help students identify their individual strengths, and then provide opportunities where these strengths can be put into action collectively with their classmates’ to make a difference in the local community and on campus.”

With that in mind, STEMpowerment hit the road. During a series of visits to area organizations, students were to take in the mission and work of each organization, and identify how their individual strengths might enhance the work at hand. Following the series of visits, their task was to turn a list of action items to enact and effect change into formal class proposals by the end of the Autumn Semester. The proposals were ultimately presented a University panel who identified the most sustainable and executable proposals.

Upon review, the panel and students identified raising awareness among area youth about how they might become involved themselves as a key next step in the process. That became the program’s work for the beginning of 2013. In conjunction with raising community awareness, the students will be reaching out to students in local high schools to develop sister STEMpowerment groups to empower and amplify those youth voices.

In the coming months, the STEMpowerment program will continue to lay the groundwork of what it hopes will become a larger, even more dynamic agent for sustainable community growth. As students go out and begin to employ their skills, they will be fulfilling a dual role of breaking new ground, and raising awareness for for innovative community driven change. Even as they just begin that journey, it has already taken the program to far away places.

In January, the voice of Ohio State Mansfield reached Ninth Annual Conference on Sustainability in Hiroshima, Japan. The conference is a knowledge community brought together by a common concern for sustainability in a holistic perspective, where environmental, cultural, economic and social concerns intersect. The very nature of the program’s work is at the forefront of sustainable culture and landed them a place for presenting at the conference. STEMpowerment student Dillion Carr, a junior from Ontario, shared an overview of innovative STEMpowerment outreach and revealed early survey results of its effectiveness. For 45 minutes, Dillion found himself presenting the young, promising program to the leading innovators, and educators from around the world.

Even for a research institution of The Ohio State University’s stature, this was a unique opportunity. Dr. Bucci notes, “Most other presenters at this conference were faculty, PhD students and graduate students from around the world. This type of activity, leadership in the academic world and in knowledge creation, is one of goals of the learning community. “

Though it has already graced a world stage, the work of STEMpowerment is just beginning. “Much of this years’ work is on developing identity of our OSU learning community and the youth connection to the Mansfield community through youth/student voices while maintaining a focus on empowerment access, change, and leadership,” notes Bucci. In the closing weeks of the semester, students will continue to go out and build on the bold mission of STEMpowerment.

And that’s exactly what Dillion loves about it: “It all revolves around us. As students and as educators, we just have to figure out what we want to do to better our lives in Mansfield and keep that lifestyle going for generations to come.”