Newsletter #1     Brownbag on Sundry Goings-On

The first item of departmental teaching/learning news is that there are LOTS of people interested in departmental teaching/learning news (or possibly in whether the English language survives the encounter.) The address list just passed 65, to my great pleasure. On a less self-referent front, let us ease gently into synopsification:

The first Brown Bag seminar of the year dealt with three topics. The first was an upcoming visit of Uri Treisman, who specializes in a variety of programs designed to increase recruitment and retention of minority students. Unfortunately, although the visit is indeed coming it is not as up as it was when I cooked up the agenda--part of the point of having him visit is to galvanize the provost into action, which is hard to do when there is no provost. Current Treisman estimate is January or so.

The merit to having left Treisman on the agenda was that it gave us an excuse to introduce David Prince, who runs the MSEP (Math, Science and Engineering Program), which already is doing a number of Treismanesque things. Bunches of his students liven up sundry sections of 120 and 124.

The second topic was our membership in the MER (Mathematicians and Educational Reform) Task Force. This consists of twelve large research universities banding together to support each other's efforts on the education front. Membership is an honor and carries a clear potential for being helpful, though at the moment the form of helpfulness is a little obscure. Activities so far have consisted of a meeting last spring and an e-mail depot.

The third, and by far the bulkiest, topic was the Pew Grant--currently entitled "Preparing Future Faculty" (last spring it was "Professors for the Future".) That's another honor, and one which is already being helpful. UW with a bunch of local community colleges and four-year universities is one of five "clusters" to be given the grant ($25,000 a year for two years.) Our mandate is to broaden the graduate students' view of academic life and send them out better equipped to deal with life in academic contexts other than the one they are now living in--and for that matter, with the non-research aspects of their current context. One lovely aspect of the mandate is that it is effectively no-holds-barred. Some things we already have going: three students will be working steadily with faculty members at Seattle University this quarter and a couple plan on a slightly less formalized series of explorations at Seattle Central Community College; eight of us are planning to attend the annual meeting of the Northwest Council of Teachers of Mathematics in Victoria later this week; and there will be a forum and festivity on the evening of October 31 to further acquaintance among math faculty members from SU and SCCC and math faculty and graduate students from UW (watch your screen for an Official Invitation.)

On the other hand, there is still lots of room for creativity. A number of interesting ideas were put forth at the Brown Bag, and an advisory council of graduate students is going to be set up. Nonetheless, we still want MORE ideas. If you have one you would like to put up for general discussion, send it to the e-mail alias Pew and everybody who signed onto the list last spring will have a chance to think about it. Alternatively, you can buttonhole me on the stairs, where I seem to spend an inordinate percentage of my time, and I will bounce your idea along in whatever direction you like.

On the theory that everyone's mental saturation point is reached fairly swiftly in cases of a bunch of disparate facts, I shall hold up here. More will be forthcoming after a suitably random interval.

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