Newsletter #14     Brown Bag on PFF

Now that the Brown Bags are up and running, it seems time to rev up the newsletters--particularly since Brown Bag # 1 was a prime candidate for synopsification. First, though, a technicality: I suspect that some of you on this list have now abandoned the Emerald City and that thanks to the marvels of modern technology, you are being chased through cyberspace by a batch of news tidbits of highly dubious relevance. There's even the possibility that (perish the thought) some of you still geographically present have discovered that the news in question is not as fascinating as it was chalked up to be. Whatever the reason, if you would like to have you name expunged from the address list, just let me know.

On to the Brown Bag. We set it up to focus on the PFF grant with the joint motivation of improving people's knowledge of what we had been doing with it and improving our knowledge of what else people think we should be doing with it. By way of introduction, Doug made the courageous (rash?) move of bringing in copies of the proposal we wrote in the spring of '94 which, in combination with the fact that one of the national organizers adores having an excuse to visit Seattle, helped induce the Pew Charitable Foundation to bestow one of its five major grants on UW. More precisely, the grant was bestowed on the departments of Math, English, Sociology and Zoology at UW together with the corresponding departments at a cluster of four-year and two-year colleges. The Math department is working with Seattle University and Seattle Central Community College, and splendid partners they are.

The mandate of the Pew Foundation is to "develop new models for integrating research, teaching, and service into the graduate preparation of doctoral students." Alternatively put, we are trying to find ways in which to broaden the experience our graduate program offers our students. The ways, moreover, need to be sustainable when the grant runs out, and ideally to serve as models from which departments elsewhere can profit. As we hit the midpoint of the grant period, the sustainability issue is coming into its own, which made it particularly pleasant that several excellent suggestions were made in that direction at the Brown

Bag. The largest single component of our activity so far has been the "mentoring" program. Students have gone out each quarter to SU or SCCC to work with a specific faculty member on a specific course--observing, discussing, sometimes assisting, and generally connecting and communicating in a wide variety of ways. Last year's students did it along with a full regular graduate load and received a (small) stipend. This year we have arranged for a set of "Pew Fellows" to have lightened loads at the Study Center so as to have time available to go off campus (a situation great ly facilitated by Ken Plochinski's flexibility.) It is not out of the question that the arramngement might be sustained without Pew money, but likewise not guaranteed that it can be. A suggested alternative of giving course credit for the activity met with pretty solid support from the assembled graduate students--and that's about as sustainable as they get!

Another component of the community-building activities of the PFF was the pair of Pew Festive Fora we ran last year. In the fall we had David Clarke of Melbourne University discussing Assessment at a dinner forum, and in the spring Brian Greer of the University of Belfast ran a problem-solving session at a lunch forum. Someone pointed out that the impact of the effort (or maybe the message that we really are interested in being participants, not dominators) would be stronger if we took some of the fora to SU and/or SCCC--an excellent idea, and highly consistent with this year's plans.

One of last year's activities which will be reproduced if and only if appropriate circumstances arise was a pair of trips. The autumn one took us to Victoria for the annual Northwest Mathematics Conference of teachers from kindergarten through university, and from three states plus British Columbia. WeJbenefitted a lot both from the sessions and from the chance to discuss them with each other--not to mention having a lot of fun. That one can't be reproduced as a trip, because this year's NW Math Conference is in Seattle--next week, at that. What can be reproduced is the opportunity for a bunch of students to get to the sessions. The conference program is now posted on the bulletin board, and an offer is out to graduate students to have their registration provided, or at least assisted, by the PFF. The other trip was to Wenatchee for the annual Community College Math Conference, and that one might well be reproduced (barring, I hope, the van break-down on the way!)

Another idea-and-communication generating activity we are in the midst of is a series of dinners at nearby restaurants for a mixture of faculty members and graduate students . Each one involves a small enough number of people so that we can all take part in a single conversation rather than having several sub-conversations. We've had three so far, all with highly distinct and thoroughly enjoyable discussions. I have summarized each conversation as it went by. Eventually we will put these out in some organized form, but they're all on e-mail, so anyone wanting a sneak preview has only to request same.

A work in progress whose creator could definitely use some well-earned assistance is the Calculus Cupboard. Fred Holt has begun collecting Calculus artifacts from textbooks to manipulatives (and is eying software.) The general idea is to give graduate students an opportunity to look a little into What's Out There, since for better and/or for worse there are now uncountably many variants on basic calculus, and the odds of staying in academia without running slap into at least one that's wildly different from our own are slim indeed. On the other hand, there's no reason why the beneficiaries of such a collection should be exclusively the departing students--ideas for enriching the here-and-now of calculus teaching ought to be right in there.

One more work that is just getting launched is a Speaker's Bureau. Fred Holt and Chris Hillman at the UW end and Andre Yandl, one of our very helpful SU mentors, are working together to produce a scenario in which graduate students could serve as speakers for SU' s Math Club, thereby giving the graduate students an opportui\nity to hone their speaking skills and SU students an opportunity to meet a denizen of the chunk of academic world which is by definition invisible on a four year campus.

And finally, not a work but a wish. It would be really great if some of the decision-making in all this were in the hands of graduate students. There's been a standing offer of pizza to sustain a committee through any meetings it had--a offer which seems to have cut no ice whatever. So how about if we set aside a hunk of money--like for instance $1000 or so--to be entirely at the discretion of such a committee? We were not instantly overrun by volunteers, but the offer does stand.

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