news


Hatab, Weinstein are latest SCHEV Award winners
For the sixth time since the program was introduced in 1987, Old Dominion has two winners in the annual State Council of Higher Education’s Outstanding Faculty Awards competition: Larry Hatab and Larry Weinstein.

This also marked the 11th consecutive year that ODU has had a winner in the highly competitive program, which is funded by the Dominion Foundation.

Hatab and Weinstein are among 12 college and university faculty members from across the commonwealth who were honored Feb. 19 in Richmond. They each received $5,000.

In addition to sharing a first name, the two ODU professors share a passion for teaching, along with a reputation among students for making two of the most difficult academic disciplines – philosophy and physics – both understandable and meaningful.

Hatab, who holds the titles of University Professor and Louis I. Jaffe Professor of philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, has taught at the university for 32 years. In their course evaluations, students consistently give Hatab high marks for his enthusiasm, expertise, challenging standards and ability to explain and communicate difficult philosophical material.

He has had great success teaching some of the most demanding thinkers in the Western tradition. Hatab combines a depth of expression with a sense of humor, a passion for ideas and a certain theatricality, all of which bring philosophy alive in the classroom.

“I suppose I was born to be a teacher,” he said. “I am extremely fortunate to have a career doing something that fits my nature so well. And teaching philosophy goes right to my core.”

His approach to teaching, he explains, is based on the gateway principle, the relevance principle and the patience principle:

“First, never forget what it is like to come to philosophical questions for the first time. The easiest trap to fall in is assuming that what is obvious or second nature to you should also be evident to students.

“Second, always connect philosophy with concrete life concerns, and this not simply as a pedagogical technique, but as a measure of philosophy’s true meaning and importance.

“Third, have the patience to let students come to important insights at their own pace and through often uneven steps of development.”

Hatab’s success in the classroom has received praise over the years from both students and colleagues. His dean, Chandra de Silva, calls him “a truly outstanding teacher-scholar.”

Christos Hadjioannou, an undergraduate philosophy major, says of Hatab: “His energy, his enthusiasm about philosophy, his approach to students and his extensive knowledge and creativity captured me immediately.”

A nationally and internationally recognized scholar, Hatab has published six books (all monographs) and more than 40 articles, book chapters and reviews.

Weinstein, like Hatab, has been designated by Old Dominion as a University Professor for his excellence in teaching. He has taught at ODU for 16 years.

Weinstein, whose specialization is nuclear physics, has received accolades for teaching physics at every level, from Physics 101 to Graduate Quantum Mechanics. In communicating the big-picture message that physics is crucial to understanding how the world works, he demonstrates ideas and principles via experiments that employ a variety of apparatus, ranging from rubber bands to flame tubes.

He constantly searches the results of physics education research for tested ways to better engage introductory physics students. Recently, he introduced SCALE-UP, which stands for Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs. Students work on activities in carefully structured groups of three, sitting around tables with white boards and laptops. While the students work, the instructor roams the classroom – asking questions, sending one team to help another, gently guiding a group, all the while building relationships with the students.

His hands-on approach to teaching and his genuine interest in student learning consistently receives rave reviews. Notes master’s student T. David Pyron, “He made time to work with his students until ‘they got it’ and to feed their interest in areas beyond the scope of required learning.”

Weinstein also regularly performs physics demonstration shows for students at local elementary, middle and high schools.

Together with John Adam, University Professor of mathematics, he wrote “Guesstimation: Solving the World’s Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin” (Princeton University Press, 2008).

The president of Science and Reason in Hampton Roads, Weinstein says what he loves about being a scientist is that he gets to “investigate unexplained phenomena, determine possible causes, communicate findings and improve people’s lives.”

He offers the following analogy for the challenging research in the subatomic world that he conducts at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News: “The method of study comes naturally to any 5-year-old: hit it hard and see what comes out. We hit the nucleus with high-energy electrons from a particle accelerator ... and then we detect the particles that come out of the collision using huge spectrometers comprised of massive magnets and complicated particle detectors.” Back to top


Greta Pratt’s “19 Lincolns” featured in New York Times
“Nineteen Lincolns,” a photographic series by Greta Pratt, assistant professor of photography in the art department, graced the editorial page of The New York Times on Presidents Day, Feb. 16.

The series of color photos is a part of Pratt’s ongoing quest to analyze and document the ways in which a society, and its individual members, recalls history and creates historic figures. For this work, she photographed 19 different men from the Association of Lincoln Presenters at the group’s annual convention in Vandalia, Ill.

“During their sittings, I asked them why they chose to dress and act as Lincoln. Some mentioned that a natural resemblance helped them fall into this particular line of work. Others focused on personal transformation. ‘I lost my own being,’ said one presenter, who explained how becoming Lincoln helped him to give up drinking. But nearly all of them spoke of a desire to share with the wider world their admiration for Lincoln’s moral character. As one remarked, ‘He’s the rare person who improves the closer he is scrutinized,’” writes Pratt in her op-art piece for the Times.

“The portraits share a muted palate of colors that binds them together as a group suggesting a communal identity,” Pratt explains in her artist’s statement. “The background, a softly focused landscape, references historic portrait painting and connects the Lincolns to the vast American wilderness where the common man was able to build a new life.”

Pratt is the author of two books of photographs, “Using History” (Steidl, 2005) and “In Search of the Corn Queen” (National Museum of American Art, 1994). Her works are represented in major public and private collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Pratt was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and has served as photography bureau chief of Reuters International in New York City. Her photo essays have been published in major newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.

– Michelle M. Falck
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ODU Women’s Caucus to host “Conversation with the Provost”
The University Women’s Caucus invites all members of the campus community to attend a “Conversation with the Provost” from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, in the Hampton/
Newport News Room of Webb Center.

The brown-bag lunch program will include a question-and-answer session with Carol Simpson, who has served as Old Dominion provost and vice president for academic affairs since January 2008.

Before joining the university administration, Simpson was the vice president and provost at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass.

For more information contact Morel Fry at 683-4143 or mfry@odu.edu. Back to top


Economics Club to honor former SEC chairman
Arthur Levitt Jr., former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), will receive the Economics Club of Hampton Roads’ Second Annual Economic Impact Award Thursday, Feb. 26. In addition to the award ceremony, Levitt will give a speech, which will be followed by a reception.

The event will be held from 5-8 p.m. at the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center in Norfolk. The talk and reception are complimentary for Economics Club members and $60 for nonmembers.

Event co-sponsors are KPMG, Williams Mullen and the College of Business and Public Administration. Due to limited space, reservations are required and may be made by calling 683-5138.

The 25th and longest-serving chairman of the SEC, Levitt was appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1993. He retired from the post in 2001, later serving as an adviser to America International Group’s board of directors and as a senior adviser to the Carlyle Group. Recently, Levitt co-chaired the U.S. Treasury Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession. Back to top


Oberndorf tribute set for March 5 at VBHEC
Old Dominion will pay tribute to former Virginia Beach mayor Meyera Oberndorf during a “History-Making Women” program Thursday, March 5, as part of the university’s Women’s History Month celebration. It will be held at the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center.

A 1964 ODU graduate, Oberndorf will be honored for her leadership and public service, which spanned four decades.

Jennifer Fish, chair of women’s studies, will present a talk on “Women and Leadership Worldwide,” and musicians Amy Ferebee and Narissa Bond will give acoustic performances.

The free event, sponsored by ODU’s Alumni Association, Women’s Caucus, Women’s Center and Department of Women’s Studies, opens at 6 p.m. with a reception, followed by the program at 7 p.m. Back to top


BOV member named an Entrepreneur of the Year
Board of Visitors member Kenneth E. Ampy and his former Old Dominion roommate, Samuel S. Young Jr., were named 2009 Entrepreneurs of the Year by the Metropolitan Business League in Richmond.

Ampy, a 1990 graduate of ODU, is the chief executive officer, and Young, the president, of Astyra Corp., which they founded in 1997. Headquartered in Richmond, Astyra is a national provider of information technology staffing and consulting services. The company is a two-time recipient of the Lasting Impressions Award, which is given by the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council.

Ampy, who was appointed to the Board of Visitors in 2005, serves as chair of the Bylaws Review Committee. Back to top


CVC giving tops $127,000
The campus community pledged $127,429 in the 2008 Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign for local, state, national and international charitable organizations, just shy of the $130,000 goal.

In all, 713 employees contributed to the campaign; the average donation was $178.72.

“We are grateful for the support from the campus community, especially considering the current economic climate,” said Karen Travis, associate vice president for institutional advancement, who coordinated the campaign. “It would be nice to have made our goal, but we did come awfully close, and of course the important thing to remember is that many charitable organizations are benefitting from our gifts.”

The following units reported 100 percent participation by their employees: dental hygiene, budget office, community and environmental health, human resources, university events, vice president for administration and finance (administrative office) and humanities/women’s studies.

Twenty-seven units exceeded their individual giving goals. Back to top


Films “Color Adjustment,” “Panther” to be screened
The Hugo A. Owens African American Cultural Center will sponsor two movie screenings next week for Black History Month. Both are free and will be shown in the Hampton/Newport News Room of Webb Center.

“Color Adjustment,” a documentary narrated by Ruby Dee that traces 40 years of race relations through the lens of prime-time entertainment, will be shown a 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23. The film scrutinizes television’s racial myths and stereotypes, and allows viewers to revisit some of TV’s most popular stars and shows.

“Panther,” whose showing is co-sponsored by Success Without Limitations and Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25. A discussion about the Black Panther movement in today’s society will follow the screening. Back to top


“Hansel & Gretel” opera at Univ. Theatre Feb. 20-28
“Hansel & Gretel, the Opera,” a production featuring the collaboration of the theatre, dance and music programs, will finish its run at the University Theatre with 8 p.m. shows on Feb. 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28.

Written by German composer Engelbert Humperdinck, the opera presents the classic fairy tale of two children who get lost in the woods and are captured by an evil witch. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students), and may be reserved by calling 683-5305. Back to top


Checkout period is now one week for DVDs, videos
ODU Libraries implemented two changes last month to improve access to its audio-visual collections.

The checkout period is now one week for DVDs and videocassettes at all university libraries, with an option to renew for one additional week. A maximum of three DVDs/videocassettes may be checked out to any library user at one time.

These new policies are designed to reduce waiting periods for audio-visual materials that are in circulation. Back to top


Concert benefits public radio
The John Toomey Quartet raised approximately $2,200 for the local public radio station WHRO/WHRV from its jazz concert benefit Jan. 16 at the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center.

Toomey, who played piano, is chair of the music department and director of the jazz studies program. Joining him were Jimmy Masters (bass), Eddie Williams (saxophone) and Corey Fonville (drums).
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Team of counseling students places 2nd in ethics contest
A team of doctoral counseling students recently won second place in an ethics contest sponsored by the American Counseling Association.

The students – Rebecca McBride, Sonya Lorelle, Stephanie Crockett and Julia Forman – finished second out of 10 doctoral-level teams in the ACA Graduate Student Ethics Competition.

“What they had to do was evaluate an ethical dilemma and send in a way of dealing with it,” said their adviser, Edward Neukrug, professor of counseling.

The foursome produced an essay, based on a case study related to insubordination, substance abuse and compassion fatigue. Their essay finished second, a single point behind the winning doctoral essay submitted by a team from the University of Toledo. The ODU team’s score was 278, out of a possible 300.

The contest is designed to support the ACA Ethics Committee’s job of helping educate the members of the association regarding ethical issues. Back to top


Business scholarship donated
The Norfolk chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals recently donated a $1,000 scholarship to the College of Business and Public Administration. The award will go to a student majoring in insurance within the finance department.
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University launches neighborhood shuttle
BY JENNIFER MULLEN

Old Dominion recently launched shuttle service for students, faculty and staff who live in the Highland Park and Lambert’s Point neighborhoods to get to and from the campus.

The service, which started Jan. 12, runs approximately every 30 minutes from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. seven days a week. Riders must present their university ID card to board the shuttle.

The Lambert’s Point shuttle starts in Lot 20 in front of Perry Library and makes stops at 39th and 41st streets at Bowdens Ferry Road; 41st and 39th streets at Bluestone Avenue; 39th, 40th and 41st streets at Elkhorn Avenue; 41st, 40th and 39th streets at Parker Avenue; 39th and 41st streets at Powhatan Avenue; at the new recreation center on Powhatan Avenue; and at Webb Center on 49th Street, before ending in Lot 20 at the library.

The Highland Park shuttle also begins in Lot 20 in front of Perry Library. It makes stops at 38th Street and Killam Avenue; mid-block on 38th Street between Killam and Colley avenues; 38th Street and Colley Avenue in front of the post office; 43rd Street and Colley Avenue; mid-block on 43rd Street between Colley and Killam avenues; 43rd Street and Killam Avenue; Killam Avenue between 46th and 47th streets; and 49th Street and Killam Avenue, before ending in Lot 20 at the library.

More information about all of the university’s shuttle services, including route maps, real-time bus arrival schedules and mobile phone access to information, can be found online at www.ODUTransit.com.

Additionally, the university has reinstated its courtesy van program. Manned by campus police officers, the program is offered to students for safe transportation within a one-mile radius of the campus from 7:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Students who are in need of the service should call 683-4000 during operating hours to schedule a pickup. ODU identification is required.

Because the program is designed to safely transport students to and from the larger campus vicinity in circumstances when walking to a shuttle bus stop or driving is not feasible or a student’s safety is compromised, the van will not transport students outside of the one-mile radius. Back to top


Sarita Brown appointed to Board of Visitors
The governor’s office recently announced the appointment of Sarita E. Brown to the Old Dominion Board of Visitors, effective Dec. 10, 2008. She fills the unexpired term of Bill Chick, who resigned from the board in November.

Brown, the president of Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit organization located in Washington, D.C., has spent more than two decades at prominent national academic and educational institutions and at the highest levels of government working to develop more effective strategies to raise academic achievement and opportunity for low-income and minority students.

From the start of her career at the University of Texas at Austin, where she created a national model promoting minority success in graduate education, to her service as executive director for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, to her current position, she has focused her work on expanding the country’s human capital through improving the quality of higher education.

She launched Excelencia in Education in 2004. The organization’s goal is to accelerate higher education success for Latino students.

Brown holds a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication, from UT Austin. Back to top


Former English lecturer Millie Peele dies at 95
Mildred Guilds Peele, of Norfolk, a former lecturer of English, died Feb. 9, 2009. She was 95.

Peele taught for a number of years, primarily on a part-time basis, starting in 1954-58. She returned to teach at ODU during the 1960s and ’70s and worked in the Writing Center after her retirement.

She was predeceased by her husband of 50 years, E. Vernon Peele, in 1990. He joined Old Dominion in 1948 and retired in 1975 from his position as dean of the School of Arts and Letters.

During the 1990s, Peele spent nine summers teaching at the Limerick Youth Center for disadvantaged youth in Limerick, Ireland, living in the school convent. She also did volunteer work in Norfolk. In the late ’60s, she was a co-founder of the NATO Book Club, which still meets regularly.

She is survived by her brother, Dr. John Caldwell Guilds Jr. of Fayetteville, Ark.; her daughter, Ruth E. Peele, and son, Edward V. Peele Jr., both of Norfolk; and extended family members Marge Reed and Gilda Chavis.

A memorial service will be held at Larchmont United Methodist Church on a date in March to be announced. Memorial contributions may be made to the ODU College Writing Center, c/o Office of Development, 4417 Monarch Way, 4th Floor, Norfolk, VA 23529.

H.D. Oliver Funeral Apartments, Norfolk Chapel, is handling arrangements. Online condolences may be made through www.hdoliver.com. Back to top


Two emeritus professors of history die

Stanley R. Pliska
Stanley R. Pliska, professor emeritus of history, died Jan. 24, 2009, at age 91, in Mansfield, Conn.

A native of Oil City, Pa., he was married to Winifred (Medygro) Pliska, who preceded him in death Oct. 11, 1992. He received a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University, a master’s from Oberlin College and a doctor of education degree from Columbia University.

During World War II, Pliska served with the Air Corps in the Southwest Pacific and after the war with the Air Force, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

From 1946-87, Pliska was on the faculty at Old Dominion, serving in turn as professor of history, chairman of the social studies department, and for 20 years, as dean of the School of General Studies. For 30 years he was also a guest lecturer at the Armed Forces Staff College.

The University Archives at Perry Library contains an interview that James Sweeney, associate professor of history, conducted with Pliska for ODU’s 50th anniversary, as well as Pliska’s personal papers.

During his active years, Pliska was a member of several societies related to his profession. He was also past president of the Northside Norfolk Rotary Club, honorary member of the ODU Alumni Association, and member of the Faculty Emeriti Association, Polish American Society of Tidewater and Town-N-Gown.

When he moved to Connecticut, he was active with the Willimantic Rotary Club, recording club history and lecturing.

Survivors include his sisters, Ann Pudelkiewicz of Willington, Conn., and Mildred Parks of Vernon, Conn.; two nieces and two nephews.

Pliska will be remembered for his Southern charm, quick wit, endless jokes and anecdotes. He was a parishioner at Saint Jude’s in Willington. A funeral Mass was held Jan. 28, and interment was in Calvary Cemetery in Oil City, Pa.

Memorial donations may be sent to Saint Philip the Apostle Church, P.O. Box 429, Ashford, CT 06278, or to the Willimantic Rotary Club, P.O. Box 104, Willimantic, CT 06226.

Joseph M. Tyrrell
Joseph M. Tyrrell, of Norfolk, professor emeritus of history, died Jan. 18, 2009, after a lengthy illness. He was 81.

He joined the Old Dominion faculty in 1959 and retired in 1982. He was awarded the emeritus professor rank in 1984.

Tyrrell’s specialty and scholarship was in the area of medieval French history. He wrote two books in the field: “Louis XI” and “A History of the Estates of Poitou.”

Born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Tyrrell received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Toronto, and earned the Diplome de Langue Francaise from the Universite de Rennes in France. He received his Ph.D. in history from Emory University.

Tyrrell also taught one year at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., before coming to ODU.
He was a member of several societies related to his profession.

Tyrrell was the grandson of the late Joseph Burr Tyrrell, a Canadian geologist, explorer and historian, and the son of the late George C. Tyrrell and Dora M. Joslin Tyrrell.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret B. Tyrrell; two daughters, Anne K.M. Tyrrell of Norfolk and Diana J.B. Tyrrell Suchla; a son, Joseph D.G. Tyrrell; a sister, Katherine Tyrrell Stewart; and four grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to a Parkinson’s disease foundation or to a charity of choice. Online condolences may be offered to the family through www.hdoliver.com. Back to top


Engineering student experiences zero gravity during internship experiment with NASA
BY BRENDAN O’ HALLARN

Maria Liberto is rarely at a loss for words. The outgoing mechanical engineering student is passionate and personable, when talking about her studies, or her outside-school interests.

But the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology senior struggles to express what it was like to experience flying in an airplane that created a zero gravity environment.

“It was … words can’t really describe it,” Liberto says. “It was an amazing experience. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Liberto, 24, spent last fall in an internship at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Her group was selected through the Undergraduate Student Research Program to conduct an experiment in the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program (RGSFOP).

To win the right to experience a few dozen 15- to 20-second bursts of zero or reduced gravity, Liberto and her team worked tirelessly for four months, preparing their experiment.

“The four months went so fast. It was like a week,” Liberto says.

The research looked at magnetism concepts. Liberto’s team wanted to demonstrate how the force of magnetism is separate from the force of gravity. It was done by looking at magnetic field lines in the absence of gravity. Because of the gravitational pull of Earth, magnetic fields usually appear in two dimensions.

“For young students, magnetic and electrical fields are very hard to visualize” in two dimensions, Liberto explains. “We were trying to demonstrate how they’re very independent of each other. In an antigravity environment, you can display these magnetic field lines in three dimensions.”

Liberto, who is hoping to complete the joint bachelor’s and master’s degree program in spring 2010, is the first ODU student to participate in the RGSFOP. Her project, which included students from across the United States, received most of its funding from the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

The team’s work built steadily through the fall, interrupted for a week by Hurricane Ike. “We were evacuated, but the storm sort of followed us,” Liberto laughs. Then, after students went home for the Thanksgiving break, the team continued its work by meeting remotely. Liberto was one of two project members who remained behind in Houston.

And all of this work was done on top of Liberto’s regular duties through the Johnson Space Center internship.

“Lots of sleep was lost, but it definitely paid off in the end,” she says.

The work culminated with flight week, Jan. 7-17 at Ellington Field in Houston.

After the students checked in and spent a frantic few days preparing the experiment for its flight test, NASA engineers came in and did a test readiness review, making sure the project was safe to fly.

“It’s one of those nerve-racking moments. NASA can come in and make you or break you,” Liberto says. “Luckily, we kept our experiment very simple, and took the requirements supplied to us to build it very seriously.”

Finally, it was flight day. The team climbed onto a specially modified 727 and it took off over the Gulf of Mexico.

To achieve antigravity, the plane climbed steeply, then leveled off at a precise angle, providing everyone in the back of the aircraft 15-20 seconds of zero gravity, or simulations of gravity on the moon (one-sixth of Earth) and Mars (one-third of Earth). Liberto’s team had to do its experiment within those brief windows of time.

“There was not only testing. You were trying to adapt to the weightless environment,” Liberto says. The students took anti-motion-sickness medication and wore flight suits.

At the end of the flight, the members on Liberto’s team were able to see for themselves that magnetic field lines are distinct from gravity because they function even when there is no gravity. The research team hopes the video shot during the experiment can be used in classrooms as a visual aid for magnetism concepts.

She’s back at school this semester, but Liberto is already planning a way to experience more zero-gravity moments. She hopes to work for NASA after graduation. Back to top


Sheri Reynolds’ new novel a coming-of-age story
BY BRYONEY HAYES

Best-selling author Sheri Reynolds, professor and director of creative writing, and the Ruth and Perry Morgan Chair of Southern Literature, has been touring the West Coast and the region to promote her recently published fifth novel, “The Sweet In-Between” (2008, Crown/Shaye Areheart).

Described by the publisher as “a lyrical tale of a family of misfits ... [and] a poignant story of an unforgettable character’s coming-of-age,” Reynolds’ new book tells the story of an almost-18-year old girl, Kendra “Kenny” Lugo, growing up in a Virginia tidewater town and struggling with teenage insecurities and confusion about her sexuality.

A review in Publisher’s Weekly characterizes the book as “simple prose rich with subtext, convincing dialogue and a fascinating protagonist [which] combine to produce a heartstring-plucker that’s explicit, tender, sad and hopeful.”

“As you turn ‘The Sweet In-Between’s pages, Reynolds uncovers revelations about Kenny’s life that are more and more harrowing – e.g., borderline sexual assault from her stepbrother – but the novel still manages to come off as a, yes, sweet coming-of-age story, thanks to its young, wise-beyond-her-years, Scout Finch-esque heroine,” says Entertainment Weekly book reviewer Kate Ward.

The Boston Globe calls Reynolds “a gifted writer with a deceptively simple style and a keen ear for dialogue.”

Reynolds, the recipient of a 2003 Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education, has taught at Old Dominion since 1997 and is a favorite among English literature and creative writing students. She is the author of four previous novels: “The Firefly Cloak” (2006, Crown/Shaye Areheart), “A Gracious Plenty” (1997, Harmony), “The Rapture of Canaan” (1995, G.P. Putnam’s Sons) and “Bitterroot Landing” (1994, G.P. Putnam’s Sons).

– Michelle M. Falck
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Film festival adopts competition format

Richard Dreyfuss to speak on campus March 25
After an 11-year run as a retrospective film festival, the 2009 Old Dominion University – City of Norfolk (ONFilm) Festival is getting competitive. The festival will run from March 25-28, and feature screenings of independently produced features, documentaries, shorts and short shorts on the ODU campus and in various Norfolk venues. (For more information about the festival and the schedule of events, go to www.onfilmfest.com.)

Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss will give a talk at the start of the festival. “A Conversation with Richard Dreyfuss” begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, in the Big Blue Room of the Ted Constant Convocation Center. It is free and open to the public.

Films will be judged by a panel of internationally acclaimed film directors and personnel. In addition to screenings, the festival will offer lectures, panels, discussions and other events. Actor, director and humanitarian Danny Glover presided at last year’s closing gala and received the ONFilm Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jeffery Frizzell, Hampton Roads Film Office commissioner, notes: “Having the ONFilm Festival as a competitive festival generates great economic impact opportunities in a wide range of business sectors. Not only does it serve to promote tourism to the destination in general, it also brings a significant cultural contribution and helps put the region on the map for film directors, producers and photographers eager to find attractive, exciting locations for their shoots. The ONFilm Festival is a tremendous value for Hampton Roads.”

Said acting ODU President John R. Broderick, “Old Dominion University is pleased to continue its partnership with the city of Norfolk as the ONFilm Festival transforms into a competitive, annual event. The festival had a productive 11-year run as a retrospective series, and we look forward to this new venture, which will screen new independent films.”

Three jurors are ODU grads
Three members of the jury panel for the festival earned ODU bachelor’s degrees:

  • Mark Costa ’96, partner and producer of New Hollywood Order Entertainment (NHO), a Los Angeles-based film, television and interactive media production company.
  • Brian Cox ’78, writer/director/producer and executive with Distant Horizon. He recently wrote and directed “El Muerto,” based on Javier Hernandez’s comic book, and featuring Wilmer Valderrama, and is currently working on producing “American East,” starring Tony Shalhoub.
  • Doug Wedeck ’85, executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems Studio in Wilmington, N.C.
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Grant supports merging of engineering and philosophy
BY JIM RAPER

Engineers are not likely to search for professional guidance in the writings of Plato, Kant or Tolstoy, but a trio of systems engineering researchers at Old Dominion has done just that in pioneering a novel way to address complex problems.

The research has piqued the interest of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which announced late last year that it was investing $4.3 million in the team’s work.

Andres Sousa-Poza, the young associate professor of engineering management who leads the project, likes to refer to himself as a revolutionary and he admits that his more senior colleagues counsel him about patience. His Complex Adaptive Situation Methodology (CASM), which he pointedly calls “chasm,” is geared to bring about a paradigm change in the way engineers deal with hydra-headed problems and he says he is eager to get started.

Other researchers on the project team are Charles Keating, a professor of engineering management in the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology and the director of the university’s National Centers for Systems of Systems Engineering (NCSOSE), and Samuel Kovacic, a retired Air Force officer who is a research scientist at NCSOSE and Ph.D. student in engineering management.

The chasm that Sousa-Poza refers to is the practicality gap between today’s system of systems engineering (SoSE) and a new SoSE that he sees as more useful. He believes the field, which is only about 15 years old, must adapt if it is to offer insightful guidance for border security, port security, counter-terrorism and many other problems that are formally described by engineers as “wicked” because of their complexity.

Sousa-Poza’s approach requires that SoS engineers get comfortable with another word to describe these problems – ”intractable.” He also sprinkles his discourse with “multidiscipline,” as in the multidiscipline that SoSE must become in order to adequately assess and respond to intractable problems. Engineering, he contends, offers no “golden bullet” for complex problems. “We must recognize that we can’t just push a button and get a solution. We must accept intractability.”

Computer experts know intractable problems as ones that can be solved, but are so messy they cannot be dealt with in a timely or efficient manner. In other words, the solution is not really a solution after all because it does nobody much good. To accept intractability, therefore, seems to be a lot like raising a white flag, admitting that our problem-solving processes are not up to the task of solving today’s complex problems. This is not the sort of pronouncement you expect to hear from ODU’s seven-year-old NCSOSE (pronounced “nex-sus”) or from a team of researchers who have pledged to come up with $4.3 million worth of answers for homeland security strategists.

But the project team is well versed in paradoxes, as well as in epistemology (knowledge theory), dualism, empiricism, positivism and plenty other themes in Western thought going back to ancient Greece. What can we know? How do we know it? Do context and perspective matter? Does the observer affect the observed? Can math and science explain everything?

“We did a survey of the literature going back 3,000 years and found the same debate continuously,” Sousa-Poza explains. The operative question, he adds, comes down to, “How do you feel about uncertainty?”

Keating laughs when he is asked if Sousa-Posa and Kovacic might be called philosophers as well as engineers. “They’re far out there,” he answers. “More than once, I’ve had to translate for them.”

SoSE came into being because engineers recognized that problems in modern society cannot be reduced to system problems and addressed system by system. Take, for example, port security in Hampton Roads. When the NCSOSE was commissioned a few years back to address this issue, it identified a long list of stakeholders, each with its own culture, needs and mission. These include the Navy and other branches of the military, governments at all levels, shippers, fishermen, shipbuilders, importers, exporters, police and even waterfront communities.

The ideal security system for each stakeholder could not be expected to add up to the ideal system for the port as a whole. A discrete fix might create a big problem elsewhere. Security challenges were not static – they were a moving target – and these challenges sometimes seemed to evolve and develop immunity to solutions.

NCSOSE did what it was expected to do and addressed the port security issue as a complex problem that needed a system of systems solution. The ODU engineers fashioned the typical SoSE response, which involved taking existing engineering tools off the rack, so to speak. Most of the tools are technology oriented such as computer hardware and software, and they crunch “hard” data in search of the sort of objective results that remove uncertainty. There are also existing, complementary tools that are identified as “soft” and often focus on human/social and contextual factors, as well as interpretative analysis.

The ODU researchers label this typical SoSE response as “bifurcated” and admit that they were not happy with what this two-pronged, traditional approach produced in the NCSOSE study of Hampton Roads port security. Off-the-rack tools, none of which is custom-made for use on very complex problems, are not the answer, they decided.

Explained Kovacic, “We engaged the port security research assuming that we had advanced techniques and knowledge that could be directly applied to the problem domain. We quickly realized that our most advanced methods were failing to deal with the wicked problem of port security.”

“The reality quickly set in. We were inadequate at the most fundamental level,” Sousa-Poza added. “We painfully learned. Our path was clear. We first had to develop the underlying theory before we could achieve the breakthroughs we were seeking. The tools and methods would follow the development of a new paradigm for SoS problems.”

Perhaps it was destiny, Keating said, that about four years ago the NCSOSE mavericks crossed paths with like-minded executives of DHS. A relationship was formed, with the DHS supporting preliminary new-paradigm investigations by the NCSOSE team. And now that relationship has matured to the point that the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, Borders and Maritime Division, has awarded the $4.3 million that will provide five years of support for Sousa-Poza, Keating and Kovacic as they finish the design of CASM and test its effectiveness.

CASM, as noted earlier, is about acknowledging and managing uncertainty. The prevailing opinion has been that problems are solvable if we define them, gain enough knowledge regarding them and subject this knowledge to objective analysis.

But NCSOSE researchers found that they could not engineer uncertainty out of a complex problem. The mere effort to establish the boundaries of a problem can require generalizations, and although this can lead to a quick solution, the researchers see such solutions as half-baked and not practical. Also, they say complex problems cannot be understood in a traditional sense. Together with what can be learned about a messy situation, there will always be the unknown, or non-knowledge. (Metaphysical ideas of Plato and Kant are germane here.) Besides, they add, sometimes it does not necessarily follow that the more we know about a complex problem, the better the solution will be. Finally, they note that human individuals have vastly different abilities and world views and it can be risky to predict the behavior of a group of people as a congregated “human factor.”

The researchers, therefore, say that any solution for a problem such as port security that comes mostly from objective – or positivist – methods will be static, very difficult to implement and, quite possibly, counterproductive.

This is where the researchers introduce Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” “Of the 1,100 pages, half are about strategy and decision-making,” Sousa-Poza said. “Remember Gen. Kutuzov discussing the complete absurdity of the emperor making tactical decisions while he is sitting back in St. Petersburg?” Readers of the book might also remember that Napoleon believed that he could control the course of a battle by dispatching couriers, while Kutuzov sought only to do some initial planning and then let subordinates direct the battlefield action. Typically, Napoleon would be frantically sending out orders throughout the course of a battle – orders that were often misinterpreted or made irrelevant by changing conditions – while Kutuzov would rest in his tent during the battle.

On the fourth floor of Innovation Research Park @ ODU Building 1 on the east side of campus, a large room well appointed for conferences and teleconferencing anchors the headquarters of NCSOSE. A roundtable section of the room, something like a command center, allows for virtual environment experiences and formal brainstorming by as many as two dozen people.

In this room, the project team proposes to put CASM into action, and, in the process, develop a multidiscipline system of systems that formalizes a way to respond to intractable problems. CASM seeks to avoid encapsulating problems within unrealistic boundaries. It refuses to ignore uncertainties, choosing literally to add “white space” to its formulations and provide guidance about dealing with the unknown. CASM will employ virtual environments, and help decision-makers who are participating in the research to get their minds around the “gestalt” – or overall form – of a complex problem. Eventually, it will put real people in the midst of real problems and test decision-making in a live environment. Back to top


Team from Old Dominion team leads VCERC Day at General Assembly in Richmond
Representatives from Old Dominion – including John R. Broderick, acting president, and Patrick Hatcher, Batten Endowed Chair in physical sciences – took leading roles in VCERC Day Feb. 4 at the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond. VCERC is the acronym for the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium, which is headquartered at ODU and of which Hatcher is executive director.

Around 60 people, many of them state legislators and their staff members, attended the event in the General Assembly Building to hear presentations and see demonstrations about the alternative energy research being conducted by scientists and engineers associated with VCERC.

The consortium was created by the 2006 General Assembly, and the legislature has appropriated about $3 million in startup funds. VCERC also includes researchers from Virginia Tech, James Madison University, the University of Virginia, Hampton University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Norfolk State University and the College of William and Mary.

A key project of VCERC involves algae-to-biodiesel research. This encompasses the growing of algae in wastewater to strip unwanted nutrients from treatment-plant discharges while also creating biomass that can be converted to fuel. Hatcher directs the algae-to-biodiesel project.

George Hagerman of Virginia Tech, who is the VCERC director of research, heads another consortium initiative looking into the possibility of wind farming off the Virginia coast. He, too, appeared at VCERC Day. Back to top


Noffke named Carnegie Institution visiting scholar
BY JIM RAPER

CGeobiologist Nora Noffke, who has been at Old Dominion since 2001, has accepted an additional appointment as a visiting scholar with the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. (CIW). The invitation to work with the CIW research staff was extended by Russell Hemley, director of the institution’s Geophysical Laboratory, and Noffke accepted on Jan. 16.

At CIW, Noffke will spend several days each month participating in research, seminars and the overall academic life. Her work will be funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute Carnegie and sponsored by Robert Hazen, a researcher at the Geophysical Laboratory who is well known for his scientific investigations concerning the origin of life.

“This appointment as a Carnegie Institution visiting scholar is high recognition of Professor Noffke’s work,” said Chris Platsoucas, dean of the College of Sciences. Noffke is an associate professor in the Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

The visiting scholar appointment is open-ended, extending as long as the institution and scholar find it beneficial.

Noffke’s research has shown that microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS), a term that her work has helped to coin, are reliable geobiological evidence of early life on Earth. The research, which was highlighted last year in the journal Geobiology, finds that life forms colonized sandy coasts of Earth around 3 billion years ago during the Archean Age.

The work provides an answer to a question scientists have grappled with: If tiny microbes were the earliest living organisms, where in the geological record can we possibly find irrefutable evidence of their existence?

The ODU researcher’s work previously was described in the May 5, 2006, edition of Science magazine and in her paper published in the April 2006 edition of the journal Geology.

In 2007, Noffke was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in recognition of her research establishing MISS as evidence of the earliest life on Earth. She also won the 2007 James Lee Wilson Award of the Society of Sedimentary Geologists, which is given annually to recognize international excellence in marine geology by a young scientist.

Her latest research in South Africa has turned up a virtual treasure trove of geological samples supporting her case that the microbial mats we see today covering tidal flats were also present as life was beginning on Earth.

The mats, which are woven of cyanobacteria, can cause unusual textures and formations in the sand beneath them. Noffke has identified two dozen such textures and formations caused by present-day microbial mats, and has found corresponding formations in geological structures dating back through the ages.

The research also can be focused on the search for life on other planets. Dina Bower, who received her doctorate from ODU last year and was advised by Noffke, was awarded a NASA fellowship several months ago to do postdoctoral work at CIW. For her doctoral thesis, Bower focused on how the research findings from the cyanobacterial mat studies could be applied to NASA’s search for life on Mars. As a postdoctoral researcher, she will investigate ways to use minerals as biosignatures in ancient rocks.

Noffke’s sponsor at CIW, Hazen, has done recent research on the role of minerals in the origin of life, including such processes as mineral-catalyzed organic synthesis and the selective adsorption of organic molecules on mineral surfaces. Back to top


ODU appoints head of auxiliary services
Todd Johnson has been named the new assistant vice president for auxiliary services, effective Feb. 16, as announced by Robert Fenning, vice president for administration and finance. He comes to Old Dominion from East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., where he was the interim vice provost for student affairs.

Johnson has 27 years of extensive operational and financial management experience, with emphasis in the following areas: athletics, bookstore, housing, dining, campus card center, contracts and grants, and copy center, to mention only a few, Fenning said. He has also served as president of the Eastern Region of the National Association of Auxiliary Services.

Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from North Carolina Central University, a master’s in business management from the University of Maryland, and attended the Edward Jones Investment School and the Higher Education MLE Program at Harvard University.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to express my great appreciation to Sue Mitchell, who has done an outstanding job serving as the acting assistant vice president for auxiliary services for the past year,” Fenning said. “Sue has overseen significant growth in our housing system and our effort to support becoming a more residential campus.

“I am pleased to report she will now also provide operational oversight for the new student recreational center, working with Recreational Sports, similar to her responsibilities as the Webb University Center director.” Back to top


CLT awards Faculty Innovator Grants
The Center for Learning Technologies recently announced its Faculty Innovator Grant (FIG) awards for 2008-09.

The grant program encourages faculty to explore the use of technology in teaching and learning issues that are targets for improvement and innovation. The lessons learned by the grant recipients will be shared as an important step in promoting and fostering campus-wide dialogue on innovation in teaching and learning. Recipients will present their projects as part of CLT’s series of workshops, panels and special events.

Proposals involving collaboration of two or more faculty members from the same department, or different departments in the same or different colleges, were encouraged.

The grant awards typically range from $1,500 to $3,000. Details about the grants can be found at http://clt.odu.edu/fig.

The FIG awards are as follows:

  • “Broadcast to Podcast, Video to Vodcast: Authentic Materials as Portable Foreign Language Content” – Betty Rose Facer, Foreign Languages and Literatures; collaborating faculty: Peter Schulman, Paloma Sugg and Albert Marra, Foreign Languages and Literatures; and Alajandro Salgado Losada, Communications, Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca, Spain.

    This project plans to provide authentic materials as portable language content for all 12 languages offered in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
  • “Multimedia Projects for Multimodal Learning” – Jennifer Kidd, Educational Curriculum and Instruction; collaborating faculty: Peter Baker, Educational Curriculum and Instruction.

    In this project, student-generated learning resources will be generated via computer-based webcams and microphones.
  • “Online Critical Skills Evaluation and Improvement: A Retention-Centered Learning Program” – Steven Walk, Engineering Technology; collaborating faculty: Roland Lawrence, Engineering Technology.

    The objective of this project is to develop the first series of critical skills remedial learning modules to serve those students requiring extracurricular learning support to enable their successful matriculation and retention in upper-level
    courses.
  • “Integrate Teaching, Research and Technology in Fluid/Structure Interactions” – Jin Wang, Mathematics, and Gene Hou, Mechanical Engineering; collaborating faculty: Keejoo Lee and Shizhi Qian, Aerospace Engineering; and Miltiadis Kotinis, Mechanical Engineering.
    This project aims to meet the increasing needs of education and research in the fluid-structure interaction problems.
  • “Just in Time Tutoring Educational Resource (JITTER)” – Leanne Sutton, College of Sciences, Dean’s Office, and Math and Science Resource Center; collaborating faculty: Lee Land, Mathematics and Statistics.

The College of Sciences sponsors free tutoring and study groups for Math 102 and 162 students. In this project, a training guide will be developed for student facilitators for use in conjunction with a faculty-led training program.

  • “Trip to the Virtual Career World” – Tom Wunderlich, Career Management Center; collaborating faculty: Laura Czerniak, Heidi McFerron, Alice Jones, Beverly Forbes, Amanda Griffin and Erin Mills, Career Management Center.

The purpose of this project is to engage with virtual worlds to provide useful career interactions while limiting development costs. Back to top


Society of Physics Students earns chapter award
The Society of Physics Students chapter at Old Dominion has been named an Outstanding SPS Chapter for 2008. This is the third straight year that the chapter has received this national recognition.

“The selection is based on the depth and breadth of SPS activities conducted by your chapter in such areas as physics research, public science outreach, physics tutoring programs, hosting and representation of physics meetings and events, and providing social interaction for chapter members,” wrote SPS Director Gary White in a letter announcing the award to chapter sponsor Larry Weinstein, University Professor of physics.

An average of about 8 percent of the nation’s 700 SPS chapters are judged to be outstanding each year. Back to top


Women’s Caucus honors Karen Vaughan
The University Women’s Caucus presented its 2009 Achievement Award on Jan. 28 to Karen Vaughan, digital services coordinator at the Old Dominion University Libraries. The annual honor goes to a colleague “who has made ODU a more women-friendly campus.”

Vaughan, who joined the ODU Libraries in 1988, was deserving of recognition for, as nominator Carolyn Rhodes noted, her contributions toward “preserving women’s history and enhancing feminist awareness on our campus and in our region” through her creation of special exhibits and Web sites showcasing the achievements of women.

Rhodes, professor emerita of English and women’s studies, also offered another example of Vaughan’s value to the university regarding her instruction and demonstrations about digital resources for classes in various disciplines:

“Teachers who call upon her for presentations in their women’s studies courses tell of her remarkable strengths in conveying both interdisciplinary content and technological resources.”

Rhodes added: “Dr. Jennifer Fish, chair of the women’s studies department, has spoken of Karen’s skills not only for complex instruction but also for convincing students that they can indeed deal with the many and intricate resources available for research. Dr. Fish observes that for many women students such encouragement holds a special value, leading toward greater academic and personal empowerment.”

Janet Bing, professor of English, said, “I have worked with Karen for more years than I care to admit, and she has unfailingly supported my work and that of my colleagues in many ways.” On a more personal note, Bing added, “Since I am a complete Luddite, she has been my best resource to help me stay on the cutting tail of technology.”

Ann Pettingill, associate university librarian, writing in support of Vaughan’s nomination, noted that Vaughan annually directs a project to create both Web-based and library lobby exhibits in honor of Women’s History Month that are both “stunning and intellectually stimulating.”

“In many of the exhibits, she has also focused on campus achievements and achievers,” Pettingill said. “Through this, she has contributed significantly to the history of women at Old Dominion University. She’s gotten photographs from the archives and talked to faculty and staff members across campus and has been able to bring our university women’s history to life for all of us.”

Vaughan’s exhibits over the past decade include: “Women’s Art: Women’s Vision” (2008); “Women at ODU: Builders of Communities and Dreams” (2006); and “Norfolk Women Working for Justice” (2001). These and other exhibits can be found at www.lib.odu.edu/special/digital-exhibits.htm. Back to top


Newsmakers
“Our challenges are pretty significant. We’ve grown during a time when state resources have not followed.” (John Broderick, acting president, on having to scuttle plans to offer more on-campus jobs that would work better with student schedules)

– “College students can feel belt-tightening”
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb. 8

“It was expanding, not at a dramatic weight, but it carries with it jobs, not just in the defense industry but spinoff industries.” (James Koch, Board of Visitors Professor of economics, on local job growth in the past year)

– “Hampton Roads bucks trend, adds jobs”
The Virginian-Pilot, Feb. 5

“Next to ‘The Eyes of Texas,’ ODU’s is the best school song I’ve ever heard. It’s a joy to play.” (Alex Treviño, marching band director)

– “Making the band: The creation of ODU’s first football marching band”
24Seven Cities, Feb. 5

“The ODU Board of Visitors has encouraged the governor’s office and legislators to help us keep up the momentum VMASC has developed since 1997. For every state dollar spent on VMASC, many dollars flow into the economies of Hampton Roads and Virginia.” (Ross Mugler, BOV rector, in an op-ed)

– “Modeling facility”
Daily Press, Jan. 27

He concluded that adding two lanes or more to the bridge-tunnel and building a third bridge-tunnel between South Hampton Roads and the Peninsula would offer significant improvement to congestion at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. (regarding an impact analysis done by Mike Robinson, senior project scientist, Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center)

– “Study: Extra lanes, third crossing will ease region’s traffic”
The Virginian-Pilot, Jan. 26

“The Tidewater region is very unique because this is where the earliest versions of American English began. We have very, very deep roots here.” ...

“You can’t be a self-respecting socio-linguist and not do this project.” (Bridget Anderson, assistant professor of English, on the “Tidewater Voices: Conversations in Southeastern Virginia” project

– “‘Are you from Nawfuk?’”
The Virginian-Pilot, Jan. 22

“The canvas has been prepared. It is now time to paint a distinctive and compelling picture.” (Anonymous comment from one of a few dozen “external customers” who were surveyed about how they perceive ODU now, what direction the school needs to take and the attributes needed in its next president, as part of an assessment the university initiated to gauge perceptions of the school)

– “Study: Many are proud of ODU’s development”
The Virginian-Pilot, Jan. 20

“It will take 10 months to get rid of the inventory of existing homes for sale,” which will continue to depress home prices in the region. (Vinod Agarwal, professor of economics)

– “Region’s economy in 2009 to be bumpy, forecast says:
ODU economic team foresees no recession locally”
The Virginian-Pilot, Jan. 15
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