A Promotion

Dr. Kate Drowne successfully went through the promotion and tenure process in the 2007/2008 academic year. As a result, she has been granted tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. This is good news for the department and the campus as well as for Dr. Drowne. She is an excellent teacher, an accomplished scholar, and an energetic member of the campus community.
Dr. Drowne’s current research project, on the flapper in American culture and literature, promises to be a strong follow up to her book on Prohibition literature, Spirits of Defiance. I recommend Spirits of Defiance: whatever context you bring to the book, you will find it rewarding, written with clarity and grace that not all scholarly writing possesses.
Please join me in congratulating Dr. Drowne in this major step in her career,

Steel Needles and WiFi

It’s been way too long since I posted here. I hope to post more frequently.
Why haven’t I posted for several weeks? One reason: I’ve been ill for three weeks, culminating in five days in the hospital. (If you go to the site, my room was the middle one on the second floor: just above the apostrophe in "it’s." I had a very persistent pneumonia.
I also had intravenous fluids, including lots of antibiotics. Frequent breathing treatments accompanied the usual check of my "vitals": blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation in my blood, pulse. I’m pleased to report that my pulmonary function test (not an easy procedure) showed my capacity to be "normal" for a man of my age, height, and weight.
Anyone who’s spent days and nights in a hospital knows that one’s mortality is foregrounded, even though one’s illness isn’t critical. I had plenty of time to reflect on diet and exercise and make decisions about refinements and changes. Other patients’ coughs and moans punctuate one’s sleep; the med evac helicopter tends to come and go at intervals throughout the night.
I received very good care from the nursing staff, my doctors, and the technicians in various laboratories. The meals were against the stereotype of how awful hospital food is; the food was plentiful and reasonable good, with the exception of some unfortunate vegetables.
Decades ago, I worked in two hospitals (Mt Zion Medical Center in San Francisco and Newman Memorial Hospital in Emporia, Kansas) as an orderly in Central Supply. That lead to two or three interesting conversations with nurses, including one of the younger nurses, who was astounded that we used steel needles that I cleaned, sharpened, packaged, and sterilized. "You’re showing your age!" she said. But I don’t need to talk about steel needles to show my age.
Five days essentially away from computers and news was a real vacation. Actually, the hospital is very computerized. Everyone but housekeeping and the doctors came into my room with a computer. But I didn’t have to use them. The hospital’s Web site says it won "Health Care’s Most Wired" for 2007. I believe that. There is even WiFi for patients, but after one very tiring session with my laptop, I sent it home. (As you can tell, now that I’m home, it’s hard to stay away from the computer, but it does tire me, so that’s it for now.)

Nearly a month later . . .

I hadn’t realized how much time had passed since the last entry here. Here’s a brief entry:
Dr. Ed Malone, assistant professor of English and Technical Communication, and Director of Technical Communication, has begun writing a quarterly column on the history of technical communication. His column appears in the IEEE Professional Communication Newsletter. The latest column is about Dorothy Dahle, a pioneering woman in the field. The column touches on the difficulties a woman faced entering the field in the 1950s. It’s well worth reading.
The next entry will show up here much sooner than the four weeks between this one and the previous.

Education in Winter

We’re experiencing our third winter storm of the year — with sleet mostly, but also a little snow. The sleet verges on freezing rain. What happens at Missouri University of Science & Technology when we have icy, slushy streets and sidewalks, with more sleet falling as I type?
Many faculty and some students live where it’s dangerous or impossible to drive to campus. Walking, too, is hazardous when everything is coated with ice. It’s fairly quiet in the department this morning, although I’ve seen four faculty members, and talked with three or four students. The department’s administrative assistant, Linda Sands, lives several miles out in the country amid hills that, when the roady is iced over, make driving very hazardous. She’s not here today.
The quiet and relatively few people are somewhat disconcerting. It’s almost lonely.
I drove to campus, as I usually do, although I live within a 15 minute walk. I have walked to campus in worse weather than this, but . . . perhaps I have more (or less) sense.

[Read more…]

Who Wrote the First Computer User Manual?

To learn who wrote the first user manual for computers, go to Ed Malone’s column in the IEEE/PCS online newsletter.
Dr. Malone has agreed to write a quarterly column for the newsletter of the IEEE Professional Communication Society. As this first column shows, Ed has been doing extensive research in the history of technical communication and is able to present the results effectively.

Where Did Your Steak Come From?

People are becoming more concerned about the origins of their foods, including beef. In his PhD dissertation, David Wright (assistant professor of English and Technical Communication) studied the efforts of the US Department of Agriculture to use RFID devices implanted in cattle to trace them from origin to use. The cattle industry was not receptive to the proposal to implant Radio Frequency Identification devices in their stock.
On Friday, January 18, Dr. Wright was interviewed by Wayne Huebner, host of radio station KMST’s TechnoFiles program. You may listen to the full interview in MP3 format here.

Just a Couple Days Before Classes Start

The spring 2008 semester for Missouri University of Science & Technology starts on Monday, January 14. Here it is, Saturday, January 12, and I’m putting together course materials. (I suspect I’m not alone in that!)
This is the university’s first semester as Missouri S&T, rather than the University of Missouri – Rolla. We’re all making the transition in how we refer to the campus, with some uncertainty whether it is "MST," "MS&T," or "Missouri S&T." Officially, "mst" is reserved for our email and Internet domain, not for print or speech. However, it’s only three syllables versus four or seven in the other possibilities.
"S&T" is a good designation but a little too obscure right now. The Rolla Daily News uses it, so maybe it will spread.
I did quite a bit of class preparation back in December but still have plenty to do. I’m teaching Creative Writing for the first time in several years and using Blackboard for the first time for that class.
For a department chair, preparing for a new semester means much more than writing up (or revising) the course syllabus. It also means making sure all the courses taught by the department have teachers assigned to them, that everyone has appropriate office space, that the courses have sufficient enrollment.
In fact, I’ve been constructing the class schedule for the fall 2008 semester.
My colleagues in the department are doing their preparations (or have already completed them); some of my students have already visited Blackboard. Unfortunately, there won’t be much there until sometime late today or tomorrow.
Enrollment for this spring semester is slightly higher than for last spring. This weekend, the population of Rolla will expand by several thousand. The campus has felt very empty recently; that changes soon.

Honors for Three English Majors

At Zeno’s Steak House at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, December 6 , three English BA students were inducted into Phi Kappa Phi, a national honor society.
Two of the students, Kathryn Knocke and Laura Ward, are pictured here with Elizabeth Cummins, professor emeritus of English and Technical Communication. Dr. Cummins is the president of the local chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. The third student inducted is Andrew Moss, who has been studying in London this fall (after studying in Italy this past summer). These three students are among approximately 30,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni to be initiated into Phi Kappa Phi each year.
Phi Kappa Phi was founded in 1897 at the University of Maine. It is the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective all-discipline honor society. The Society has chapters on nearly 300 campuses in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Membership in Phi Kappa Phi is by invitation and requires nomination and approval by a chapter. Only the top 10 percent of seniors and 7.5 percent of juniors, having at least seventy-two semester hours, are eligible for membership. Graduate students in the top 10 percent of the number of candidates for graduate degrees may also qualify, as do faculty, professional staff and alumni who have achieved scholarly distinction.
The English and Technical Communication Department congratulates these three students on receiving this honor. You make us proud!

It Takes a Team to Pedal Fast

This afternoon, Missouri University of Science & Technology’s chancellor, John F. Carney III, delivered his fifth semi-annual State of the University speech. A high point was Tom Shipley‘s brief documentary on Missouri S&T’s entry in last summer’s human-powered vehicle contest. The vehicle was designed and built by UMR — pardon me — Missouri S&T’s Human-Powered Vehicle Team, a part of the campus’s Student Design and Experiential Learning Center. Shipley’s film is tight and clean and the source of the title of this entry: it takes a team and a lot of effort for someone to pedal a little over 59 mph.

Yes, I jumped the gun on the name-change from University of Missouri – Rolla to Missouri University of Science & Technology. But that particular gun is being jumped more and more often. Why not me?

Wait a minute! Why am I writing about student design teams? I’m chair of English and Technical Communication, not an engineer.

  • First, I admire the student design teams, having known students in them in my own classes.
  • Second, our department is a vital part of the campus and its endeavors, as Chancellor Carney noted early in his state of the university talk. The chancellor reminded the audience forcefully that, while he would talk mostly about scientific and technological matters, he did not want to overlook the humanities, the social sciences, or the business program.
  • Third, there are numerous ways, many yet to be discovered, in which the scholars, teachers and students of our department can relate to the campus’s major thrust. One important way is to pursue our own research and teaching interests with energy and imagination. Our efforts do contribute to the overall accomplishments of the campus. Another way is participation of our students and faculty in projects of other departments and organizations.

Enough with metaphor and analogy! The university is not a bicycle in an aerodynamic cocoon, with its power-source, a student, concealed inside: the university is a complex enterprise, dependent on everyone, everything, every place that make it up. Ending his talk, the chancellor called on the university to focus on our world’s needs for energy and environmental renewal. Those of us who work with words and images can contribute our knowledge, skills, wit, and wisdom to that project.

Taking a Break

Thanksgiving break started officially this weekend, a landmark eagerly awaited. For some it started earlier, sometime last week. Friday, the campus population was down quite a bit — the boisterous voices, the standing, sitting, slouched students crowded in the hall, waiting for class . . .
Yesterday morning (Saturday), I walked downtown to get my hair cut, prepared to go for a coffee if the barbershop were full. It wasn’t. Very few cars were parked along Pine Street; there were hardly any pedestrians. A cool sunny November morning and nobody around. Several thousand students gone, the town grows quiet. Of course, faculty leave as well as students. I’m one of those grinds who doesn’t leave but sticks around to try to catch up.
The title of this entry, "Taking a Break," might refer to the fact it’s been three weeks since I posted here. I hadn’t realized so much time had passed — not a deliberate break, either, just busyness and distraction.
Whatever you do over this week, I hope it’s fun and relaxing.