Silence and Solitude
Last year at this time I shared with you Wallace Stevens’ magnificent poem on the mind of winter, “The Snow Man.” Since the reception of the Stevens’ poem and its message were so gratifyingly strong last year, my gift to you again this year are lines (cited later in this message) from another great poem of winter: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Mont Blanc.” I encourage you to ponder this great ode in its entirety. Like “The Snow Man,” it’s about the mind interacting with the apparent desolation of a frigid winter scene and, ironically, being spurred to creative thought from what appears to be nothingness. As we emerge from the Holiday season to begin another term, days are short, temperatures chill, and we know that this is but the middle term
of the Drexel academic year. Nevertheless, ideas bubble up, life moves on at a clip, and new challenges emerge from the apparent barrenness and cold of the season.
This winter brings to us our new Dean of the College of Engineering and Distinguished University Professor, Dr. Joseph B. Hughes. Joe Hughes was Karen and John Huff School Chair and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and of Materials Science Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Formerly at Rice University, Joe brings with him a wealth of experience and a sound record of accomplishment as academic administrator, entrepreneur, scholar, and contributor to solving environmental problems in various parts of the world, most recently, Africa. We look forward to the new ideas Joe will bring and to his leadership of our most storied college. At the same time, we thank Bruce Eisenstein for stepping up to lead the college so well during this interim period. Bruce brought great judgment, experience, and a profound love for his college to a position that was for him a calling. The University owes him its thanks for a job well done; he certainly has mine.
Our University and academic strategic planning processes move into their final phases, with a draft plan having been reviewed and discussed by our Board of Trustees, Faculty Senate, and senior leadership. Their recommendations, along with contributions from several hundred faculty and staff, will produce the roadmap for our next five years’ progress. At the same time, an imaginative Master Plan is being developed to help create a campus designed to encourage learning and scholarship, community, and entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, we continue developing our immediate environment—our campus and contiguous neighborhood—and our region, with attention focused on ways of promoting economic growth and job development.
Many convening events bring us together, and I am delighted to invite my colleagues and their families to attend two upcoming Drexel Basketball games sponsored by my office along with Drexel Athletics. I hope you will accept my invitation to join me and my family at one or both of them. Consider this a post-Holidays gift and an invitation to join with other faculty and staff in supporting our great Drexel athletes:
On Saturday, January 21, 2012 - Men's Basketball takes on Northeastern at 4:00 PM. This year, the Dragons feature Preseason All-CAA selection Samme Givens.
On Sunday, February 19, 2012 - Women's Basketball will face Delaware at 2:00 PM. The Dragons are led by Preseason All-CAA selection Kamile Nacickaite and it is Girl Scout day at the DAC.
Each Drexel Faculty/Staff member will receive one free ticket for her or himself and one guest ticket (age 13 and over), as well as unlimited free tickets for children under 12. (Additional tickets are available to purchase for the men’s game in advance at the faculty/staff discounted rate of $8 or $15 at the door and $6 for the women’s game.) I look forward to seeing you at one or both events.
All that I have described helps us respond to a question Percy Bysshe Shelley asked two hundred years ago. At the conclusion of “Mont Blanc,” his ode to Europe’s highest mountain, the narrator asks the mountain a question whose answer only a reader can supply:
And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
If to the human mind’s imaginings
Silence and solitude were vacancy?
May your winter days be filled with new imaginings prompted by silence and solitude.
In This Issue...
Middle States Commission on Higher Education
The upcoming decennial reaffirmation of accreditation by our regional accrediting agency, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, is scheduled for March 18-21, 2012. The visiting team will be chaired by Dr. Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Syracuse University. Dr. Cantor visited Drexel’s campus on December 16, 2011 to hold introductory meetings with President John Fry, Provost Mark Greenberg, and the Self-Study Steering Committee and to provide feedback on our self-study draft. This visit provided Dr. Cantor with not only a picture of where Drexel is today, but also with a context of how much the University has changed over the last ten years and where Drexel is heading as a new strategic plan is being crafted.
The self-study has been written with the input of hundreds of faculty, professional staff, administrators, and students. This broad participation is greatly appreciated because, as a result of this team effort, the document addresses how we, as a community, implement Drexel’s mission with great thoughtfulness and transparency. While the self-study is in its final stages of editing, several open forums will be held in January for final comments. In addition, an open forum with the visiting team will take place in March. The current draft is available to faculty and professional staff on the DrexelOne portal.
Updates will be forthcoming by e-mail on the visiting team, the schedule for the visit, and opportunities for participation. The final draft of the self-study will be available to the University community when it is submitted in February.
The Science and Humanity of Newschaffer’s Critical Research
by Rebecca Ingalls
When I sat down with Professor Craig Newschaffer prior to the Winter break, I was prepared to talk with him about autism research. As most are aware, Professor Newschaffer is chair of Drexel’s department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Public Health. In addition, he is leading the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI) study, a major research endeavor which is following a cohort of up to 1,200 pregnant women who already have a child with autism. This research is funded through a National Institute of Health (NIH) Autism Center for Excellence grant, and Drexel University School of Public Health is the national coordinator of the EARLI Study network. Indeed, we did cover these impressive details in our interview, but I wanted to be sure that everyone had an
understanding of how Professor Newschaffer came to be at Drexel and how he came to study autism as profoundly as he does today. Some of Drexel’s most renowned faculty cultivated fascinating, creative paths on their way to making the deep impressions in the arts and sciences. There is just something special about these individuals, and Professor Craig Newschaffer is no exception.
Glance at his 30-page CV, and you will find yourself mystified by Newschaffer’s publications, collaborations, national organizations, presentations, thesis committees, and grant work. Knowing what we know about his prestige, it is intriguing to find at the top of the first page of his CV that he holds a BA in Public Relations from Boston University. The truth is, he considered a career in medical and science journalism, hence the interest in PR. However, the truer truth is that Newschaffer was also pursuing another career at the time in Boston; he was playing bass in a band. “I was in the scene. It was fun,” he recalls. His band even opened for the Pixies once. Though he wound up departing from that career path, and while he modestly disparages his talent, it is clear and well worth mentioning, one of our most prominent researchers at Drexel is also an artist.
After about a year, Newschaffer encountered a turn in the road toward Harvard’s School of Public Health. “I thought about hospital administration,” he explains. “My father was a social worker, running county mental health centers. However, not before long, I knew that this was an error. [Harvard] also had health policy, which was interesting to me. I switched tracks. I got most interested in research. I thought, finally I was finding a fit, and I got a job doing health policy research for a non-profit in DC.” For a couple of years, Newschaffer focused on research in public health policy, specifically health economics and econometrics. Ultimately, he realized that it wasn’t being an economist that called him, but rather epidemiology. “My role in life would be the translator between epidemiology research and health policy,” he says. What a role it has been.
Newschaffer’s first research focus was cancer, and he wrote a Ph.D. dissertation in Chronic Disease Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins titled “Comorbidity and survival in elderly breast cancer patients.” With a keen interest in classical, traditional, risk factor research, Newschaffer found funding through his marriage of epidemiology and health policy, and took a faculty position in the School of Public Health in St. Louis. Wanting to get back to the Philadelphia area, Newschaffer later took a research position at Thomas Jefferson University, and he and his family soon settled in Wilmington. Eventually, his research took him to Johns Hopkins, where he worked as an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology with a joint appointment in the Department of Mental Health. While at Johns Hopkins, he also served as Director for the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Epidemiology.
So, how did Newschaffer make the transition from cancer to autism? Newschaffer explains, “twelve years ago, [autism] was starting to get more attention in the popular press. There were few epidemiology researchers studying it. There was a regular request for apps, and the CDC was putting out an RFA to put out a public health surveillance system. It came across my desk, and it caught my eye. I was still junior in the cancer epidemiology world; it’s a crowded place. You have to ask small, incremental questions. That’s where the science is; there’s been a lot done. For autism, there were big fundamental questions to ask that hadn’t been asked yet.” In 2006, Newschaffer left Johns Hopkins to become a Department Chair at Drexel in the School of Public Health. In making the transition from a hugely visible program at Johns Hopkins to Drexel’s smaller program, Newschaffer was excited about the opportunity to help build the School of Public Health. However, he had some concern about whether he would be able to keep up his research momentum. “But, I decided to do it,” he says. “After I made the decision to take this job, I wrote the grant that became the EARLI study as I was leaving [Johns Hopkins], thinking we wouldn’t really have a chance. When I came here, it was funded. That allowed me to keep my own research moving.”
The most pressing question I asked Professor Newschaffer: “From where you sit, what has changed in the world of autism?” In his response, his humility reveals both his compassion and his fervent desire to continue his work. Newschaffer explains that the most pronounced change has been in the field’s clearer clinical understanding of what is today known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and the fact that researchers have done well to streamline the process of evaluating individuals. Moreover, in the last 12 years, he explains, researchers’ perception of the causes of autism has evolved from one purely about genetics to one that involves a “constellation of environmental factors” mixed with genetics. Furthermore, he says, there are probably “multiple paths to autism,” an understanding that, while complicated, also shows important progress from historical perceptions of the disease.
On the cutting edge of research is Newschaffer’s work with the EARLI study. The brainchild of Newschaffer and his colleagues, this $14 million research project’s study of pregnant women who are already mothers of autistic children seeks to follow “a population in which you expect the risk of the outcome is higher than the general population.” In this way, the EARLI study is a merging of prospective and retrospective approaches to research. As of now, the study is watching approximately 210 families and will continue to enroll for the next several years, and it is important to note that those who have committed to the study are showing that they are in it for much more than personal gain. Newschaffer says, “It is a huge undertaking. They sign on for a long journey with a lot of commitment. They are committed to the study. You compensate them, but there is a tangible benefit. These little babies are being closely followed. A number of [the families] are motivated by that, but they just really want to help.”
Ultimately, as a researcher and as a father, Newschaffer is continuously connected to both the real-life situations of these families and to the cultural perceptions of the disease. Part of his commitment to the study of risk factors is the study of risk communication. Here is where his gift as a translator can offer even more to the study of autism than the laboratory science: “I want to be as good as I can be as a scientist,” he says. “It is challenging. You have your own parenting hat, and you have your scientist hat. I study people; I don’t study lab rats. We’re immersed in the community of parents; you need to be respectful.” Indeed, Newschaffer and his colleagues have taken some critical steps to uncover some possible risk factors such as parental age and a vast concept known as epi-genetics, which is the study of modifications to DNA that influence how those genes are expressed in a person. Likewise, Newschaffer remains committed to giving talks around the globe to try to translate these findings to real people with both scientific and personal concerns about ASD. With eyes set on primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention for both children and adults, Newschaffer is now leading an initiative at Drexel to launch a new research institute focused on autism public health science. He pledges that “the Institute will step in to find ways to translate from laboratories to communities.” In this endeavor, the Drexel community is extraordinarily fortunate to have Professor Newschaffer, a scientist and a humanist, at the helm.
Rebecca Ingalls is Assistant Professor of English.
Drexel’s Research Co-op Program Goes International
Mechanical engineering students Sean Mason and Alex Alspach spent six months working in South Korea at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) for their spring/summer 2011 co-op. Under the direction of Dr. Paul Oh, Mason and Alspach went to Korea with the purpose to learn more about humanoid robotics. Dr. Oh, a Professor and native Korean, feels that the increasing trend of globalization makes it important for Drexel students to have experience working with international design teams since the communication of technological knowledge is crucial to the development of future projects. According to Dr. Oh, less than three percent of American students (as opposed to over 50 percent of European and Asian students) have significant experience with global teams.
Mason and Alspach began their co-op here at the University in the Drexel Autonomous Systems Lab (DASL), located in the Bossone Research Enterprise Center. Currently, Drexel is the only university in the United States with HUBO (a humanoid robot) and one of the few universities with a full-sized humanoid. According to Dr. Oh, starting out at the Drexel labs as a member of an international project team gives students the chance to learn in a familiar environment before they head out to an international setting.
Drexel's Research Co-op Program allows faculty, like Dr. Oh, to apply to the Steinbright Career Development Center for funding to facilitate research co-op opportunities and pay students a salary during their co-op. This funding is made available through University strategic funds from the Provost’s Office.
Updates from the Drexel Center for Academic Excellence (DCAE)
The Drexel Center for Academic Excellence (DCAE) finished 2011 with two well-attended faculty events. Our December 2nd Brown Bag Lunch continued a previous conversation of faculty visions of future teaching and learning configurations, and December 5th marked the launch of our new Collaborative Connections faculty gatherings. The goal of this new DCAE initiative is to explore strategies for bridging academic silos. In this regard, our first meeting focused on community engagement as a method to bring together teaching, scholarship/research, creative activity and application across the disciplines. Dr. Lucy Kerman, Vice Provost for University and Community Partnerships, and Daniel Dougherty, Executive Director of the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement, served as conversation leaders.
As we begin the New Year, the DCAE schedule of January events is already underway. Adjunct and part-time faculty members are invited to a January 11th workshop specifically tailored to their needs on the topic of “Behavioral Issues and Students.” On January 13th, all Drexel faculty are invited to a workshop on “New Academic Initiatives: Research and Teaching Potentialities.” In addition, full-time faculty interested in learning more about the DCAE Portfolio Workshop series are invited to attend an information session on January 25th which will provide personalized guidance on career-appropriate stages for admission to the workshop. Please visit our website, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 215-895-4973 if you are interested in attending one or all of our events or would like to learn more about DCAE services.
Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and productive 2012!
5th Annual Student Conference on Global Challenges — FOOD
The Office of International Programs is pleased to announce its 5th Annual Student Conference on Global Challenges, which will take place on Friday, March 2. This daylong conference, to include six student panels and a keynote address tackling the central theme of Food from various different interdisciplinary perspectives, will bring together students and community groups, as well as faculty, staff, alumni, and friends to address a wide range of issues related to this global challenge.
FOOD —— it is crucial to our survival, integral to our culture, a determinant of our health, a focus of new technologies, and a commodity affecting GNP and political policy, driving conflict or cooperation in international relations. Whether abundant or scarce, it is part of the art, science, ethics, and labor of our daily lives. This conference will engage students in a wide range of discussions, including such issues as hunger; food science and nutrition; food distribution, marketing and sales; food arts and culture; food justice; food organizations and advocacy; and, food policy.
Undergraduate and graduate student panelists will generate their own panel presentations, with question and answer sessions facilitated by faculty moderators. Drexel’s 5th Annual Student Conference on Global Challenges will be an ideal forum for sharing ideas, discussing trends, learning from one another, networking and collaboration. For more information please email Heidi West at email@example.com or visit the OIP website.
Update from the Office of Faculty Development & Equity
Driven by our mission to create a supportive and diverse environment for Drexel's faculty, the Office of Faculty Development and Equity (FDE) hosted a Conversation about Family-Friendly Workplaces with Janet Fleetwood, Vice Provost for Strategic Development and Initiatives; Alisa Morss Clyne, P.C. Chou Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering; and, other faculty members from the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. At this meeting, attendees discussed topics related to work-life balance such as child care options, tenure clock adjustments, flexible scheduling, and domestic partner benefits. The FDE encourages faculty members to contact the office if they have an interest in holding a similar conversation for their respective units.
Additionally, the FDE is excited to present members of the Drexel faculty with two new publications aimed at meeting their personal and professional needs. Our updated brochure on work-life balance, entitled Work-Life Balance Matters at Drexel University, includes new information about Health Advocate, Inc., a service that provides guidance for benefits-eligible faculty, professional staff, and dependents as well as resources related to child care and education, elder care and aging, mental health, and more.
Finally, the FDE has partnered with the Office of International Programs to create a Guidebook for International Faculty. This practical and comprehensive manual covers essential topics such as housing, finances, immigration, and health care. Faculty members interested in learning more about the FDE and the resources it provides are encouraged to visit the website , email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 215-895-2141.
New Executive Director of the Online Learning Council
The Online Learning Council (OLC) is a group of about 85 faculty and instructional design staff members organized to improve the quality of online learning at Drexel and to enhance the experience of students, primarily those learning online. The Council is very active and among its projects this past year, which were coordinated by Dr. Kristen Betts, was the creation of DrexelExpress Online Student Edition, a one-stop site for online students.
To continue with these fine efforts, Dr. Michael Scheuermann, Associate Vice President for Instructional Technology Support in the Office of Information Resources and Technology, has been appointed the OLC’s Executive Director. Mike was one of those honored by Drexel Online during National Distance Education Week, and has experience and success in both managing online learning support in IRT and teaching a wide arrange of online courses which will enable him to provide excellent leadership to the Council. He will work closely with Dr. Jan Biros in the Office of the Provost to set the agenda and plan the activities of the OLC for the coming year.
As the University transitions to Blackboard Learn, Drexel’s new learning management system developed by Blackboard Inc., the OLC will organize workshops and training for faculty on quality course design as courses are moved to this new platform. Council members certified and trained by Quality Matters will offer Colleges the opportunity to have selected courses reviewed for quality issues in our goal to improve courses and raise the standards for online learning at Drexel.
Drexel Research Infrastructure
Senior Vice Provost Deborah Crawford has established a Task Force to examine the current and ongoing strategic needs for Computing Research Infrastructure on campus. The committee is chaired by Bill Regli of the iSchool/Engineering and Ken Blackney of Information Resources & Technology (IRT). It will consider the current state of high-performance and data-intensive computing systems that are available to faculty, either on campus or remotely, in support of their creative and scholarly activities. In addition, it will review the current set of recommendations from the National Science Foundation and National Academies in the area of Cyber-Infrastructure, and provide guidance to the University on how best to apply these recommendations at Drexel. The committee will act in an advisory capacity and has, as its members, active research faculty leaders including representatives from the School of Public Health and the Drexel College of Medicine. The goal of this task force is twofold: to address immediate needs for facilities, and policies and procedures related to research infrastructure; and, to identify and make recommendations regarding strategic decisions and acquisitions related to high-performance research computing and data management.
Policies Governing Research, Creative and Scholarly Activities
As part of our strategic planning exercise, our colleagues in the Office of Research are in the midst of updating the suite of policies that guide and support our research, creative and scholarly activities. Drafts currently under review include a brand new policy on “Openness in Research, Creative and Scholarly Activities,” as well as policies on “Research Misconduct,” “Managing Conflicts of Interest in Sponsored Projects,” “Principal and Co-Principal Investigator Eligibility in Sponsored Projects,” and “University Cost-Sharing in Sponsored Projects.” These and other related policies recognize and, indeed, celebrate the diverse ways in which you, our faculty, staff and students, create knowledge, not only through research activities prevalent in the science and engineering domains but also through creative and scholarly activities in all domains of knowledge across the University. Please ask your college’s or school’s representative(s) on the Senate Committee on Research and Scholarly Activities for more information about the draft policies, and read them and provide your feedback to your representative(s) and/or to Maryann Skedzielewski.
Promoting Single Cell Science, Engineering and Medicine
Faculty and staff from the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Medicine and the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems are joining together to identify research projects that investigate how the single cell works and interacts in a system of cells. Each of the projects developed leverages state-of-the-art computational or experimental tools, techniques and technologies that permit analysis of single cell behavior. The work of these multidisciplinary teams is motivated by recent scientific findings that suggest that individual cells within the same population may differ dramatically, and that these differences can have important consequences for the health and function of the greater system of cells. The resulting multidisciplinary research is likely to lead to new and potentially transformational understanding and manipulation of single cell behavior in the context of surrounding tissues, with the potential to reveal new insights about disease processes and to result in more effective therapies. For more information, visit the Office of Research website and search “Single Cell.”