Volume XXVI  No. 30 • Aug. 16, 2002

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Black Hills State University professor receives grant to assess leopard frogs - Top

A $9,000 grant has been awarded to Dr. Brian Smith, associate professor of biology at Black Hills Sate University, to assist the University of Wyoming in the development of a species assessment for the plains leopard frog in Region 2 of the National Forest Service.

Smith will also amend the existing Black Hills National Forest northern leopard frog assessment.

Smith has been a member of the BHSU science faculty since 1997. He earned a Ph.D. in quantitative biology from the University of Texas in 1996.

Sarver conducts molecular genetics program for Oglala Lakota College - Top

Black Hills State University has received a $25,375 grant from the Oglala Lakota College to conduct a summer program in molecular genetics. Dr. Shane Sarver, associate professor of biology at BHSU, is overseeing the project. The program is being held on the campus of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.

Sarver’s responsibilities include the development of curriculum for undergraduate training and faculty development, writing a training manual for use in the molecular lab and teaching a workshop in basic laboratory techniques. Saver will also hold a workshop in molecular techniques for the classroom and mentor OLC undergraduate students conducting summer research projects.

Sarver has been a member of the BHSU faculty since 1996 and is responsible for the development of a state of the art genetics laboratory at BH. He earned his Ph.D. in zoology from Louisiana State University.

Sixteenth Annual BHSU President's Cup to be held Aug. 30 - Top

The annual BHSU President's Cup golf tournament will be Aug. 30 at the Spearfish Canyon Country Club. Tee time for this four-scramble, eighteen-hole tournament is 1 p.m.

Players who are not members of the country club will be charged $30 for green fees and $12 per person for cart fees. Payment is expected at the golf course on Aug. 30.

Persons planning to attend must RSVP by Monday, Aug. 26, by calling 642-6385 to reserve a spot and report their handicap.

Experience Black Hills program offers students the opportunity of a lifetime - Top

The first year of college life is usually a memorable experience for anyone and Black Hills State University hopes to make this year even more exceptional for new students. Fall 2002 will see the introduction of the Black Hills First Year Experience program designed to foster a commitment from students to the university by encouraging academic success and social interaction.

The program addresses the concern at BH where retention of new students after the first year is not as strong as the college would hope. Offices on campus such as student life and student support have addressed this problem in their own ways, but support will come from a new angle this year as BHSU faculty pilot the new program, also known as Experience Black Hills.

“This is the first attempt [to improve retention] from the academic side,” said Dr. Sharon Strand, associate professor with the College of Arts and Sciences and co-director of the program. Strand will work with co-director Dr. Joe Valades, coordinator of the Student Assistance Center, who will provide support from student life.

The ambitious new program has been in the planning stages for some time and made its first appearance at PREP Days, where new students were enticed by the possibility of a unique college experience that will help them be a successful student at BH.

The pilot project aims to link academic classes and emphasize the importance of life-long learning skills for first-year students while targeting their perceptions of isolation and lack of confidence in academic prowess. The program is off to a successful start having already filled its capacity of 100 students for the fall. The students have formed four groups of 25 that will together take a required English Composition 1 class with a linked general education class in sociology, American government, visual arts or astronomy.

The way classes are linked is the first unique aspect of this program.

“The ideas that are being presented in the general education class will be what is being written about in the composition class,” said Strand, who will teach a composition class in conjunction with Dr. Dan Durben’s astronomy class and lab. This approach of learning through writing will help students form strong connections between the ideas presented in their classes.

The linked classes for this fall have, for the most part, paired English professors with a subject they have prior knowledge or interest in. One example is connecting English professor Kent Meyers, known for his vivid and visual writing, with art professor Jim Knutson. Strand is an exception to this because she has no background in astronomy, so she will be learning along with the students.

“I think it’s a good thing for students to see the teachers learn,” said Strand, who has earned a reputation as the university grandmother by being straightforward with young students in the past. “Even though I’m everybody’s grandma, I’m not through learning. I hope this shows others to continue learning their whole life.”

Another unique aspect of the program is how the students are arranged into small groups, which provides both academic and social benefits to the students. Students can look to their groups for a social connection and as a source for people to study and learn with outside of the classroom.

Other activities with the groups will also be encouraged as the program aims to serve as a connection to events in the campus and community. Events will be announced in the core classes and groups will be encouraged to meet and attend together. Becoming involved in the community can be a group effort. This is especially beneficial for students who commute and miss out on the dorm experience.

Isolation will also be broken between students and faculty in a “small school” environment where professors can more easily identify their core of students. The faculty has the opportunity to take advantage of the small class size and show students that someone cares about whether or not they are attending or doing well in class. Professors can pinpoint students who may be losing interest and help them refuel the desire to participate by recommending study groups and tutors on campus.

The program takes a unique approach when it comes to specific training for the teachers. Faculty has been trained to use active learning techniques, to understand the learning patterns of students, and to collaborate in teaching. Workshops have been held throughout the summer providing faculty with important information about the program. The faculty members have also learned more about campus services available and have reinforced their advising skills.

Strand said this program builds on the “idea that we’re [at BHSU] for the serious but enjoyable business of learning, and that is an attitude that permeates this university.”

Everyone is prepared and the program’s first year promises to be a successful one. The future of the program, however, depends on a grant Strand will apply for from the Archibald Bush Foundation, based in St. Paul, Minn. Experience Black Hills is currently funded by remaining money from a previous Bush grant and extra support from academic affairs and student life. The previous grant was $360,000 awarded over three years, and Strand, who is composing the current proposal for a higher amount, is confident they will receive the new grant.

Keeping to this optimism, Strand has high hopes for the future of the program. Though the current focus is on retaining the first 100 participants, the program has room to build and expand. Strand hopes to link the composition classes with other subjects such as speech and math. Science, psychology, American history, western civilization and wellness for life are already offered as possible conjunctions in the spring with English Composition 2. By including more classes, the program will someday fill needs for transferring, non-traditional, and upper level students.

The Black Hills First Year Experience program is off to a good start and has the potential for a strong future. Students in the Class of ’06 at BHSU have the opportunity to make their first year experience last a lifetime.

East meets west - Top

Western Civilization has always been fascinated with the Far East. Once Marco Polo
returned to the courts of 13th century Venice with his treasures of silk and spices and his tales of adventure, the intriguing cultures of the orient were exposed. Ever since, westerners have sought to increase contact with the peoples of the Far East.

That fascination has not always been a mutual one, but today the east is showing an increasing interest in many things western. In Japan that interest is especially keen when it comes to the Native American cultures and the historical “wild west” of America.

During the month of August, 16 students from Gifu City, Japan, are experiencing the culture of the American west, its native peoples and one bonus group, the Sturgis Rally bikers, as part of the second annual student exchange between Black Hills State University and Gifu City Women’s College (GCWC).

An agreement reached in 2000 between BHSU and GCWC, a two-year institution located in Gifu City, calls for the exchange of faculty and students in the hope of furthering international relationships and understanding.

The exchange program is modeled on a similar Gifu exchange program with Thomas Moore College in Indiana. The BH program differs in that it calls for the full exchange of students and faculty from both schools while Moore only takes visiting students from Japan. BHSU is also studying the possibility of students from Gifu completing a four-year degree here after those students have completed two years of study in Japan.

This international exchange program for BHSU started by chance when Dr. Dan Farrington, director of grants and special projects at BH, and his wife rented a townhouse in Spearfish from the parents of Dr. Donna Erickson. Erickson’s father introduced her to Farrington, which lead to Farrington inviting Erickson to lecture at BHSU. Soon after, the two discussed the idea of an exchange program. 

Erickson, who received a masters in Japanese language and literature at the University of Michigan and her Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Connecticut, teaches English conversation at Gifu City Women’s College and continues to pursue research in the field of linguistics.

Erickson is BH’s connection to Gifu. All of the girls who travel to BH are chosen from the department of international studies where Erickson teaches. According to Farrington, 150 students at Gifu are eligible for the program and approximately 10 percent of them are already participating each year.

“We feel that’s a tremendous accomplishment to get those girls [to BH],” said Farrington. Erickson hopes that one day the program will be available to all the students at Gifu.

Erickson, an American who has lived in Japan the last four-and-a-half years, became fascinated with the country when she visited Japan as part of a student exchange group while in college. Erickson fell in love with Japan and its culture. Ironically, she was majoring in French at the time.

Dr. Holly Downing, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at BHSU, has the responsibility of administrating the program on this side of the Pacific. Dr. Ronnie Theisz, department of humanities chairman at BH, acts as Gifu project coordinator. A number of BH professors and staff, along with numerous volunteers, make the program work.

According to Downing, the Gifu project is a good fit with BHSU’s current effort to internationalize the campus and revamp its international studies program. “The Pacific Rim is an increasingly important area,” said Downing.

In an attempt to build on the program’s momentum, Downing and Farrington recently made a trip to Japan to meet with administrators and other personnel of GCWC. According to Downing, one of the surprising differences in the administration of higher education in Japan and America is that the city governments in Japan oversee the colleges, making the mayor of Gifu City a major player in all school negotiations.

The main item on their agenda was making the student exchange a reciprocal arrangement. “I’d like to see a full-blown exchange of students and faculty,” said Downing. According to Downing, BH is hoping to send its first two exchange students to Japan next June.

Farrington and Downing also delivered resumes of BHSU faculty who are interested in traveling to Japan and participating in the program when that stage is reached. Gifu’s school calendar differs from BHSU’s, so two- or three-week mini-exchanges for faculty may be possible without disrupting schedules at BH.

While in Spearfish, the Japanese students stay on campus and spend their time involved in a mixture of academic and tourist activities meant to share our culture. An average day includes two classes in the morning, English as a second language (ESL) and a class that varies in subject matter.

The group studies basic geology of the area, pioneer history, as well as the cultures of the Native Americans of this region. Upon completion of the program, students earn two college credits toward their degree.

Afternoons and weekends are filled with a variety of activities meant to introduce them to the many facets of American life and reveal some of the attractions of the Black Hills.

The itinerary is an eclectic mix of venues covering the gamut of area experiences, ranging from a pow wow on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to a day spent experiencing the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis. Of course, there are also a number of outings where the main goal is just to have fun. The group plans to tube Spearfish Creek, catch a movie or two and swim in Sylvan Lake.

Many of the field trips, such as the pow wow, are directly connected to their studies; others are designed to teach and relate the similarities of the Japanese and American cultures.

One such experience is learning the basics of fly-fishing with Dr. Charles Lamb, an associate professor at BH who is also an avid fly-fisherman.

Fishing, although in quite a different manner, is an important segment of the culture of Gifu City. For hundreds of years the Gifu area has been known for cormorant fishing. This ancient technique involves the use of trained birds (cormorant) that ply the waters of the Nagara River and retrieve fish for the waiting boatmen. Following the afternoon of fishing in Spearfish Creek, the girls will enjoy a fish fry at the home of Erickson’s parents.

While in Spearfish, the students visit the homes of program participants for dinner a number of times. These visits are a chance for the students to experience life in the American home.

To that end, the students get out of the campus dorms and spend a few days in the homes of volunteer host families. According to Erickson, the home stays were a very popular segment of the program last year. They were so successful, in fact, that this year’s group stayed a week with their host families instead of a weekend like last year’s students.

Assistant professor Steve Babbitt and his wife, Dr. Nancy Babbitt, have acted as hosts both years of the program. “It’s a great part of the program, especially for my young son. It’s so good for him to be exposed to people from different cultures and countries,” said Professor Babbitt.

Erickson says everyone at BH and in the Spearfish area is very supportive of the exchange. “The idea [of the exchange] is a mutual opening of minds,” said Erickson. “You can see the girls change in the short time they are here. I take pictures when they first come and then when they leave,” said Erickson. “The way they dress changes, even their faces seem to change.”

Students from the Black Hills State University/Gifu City Women’s College exchange program study area geology up close when graduate student John Knight, geology instructor for the program, takes his class of students from Gifu City, Japan, into Spearfish Canyon.


Worldwide explorer to be next Madeline Young speaker - Top

The world will visit Black Hills State University at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 18 when anthropologist, botanical explorer and best-selling author Wade Davis appears as the next Madeline Young Speaker in the Student Union Yellow Jacket Legacy Room.

The Madeline A. Young Distinguished Speaker Series at BHSU was established in 1986 by a $150,000 gift endowment from Madeline Young, a 1924 alumna. In the past, the series has hosted free presentations by such illustrious speakers as former president of Poland Lech Walesa, 1995 Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin, co-anchor of "Prime Time Live" and 27-year veteran of ABC news Sam Donaldson, and actors Danny Glover and Felix Justice in conjunction with Black History Month.

Davis is an explorer in residence for the National Geographic Society and a Harvard-trained anthropologist and plant explorer. He has spent the last 25 years traveling the world from the Arctic to the Amazon, from Tibet to Venezuela and more recently to Peru, Borneo, Tibet, Venezuela and Kenya. His presentations have captivated audiences in the past, and his visit to BH promises to live up to that reputation.

The man who considers himself “an independent scholar” received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany from Harvard University. His work as a plant explorer through the Harvard Botanical Museum opened the door to other interests, such as the assignment that took him to Haiti to investigate folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies. This experience inspired him to write “Passage of Darkness” in 1988 and “The Serpent and the Rainbow” in 1986, an international best-seller that was later released by Universal Studios as a motion picture.

Davis has earned a reputation as an adventurer and has been described as a living Indiana Jones. He has lived among indigenous groups in Latin America, conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Canada, and has published scientific and popular articles ranging from Haitian voodoo and Amazonian myth and religion to the global biodiversity crisis. He has also written about the traditional use of psychotropic drugs and the ethnobotany of South American Indians.

Davis is a member of several organizations dedicated to conservation-based development and the protection of cultural and biological diversity. He is known as a fascinating speaker who is able to convey both the wonder and science of a disappearing world. Davis brings a world of experience with him to add to BHSU’s list of renowned Madeline Young Speakers.

Sign of the times - Top

Students returning to campus this fall will find many changes at Black Hills State University. Demolition work is winding down and an area near the site of the former Cook Gymnasium is being prepared for the construction of BHSU's new music/academic building. The new music/academic facility, scheduled for completion next fall, will be a 47,830 square-foot complex of recital halls, classrooms, practice rooms and offices. Its projected cost is $8.25 million. Other recent changes at BHSU include the remodeled north entrance to the David B. Miller Yellow Jacket Student Union (shown in the background) and the National Guard addition at the Donald E. Young Sports and Fitness Center. The new faculty/staff parking lot is also open now and in use. The fall semester at BHSU begins Sept. 4.






Passersby can use this sign for a vision into the future of Black Hills State University. Now that the demolition of the old Cook Gym building is complete, workers have started preparations for the construction of the new music/academic facility’s foundation.

Robert P. Watson to give presentation at Grace Balloch Memorial Library - Top

There will be a presentation by Robert P. Watson, "Maintaining Democracy in an Unstable World," on Saturday, Aug. 24 at 2 p.m. at the Grace Balloch Memorial Library in Spearfish. It is presented by the South Dakota Center for the Book and the Friends of Grace Balloch Memorial Library. Watson, the author of The Presidents' Wives, will focus on the wives of the four Mt. Rushmore presidents.