Volume XXVII  No. 8 • Feb. 21, 2003

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Two BHSU faculty members receive grants from the Chiesman Endowment to promote democracy - top 


Two Black Hills State University faculty members, Vincent King, assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Ahrar Ahmad, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, recently received separate $6,000 grants from the Chiesman Endowment for Promoting Democracy.

The professors are taking very different approaches in their studies of democracy. Ahmad, a political science professor, will study a relevant and timely issue as he considers the intellectual and historical forces in “the continuing discussion about the compatibility of democracy and Islam in the world.”  King, who teaches English classes at BHSU, will use the grant to show “that the antebellum romances of James Fenimore Cooper  and William Gilmore Simms are nuanced meditations on American democracy.”

Ahmad’s grant, titled “Islam in South Asia: Intellectual and Historical Forces in the Construction of Democratic Alternatives,” will suggest that while the local political culture and unique political experiences may have contributed to a distinctive developmental dynamic in Pakistan and Bangladesh, “it is the intellectual debates regarding Islamic reformism that created the basic foundation for the possibility of democracy in the region.”

Ahmad notes that although there are about 56 countries that are members of the Organization of Islamic Conference, only about 10 or so have tried to institutionalize the principles and practices of democracy as understood in the West.

“Of these small minority of countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh (which together have almost as many Muslims as there are in the entire Arab world) have tried valiantly, if at times fitfully, and with occasional lapses, to pursue democratic ideals.” Ahmad explained that the primary question examined in this research is to explore the reasons why the prospect of democracy appears to have a more optimistic future in South Asia than in many other parts of the Muslim world.

Since Muslims constitute almost one-fifth of the world’s population, occupy regions that are rich and volatile and have significant economic and strategic interests for Americans, and have generated many misunderstandings, it is “not only interesting but essential to understand both the spiritual and political aspects of this faith. An examination of the historical and intellectual context in which two Muslim countries are struggling towards a democratic future will clarify the conditions in which democracy came about in these countries and indicate the possibilities of democracy in others,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad earned a master’s degree from the University of Waterloo in Canada and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He has taught at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, and at John A. Logan College in Illinois. He teaches courses in comparative politics and international relations. His research interests revolve around issues relating to the evolution and role of the Third World state, post-colonial studies, and comparative political economy.

King’s research will focus on the canon of antebellum American literature established by seven central critical works published between 1941 and 1960. King explains that “American fiction writers eschewed realistic descriptions of domesticity in favor of outrageous tales of adventure. These tales invariably feature protagonists who flee the confines of society for the freedom of the wilderness or ocean. Unbound by the restrictions of verisimilitude, the American romance is the perfect vehicle to explore the myth of America.”

“I wish to show that these classic romances are nuanced meditations on American democracy,” King said. “The cultural function of the romance in antebellum America,” King argues, “is to justify, amend, critique, and, on occasion, undermine pastoral conceptions of America that originated with the Puritans and that still have resonance today. In short, the romance is a meditation on the pastoral mythology that is the foundation of American democracy.”

King received his bachelor of arts degree from Emory University and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina. In addition to southern literature, his research and teaching interests include film and postmodern fiction.

The Chiesman Foundation For Democracy, Inc. was organized to promote and support greater awareness of the meaning of democracy and democratic ideals by our citizens. The Chiesman Foundation For Democracy is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical and educational corporation.

BHSU Community Band and Chamber Winds winter concert rescheduled - top

The Black Hills State University Community Band and Chamber Winds winter concert originally scheduled for Monday, Feb. 24 will now be Monday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the David B. Miller Yellow Jacket Student Union Jacket Legacy Room.

“With the recent stretch of bad weather, some of the community members couldn’t make it to rehearsal,” said director Christopher Hahn. “We have members from Belle Fourche, Rapid City, Lead, Deadwood, and Brownsville. I wanted to give them a chance to learn the music and perform with the rest of the band.”

The band will play “comfort” music-traditional fare including marches, ragtime, spirituals, and some big band music.

During the concert a raffle will be held to win a conductor’s baton and a chance to conduct the band. The winner needs no musical ability.

For more information contact Hahn, instructor of music at BHSU, at 642-6888.

The stock market game hosted by BHSU receives international attention - top

The South Dakota Stock Market Simulation (SDSMS), hosted by Black Hills State University, will have an international aspect this semester as 18 South Dakota schools as well as several teams from a school in Colombia, South America, participate in this on-line learning experience by investing a hypothetical $100,000 in a stock and mutual fund portfolio selected by the student.


The SDSMS, under the direction of Donald Altmyer, associate professor in the College of Business and Technology, currently has 140 teams participating which includes 96 high school teams and 44 middle school teams of three to five students per team. For the first time the state competition includes 15 middle school teams from Cartegena, Colombia, South America.

An article last year in “Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School” drew national and international attention to the game. Jeff Dungan, a member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and seventh grade pre-algebra teacher at Colegio Jorge Washington School, read the article "Bullish on Mathematics: Using Stock Market Simulations to Enhance Learning" and contacted Altmyer about the possibility of participating. The article was coauthored by Altmyer and John Alsup, BHSU College of Education assistant professor. The NCTM is the largest mathematics education organization in the United States and Canada with more than 100,000 members.

The article described how an online stock market simulation can be an excellent tool for motivating students to learn real-world mathematics in a middle school classroom and details four activities that can accompany the simulation.  By participating in stock-market simulations, students use ratios, fractions, decimals and percents in meaningful situations. Students examine line graphs of stock-price performance and bar graphs of company earnings estimates. The students apply current technology such as using the Internet to do company research, using spreadsheets for calculations and preparing multimedia presentations for class discussion. The stock market simulation connects important mathematics topics to one another and applies classroom math concepts to a real-life, real-time context. Teachers have discovered that the simulation can be an excellent classroom tool that increases student motivation and learning. 

Teachers from a number of different middle school and high school classes, including finance, economics, introduction to business, business math, gifted, personal finance, web development, consumer math, accounting, government and pre-algebra, incorporate the stock market simulation learning experience into their classes. Altmyer encourages teachers to use a variety of classroom activities to accompany the learning experience and provides recognition for teachers who incorporate unique classroom activities.

The SDSMS is an educational product of the University of South Dakota and Black Hills State University. The registration fee is $15 per team and includes all teacher materials, a bi-weekly coordinator newsletter and teachers entering five or more teams receive a 10-week, in-class subscription to the Wall Street Journal.  The top placing teams at the end of the 10-week trading period receive cash prizes. The spring session began on Feb. 17 and concludes on April 25.

For more information contact Altmyer, SDSMS coordinator, at (605) 642-6266 or by email at donaldaltmyer@bhsu.edu. The South Dakota Stock Market Simulation is sponsored by the South Dakota Council on Economic Education, the Center for Economic Education at the University of South Dakota and the Center for Economic Education at Black Hills State University.

Altmyer, an associate professor of business, has been at BHSU since 1995 and has been the South Dakota Stock Market Simulation coordinator since 1997.

BHSU graduate is now conducting research in Antarctica - top

Jennifer Mercer, a 1997 graduate of Black Hills State University who recently earned her Ph.D. 
in earth sciences with a focus 
in organic geochemistry from Dartmouth, is now doing post-doctoral research in Antarctica.

Her latest travel adventure is one of many far away sites she has visited to conduct research including Hawaii and the South China Sea, as well as sites all over the United States. She once spent a month on a French vessel collecting ocean sediment along the western Pacific margin (in the areas of Taiwan, Japan, China and Russia).

Mercer, who is originally from Spearfish, is in “the frozen continent” for six weeks studying the dry valleys that are believed to be the one place on Earth that may be most like the planet Mars.

Dr. Steve Anderson, BHSU professor, credits Mercer for her achievements and encourages other students to “think big and make the most of their educations.” He remembers that Mercer first came to BH to “learn something about photography,” and in the process discovered her interest and passion for science research.

“Jen never limited herself,” Anderson said. “Before she knew it, she was a science major and ended up doing ocean research in Hawaii, the South China Sea, and has traveled the world. In the process she was able to not only do the science, but kept her interest in photography and has photographed some of the most interesting landscapes anywhere on Earth.”

Anderson said that only a small number of scientists ever make it to Antarctica, which is a significant place to do research for a number of reasons.

“Antarctica contains over 90 percent of the planet’s fresh water, despite being a desert environment,” Mercer said. Ironically it is also quite possible to die from dehydration if you don’t have the tools to thaw the plentiful water.

Mercer is studying organic compounds in the dry valleys of Antarctica to figure out where the organic carbon that supports the modern-day ecosystems originally comes from.

“At first glance it seems that there is no life anywhere in Antarctica; in fact, the morphology has been compared to that of the planet Mars. However, there is a very interesting microscopic community where a nematode (a microscopic worm) is the king of the food chain. It is unclear where the organic material that supports the ecosystem originated. I can extract the organic compounds from the soils and look for signals from ancient plants that have been eroded out of rocks by the glaciers, or signals from algae, oceanic material and particles from dust that may have blown over from other continents,” Mercer said explaining her work.

She is currently involved in a project which focuses on the collection and study of three species of this microscopic worm. The project is part of a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program and is under the direction of Dr. Diana Wall at Colorado State University and Dr. Ross Virginia at Dartmouth College.

“Nematodes are everywhere on the planet, even in all plants and animals. Yes, each of you has nematodes in your body, and you can’t deny it…you even have several species,” Mercer writes. She explained that one form of nematode that most people recognize is the heartworm, which is a less desirable form.

The nematodes are dormant in the soil until the conditions are warm or moist enough, then they wake up and feed according to Mercer. “So, we just collect big bags of soil and bring them back to the lab. Then we put some water on the soil and wake the worms up. When we put them under the microscope, they are moving around and feeding on whatever they can find! They are quite cute under a microscope,” she said.

Mercer started out her new year near the South Pole, which has been an interesting experience for her already. Besides the actual research, she has also made time for other unusual activities there. She “survived” survival school which included a night in a snow hut, ran in a 4.5-mile road race and participated in a alternative arts gala that featured art pieces and costumes made from trash. A native of South Dakota, Mercer compared the weather during the road race to conditions she remembers in her home state.

“The weather wasn’t the greatest since it was snowing and the wind was blowing in our faces for the 2.5 miles of uphill [running]. It was exactly like a winter in South Dakota,” Mercer said.

Mercer said sleeping in a snow hut was very cold at first but after changing into dry clothes and eating a “bumper bar,” she was nice and toasty the rest of the night. “A ‘bumper bar’ is some sort of New Zealand concoction like a power bar, but the first ingredient is butter, followed by several types of sugar…it’s pure energy. To stay warm you have to eat and drink constantly so that your metabolism has something to burn and so that you’re properly hydrated,” Mercer explained.

Mercer has returned to her alma mater last semester to speak to Anderson’s geology students before heading to Antarctica. She has plans to continue this research, eventually extend her studies to the Arctic, and is looking at the possibility of teaching college courses in the near future.

Mercer said she always enjoyed science classes as an elementary student and became especially interested in geology in the eighth grade. However, she started BHSU with plans for a journalism major.

“It was during the spring of my freshman year when I realized that I should really become a scientist,” Mercer said. She was taking Dr. Steve Anderson’s physical geology class at the time and after a period of serious consideration, she changed her major and the course of her life.

“I’ve always felt that my education at BHSU was an integral part of my success.  I had professors in the arts and sciences who were phenomenal in the classroom and supportive of students’ interests.  Faculty at BHSU are among the best professors I’ve seen anywhere. They far surpass the quality of my Ivy League professors in graduate school,” Mercer said.

Mercer also credits the university for providing exceptional research opportunities to undergraduate students. “One of the best things about BHSU is that there is a lot of opportunity for students to get involved in research and hands-on experience. These types of experiences are usually given to graduate students at larger schools, so students from BHSU have a leg up on research experience by the time they graduate,” Mercer said.

As Mercer looks back on her educational experience she encourages other students to explore their options, make the most of their experiences and not limit themselves.

“Take every opportunity you have to expand your experiences in life. You’ll be amazed at the times when some past experience comes in handy and gives you an advantage,” Mercer said.

BHSU students encouraged to consider study abroad program - top

Applications are being accepted now through March 30 for participation in this year's study abroad program in Grenada, Spain. The program will run from June 1 to July 10. According to Peggy Buckwalter, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, the cost of $1,600 per applicant covers tuition, books, room and board, and cultural excursions. Visit the website for more information.

Walt Disney World College Program will return to BHSU March 17 - top

Walt Disney World representatives will once again visit Black Hills State University to interview students and present an informational presentation Monday, March 17 at 
2 p.m. in the Student Union Jacket Legacy Room.

The Disney program offers paid internship opportunities in a variety of fields. Their internship program is recognized as one of the top internship/training programs in the country, providing students the opportunity to earn college credit and take Disney classes while polishing their leadership skills.

Recruiters will be interviewing for six-month positions, which typically start in June and continue through November and into December. Students must attend the formal presentation in order to be considered for an interview.

Additional information can be found online at www.wdwcollegeprogram.com or by contacting Sarah Chase, career counselor and internship coordinator, at 642-6219 or sarahchase@bhsu.edu.

Semi-formal dinner dance will be March 22 - top

The BHSU Residence Hall Association will hold a semi-formal dinner dance Saturday, March 22 in the Student Union Jacket Legacy Room beginning at 6 p.m. 

Straight, No Chaser will provide live music from 6-10 p.m. A catered meal with choice of ham or prime rib will begin at 6:30 p.m. Shutterbuzz, the campus photography club, will be available to take pictures the night of the event. 

Tickets go on sale to Black Hills State University students, faculty, and staff Feb. 24 in the Residence Life Office, Woodburn 101. The cost is $12 per person or $20 per couple. Only 110 tickets will be sold. After March 3, tickets will be open to the general public.

Black Hills State University will offer lifelong learning courses - top

Black Hills State University will offer a variety of lifelong learning courses this spring. Classes offered include: Building Robots for Parent and Child; Take Two Apples, Exercise and Call Me in the Morning; Outlook Email; Desktop Design; and Small Business Basics which includes three separate class sessions.

Sheila Aaker, coordinator of extended services at BHSU, encourages interested people to register early for the classes. “Early registration helps avoid disappointment when classes fill quickly. It also helps avoid the disappointment of canceling a class due to low enrollment, only to find that last minute registrations would have filled it,” Aaker said.

Students may register for classes up until one week before the class is scheduled to start. Tuition fees must be paid when registering. Students may register by phone at 642-6771, by fax at 642-6031, by mail at BHSU, Extended Services, 1200 University Unit 9508, Spearfish, SD 57799-9508, or by stopping in the office in Woodburn Hall room 219, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. These lifelong learning classes are open to the public at a minimal cost.

Building Robots for Parent and Child will meet Tuesdays, March 4, 11, 18, 25 and April 1 from 6:30-8 p.m. in Woodburn Hall room 313A. The class gives parents the opportunity to have fun building a robot with their child. This class is designed to teach the basics of robotics.  Each parent and child pair will use a LEGO Mind-Storms system and work on their own project.  Robots may be able to move around obstacles and follow a bright light or do acrobotic stunts. Basic computer knowledge and fifth-grade level science is required. Students in fifth through eighth grade with an adult are encouraged to register. Cost for this class is $59 per child/adult team. Tom Termes, BHSU assistant professor, will be the instructor.

Take Two Apples, Exercise, and Call Me in the Morning is a nutritional class offered Mondays, April 7, 14, 21 and 28 from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Hall of Fame room of the Donald E. Young Sports and Fitness Center. This class will focus on using food to restore and protect your health. Eating well has no side effects, doesn’t cost as much as doctor visits or drugs, and leaves you feeling in control of your life. Participants will gain an understanding of the role exercise should play in their lives and learn about using free weights and exercise equipment in the Donald E. Young Center. Cost is $59 with an option for a Young Center pass during the class times for $10. Instructors are Michelle Buxton and Kyle Atchley.

Topics in the Outlook Email class include an introduction to email; signing up for an account; logging into the account and checking email; composing email; using address books; junk mail filtering; using folders; and performing account maintenance. This class is intended to be a beginner’s class and will teach the basics of email using free accounts available online such as Yahoo and Hotmail. The class is scheduled for Saturday, 
March 29 from 9-11 a.m. in Jonas Hall room 201. The cost is $19 and Ryan Ogan, computer support analyst at the BHSU computer center, will be the instructor.

The Desktop Design class will cover using graphic elements and layout techniques to draw attention, enhance readership, and improve retention of printed publications. This course will provide a background in basic design methods to improve the visual impact and effectiveness of printed publications such as newsletters, brochures, posters, invitations and booklets. Topics include: choosing typestyles, creating graphic elements, working with artwork and digital files, and layout techniques. This class will meet Saturday, March 8 from 9-11 a.m. in Jonas Hall room 110. Corinne Hansen, director of university communications at BHSU, will be the instructor. Cost is $19.

Small Business Basics includes three separate classes: Business Plan, Tuesday, 
April 8; Basic Forms, Tuesday, April 15; and Understanding Financial Statements, Tuesday, April 22. All classes will be held in Jonas Hall room 110 from 7-9 p.m. The cost is $19 per two-hour class. Participants may register for as many of the classes as they wish. Instructors for these small business classes are BHSU College of Business professors Priscilla Romkema, Liz Diers and Verona Beguin.

For more information contact the BHSU extended services office at 642-6771.

Graduate Council minutes - top

The Graduate Council met Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 3:30 p.m. in Jonas 110.

Present were Earley, Sujithamrack, Salomon, Mueller, Strand, Fuller, Erickson, Molseed, and Silva. 

Cook and Alsup were absent.

The committee reviewed the curriculum proposal for ECE 519 - Infant/Toddler Development. It was unclear whether or not this course was designed for undergraduates or graduates so the committee tabled the proposal pending further information from Dr. Calhoon.

The committee reviewed proposed new rules for graduate faculty status. The rules were modified and approved. The chair will take them to the deans and the vice president for consideration. 

The next Graduate Council meeting will be March 18 at 3:30 p.m. in Jonas 110. 

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