Ferris faculty celebrate achievements before start of new school year

NEW SCHOOL YEAR: With less than a week until classes start, many Ferris faculty said they are looking forward to the start of the new semester and students returning to campus.

BIG RAPIDS – Although the point of Tuesday’s gathering was to give Ferris State University faculty time together before students arrived on campus, many professors in attendance agreed the students are their favorite part of the job.

“I’m really pleased that I’ve been accosted by about 20 of my former students already,” said adjunct faculty member Cathy Browers with a laugh. “I look forward to school starting. (The students) are fun, they’re intelligent.”

Browers, who works in the College of Business graduate program, was one of the faculty gathered at the Ferris Faculty Celebration on campus Tuesday – the first time a faculty welcome had been offered in that format, courtesy of the Academic Senate and Academic Affairs.

“We asked is there a time when faculty can’t say ‘I have a class’ or ‘I have a meeting’?” said Doug Haneline, president of the Academic Senate. “Yes, it’s the second day of faculty week. This is an event where, in every sense, we want to recognize the achievements of faculty.”

Posters listed faculty research projects completed in the past year and faculty who had earned tenure and various awards. A slideshow noted other types of achievements.

“This is really a work of the Academic Senate,” said Mindy Baumgartner, special events coordinator for Academic Affairs. “They said we want to celebrate our faculty in a way that allows them to come together when classes aren’t in session.”

Sandy Alspach, a professor of communication, is especially excited for classes this semester as the next stage of a new sports communication minor will be implemented. The minor was first offered in fall 2011.

“It’s fun,” said Alspach, who has taught at Ferris for 19 years. “I’ve reached the stage in my career where I could retire tomorrow. I need something to keep me energized.”

The sports communication minor started out with a limit of 25 students, which filled up in three days when the program was originally offered, Alspach said. Twenty-eight students now are enrolled, and they can use the minor toward “anything you would do in a sports venue.”

Alspach will teach her first sports communication class in the winter semester, while she focuses on a new sports speaker series this fall. Creating the new minor stemmed from Alspach’s love of sports and her positive experiences with athletes in her other classes – plus the availability of careers related to sports communication.

“I thought what a neat way to capture (athletes’) energy in an academic way,” she said. “There’s opportunities for students in so many directions. … There are things you can do in an athletic program where you don’t have to be a jock or a coach.”

RECOGNIZING ACHIEVEMENTS: The various of achievements of Ferris faculty were recognized at the Ferris Faculty Celebration on Tuesday at the Granger Center.

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