SPECTRUM: Community Relations Down to a Science - Higher Education


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SPECTRUM: Community Relations Down to a Science

by LYDIA LUM

For Dr. Rose Tseng, bringing scientific advancement to the University of Hawaii at Hilo is a delicate balancing act.

As chancellor since 1998, Tseng has responded sensitively to native Hawaiians who oft en worry they are being overlooked amid such advancement.

One of the higher-profile examples lies in the recent selection of the dormant volcano of Mauna Kea as the site for the world’s most advanced telescope. The university manages Mauna Kea’s summit, which is where the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will be located. Once completed, it will allow astronomers to study the universe with nine times the collecting area of today’s largest optical telescopes.

The $1.2 billion project is a partnership between the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and a consortium of Canadian universities.

“As prestigious as TMT is, local people must be able to participate in order for TMT to become a true success,” Tseng says. “You cannot simply hire the locals as janitors. Locals must be encouraged to work in astronomy and engineering. Our students must be encouraged to participate, too.”

Tseng plans to step down as chancellor in June. She expects her successor to face challenges in marrying science and research to Hawaiian cultural practices and traditions. Mauna Kea, for instance, is considered sacred by some indigenous people. Among other things, it’s a religious site that houses burial grounds.

During her tenure, Tseng has increased Hilo’s federal research funding from $3 million to $20 million annually and has overseen expansion of its science and technology park, an entity that features a $28 million publicly accessible astronomy center.

Tseng has presided over academic growth that includes dramatic expansion of indigenous language and culture education, an effort that makes the university the only one nationally offering a doctorate in indigenous language studies.

At least 41 percent of Hilo’s 3,773 students are Pacific Islander or Asian-American. More than half are first-generation college students and one-third receive federal Pell Grants. About twothirds come from families on the four islands of Hawaii.

Tseng credits a summer spent in Ethiopia in the 1960s with teaching her empathy for indigenous populations. At the time, her father was a surgeon working for the World Health Organization.

“I saw how unfair the world could be,” recalls Tseng, who holds a doctorate in nutritional sciences.

“Many people were hungry, had hardly any clothes.”

Dr. Leslie Wong, University of Northern Michigan president, says, although he is pleased Tseng will step down with a strong portfolio of accomplishments, her departure marks a substantial loss. “She represents about 15 percent of Asian- American presidents at four-year public schools.”

In 2006, Asians made up only 0.9 percent of all college presidents nationally, according to the American Council on Education, which recently hosted Tseng, Wong and their counterparts in Washington, D. C., for the first in a series of meetings aimed at building a bigger pipeline of Asian-Americans into college presidencies.

Tseng was chancellor of the West Valley-Mission Community College District in California for five years before taking the top job in Hilo. A longtime professor at San Jose State University, she also was dean of its College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

She plans to take a one-year sabbatical once she departs the chancellorship. Her future plans remain undetermined.

Recognizing a Forgotten Pioneer

Oklahoma State University psychology professor Dr. Charles I. Abramson is working to have Black entomologist Dr. Charles Henry Turner honored with a U.S. postage stamp, according to the Stillwater (Okla.) News Press.

Turner (1867-1923), according to Oklahoma State’s Web site, pioneered the comparative psychology and animal behavior movement in America. His contributions include the development of techniques to measure learning and other types of behavior of several invertebrate species, and he initiated the first controlled studies of color vision and pattern vision in honeybees. Turner taught high school and published extensive anatomical studies of the avian and crustacean brain, discovered a new species of aquatic invertebrate and was instrumental in developing social services for St. Louis-area Blacks.

Abramson, who has written several articles on Turner, told the Stillwater News Press he considers Turner “a role model for people who refuse to lie down and take no for an answer.” However, his pleas to various postal and government agencies have been unsuccessful so far.

“If they can give a postage stamp to cartoon characters, they can do this for Turner, but it (has) been frustrating,” Abramson said.

Rare Chinese Book Collection Going Digital at Harvard

Representatives from the Harvard College Library and the National Library of China last month signed a deal to digitize Harvard- Yenching Library’s 51,500-volume Chinese rare book collection, according to the Harvard College Library Web site.

Harvard-Yenching is the largest university library for East Asian research in the Western Hemisphere. HCL Imaging Services Group will complete the six-year project in two threeyear phases. The first phase, which begins in January, will digitize books from the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties dating from 960 to 1644. The second phase begins in January 2013 and will digitize books from the Qing Dynasty, which dates from 1644 to 1795.

Digitizing the collection, which became more accessible through Harvard’s online library catalog in 2003, allows the library to reduce physical contact with the original books while increasing scholars’ access to the material.

Pitting the Past Against the Present

Diverse asked a few professors “what’s your job like today compared with the past?”

“I started off working at a regional public university in the Midwest.

It was a teaching school. … I was able to focus the bulk of my energy on sharing knowledge with young learners. Now, I work at a private, religious university in the Midwest that greatly values research but still fosters the value of undergraduate education. There is definitely more pressure to publish and less teaching responsibility, which is helpful. The student population at my new job is, in many ways, more homogeneous.”

— Dr. Stefan Bradley, assistant professor of history, Saint Louis University

“All aspects of my job now move in much quicker time. With e-mail, blackboard, PowerPoint and other technologies, information can be transmitted so much more quickly and in such higher volume. This change has been mostly a plus. I can answer students’ questions in real time. I can submit articles to more journals and receive responses more quickly, and I can collect data in a much more comprehensive way. The downside is losing moments of quiet and deep concentration while trying to sort through all the information that I receive.”

— Huyen Pham, professor of law, Texas Wesleyan University School of Law

“Today, we have a plethora of technology that facilitates the development and delivery of instruction. This particularly impacts the way I teach ‘Estereotipos’ (Stereotypes) in commercial media in Latin America and Spanish Caribbean culture to address issues of race, representation and identity.”

— Maritza Quinones-Rivera, a visiting lecturer of Latino studies, Indiana University Bloomington

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