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Welcome Back! to our faculty returning from sabbatical / leave of absence Fall, 2013

Christina Hornbach, Music, researched folk music and curricula at the Library of Congress American Folklife and Music Reading Rooms; continued to serve as the President of the Michigan Music Education Association; published the President’s Message in the Michigan Music Educator, Special Issue: Enriching the Curriculum through School-Community Partnerships; served on the Executive Committee of the 9th Annual Michigan Music Conference: An In-Service for Music Educators; participated as the state delegate for Michigan in the 2013 National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Leadership Assembly, including a Capitol Hill visit for advocacy and policy progress; supported continuing professional development for music teachers in Michigan by hosting an inaugural full-day elementary general music workshop at Hope College in September 2013 with over 100 music teachers from across the state participating; presented “Wizard of Parts: Chord Roots, Partner Songs, and More! Oh My!” at the Michigan Music Educators 1st Inaugural Elementary General Music Workshop (hosted at Hope); and had a book chapter, “Early Childhood Music Curriculum and Assessment” accepted for publication in GIA’s Music Curriculum and the Core Arts Standards.

Jeff Johnson, Chemistry , spent the majority of his fall semester in his research lab with his students, continuing studies in the general field of transition metal catalysis. It didn’t take long to get back into the swing of lab work, and the semester ended with the discovery of several promising new research avenues, including a new method of utilizing carbon-carbon single bond activation to generate reactive intermediates capable of coupling with carbon dioxide. (You’ll have to trust him—it’s pretty cool!) These new discoveries will give the students plenty of new projects to pursue in the coming years. In occasionally getting out of the lab, Jeff took advantage of his scheduling flexibility to accept speaking invitations at multiple conferences and seminars while also working with students to submit two manuscripts for publication and preparing the foundation for a spring 2014 grant proposal. Beyond chemistry, Jeff made progress on the ever growing list of home projects, served as the family’s primary taxi driver, and volunteered at Blue Star Elementary School, gaining even greater appreciation for elementary teachers everywhere. Although the reprieve from meetings and grading was truly enjoyable, Jeff quickly realized how much he missed teaching and is looking forward to returning to the classroom.


Ryan McFall, Computer Science, spent his sabbatical as "Intern Ryan", working at Open Systems Technologies (OST) in Grand Rapids as a software developer. While there, he was part of a team of OST employees who were charged with building a new web site to drive the operations of the client. Ryan spent his days learning about current technologies in the world of software development, and will be bringing many of those technologies back into his spring courses.  He also found time to bring a group of senior Computer Science students on a tour of OST, which led to one December graduate landing a full-time position and another student beginning an internship in December and running through the spring semester. The local press found the idea of this sabbatical interesting, with articles about it appearing in the Grand Rapids Business Journal & mlive.com, as well as an article soon to appear in Crain's Michigan Business.  Ryan recommends that other faculty investigate working in industry as an option for any upcoming sabbaticals, as he found it very enjoyable and rewarding.

Deb Swanson, Sociology, spent her sabbatical interviewing women who are mothers of teenagers. These women were part of a research project 14 years ago and she wanted to see how their perceptions of mothering had changed as their children had aged. This research will be part of a presentation at the Midwest Sociological Society meetings in Omaha, Nebraska this spring. She was also the chair of the search committee for a faculty position in the Sociology department and member of the Service-Learning task force. For fun, she began a quest to read 50 books each set in a different state of the United States – but she has only read about 25 so far!

Kathleen Verduin, English, spent her sabbatical on what she hopes are the last installments of a long-term study: the interest shown by American writers and scholars in Dante's   Divine Comedy . The focus of the semester was double: on George Ticknor (1791-1871), the first to provide instruction on Dante at Harvard, and then on James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), who taught Dante classes at Harvard, served as president of the Dante Society of America, and wrote a number of shorter pieces on Dante and his times. Her travels took her to Dartmouth College, which houses a number of Ticknor's letters and journals, and then to Harvard, where she examined Ticknor's teaching notes and the correspondence of Lowell.

Anne Heath Wiersma, Art, spent her sabbatical starting a new project on the history and performative aspects of altars and altar decoration in the late Middle Ages. She began the summer writing a book review of the German-language exhibition catalogue, Golden Splendor: Medieval Treasure Art in Westphalia, for the journal Studies in Iconography. She then spent the fall taking a French class and reading the seminal scholarship on altarpieces and their associated artistic materials, such as gold, silk, paint, stone, and ivory. Anne traveled to France, examining works of art associated with altars in Paris and Lyon. In addition, through the support of a GLCA New Directions Initiative Grant, Anne traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, and Vienna and Salzburg, Austria also to survey potential case studies related to altars. Currently, Anne is organizing the results of her research and is preparing scholarly papers for future conferences and publications. While in Salzburg, Anne had the opportunity to celebrate her undergraduate German professor's 85th birthday and sing the All Saint's Day Mass with her beloved choir at the Franciscan church. Anne is most grateful for the stress-free time to devote to her children doing homework, practicing violin and now trumpet, and being the den-mother to her son's cub scout group.