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ENE Memo: September 3, 2012

From the Head: 9/3

Creating Places for Spacious Conversations

The Labor Day weekend always comes just in time to catch our breath after the craziness and busy work of the first two weeks of classes, on top of the preparations that happened before that. Labor Day is a time to take stock of matters as we settle into the rhythm of the new academic year. It also gives us pause to think about our labors and our lives.

While there is much talk about work-life balance, it often seems to be an impossibility to achieve. But then again in this society we tend to equate who we are with the work we do. What do you do (for a living)? is often the first question we ask when introduced to somebody for the first time. Clearly we are more than the work we do, but what we do cannot be separated from who we are. That keen observer of life, Studs Terkel, noted that “work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”

If who we are is bound up in our daily lives when we are at work, then it behooves us to recognize this and to celebrate the meaning each of us derives from our work. A powerful way to do this is to share our stories. For instance, as part of the graduate course ENE 50100, designed for the new cohort of PhD students, faculty share the story of their professional journey thus far and their dreams and aspirations for their career going forward. The faculty are invited to talk about how they got started, which people and events influenced their work/career choices, what obstacles they faced/overcame, how their perspective and plans have changed over time, and where they aim to be in the next 5, 10 or 15 years. The purpose is to help the new students to envisage the many possibilities they have before them as they develop their overarching learning goals for their PhD experience while at Purdue, to stimulate their imagination as they articulate what they want to achieve and who they want to become in this phase of their life and career.

Returning to the wisdom of Studs Terkel: “People are hungry for stories. It's part of our very being. Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another."  ENE has a rich history going back to the origins of Freshman Engineering in 1953 and the IDE program in 1969 and includes the transition to ENE during the 2000s.  

We should find ways to carve out time and places where we – faculty, staff and students – can share our stories not least about what meaning we derive from our work – or would like to derive from it. Ideally these would be “spacious conversations” – not bounded by time and place as happens out of operational necessity in the 50-minute ENE 50100 class. The term "spacious conversations" comes from the radio program On Being. An excellent and apt example of one of these conversations is the one with Mike Rose on “The Meaning of Intelligence.” 

While there may not be time every day for such spacious conversations, we can each foster a climate which will lead to such conversations by always striving to be here now when we gather. In a world of txts, tweets and “urgent” emails, it easy to be distracted by the mobile devices we carry around and thereby fail to be present in the moment. Expansive conversations begin by each of us being attentive to the people we are physically present with, in that moment, and making an investment in them.

  - David

News and Information: 9/3

ENEGSA: Another shot at ordering a grad T-shirt!

In case you want a T-shirt and missed the 8/31 order: There will be an additional order placed this week. E-mail ENEGSA at to let them know the quantity and size(s) you need.


Seminars on College Teaching              

Purdue instructors can enhance their teaching skills, exchange ideas with colleagues, and get practical hints on their craft from some of the campus's award-winning professors in seminars offered by the Center for Instructional Excellence.

On Tuesday mornings beginning September 4, seminars will be offered on the basics of teaching at Purdue. Topics include how to:

  • Engage students.
  • Get students to come to class prepared.
  • Write a course syllabus.
  • Establish course policies that work.
  • Give effective lectures.
  • Write various kinds of tests.

Instructors can register for a single workshop or for the series (10 seminars) as a whole.

Graduate students who are interested in attending at least 9 of the 10 workshops being offered this semester should think about enrolling in EDCI 589:  College Teaching Workshops. Graduate students who enroll in the course and complete assignments related to the workshop content will have an opportunity to earn one credit as a pass/fail grade. Interested graduate students can register for the course online or email with additional questions.

Faculty, staff, and graduate students who are currently teaching -- or those who plan to teach in the future -- are welcome to attend.

To register for sessions, click on the titles in the flier or go to the series website and click on the session title.

Beginning Thursday September 6, a second series, “Expanding your Teaching Toolkit,” will be offered with the following presentations:

Everything you need to know about teaching according to Tom Turpin

  • Tom Turpin, Professor of Entomology
  • Thursday, September 6, 2012
  • 9:00-10:30 a.m. PFEN 241

He didn’t know it at the time, but growing up on a Kansas farm gave Tom Turpin his personal perspective on teaching.  We’ve asked Tom, an award-winning instructor, to share his insights on how some of the rules associated with agriculture apply to teaching. Pursuant to this “farm” theme, there will be a drawing for everyone present to receive a basket full of farm produce.  The runner up will receive a dozen fresh eggs.

Alan Alda’s Tips for Translating Technical Information

  • Linda Mason, professor of Entomology and Associate Dean of the Graduate School
  • Anne Fliotsos, professor of Visual and Performing Arts
  • Thursday, September 20, 2012
  • 9:00-10:30 a.m. STEW 322

After ending his popular TV series MASH, Alan Alda became interested in science.  Specifically, in how science teachers can better communicate their subject matter with lay audiences and students.  Toward that end, he established the Center for Communicating Science in Washington DC and runs seminars to teach scientists (and science educators) how to make themselves better understood. Linda Mason has attended this seminar and will share some of the teaching techniques and skills she learned.

The program is important to Purdue instructors because it’s designed to help students improve their writing and oral communication skills. In this workshop, and assisted by Anne Fliotsos from the Theatre Department, Linda will explain the concept behind this program and will get us all to “loosen up” by doing some low-risk improvisational exercises.

Calendar: 9/3

Fall 2012

  • Sept 6 - ENE Research Seminar, ARMS BO71, 3:30pm
  • Sept 28 - Inaugural ENE First Year Friday (A celebration of FYE)
  • Sept 27-29 - Alumni Weekend
  • Sept  29 - Family Day (ENE Booth promoting FYE, MDE and IDES)
  • Oct 12-14 - Homecoming Weekend (ENE Booth and i2i Learning Lab Tours)
  • Oct 24/25 - PhD Open House
  • Nov 1 - 2nd Annual ENE Interdisciplinary Colloquium - "Where did I leave my chariot?"
  • Nov 2 - Engineering Education Industrial Advisory Council (E2IAC) - Theme: Research

National or Independence Days around the World

If you know someone from any of these countries, wish them all the best for the celebrations of their national day.

Kudos: 9/3 Rick Womack, Jim Whitford, Eric Holloway, and their support team at the close of our first two weeks of this AY 2012-13,  for all the hard work they have done to ensure our successful start in ENGR 131 and 132. Thanks also to our advising team and to everyone who had a hand in producing the course materials, including the online modules. We could not do it without you!

To suggest content for future issues of ENE Memo, contact David Radcliffe or Lisa Tally by midday Friday for the following week's issue.