During May semester, natural sciences professor Johan Erikson took students out to explore the ecology of the Gulf of Maine by kayak. The group spent several nights on Peaks Island and then ultimately camped for four nights on uninhabited Jewell Island in Casco Bay, about 5 miles off the coast of Portland. Erikson recalls the magical day when the group floated in their kayaks in a calm sea surrounded by adult and baby seals popping up out of the water.
For three weeks, the class investigated the "confluence of oceanographic, ecological, biological, geological, and chemical processes" that have led to one of the most biologically productive regions of the world. The class used the Gulf of Maine as a microcosm of similar processes occurring globally.
Dr. Mark Green knows the tiniest marine organisms can tell us a lot. As carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have climbed steadily - making the ocean more acidic in the process - he was the first scientist to prove tiny juvenile clams were dying primarily because their shells were dissolving in less alkaline conditions. Now, the National Science Foundation has honored his pioneering contributions by awarding the marine science professor a third grant to continue his research related to the effects of ocean acidification on clams. In the most recent study, Green turns his focus on microscopic larval clams in several Maine estuaries, where changes in acidification happen much faster. Student research assistants help with field and laboratory work.
Dr. Green's research conducted in an estuary of the Gulf of Maine will have applications in estuaries throughout the world. His work has attracted media attention because of its important findings on how ocean acidification can dissolve the carbonate shell of tiny marine animals. In addition to being published in scholarly journals, Green was recently featured in International Innovation, a globally distributed quarterly report that highlights leading researchers and considers the major scientific questions facing the world today.
Before sustainability became a buzz word and colleges nationwide embraced the green movement, Saint Joseph's stood on unique ground nine years ago when it decided to require an environmental science course for all juniors. This science course is rooted in Earth's interrelated physical systems, energy and matter - yet spills over into policy areas and considers the big environmental problems. In so doing, it pulls in ethics, sociology, economics, and even theology.
Professor Jeanne Gulnick believes students can be inspired to protect the environment for many reasons, and in class she gives students the chance to discuss those perspectives. "Their value systems can justify why we should protect it," she says. In 2009, Gulnick obtained a grant to examine energy use on campus, so students have been able to use their surroundings as a living laboratory for the course.
As sports management continues to grow as a field, students study everything from sports marketing, sports law, sports and society, to facilities management and event planning under the tutelage of department chair Tom Dann. Professor Lisa Ahearn provides oversight of the program and works one on one with all students in the major. She integrates the real world into the sports marketing class by teaming up with the Red Claws, a local professional basketball team.
Ahearn says that most students take advantage of the opportunity for 180 hours of real-world experience through internships. "A lot of students ask ‘What if I find an opportunity that's far away?'" says Ahearn. "I tell them that we'll make it work. If it fits with your career aspirations, we'll make it happen."
Art professor Scott Fuller and a group of students traversed the natural and cultural wonders of Ecuador for 16 days in spring - traveling by bus, taxi, and even by dugout canoe on a tributary of the Amazon - as part of the college's first-ever field class in digital photography. In this May semester class, they experienced the country's diverse geography and culture. Their focus included everything from the intricacies of colonial churches in the capital of Quito to a thin-air climb at 14,000 feet on the slope of Cotopaxi Volcano.
The class operated technologically much as it would in the classroom thanks to a laptop and external hard drive, allowing student photos to be downloaded and shared for critiques. But there the similarity ended. Fuller says that a new culture provides a wealth of opportunities to learn about being a student, a traveler and a diplomat. "It definitely changed their perspective on the world," he says.
Dr. Dale Brooker, chair of the criminal justice program, says there's a difference between a degree in criminal justice and criminology. Sociology and social work play an important role in educating students in the criminal justice major here, and the emphasis on integrating disciplines distinguishes the Saint Joseph's program. "We're the only program I know that requires students to take a social work field practicum," Brooker notes.
Professor Brooker says the main focus of the major is providing graduates with a "tool kit" of skills, including a foreign language requirement. (Latin, which Brooker says is embedded in legal terms, is actively encouraged.) "That tool kit involves understanding research that exists regarding organizational aspects of law enforcement and police officer stress," says Brooker. "Having students understand that gives them more than what they might get at the Maine State Police Academy."
Chemistry professor Nicholas Benfaremo is a part of a five-member team of area scientists awarded a $360,000 federal grant from the National Science Foundation to research fluorescent light. Fluorescent materials absorb light energy in one frequency range (typically UV light) and give light off at a lower frequency (typically as visible light.) The team is working to make organic materials that fluoresce and give off a variety of colors, rather than just the typical bluish color. The team is posing questions about the properties of the molecules and asking: If you alter their environment, does it change their behavior?
"It's like a new alphabet," Benfaremo says. "If you have a four-letter alphabet you can only do so much. If you're given a 26-letter alphabet... you can make whole new things, and brand new words and ideas."
Nursing professor Martha DeCesere ’85 helps first-year students move into their dorm rooms. Gail Marchigiano brings pizza into the nursing lab on a Sunday night when she comes in to offer a review session. Steve Bridge plays basketball with students every Tuesday. Last winter, sociology professor Dale Brooker slept overnight in a cardboard box outside Alfond Hall to promote the student Habitat for Humanity chapter. In other words, engaging students at Saint Joseph’s often goes way beyond classroom instruction.
Dr. Greg Teegarden wants to know much more about how red tide develops in nearby Casco Bay. A sophisticated tracking buoy purchased with a National Science Foundation grant should now give him and his students a much better picture of these toxic algae blooms by collecting new kinds of data in Harpswell Sound – a part of the bay that suffers from recurring red tides and the shellfish contamination it causes.
Teegarden, a marine science professor who has published widely on red tide, relies on the buoy to send real-time profles on weather conditions, tides, temperature, salinity, current speeds, nutrient concentrations, and chlorophyll concentrations in order to track how toxic algae blooms develop. The buoy continuously records and transmits these conditions, all of which can point to algae levels in the water.
Art professor Scott Fuller was awarded a prestigious Olympic Ring Award in Beijing, China, as part of the Olympic Landscape Sculpture Contest. Fuller’s sculpture was one of 50 Ring Award winners out of 290 finalists selected as “Excellent Works.” The sculpture featured a series of towering gates, each designed to resemble a flame. Of the finalists, 29 entrants received gold, silver, and bronze medals, followed by the Ring Award winners.
Last summer professor Sharon Martin was preparing for her Community Health Nursing course when she discovered she had to make avian flu not only the focus of the class period on emerging diseases, but her own professional focus, as well. That’s because when she searched the nursing journals, she could find no mention of the flu – despite the fact that it could be “devastating and life-altering” if human-to-human transmission creates a world-wide epidemic, or pandemic.
Alarmed by the seeming lack of discussion in the broader nursing community, she began her own campaign to spread the word about a virus that could spread widely and rapidly. If the virus ends up transmitting from human to human, Martin says nurses will be on the front lines. “They need to know the symptoms, so they can protect themselves and their patients,” she says. “Otherwise, they become part of the contagion.”
Associate professor of marine science Mark Green has received a $419,000 National Science Foundation grant to continue his research on clam species in nearby Casco Bay. The three-year grant, which is the second Dr. Green has received from the National Science Foundation, will include field work along the shoreline in Freeport and South Portland.
The new study will definitively answer why so many juvenile hardshell and softshell clams die, says Green. His earlier study, which suggested tiny clams die because their shells dissolve under naturally occurring acidic conditions, countered a nearly 100-year-old theory suggesting predation as the dominant cause. Roughly 98 percent of clams die off within the first two weeks of life in the ocean sediment, leading to far fewer harvestable adults.
At the beginning of 1999, only about two dozen blogs appeared on the Internet. By April 2006, that number had skyrocketed to 35 million. Realizing the potential of blogs, history professor Michelle Laughran and criminal justice professor Dale Brooker put them to work as a teaching tool in the spring semester.
To many people, the Atlantic Ocean is simply vast, open water. To Greg Teegarden and Mark Green – professors of marine and environmental science – it is a vibrant world with a complex ecology. And the Gulf of Maine is their neighborhood.
“As a boy I spent my summer vacations on Cape Cod, walking around tide pools, fishing, digging for clams,” Green says. “The passion never left me.” For decades, both men have explored the Gulf of Maine, a stretch of sea that lies between Cape Cod and the southern tip of Nova Scotia, including the historically rich fishing grounds of Georges Bank. As boys, both Green and Teegarden played along the shore and fell in love with the sea.
“Heart” is not a term often paired with “math.” But three years ago, two Saint Joseph’s professors adopted a radically different approach to the math course for liberal arts majors, one where equations don’t fill up the board and students don’t try to memorize them. What they do is learn to think in a new way – one embraced in a book called The Heart of Mathematics.
Dr. David Pinchbeck calls the book a gem. In his restructured Contemporary Math course, students learn about big ideas in math, like infinity and the fourth dimension, like symmetry and chaos theory. Or how any type of vote counting system becomes imperfect once there are more than two candidates.
Mix together a lot of energy with a little edge and you've got business professor Ed Hellenbeck. He spent 20 years as a vice president and manager at Unum, a major player in the disability insurance field. Much of that time he worked in marketing and customer service, a background that carries over in how he listens to students and meets their needs while demanding they perform at a high standard.
John Ford, one of America’s most revered directors, won six Academy Awards for Best Director – more than any other director. In 1973, he was the first person chosen to receive the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award and is often credited with forging the career of John Wayne, his favorite actor whom he directed in films such as “Stagecoach” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” But long before his success in Hollywood, Ford was the scrappy 11th child of an Irish family from Portland, Maine. History professor Dr. Michael Connolly, another Irishman from Portland, has turned the spotlight on Ford’s early years in a soon-to-be-published book of essays, called John Ford in Focus: Essays on the Filmmaker’s Life and Work.