A Snow Statue Unfolds in the Bitter Cold

by Jillian Schwab, student intern

Jillian Schwab--a second-year undergraduate, a student intern in University Marketing and Communications and a resident of West McNair Hall--shares an insider's view of snow statue building. Schwab and her team won first place in the residence hall, monthlong category.


After several long nights of stomping snow into blocks, a frozen tower is finally finished. At more than 20 feet high, it stands out instantly against the bricks of Wadsworth Hall. Boys climb the scaffolding to start on the next task, shaping the top into a snout and droopy ears. Tonight this is just a pile of blocks of snow and ice, but when Winter Carnival starts, it'll be a giant snow dog.

The first floor of West McNair Hall banded together to attempt something residence halls rarely do: entering the Winter Carnival monthlong statue competition. Usually residence halls build a small All-Nighter statue, leaving the huge, more elaborate constructions to the fraternities and sororities. But by joining forces as a floor, we decided we had the manpower, creativity and dedication to attempt to build one of the giant statues for which Carnival is known.

The theme of Winter Carnival this year is "thousands of pages unfold in the bitter cold," so we felt we should base our statue on a book. After much discussion, we settled on one that most of us loved growing up: "Clifford the Big Red Dog," by Norman Bridwell. Statues are judged partly on the purity of the snow, however, so Clifford will have to be the big white dog this time.

All our equipment is laid out: wooden boards to form the snow into blocks, several shovels and buckets to move snow, a hose to bring water from the spigot, machetes and hatchets to carve and shape the snow blocks and a residence-hall floor of people eager to take on the daunting project.

The bulk of a snow statue is built in blocks. First, a wooden form is set up. Snow is dumped into the form while water is added to allow the block to freeze solid. Somebody stomps the slushy mixture down, so the block can be as dense and sturdy as possible. Once it's filled, a form is left to sit and freeze into shape. Then the boards are removed, and another block is made. The smaller, more detailed parts of a statue are sculpted out of slush. Most of the detail work is saved for the All-Nighter, since even a short warm spell can mean doom for detail work.

"We've got a lot of good people out here doing good work," John Kinzinger, the Resident Assistant spearheading the West McNair statue, says as he yells to motivate the team. "I'm proud."

The statue is starting to take shape. What was just a small pile of blocks only days earlier is beginning to look like a dog. The temperature is dropping as the wind picks up around us, but the team's spirits are only rising. The closer we get to finishing, the more excited we become to see the culmination of all our hard work. The Winter Carnival statues are famous, and it feels great to know we all had a part in one.

Ben Ellis takes a break from carving out a paw of the huge snow dog. "It's interesting how we can't build snow people that well, yet we can build these enormous monstrosities of snow and ice," he remarks. "It takes a lot of work to put these things up, but once they're done they look amazing."

Ray Kemmer nods, propping herself up with a shovel. "I like working on the statue; it's something to do with my hands--and feet and back and arms. So much of what we do at Tech is done with the mind that doing physical labor is a good and needed thing. And statues are awesome. They're massive, pretty and taller than I am!"

Kinzinger surveys the site below him as he carves away what will be the head of a massive snow Clifford. "I've gotten used to going out to statue every night," he observes. "It's hard to believe that it's already almost over." Everyone nods in agreement. Whether we've been out every night or just for a couple hours here and there, it's hard for everyone to believe that Winter Carnival is upon us. It'll feel strange not spending our evenings shoveling, carving, stomping and passing buckets, and nobody is looking forward to watching the statue melt little by little as the rest of the semester passes. But while that statue stands, we'll all be able to smile as we pass by, knowing that we were each a small part of one of Michigan Tech's greatest traditions.

Winter Carnival: an Opportunity to Study Culture

by Danny Messinger, student writer

Winter Carnival isn't just the perfect time for students to play wacky games, build sky-high snow statues and show their school spirit. It's also a great opportunity to learn about Michigan Tech culture by watching how people interact during one of campus's most celebrated events.

For four years, Professor Patty Sotirin (Humanities) has been assigning a project--as creative as the many statues that stand prominently across campus. The project is designed to help students in her organizational communication class observe concepts like meanings, roles, relations, interactions and structures of organizational cultures being acted out at Winter Carnival events.

"When you're looking at a concept like culture," says Sotirin, "you first have to back out of it. If you can learn how to watch meaning take place, it's a very powerful skill. One of the most important tasks organizational managers have is making meaning. Employees often go to managers to ask them exactly what something means. It's a crucial skill to master."

Before students can brave the cold weather in hopes of making sense of the culture of Michigan Tech's most well-known event, they first have to learn how to think like a cultural analyst. In the weeks leading up to Winter Carnival, students in Sotirin's class practice taking objective field notes and looking for contradictions and tensions in everyday situations; these are the types of differences that help students frame their understanding of Winter Carnival culture.

"Winter Carnival culture is like a mosaic," says Sotirin. "Winter Carnival means different things to different people and different groups. It's not just the official event that many visitors see. This project helps students really learn how to organize meaning."

During Winter Carnival, students gather their pen and paper (and mittens) and head out on an hour-long observation of one specific Winter Carnival event or site of their choosing. From statue construction to the annual fireworks show, nothing is off limits.

"There are definitely some popular locations from year to year," says Sotirin. "The hot chocolate stand in the Memorial Union Building is pretty common--which is interesting because that's where the cops like to hang out. Other students have observed Stage Revue from both an audience perspective and as a performer. Some have even followed a family around to watch how they interact while they look at statues. The neat part is that everybody brings something different even if they're at the same location."

Ryan Lucas, a senior mechanical engineering technology major, helped unravel the organizational culture of broomball games last year as a student in Sotirin's class.

"Other than getting very cold hands and feet, it was interesting to observe others while attempting not to be noticed by anyone," says Lucas. "It was kind of a 'secret mission.' It gives you a firsthand view of the topics we discussed in class, and gets you more involved than just sitting in class listening to lecture."

Jess Banda, a fourth-year scientific and technical communication major, tried to be as inconspicuous as possible while taking her field notes during the All-Nighter, but quickly found that the assignment made her stand out in the Winter Carnival celebrations.

"When I did my observations, a lot of weird stuff happened," says Banda. "More than one person ran up to me and tried to rip my notebook right out of my hands! They wanted to know what I was doing and why I wasn't just enjoying Carnival."

That's why Sotirin reminds her students of the importance of being a neutral bystander. In order to truly analyze the cultural and organizational practices of Winter Carnival, students must remove themselves from the event. Once this difficult concept is mastered, they can begin to look for examples of culture. Sotirin suggests students pay special attention to struggles over territory; conversation, vocabularies and forms of address; and rituals, routines and routes.

"I paid a lot of attention to the communication patterns at the dance," says Banda. "Usually one person would start a trend of dancing. They would typically be standing on the outskirts of the group, and then start doing a new dance. There was a funny period where people would stare; then they'd observe, learn and join in."

Andrew Wiegand, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major currently enrolled in the course, is already busy planning his observation site.

"I might try to ride along with the grounds crew or Public Safety," says Wiegand. "I expect to observe a lot of interactions centering around authority. This project is interesting, though, because the connection between the project and class material isn't predefined. The class has studied many different theories and definitions of communication, and which one the project will uncover is unclear until we're done."

Maddy Baron, a third-year scientific and technical arts major, plans to brave cold nighttime temperatures to observe the construction of an all-nighter statue.

"Winter Carnival is a powerful expression of Tech culture," says Baron. "This assignment allows us to get a better understanding of our shared identity as Tech students by experiencing our culture from a new perspective. It's going to be fun to look at Carnival through a research lens."

Although students' ultimate conclusions are somewhat random, Sotirin hopes the project will help them recognize the complexity of familiar events like Winter Carnival.

"There is such a variety of stuff that goes on during Winter Carnival," says Sotirin. "The richness and variety of student findings continues to fascinate me each and every year. Winter Carnival is always the same and it's always different."

Hojnacki and Dernovsek Earn Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District Honors

by Wes Frahm, director of athletic communications and marketing

Two basketball players have earned Capital One Academic All-District honors from the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Mike Hojnacki (Milwaukee, Wis./New Berlin Eisenhower) was named the Academic All-District IV College Division First Team, and Lucy Dernovsek (Holcombe, Wis./Lake Holcombe) was selected to the Second Team.

Hojnacki leads Tech in scoring at 15.9 points per game and has scored 20-plus points in a game seven times this season. The 6-7 forward ranks sixth in the GLIAC in scoring and is also among the league leaders in rebounding (5.5), field goal percentage (51.9), 3-point percentage (42.7) and free throw percentage (79.7). Hojnacki, a junior in mechanical engineering, owns a 3.65 cumulative grade point average.

Dernovsek leads the No. 8-ranked womenís basketball team in scoring (12.1), rebounding (8.3) and blocks (2.1). The 5-11 forward has helped the Huskies win 15 of their last 16 games, with six double-doubles during that span. She is among the top five players in the GLIAC in rebounds, blocks, 3-point percentage (44.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6-to-1). Dernovsek is a senior business administration major with a 3.88 cumulative GPA.

The Capital One Academic All-District and All-America teams are nominated and voted on by CoSIDA members across the country. To be eligible for the Academic All-America program, student-athletes must have a 3.30 GPA or higher, must have completed two semesters at their current institution,and must not be freshmen or redshirt freshmen (eligibility).

CoSIDAís College Division District IV encompasses all student-athletes from non-NCAA Division I institutions in the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Hojnacki, as a member of the first team, will now be eligible for Academic All-America honors. The 2010-11 Capital One Academic All-America Menís Basketball Teams will be announced Feb. 22.

New Destruction Procedure for Media

submitted by Information Technology Services and Security

Faculty and staff often do business that requires them to store confidential or sensitive information on their computers. When it comes time to dispose of these systems, or to transfer this data to another user or system, certain procedures need to be followed in order to prevent confidential data from being compromised.

Disposing paper, computers or media into the regular trash or the recycle bin doesn't mean the information will be securely destroyed.

Deleting a file or emptying the "recycle bin" or "trash" folder does not permanently destroy the information on PCs.

Proper disposal or sanitization of electronically stored data is required to ensure the privacy and security of the University's sensitive information, such as personnel records, financial data and protected health information. Following proper sanitization procedures will ensure permanent destruction of all data stored on paper or on electronic media.

In order to ensure proper disposal and sanitization of electronic data, ITSS has developed an Electronic Media Destruction Procedure to guide you through the process. ITSS encourages all University personnel to review and follow this procedure when applicable.

Paper-based material with sensitive or confidential information should be shredded before it leaves the control of your office or area.

For more information, contact ITSS at 487-0999 or visit http://www.security.mtu.edu .

SFHI Candidate (Energy) Seminar

The next Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative in Energy will be at 2 p.m., Monday, Feb. 14, in Rekhi G06.

Joshua Pearce, of the mechanical and materials engineering department at Queen's University in Canada, will present "Microstructural Engineering for Solar Photovoltaic Devices."

MSE will sponsor the seminar.

For more information, contact Beth Ruohonen at 487-4326 or beth@mtu.edu . An abstract of the seminar can be viewed at SFHI Energy .

CS Candidate Seminar

Barrett Bryant, a professor and associate chair in computer and information science at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, will present a seminar, "Grammar Inference Technology Applications in Software Engineering," at 3 p.m., Friday, Feb. 11, in Rekhi 214.

Bryant is a candidate for the chair position in the computer science department.

To view the abstract, see candidate .

Interdisciplinary Panel Discussion

The School of Business and Economics Research Committee has put together a panel discussion on Interdisciplinary Research Opportunities at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 16, in Dow 641.

Learn from the following faculty members:

* Greg Graman, School of Business and Economics
* Ann Maclean, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
* Dave Watkins, Civil and Environmental Engineering
* Jeff Naber, Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
* Nilufer Onder, Computer Science
* Barry Solomon, Social Sciences

The campus community is invited. A social will follow the discussion.

Lunch and Learn: Using Toning Equipment

Benefits and Portage Health will host a Lunch and Learn, "Proper Techniques Using Toning Equipment," at 11 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 17, in the ROTC 101.

Fitness Coordinator Emily Johnson, of Portage Health, will demonstrate the proper use of hand weights, kettlebells, resistance bands, the bosu ball and stability ball.

For more information, contact Benefits at benefits@mtu.edu .

In the News

Michigan Tech's oobleck demonstration at Spring Fling has been featured on the Wired video science page .

New Staff

Nicholas Hendrickson joins the School of Technology as operational/facilities supervisor. Previously, he worked as a design engineer with GS Engineering in Houghton. He earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering technology in 2004. He and his wife, Karen, live in Calumet.