Glenn Mroz Testifies Before Senate Higher Education Subcommittee

by Jennifer Donovan, director, public relations

President Glenn Mroz testified in Lansing last week before the Higher Education Subcommittee of the Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee. His testimony was part of a presentation by the Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM), an organization of CEOs from the state's largest employers, representing among them one-quarter of Michigan's gross domestic product.

Mroz urged the senators to support performance-based funding of state universities. Praising Gov. Rick Snyder for proposing a budget that includes incentive funding based on performance, Mroz said that the metrics used to evaluate performance need to follow the more concrete recommendations that the BLM has recommended.

For the full story, see Mroz.

Board of Control Meets This Week

The Board of Control will meet at 9 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 23, in Memorial Union Ballroom B.

The agenda includes room and board rates for the 2012-13 academic year; approval and financing for renovations to the MacInnes Ice Arena and Student Development Complex; a new Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management; and a grant application to the Michigan Coastal Management Program in the state Department of Environmental Quality. The funds will be used to restore the waterfront that runs adjacent to Michigan Tech's campus.

The full agenda is available at BOC Meeting.

New Research Predicts Risky Decision Making

by John Gagnon, promotional writer

Life is full of risks. Knowing whether we have the skills to understand the risks involved in financial investments, medical treatments, or taking on debt can help us navigate the often muddy waters of living.

Assistant Professor Edward Cokely has led an initiative to develop the Berlin Numeracy Test, which began in 2007 at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. The study addresses risk literacy--the ability to comprehend and act on information about life's many risks, whether they occur in technology, health, law, or the weather, to name just a few. "Risk literacy is an important ability that impacts what kinds of decisions we make," Cokely says. "For instance, we need to interpret claims about the costs and benefits of changing our diets, our driving habits, or our politicians."

Scientists, Cokely says, routinely measure all kinds of traits, including intelligence, memory, and personality. "Now," he adds, "we can also quickly, accurately assess risk literacy." That know-how is largely based on a person's "statistical numeracy"--a fancy term for math skills. "People who are risk literate make more informed, rational decisions because they understand the statistical information about the dangers and possibilities that exist in our complex and uncertain world."

The Berlin Numeracy Test took five years to create and validate. Cokely, who directs the Decision Science and Decision Engineering Laboratory (DeSciDE) at Michigan Tech, is the principal investigator on the interdisciplinary project, which involved more than two dozen scientists from North America, Europe, and Asia. Together, these scholars completed 25 studies in 15 different countries. The result: "The world's single best measure of risk literacy--a simple test that takes only a few minutes to complete but doubles the predictive power of other tools."

Try this: "Out of 1,000 people in a small town, 500 are members of a choir. Out of these 500 members in the choir, 100 are men. Out of the 500 inhabitants that are not in the choir, 300 are men. What is the probability that a randomly drawn man is a member of the choir?" (The answer: 25 percent.)

That question can be found in a paper published in the January, 2012, issue of the journal Judgment and Decision Making by Cokely and four coauthors. If you can answer that question and several others correctly, you are probably among the most risk literate people in the world--and you probably make better decisions because of it.

"This type of research is important for many reasons," Cokely says. "If we want educated citizens to make informed decisions, we need to provide information about risks, and we need people to understand that information. Research also shows that math skills such as these are among the most influential educational factors contributing to economic prosperity. For these reasons, we know that risk literacy can sometimes be as important as reading and writing."

Unfortunately, Cokely says, many people struggle to understand information about risks; fortunately, he adds, "risk literacy is a skill that can be learned."

For now, this test is used primarily for research and to increase public awareness. Down the road Cokely envisions developing decision support systems and educational programs that are custom-tailored for people with different levels of risk literacy.

It is said that education allows one to recognize when the other guy is talking rot. In the same vein, "We know that statistics can be perverted," Cokely says. "People can make you believe just about anything by twisting numbers. As the old saying goes, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

"However," he adds, "people who are risk literate are better able to understand the statistics that are available. Just like a vaccine can help protect you from diseases, risk literacy can help protect you from manipulation.

"You can still be fooled," he concludes, "but people with higher risk literacy often ask better questions and make better decisions."

Access a free version of the test at Risk.

Nominations Open for Dean's Fellowships

Nominations are now open for the Dean's Fellowships. The primary goal of the program is to support Michigan Tech's strategic goal of being an inclusive and welcoming campus for faculty, students and staff who bring rich, diverse perspectives to teaching, learning and research.

Dean's Fellowships provide partial support for the recipient's first year in a PhD program. The support includes a stipend of $2,000 per semester (fall and spring), as well as full summer support (stipend plus minimum full-time tuition and fees).

Nominations are due by 4 p.m., March 15. Programs and students will be notified of their status by Monday, April 2.

For more information, see Application.

Irish Song and Dance

submitted by Bethany Jones, marketing manager, Rozsa

The Rozsa presents "Direct From Ireland--Celtic Nights--Journey of Hope," at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 21, and Wednesday, Feb. 22.

The show, from the creators of Gaelforce Dance, has been described as an "unmissable two-hour spectacular (that) has brought audiences to their feet all around the world."

"Celtic Nights" weaves together the lilting melodies and plaintive lyrics of the Celtic heritage--through traditional ballads and vivid choreography. This show features the finest male and the finest female voices of the Celtic world, showcased against a backdrop of expert dancing and musicianship.

Six of Ireland's most prominent vocal talents are complemented by six of its most accomplished step dancers, creating an exhilarating picture of the power and majesty of music and the hypnotic fury of dancing feet--all of it telling a story of a vibrant people.

Tickets are $28 for adults, $24 for seniors and $20 for students.

To purchase tickets, call 487-2073, go online at tickets.mtu.edu , or visit SDC Ticketing Operations. SDC box office hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday–Friday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m., Sunday. The Rozsa box office is closed during regular business hours and will only open two hours prior to showtime.

This performance is sponsored in part by the James and Margaret Black Endowment and Minnesota Public Radio.

For more information, contact Bethany Jones at 487-1836 or at bjones@mtu.edu .

Graduate School Professional Development Seminars Announced

The Graduate School announces its spring series of Professional Development Seminars. Here are the details:

Use a LaTeX Template
Friday, Feb. 24, noon

* Learn how to format a thesis or dissertation
* Open to graduate students

Graduate Degrees
Friday, March 23, noon

* Opportunities, expectations, advantages and potential drawbacks
* Learn more about graduate education
* Open to undergraduate students

Get Funded, Get Paid, Get Recognized
Wednesday, April 18, noon

* Going to Graduate School as a DoD scholar, NSF fellow, or EPA STAR
* Learn how to go to graduate school on a prestigious external fellowship/scholarship award
* Open to undergraduate and graduate students

Seating is limited. Seminar location will be disclosed when you reserve your seat.
For more information, see Registraton.

For more information, contact Debra Charlesworth at ddc@mtu.edu .

Savvy Entrepreneur Addresses the Angel Investor

The next interactive "Savvy Entrepreneur" panel discussion of business topics is on Tuesday, Feb. 21. This month's topic is "Inside The Mind Of An Angel Investor."

A social gathering with refreshments will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by the discussion from 6 to 8 p.m., in the large conference room of the ATDC building, 1402 Sharon Avenue.

For most entrepreneurs, raising seed and early-stage capital is arguably one of the most challenging steps of starting a company. One helpful route: seeking Angel investors.

* Who is the best type of Angel investor?
* Where do I find them?
* What role should they play in addition to providing investment?
* What does a typical Angel look for in a startup company?
* If my company takes off, how might a venture capitalist look at an Angel investor?

If finding out the answers to these questions is important to your venture, then join this MIT Enterprise Forum. Leading investors and entrepreneurs will address your questions and thorniest challenges.

The event is free, and the public is welcome.

The session is sponsored by Michigan Tech's Office of Innovation and Industry Engagement, the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance, the School of Business and Economics and the MIT Enterprise Forum.

In the News

Associate Professor John Vucetich (SFRES) continues reporting on Michigan Tech's annual winter study of the wolves and moose of Isle Royale National Park, in a blog called "Scientist at Work" in the New York Times.

On the Road

Assistant Professor Ranjana Mehta (CLS/KIP) attended the 18th Triennial Congress of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) in Recife, Brazil, from Feb 12-16. She presented findings from her recent projects on "Effects of physical and mental demands on shoulder muscle fatigue" and "Associations between psychosocial risk factors and musculoskeletal disorders: Application to the IT profession in India."

Job Postings

Staff job descriptions are available in Human Resources or at http://www.admin.mtu.edu/hro/postings . For more information regarding staff positions, call 487-2280 or email jobs@mtu.edu .

Faculty job descriptions can be found at http://www.admin.mtu.edu/hro/facpers/facvac.htm . For more information regarding faculty positions, contact the academic department in which the position is posted.

Building Mechanic II
ASFCME internal posting only
Student Development Complex

Information Services Librarian
J. R. Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library
Apply online at http://www.jobs.mtu.edu .

Note: Human Resources is transitioning to an online application process for the job posting above. To read the notice to applicants, see Posting.

Michigan Technological University is an equal opportunity educational institution/equal opportunity employer.

Proposals in Progress

Senior Lecturer Gretchen Hein (Engineering Fundamentals) and Senior Lecturer Amber Kemppainen (Engineering Fundamentals), "Collaborative Research: Teaching Energy and Thermodynamic Concepts in First Year Engineering Courses Using Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (TECH2)," NSF

Associate Director Mary Raber (ILI) and Professor of Practice Valorie Troesch (ILI), "Collaborative Research: Using Formative Assessment and Feedback Systems to Enhance Team Learning and Performance in Undergraduate Interprofessional Education," NSF

Assistant Professor Eugene Levin (SOT), "GSS: Research Establishing Open Photogrammerty Framework for Sustainable Geospatail Innovation," NSF

Associate Professor Karla Kitalong (Humanities), "Formative and Summative Evaluation for 'Sciburg: Personalized Excursions into the World of Science,'" University of Central Florida, NSF

Assistant Professor Durdu Guney (ECE), "Broadband Negative Index Metamaterials for Visible and Ultraviolet Applications," Oak Ridge Associated Universities