Biennial Conference Committee Report, Spring 2011

The 2010 BCCE at the University of North Texas

The books on this conference are scheduled to close in mid-February, which is when I am writing this. Diana Mason should be able to announce the profit (or, Heaven forbid, the loss) from the 2010 BCCE to ExComm in Anaheim. That will be the last bit of detail as this highly successful BCCE fades into the pages of history.

The 2012 BCCE at Penn State University

Dan Sykes and his crew, which includes Sheryl Rummel (co-General Chair), Mary Kay Orgill and Kent Crippen (Program co-Chairs, both at UNLV), as well a cast of dozens, are moving into high gear. The BCC report in the Spring DivCHED Newsletter details much of their planning, and they are now populating the 2012 BCCE website (www.2012bcce.com) with details of content and deadlines for symposia, workshops, exhibits, and other conference activities. Please check their website or Facebook page (BCCE2012) early and often for updates.

The 2014 BCCE at Grand Valley State University

Getting Memoranda of Understanding hammered out is always a frustrating, time-consuming part of BCCE preparation. For the GVSU BCCE, a new procedural element has been injected. As one recommendation from the last DivCHED leadership‟s Fiduciary Workshop, the BCC asked Flint Lewis, the ACS General Counsel, to look over the contract and give us his advice, opinions, suggestions, and stuff like that. The BCC was very pleased with the input received from Flint, and incorporated his every suggestion into the final contract, which went to GVSU‟s attorneys for their review in early February. Sheril Soman, the 2014 BCCE General Chair, is also happy with the document, and expects to have the contract signed off by her administration in time for the Anaheim meeting. Anticipating this favorable outcome, the BCC requests that this action item be placed on the agenda for the Executive Committee meeting:

Action requested: Approve the Memorandum of Understanding for the 2014 BCCE at Grand Valley State University.

Comment: The approval of GVSU to host the BCCE remains, as is custom, provisional until the DivCHED Executive Committee approves the Memorandum of Understanding.

The 2016 BCCE

Amina El-Ashmawy and I conducted a site visit to the University of Northern Colorado in October, and the report of that visit is appended to this document. We concluded that UNC has both the personnel and facilities to hold an outstanding Biennial Conference, and we therefore request that this action item be placed on the agenda for the Executive Committee meeting:

Action requested: Approve the provisional selection of the University of Northern Colorado to host the 2016 BCCE, pending development of a satisfactory Memorandum of Understanding with the University.

Comment: The BCC expects to use the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding as a template for future Biennial Conferences.

The 2018 BCCE

Members of the BCC are beginning an aggressive campaign to identify suitable sites for the 2018 BCCE. Please pass ideas and suggestions along to any member of the committee. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

The open meeting of the Biennial Conference Committee is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 27, in Fantasy C of the Disneyland Hotel.

Respectfully submitted,

I. Dwaine Eubanks

SITE VISIT REPORT

DivCHED Biennial Conference Committee

University of Northern Colorado

October 22–23, 2010

Background

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) formally offered to host the 2016 Biennial Conference on Chemical Education, with UNC’s Professor Richard Schwenz serving as the General Chair. The offer was strongly supported by the UNC Chemistry Department and the university administration. Two members of the Biennial Conference Committee (Dwaine Eubanks and Amina El-Ashmawy) visited the university to determine whether available personnel and physical facilities were adequate to assure a successful conference.

Personnel

The single most important criterion for a successful conference is the quality and commitment of individuals who work together to make it happen. Everyone from student runners to those individuals who breathe the rarified air of university administration must be on the same page. The designated General Chair must have the ability to manage a large project involving dozens of contributing individuals utilizing diverse physical and programmatic resources within the constraints of a several-hundred-thousand-dollar budget.

One of our most important tasks was to determine whether Professor Schwenz has the full support of the university administration. To this end, we spent several hours with key administrators. The support of the Provost, Dr. Abe Harraf, was most impressive. He expressed a willingness to modify the university’s academic calendar to guarantee that the BCCE would have exclusive access to all campus facilities during the week of the conference. He also told us that the administration would make sure that Richard has the release time he needs to handle conference-organizing responsibilities. Dr. Harraf’s credibility was further enhanced by his bringing Tobias Guzman (AVP for Enrollment Management) and Kirk Lechilter (AVP for Facilities) to our meeting. Those two administrators would have key roles in delivering on the Provost’s commitments.

Our meeting with Dr. Denise Battles, Dean of the College of Natural and Sciences, was positive overall, but we judge that she may be somewhat less willing to move mountains in support of the conference. Particularly in light of the intensity of the Provost’s desire to have the BCCE and UNC, we believe that she will provide all necessary support for conference planning and execution.

Dr. David Pringle, Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is a strong BCCE supporter, is well regarded (and well liked) by the chemistry faculty, and has played a major role in the acquisition and maintenance of excellent departmental space, facilities, and equipment. At this point, David is past retirement age, so he may elect to retire before the 2016 conference date. On the other hand, he is still going strong, and would provide crucial support in getting much of the conference organization done.

David arranged a meeting with the chemistry faculty, which gave us a chance to gauge the level of support among the faculty for the conference. The discussion was both focused and wide ranging, and we were left with the feeling that the faculty had a reasonable understanding of what they would be committing to, and what benefits could accrue to the department if UNC became the host site for the 2016 conference. Several days after our visit concluded, the faculty again met and voted unanimously to support UNC’s bid to host the conference. This represents a level of departmental commitment beyond what we have generally seen at host institutions in the past.

The quality of support services staff is another critical element in planning a conference of this size, and we spent several hours with two key players, Roxie Wilson (Conference Services and Academic Scheduling) and Sean Broghammer (Associate Director of Residence Life). While UNC has never hosted a conference of this size, we judge that their conference support infrastructure is up to the task, and the people seem to be very easy to work with.

Richard Schwenz has been in active contact with colleagues at surrounding institutions, and has obtained key commitments for many organizing committee functions. (Nearby schools include Colorado State University, The University of Colorado, half-a-dozen two-and-four year colleges in Denver, Ames Community College in Greeley, and several high schools with professionally active chemistry teachers.) We did not meet with individuals from any nearby institutions who might have a role in organizing the 2016 BCCE, but we do know many of the individuals from other professional interactions. They do represent a rich talent pool.

Facilities

You have to see the pictures to believe it. UNC has made enormous progress during the past decade or so with brick and mortar. The transformation into a beautiful campus with modern, well-designed, and well-maintained buildings is striking. The faculty, staff, and administration are proud of what they’ve accomplished, and are eager to showcase what they now have. Our attention was focused on spaces for technical talks, workshops, exhibits, posters, plenary talks, social functions, dining, sleeping, and so on.

The major facilities problem is the distance from the Butler-Hancock field house (where plenary lectures would be delivered) to the University Center (where exhibitors and posters would likely be located). It’s a good ten-to-fifteen minute walk. On the other hand, the campus is flat as a floor, so no terrain has to be scaled. (That’s all in the background. They call it the Front Range.) We’ve been assured that they’ll have a fleet of golf carts to ferry handicapped (or overstressed) participants between the extreme venues.

Technical sessions and workshops would be mostly housed in Ross Hall, which has to be one of the tidiest and cleanest chemistry buildings anywhere. Most of the classrooms and lecture halls are “smart.” Those that aren’t are almost smart, and we’re told, are expected to be fully smart by 2016. The undergraduate laboratories are nicely configured for wet workshops; others are designed for group work at tables; and computer labs well set up for instruction. We foresee no problems with these spaces. The only downside is that the computer labs are PC only. Yuk!

The University Center is a short, 5-minute walk from Ross. We understand that current plans are to locate sessions expected to draw larger audiences, poster sessions, the exhibition, and various social events there. It is an attractive building, well designed as a venue for various functions.

Butler–Hancock (the field house) is also well designed, very attractive, and far enough away that you can’t see it from here. (Ross, the residence halls, and most food service, by the way, are all between the University Center and Butler-Hancock.) Butler-Hancock represents the epitome of good design in large multi-use buildings. It seats up to 3,000 using a combination of fold-down, slide-out “bleachers,” and floor seating. But the “bleachers” are unlike any we had seen before. They have individual seating with backs and arms. The field house also has suspended acoustic baffles and a state-of-the-art sound system, which (we were told) works extremely well for speeches to large audiences. (When the facility is used for sports events, with lots of crowd noise and over-excited commentators, they use an entirely different sound system.)

We spent a lot of time inspecting the residence halls. The ones the BCCE would be using are brand new, state-of-the-art halls with every amenity imaginable. The multiple-occupancy suites are, of course, designed with bedrooms opening to a common area, as one might expect. In addition to the shared bathroom, each unit has one or more extra washbasins. The units are thoughtfully designed and very attractive. It was the public areas that blew us away. Full kitchens, laundries, conference rooms, music rooms (with grand pianos), TV rooms, study rooms, game rooms (with pool tables and more), conference rooms, offices (available for conference use), vending areas, you name it. And the decorating throughout was stunning. The courtyard areas were very attractive, and would certainly be well used during the conference. We expect that most participants will opt for residence halls over hotels for this BCCE. And, those who do opt for hotels will end up wishing they’d stayed in a residence hall. Both Ross Hall and Holmes Hall (the central dining facility) are close by.

Speaking of Holmes Hall, we did eat lunch in there. Food service on college and university campuses is highly variable, and we always approach the idea of eating on campus with some trepidation. Happily, the food service at UNC is among the best we have encountered. It’s a huge facility, and the variety of offerings among the numerous food stations was excellent.

Summary

So there you have it. Everything we saw was better than we expected, and even the famous Greeley feedlot smell has been greatly diminished (although not entirely eliminated). UNC has the people, the commitment, and the facilities to make 2016 a great year to head for Colorado. And, of course, with the Front Range just a few miles away, we expect many participants to head for Rocky Mountain National Park before or after the BCCE. We recommend approval of their offer to host the conference with no reservations whatsoever. One of us (Amina) took nearly two hundred pictures, and a select few are available in a companion PowerPoint document (UNC-BCCE-2016.ppt).

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