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Professors’ summer activities range from giving impassioned speech to tending the Corpse Flower

After many years of writing the “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay in the lower grades, I always thought it would be interesting to turn it around and ask a teacher, professor or institution, “What Did You Accomplish on Summer Vacation?”

Judging from the email, some colleges, universities and faculty in Minnesota are quite busy this summer. But here’s one that might fly under the radar:

A YouTube video of a professor’s impassioned speech last month to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents has drawn more than 7,800 views. Eva van Dassow, associate professor of classical and Near Eastern studies for the Twin Cities campus, is regal and eloquent as she goes after the U administration’s approach to “pruning the tree of knowledge” by lopping off parts of the “cash cow,” i.e., the College of Liberal Arts. Hat tip to Bill Gleason, who writes for the Star Tribune’s online community voices section and is an associate professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Meanwhile, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn., is hosting 16 Chinese students from United International College in Zhuhai, China, who are working with Professor Phil Voight “to hone their English skills as well as their public speaking and debate techniques,” according to a press release.

The students, who are in Minnesota from June 23 to July 21, also are scheduled for field trips ranging from a St. Paul Saints game to the Guthrie Theater’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Gustavus and UIC started a four-year student exchange agreement in 2007. Faculty members also have participated in the exchange. Michael Hvidsten, professor of mathematics and computer science, spent the 2009-10 academic year teaching at UIC. And, Michele Rusinko and Amy Seham, professors of theater and dance, also will spend time at UIC during upcoming sabbaticals.

The Gustavus Department of Biology’s greenhouse also is expecting a big stink later this summer when the Corpse Flower, nicknamed “Perry,” is expected to bloom for the second time in 17 years.  Chemistry Professor Brian O’Brien received 20 seeds for a Titan Arum in 1993 from a San Francisco physician. After years of tender loving care, the plant — which is native to Sumatra — bloomed for the first time in 2007. O’Brien is blogging about it and a webcam is recording every movement. If you don’t think the big stink is such a big deal, consider that several thousand folks came to the campus specifically to see, and sniff, the Titan Arum in 2007.

Please send your summer activities to cselix[at]minnpost[dot]com.

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