Sveum will Remain Active at Adams State College and Community even after Retirement


Dr. Larry Sveum

Just as a catalyst can increase the rate of a chemical reaction, a good professor and administrator augments a student's education and a department's viability.

Dr. Larry Sveum, professor of Chemistry, is retiring from his teaching position at Adams State College this spring. He was hired in 1999 as the dean of the School of Science, Mathematics and Technology and remained in that position until 2002 when the deans position across campus was dissolved.

Sveum didn't mind going back to the classroom, "I've been having fun as a professor teaching chemistry, physics and remedial math classes. It has been a good way to end a career that spans 35 years in education. I still find it rewarding to watch the lights turn on in a student's eye when they catch on."

Chair Chemistry/Mathematics/Physics, Dr. Matthew Nehring, holds Sveum in high esteem. He said, "I've asked more from Larry as a faculty member over the last three semesters than probably any other faculty member in my department. His teaching load has been heavy with courses in chemistry, mathematics, and physics - most of which he had never taught previously. Never a complaint! Personally, he is one of the truly nicest individuals I've ever had the good fortune of working with."

While he was a dean, Sveum brought about positive changes within the SMT.

"I proposed an integrated science course which contains components of the four fundamental sciences, biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. This course is included in the ASC General Education curriculum along with the requirement that all students be exposed to all four science disciplines. These courses have served as a model for Colorado's guaranteed transfer general education courses in the sciences which have been adopted by the state's community colleges and some of the four-year colleges and universities. In my opinion, this requirement is extremely important to future elementary school teachers.

I was very pleased with the support I received for this change in curriculum. The SMT faculty backed my proposal. I believe that was one of my key accomplishments. I also developed the budget and arranged Adams State College's participation in MathStar, a consortium of three State Department of Education offices from three state and four institutions of higher education to improve middle school mathematics instruction and learning.

And I worked on getting a nursing program at Adams State College. I started building the curriculum for the nursing program through an ad hoc committee of community nurses, including the nursing instructors at Trinidad State Junior College Valley Campus. I am very pleased that Dr. Frank Novotny, assistant provost, was able to push it through."

Sveum's only major complaint is the budget. "I was appalled at the level of budgets when I came and I still find them appalling. I came here from New Mexico Highlands University. ASC's budget for all of the sciences equaled what the chemistry budget was at NMHU six years ago. Everyone needs to get active in pushing our legislators in Denver to recognize the importance of higher education and the need for keeping it well funded."

Although he is retiring from teaching, Sveum will still be involved, "Dr. Frank Novotny and I currently have a pending grant proposal to start a research project. We want to examine a protein that acts as the glue holding soil particles together. There isn't much knowledge about the protein at this date. This project would support three undergraduate students. It will make good use of the instrumentation that was funded by the Department of Defense through grants Dr. Novotny wrote while he was a chemistry faculty member."

Assistant Provost, Dr. Frank Novotny has appreciated the interaction with Sveum.

He said "During Larry's tenure here at ASC he has been dedicated to students. As the Dean of SMT he strived to improve the general education science curriculum so that students would receive a well rounded background in liberal arts science.

After institutional restructuring, Larry joined the Chemistry faculty and I have been impressed with is willingness to teach a wide variety of courses ranging from upper division chemistry courses, physics courses, and developmental math. In retirement, I believe Larry will continue his professional career by pursing research opportunities that will engage undergraduate students and stimulate a whole new generation of scientists."

Sveum would also like to pursue some outreach activities to the local school students.

"The US Environmental Protection Agency recently lowered the permissible arsenic levels in water from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion. Alamosa has been able to achieve the old criteria by blending water from low arsenic wells with that of high arsenic wells, but cannot satisfy the new standard in this fashion. If Alamosa has a problem, other areas of the SLV may also.

I would like to enlist school children from farms, ranches, and small towns in the Valley to collect water samples and bring them to me so that we can determine the extent of arsenic (and perhaps other) contamination throughout the Valley. Armed with this knowledge, individuals and small communities will be able to make rational decisions regarding any actions that might be needed. The primary benefit, though, will the development of science enthusiasm among the Valley school children," he added.

Although he has only been at Adams State College, and in the community, for less than ten years, Sveum is committed to region. "With the SMT faculty teaching a full load, they don't have as much time for additional projects. Being retired, I will have the time and I like this community and want to stay and do some good for it."

Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Marty Jones, has noticed his dedication.

He said, "Professional, adaptable, and accommodating are good descriptors of Dr. Larry Sveum. When Larry agreed to come to Adams State College as Dean of Science, Mathematics, and Technology six years ago, he could not have foreseen the sweeping changes would soon occur on our campus. While he was Dean of SMT, Larry treated all faculty, staff and students with respect and courtesy. He encouraged us to become more professionally active, supported our efforts to do so, and lauded our achievements.

Two years ago, the restructuring of the college eliminated the positions of dean. Rather than gripe about this change, Larry adapted his role to become a full-time instructor, while still fulfilling some 'deanly' duties for the transition year (including the onerous task of evaluation of faculty and staff). I'm especially grateful to him for stepping in at mid-semester a year ago to take over the classes that Frank Novotny was scheduled to teach, when Frank moved over to Richardson to become assistant provost.

I've enjoyed working with Larry for the past six years. He's a kind man with an infectious laugh, and I'll miss not having him around our building in the years to come. Thank you, Larry."

Sveum received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 1970, and his Master's in Science in Inorganic Chemistry in 1966 from Texas Tech University. He earned his Bachelor's of Science in Chemistry for University of North Dakota in 1964.

The influence of a high school science teacher motivated Sveum to choose the profession of chemistry. "I grew up in an agricultural community. It was understood there was not enough land for everyone to farm. All but two in my high school class went to college. I was interested in chemical engineering and chemistry. I chose the later. It has been interesting. I don't regret it a bit."

After graduation, jobs were in short supply. Sveum heard they needed secondary teachers in science/math in Germany. "I taught for two years in Hamburg, Germany. It was reputed the children were well behaved. I found that not the situation. I made the decision then to teach at the higher education level. After a few years teaching in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to teach in New Mexico. From there I came to ASC to be Dean of the School of SMT."

He started at NMHU as an assistant professor in Chemistry in 1977 and retired in 1999 as Chair of the Department of Physical Sciences. He also taught at the University of New Mexico, Tulane University and was a Post Doctoral Fellow at Texas Tech University. Sveum is concerned about the lack of interest in science and math.

He believes some of it is generational. He said, "When I was in high school there was a sort of panic after the Russians launched the first satellite into earth orbit. Sputnik scared people, especially during the cold war. It motivated the country to improve technology. Now that generation is retiring. That's why I believe the Annual Science Fair for middle and high school students is so important. We need to do what we can to motivate young people to pursue careers in math and science."

During his career Sveum has directed the thesis research of students, written grants and proposals, served on review panels and has been published in science journals.

On the Adams State College campus Sveum found a lot that was motivating:

"I was a CELT (Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) scholar. I believe it was a very valuable experience. It gave me a perspective on issues students might bring to the classroom and campus, including gender, race issues. The program sensitized us to those issues. A side benefit of CELT was getting to know faculty from other disciplines. I believe this is a very healthy campus in terms of relationships."

It won't be all research and grant writing for Sveum after retirement. He is looking forward to an extended vacation to Alaska and catching up on family scrapbooks,

"My mother clipped newspapers for 70 to 80 years. I plan on scanning the articles and saving them on a disk. We also have lots of photograph albums that need to be copied and digitized for family members. I want to drive up Alaskan highway, and see caribou, mountain goats, get chased by a bear, catch a salmon, and pan for gold, so I can retire rich."