Stories we told: A workshop recap

Towson, Md. (September 1, 2010): On August 23rd, the College of Graduate Studies and Research, Office of Sponsored Programs & Research, hosted “Telling Our Stories: Beginning and Continuing an Independent Scholarly Agenda at Towson University,” an informal panel discussion offering faculty attendees the opportunity to interact with speakers from across the University with extensive experience in carrying out independent research and scholarly agendas. Discussion was lively and wide-ranging as faculty shared stories, discussed common pitfalls of the process, and exchanged advice and encouragement for faculty interested in pursuing research.  A few highlights of the discussion:

“I enjoy teaching, but it sure is time-consuming.”

Many attendees cited time as their main impediment to doing more research activity, as juggling teaching loads is difficult for all.  Panelist Jeremy Tasch, of the Department of Geography and Environmental Planning, advised faculty concerned with “having it all” to look first to their department chair for help – “Cooperate with your department chair to arrange a schedule that is friendly to performing research – a seasoned department chair may have ideas or strategies that are not apparent to new faculty. “ Panelist Chao Lu, Department of Computer and Information Sciences, also noted that prep work for teaching can be reduced by teaching related classes, such as undergraduate and graduate versions of the same course material. Panelist Brian Kriesman, Department of Audiology, Speech-Language Pathology, and Deaf Studies, recommended using mentoring opportunities as research opportunities, by dividing a large research projects in parts which students can accomplish, assisting the faculty member in his or her research while collecting a larger volume of data. Panelist Robyn Quick, Department of Theatre Arts, also supported integrating scholarship, research, and teaching workloads in order to create schedule flexibility while providing a good experience for students.  

“Having colleagues waiting on you is a great self-motivator.”

Panelist Ryan Casey, Department of Chemistry, also recommended collaboration as an excellent way to manage workload, boost productivity, and facilitate interdisciplinary approaches to problems, noting that funding agencies often consider diversity of experience a plus in reviews. In addition, collaboration allows faculty to participate in large projects while personally responsible for a smaller proportion of the work . Panelist David Wizer, Department of Educational Technology and Literacy, noted that Towson is well placed for collaboration, as there are many universities nearby, and that faculty should not quail to approach collaborators at Research I universities.

“It’s who you are, not where you are.”

Several panelists noted that funders often are unfamiliar with Towson and cited this as an issue in their proposals. Dr. Tasch’s remedy was to work at getting Towson on the map by specifically addressing institutional capabilities in proposals, and Dr. Casey recommended offering to serve as a reviewer for agencies to which the faculty member intends to apply later, both for the opportunity to see winning proposals and increase familiarity with the sponsor.  Ms. Quick advised faculty to contact program officers before applying to talk about research interests and match them with the sponsor in order to produce winning proposals.

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