Powell BuildingOffice of the President

Our evolving academic climate

Among the highlights of this academic year was the fall Academic Summit, the culmination of a year of dialogue among faculty, staff and students in our community. We discussed ways to create a more intellectually vibrant campus and ensure that the level of academic challenge at Elon is keeping pace with entering students’ qualifications. Among the many findings and recommendations for further study stemming from the Academic Summit was the request that I appoint two presidential task forces, the first on the place of scholarship at Elon and the second on alcohol use and abuse at the university. I will discuss the scholarship task force in this column and will address the alcohol task force work in the next issue of The Magazine of Elon.

As they considered the evolution of Elon’s academic climate, faculty again expressed their support of the Elon Teacher-Scholar document, a statement that values both the teaching and scholarly aspects of faculty life, which are, in fact, inseparable and mutually reinforcing. The statement notes that Elon faculty are “dedicated to modeling the intellectual values they seek to impart to students.” As faculty members demonstrate their intellectual curiosity and the process of creating new knowledge and creative works, students come to appreciate more fully the life of the mind.

How are scholarship and teaching so closely intertwined? By remaining active in a community of scholars in their respective fields, faculty members keep pace with new knowledge and advances that they can share with students in the classroom. By advancing knowledge in their fields, they have an opportunity to “recharge” intellectually and share their excitement about their disciplines with students. And in Elon’s active and dynamic classrooms, faculty tell me that class discussions and one-on-one-conversations with students often spark insights and new ideas that lead to even more creative scholarly work.

We have a culture at Elon in which students are encouraged to work alongside faculty members as co-discoverers, conducting original research in the field or laboratory. This spring, more than 40 Elon students traveled to San Rafael, Calif., to present their research, advised by faculty mentors, at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. One hundred students presented their research on campus at the Student Undergraduate Research Forum at the end of April. These research projects, conducted both in the summer and during the academic year, not only ignite students’ curiosity, but also can lead to new knowledge or, in the arts, to new works. I am convinced this is one of the pinnacles of a truly great undergraduate education and is the best kind of preparation for the increasing number of Elon students pursuing graduate education.

To support these positive changes, the Presidential Task Force on Scholarship will make recommendations on ways to strengthen further the scholarly and intellectual climate of the university. The task force is co-chaired by Distinguished University Professor Tom Henricks of the department, and Tim Peeples, associate dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. They are charged with producing a report for campus discussion prior to Nov. 1. Among their priorities are the following:

  • Develop a multi-year plan to increase institutional resources devoted to supporting faculty scholarship, including increased support for summer research and sabbaticals
  • Expand public recognition of faculty and student scholarship through university publications, campus forums and celebrations
  • Enhance and further support scholarly collaborations between faculty members and students, with a special emphasis on building one of the pre-eminent undergraduate research programs in the nation
  • Provide expanded support for faculty seeking external grant support for research
  • Develop a compelling case for philanthropic support in Elon’s upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign, with a special emphasis on establishing additional named professorships that will appropriately recognize and reward our finest teacher-scholars.

This initiative is fully in line with our mission. As we further encourage scholarship at all levels, faculty members will achieve their fullest potential as teacher-scholars, and students will experience the rewards of intellectual discovery. I hope all members of our community will join in dialogue with the task force and play significant roles in furthering this important initiative.

Leo M. Lambert
President

Elon faculty members are receiving national recognition in their disciplines, firmly establishing themselves and the university as leading authorities in a variety of academic pursuits. Here are a few recent examples:

Kevin Boyle (English) wrote a book of poetry, Home for Wayward Girls, that received the New Issues Press Poetry Award

David Copeland (communications) recently released his latest book, The Idea of a Free Press: The Enlightenment and its Unruly Legacy

David Crowe (history) is completing a new book, The Holocaust: Roots, History and Aftermath; two of his previous books, focusing on the life of Oskar Schindler and the gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia, were selected for recognition by the History Book Club

Clyde Ellis (history) has been invited to serve a three-year term in the Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lectureship Program, and he is currently working on his fifth book, a history and ethnography of Indian hobbyists in the United States

Victoria Fischer-Faw (music), a specialist in the music of Bartok, recently co-edited Bartok Perspectives (Oxford University Press)

Jon Metzger (music), named “A New Star Vibist” by JazzTimes magazine, continues to win critical acclaim for his recordings, and has written articles for a number of percussion magazines

Laura Roselle (political science) was recently elected president-elect of the International Communication Section of the International Studies Association, and also wrote a new book, Media and the Politics of Failure: Great Powers, Communication Strategies, and Military Defeats, the first in a series of books on international political communication

Sharon Spray (political science) served as lead editor for a new book titled Tropical Deforestation, the fourth volume in an interdisciplinary series on the issues surrounding environmental challenges.