Originally published Sept. 23, 2012
Grand Valley State University may not be known as a research institution — at least not to the same degree as many other Michigan schools — but it still encourages and supports the highest degree of scholarship from its faculty and students.
“At Grand Valley and any university, research and scholarship are really essential to the university mission,” said Robert Smart, executive director of the Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence. “There is a synergy from people who are actively involved in their field and the passion they put out and portray in the classroom.” He added that research informs and builds upon instructors’ teaching.
About 100 faculty members are engaged in research known to the university this year, and over 800 students are supported every year by programs in the Office of Undergraduate Research. However, the total number of researchers at GVSU might actually be higher, as not all researchers use university funding for their projects and therefore can perform without GVSU’s knowledge.
Smart said he assumes all tenured-track faculty members are actively involved in some aspect of scholarship, which is part of the evaluation requirements to be considered for tenure. He added that GVSU has been seeing an increasing trend in faculty scholarship over the years.
Susan Mendoza, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, said there has been increasing interest in student research, as well. However, with greater interest in undergraduate research comes greater competition. For example, there are often more qualified applicants for the Student Summer Scholars program than the university can actually support, and the student Academic Conference Fund often runs dry before the end of the application cycle, Mendoza said.
There is also a lot of competition among faculty members, according to Brad Wallar, chair of the Faculty Research and Development Committee. His committee receives proposals from faculty in all areas of study, and while it does not approve every project, it is not biased toward any particular discipline or type of research.
“We have no preference,” he said. “What we want is a very good grant proposal and a very well thought-out project. (We) don’t concern ourselves with where it comes from.” And good grant proposals are what they get.
“Grant proposals that have been submitted by Grand Valley have been well received (by outside institutions),” said Christine Chamberlain, director of the Office of Sponsored Programs. She added that GVSU faculty members obtain grants because of their well-written proposals, passion for their projects, and insistence on following through with what they say they will do.
So although GVSU may not be the first school to come to mind when you think of research institutions, its faculty members are respected in the research field and find success in receiving external support. And their results are valuable, too. “In all disciplines, research is being carried out and it affects the community in a very broad sense,” Smart said, noting that research adds to conversations going on in each university department, as well as each area of study.
Wallar said research helps bring notoriety to GVSU. “I think it recruits very good students to come here,” he said. “It also, to me, keeps the faculty energized with not just doing the same thing over and over.” Research with students also helps benefit the university in the long run, he added. It can also benefit students who participate after graduation, according to Mendoza.
Research often makes students more employable, and many employers and graduate schools are interested in applicants who have engaged in research, she said. “It’s not a short term product, it’s a long term (product),” Wallar said. “Ten years down the road, we’ll see all these successful people and know we had a hand in that.”
For many professors, participating in research as students was the deciding factor in choosing their careers. “We’re just trying to keep the ball rolling,” Wallar added. As for becoming more well-known as a research institution, Smart said he thinks GVSU is just fine where it is. “I think Grand Valley has a very good niche in that it values the interaction faculty have with students and that is in teaching but also in a teaching lab or a studio or in field work,” he said.
For more information about research done at the university or internal funding for projects, visit http://www.gvsu.edu/csce.
Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2012/09/gv-contributes-to-conversation-with-research