In talking with alumni and even some of our current students, I’ve detected a weakness in the Georgetown community culture. While most are fully aware of the performance of our faculty in the classroom and during office hours, they have little knowledge about the research or scholarship lives of our faculty.
At the extreme, some alumni assert that they don’t see the value of faculty doing any other task than teaching and mentoring students. From one perspective, such reactions seem quite understandable among those encountering faculty primarily in classroom. For many undergraduate alumni, their memories of faculty are dominated by interactions surrounding formal courses.
In contrast, faculty deeply understand that their research lives are important necessary ingredients to providing students the most up-to-date learning environments. Most faculty are deeply motivated to push the frontiers of their field. Their scholarship is an essential feature of their identity. They are ongoing students of their area of expertise. They are members of a global community of scholars who study similar phenomena.
Some students do report that they can perceive when faculty are describing areas in which they are actively doing research. They report that the instructors’ eyes widen, their voices become more animated, and they express a sense of excitement that is infectious. Not all classes, however, allow faculty to reveal these passionate interests to all students.
Because of this mismatch between what students see of faculty in the classroom and what faculty do in their research lives, there seems to be an opportunity for the provost office to help communicate to students and alumni more about the research lives of faculty.
Toward that end, the provost office has built a podcast series, labeled “Faculty in Research.” Each episode of the podcast is a short conversation (15-20 minutes) about why the interviewed faculty member finds his/her research area fascinating. It reviews how they choose projects to pursue. It describes how their interests change over time.
If you’re interested in learning about the inner research lives of our faculty colleagues, you can access the podcast here. Subscribing to soundcloud.com will facilitate your keeping up with new episodes of the podcast.
The first podcast welcomes Professor Deborah Tannen as guest; she reviews her work in sociolinguistics.
Let me know how you like the podcast.