Scholarship and Creative Work Thriving at the U of ASharon Gaber, Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently placed the U of A in its highest research classification based on the number of doctoral degrees awarded and grants received. Confirming this status, research expenditures topped a record $120 million for 2011. By any measure, research is thriving at the University of Arkansas. However, just as research is a fundamental part of our mission, so is scholarship and creative work.
What differentiates research from scholarship and creative activity? Clearly, they overlap. I’m far less concerned with defining the differences between them, than with encouraging, stimulating and supporting all of our campus researchers, scholars, artists, musicians and creative writers.
Last year university faculty published more than 60 books, whether as monographs or as editors. One of the most productive departments has been the history department, which has published 23 books since 2007. This has included highly regarded work from Elliot West, a Cherry Award Finalist, and Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon, who was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society for demonstrating “an original contribution to historical scholarship in the form of significant published work.” Joining Grob-Fitzgibbon as Royal Historical Society Fellow is Steven Sheppard, professor and associate dean for research and development in the School of Law. Sheppard has received high praise for his work in expanding and updating The Bouvier Law Dictionary, a resource based on the first dictionary of American law.
The outcome of scholarship and creative activity is not only measured by publications. A good example of this is the TEXT Project, an oral history program designed to record the stories of elderly Tibetans living in India. This project is overseen by English professor Sidney Burris and Geshe Dorjee. It was this work that brought them into contact with the Dalai Lama, and following several invitations, resulted in the Dalai Lama’s visit last spring. His visit reinforced the university’s commitment to being a destination where significant ideas and issues of the day are addressed and explored.
Other recent examples of important creative work and scholarship include the work of Laura Terry, associate professor of architecture, with a mixed-media piece in the 54th Annual Delta Exhibition and Claretha Hughes, associate professor of workforce development, who published a paper, with one of her doctoral students, that won the Nonprofit Management Track Award from the North American Management Society. Additionally, the drama department staged productions of Othello, A Christmas Carol, and Arcadia, among others and the art department, in collaboration with other units, displays works at the university's sUgAR Gallery in Bentonville.
The University of Arkansas also supports and promotes scholarship and creative activity through the University of Arkansas Press, which publishes around 20 titles a year, covering topics related to Southern history, civil rights, poetry and Middle Eastern literature. While the press is not obligated to publish faculty work, it does periodically support faculty interests, and in recent years has published work by faculty members such as history professor Charles Robinson, higher education assistant professor Suzanne McCray, and political scientists Angie Maxwell and Todd Shields.
To do justice to all the great work being done by faculty across the colleges on campus, I would need to compile a multi-volume book. My purpose here is to reaffirm the university’s commitment to all forms of research, scholarship and creative activity, not just those tracked by the National Science Foundation. As usual, this issue of Research Frontiers demonstrates that commitment by highlighting the breadth and depth of work and scholarly activity being done on campus. I hope you will support their efforts by learning more.