Faculty research can benefit students

By Stephanie Bradley and Katrina Kelly

While research provides faculty with knowledge and insight into their field, it also can draw teachers away from the classroom. Students, however, do not have to suffer from this situation.

James Norris, dean of NIU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said one advantage of research is having faculty that are “current in their field at no cost to students.”

Norris called the relationship between teaching and research “clear and tangible. The best faculty member ties teaching to research.”

The marketability of faculty active in research is evident in the LA&S college, which has lost 40 faculty members in the last two years “because (the faculty are) up in their field doing research,” Norris said.

William Minor, NIU sociology department chairman, said research enhances teaching by forcing faculty members “to keep current in their field.”

“To create and disseminate knowledge, (faculty) have to teach and do research.

“Students relate better when (course material is) out of research that is being presented in the textbook,” Minor said.

Sociology faculty members active in research are assigned a lower teaching load—such as teaching two classes instead of three—while doing research, he said.

Bob Suchner, associate professor in NIU’s sociology department, said he “came to NIU as a researcher.”

A faculty member at NIU since 1970, Suchner has researched the education of American youth in science and math, which has been published in books and articles. Suchner said, aside from research, he is “not sure how else one keeps up in teaching.”

Pete Kaminski, associate professor in NIU’s marketing department, said research compliments his teaching in several ways. He said research provides him with the latest information in a particular area that he can incorporate in classroom lectures.

“Research makes a person sharper in terms of classroom performance,” he said. Kaminski writes articles for business journals and has presented papers at several universities.

Faculty research also benefits students indirectly. Kaminski said the knowledge gained from his research sometimes helps him guide students unsure of a career path.

Jack King, an NIU sociology instructor, is working on a dissertation on the politics of reorganizing state government. King’s research includes an analysis focusing on whether state governments are reorganized primarily to increase efficiency or to increase political control.

King said research “keeps (instructors) current and excited about what it is they are doing.

“Faculty members are expected to publish research,” he said. “It’s part of what we’re supposed to do.”

Teachers often implement research articles written by other teachers into their class curriculum. Letting university students and faculty know what topics faculty are currently researching is important, King said.