I’d like to start by thanking all those who made this very special recognition possible. In particular, I wish to thank the anonymous individual who nominated me for the award, making me eligible for consideration. I wish to thank the Screening Committee for selecting me as a finalist, from among a number of outstanding fellow colleagues. I’d like to thank all those faculty who voted and ultimately decided that I should receive the award this year. Thank you also to the UNF Foundation for funding this important award. Finally, I wish to especially thank the many colleagues, co-workers and students who have worked with me during the past 11 years in the Center for Drug Prevention and Health Promotion and the College of Health. The collective teamwork of a great number of people on campus has made it possible for me to stand before you today. For this reason, I’d like to take a moment to formally recognize some of these people, including Drs. Pam Chally, Joan Farrell, Betty Meers, Joyce Jones, Jerry Hallan, James Collom, Michele Moore, Michael Dunn, Mr. Bryan Hendrick, Ms. Dawn Stein and Center staff and students, including Melissa Wezniak, Deb Pappas, Joan Carlson, Aimee Miles, Lisa Provencher, Edessa Jobli and Irina Kolomeyer.
I don’t know how many of you know this, but the Distinguished Professor Award is a very special award that includes a commemorative plaque, listing of the recipient’s name on a permanent University plaque, an invitation to deliver the Fall Academic Convocation address, and an honorarium of $5,000. For those of you who may now be thinking I might buy lunch after the Convocation, I must regrettably inform you that my family has already spent the honorarium. And for others, who may be thinking that this type of honorarium will surely guarantee a memorable speech, let me say that this won’t be the first time I’ve put an audience to sleep. Make no mistake; I’m no Frank McCourt.
The Distinguished Professor Award is presented annually to a University of North Florida faculty member who has a balanced record of distinction in all three areas of teaching, scholarship and service. In my case, it has been my scholarship that has propelled and enriched my teaching and service areas of academic life. For this reason, the focus of my brief comments will center on my experiences as a scholar engaged in the process of research, or if you wish, the broader term “scholarship;” its relationship to my teaching and service; and the function of scholarship in comprehensive, metropolitan universities like ours. The title of my address is: “The Role of Funded Scholarship at a Non-Research University: A Case Study.”
First, what role does scholarship play in a comprehensive, metropolitan university such as UNF, as opposed to a land-grant university such as the University of Florida? Land-grant universities were developed with the Morrill Act of 1862 to address the then relevant issues of agriculture and food production. Currently, new relevant issues have emerged including health and health care, primary and secondary education, economic development, and crime. Today’s issues and those of the immediate and foreseeable future are urban issues. Because of our physical location in or near major cities, metropolitan universities like ours are uniquely situated to respond to these issues first. While land-grant universities, and those located in rural areas and smaller towns, can conduct research in the cities, they’ll find it more challenging to build lasting relationships and maintain long-term collaborations with urban organizations and institutions like hospitals, schools, businesses, governments, civic groups and neighborhoods. Metropolitan universities, however, located in or near the city, can rely on the advantages and necessity of close personal contact to forge and maintain partnerships, even in an age of digital communications. As James Stukel (1994) reported in a recent paper on urban and metropolitan universities, if we act decisively, urban universities have an opportunity to assume leadership of the academic community in the 21st century.
But metropolitan areas are not only the settings where societal problems may be most concentrated and visible. Cities are arguably the lifeblood of the world’s creativity, vitality and economic development. Metropolitan regions have long been seen as primary sources of cutting-edge technology, intellectual currency, and innovation of all types. We are presently seeing a trend throughout this country in which middle and upper income workers are moving back into the city, and bringing with them higher wages and greater productivity. Urban areas, therefore, not only house many of the nation’s social problems, but also hold the economic, intellectual and technological resources to address them. Important among these resources are the availability of university experts and specialists needed to study and eventually mitigate, if not resolve these critical problems we all share.
While the land-grant university has lead to the separation of teaching, scholarship and service as distinct functions, urban universities have and continue to focus on combining these three activities. The goal of the metropolitan university, according to Ernest Lynton, is to address metropolitan problems through applied research, teaching that includes practical application, and outreach that involves building partnerships with other urban institutions (1996). Mary Lindenstein Walshok in her book Knowledge Without Boundaries (1995), describes “knowledge linkages” or the closer connection between knowledge producers and knowledge users. Knowledge linkages include knowledge development through scholarship or research, along with knowledge dissemination through teaching, and/or knowledge application through service. Knowledge without some linkage, either through teaching (dissemination) or service (application) is incomplete knowledge.
The role of the metropolitan university is one of providing opportunities for developing knowledge linkages. In a recent study titled “Defining Institutional Effectiveness for a Metropolitan University,” urban university administrators surveyed reported that the most valuable resource that they could offer faculty and students is the time to engage in scholarly activity and in a mentoring relationship (Franklin, et al., 1997). This is a critical knowledge development-dissemination linkage. Metropolitan universities like ours should also be actively engaged in collaborating with community agencies to study local problems and better understand important local issues, and then helping these agencies apply the newly acquired knowledge to address these issues. This is a critical knowledge development-service linkage.
At this point, I’d like to briefly examine some of my experiences engaging in scholarship at UNF, as a personal case study. To begin this discussion, I must first recount my early research lessons as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Interestingly enough, for a world-class research institution, I don’t believe I left the University with a great armament of research skills. What I did leave with, however, was a budding passion for the research process, an introduction to the excitement of creating knowledge, and a belief in the critical importance that scholarship plays in academic life. These largely affective lessons were learned at the University of Wisconsin by faculty who modeled the significance and adventure of generating knowledge as they went about conducting and sharing their research experiences with their students. It was here that I also developed an early affection for reading research manuscripts, from sitting untold hours in many of the outstanding libraries throughout the campus of the University of Wisconsin.
This early education about the value of scholarship was followed by my first professional academic post at the University of Arkansas, the State’s flagship research university. It was here that I was exposed to the idea of a community of scholars, which existed within a small academic program in health science. There was a culture of research productivity in this program at the University of Arkansas, which had to be balanced against a challenging four-course per semester teaching load.
My early career focus was on conducting “cheap” scholarship, that which could be financed out of my own pocket. It was here that I started developing my first knowledge linkages by disseminating my research findings within the health science classes I taught, and mentoring students by involving them in collecting public health data in community field settings such as local schools, universities, hospitals and neighborhoods. While I had some limited success during this time in obtaining University “seed” grants and a national foundation grant to conduct research, most of my time was spent on what I call the 3 R’s of research: reading published research, writing research manuscripts for publication and presentation (i.e., dissemination), and reviewing research papers for professional journals and research applications for granting agencies. These activities helped develop and hone my research skills, and strengthened my commitment to scholarship in the academy.
I learned early while at the University of Arkansas, that I wouldn’t likely conduct scholarship which had important health policy and programming implications without substantial funding. So, when I came to UNF 11 years ago, I came with the goal of enhancing my scholarship through obtaining external support. I was fortunate to find in-place a group of faculty already engaged in grantwriting in the College of Health; including Drs. Betty Meers and Joan Farrell, and a supportive campus Office of Sponsored Research and Training lead by Dr. Joyce Jones.
Early successes in obtaining several grants from the U.S. Department of Education came when I learned the importance of contacting funding agencies to garner as much information as possible about their interests, and then tailoring grant applications to address these interests. Interestingly, a small $15,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education lead to the development of a theoretical model, which has served as the foundation for our most significant funded research. This research has entailed developing and testing theory-based alcohol abuse preventive interventions for high-risk youth, and has been funded over the past eight years by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) within the National Institutes of Health. Our most recent NIAAA award for over $3 million is to continue our work in the alcohol prevention research area over the next five years.
This is not to say that we’ve had all successes, or that obtaining external funding for our research has been easy. While we’ve been very fortunate in capturing competitive federal funding, I attribute our success to a number of factors. These include: 1) persisting in the face of multiple failures which come with all grantwriting (expect no grant application to be funded in the first application); 2) conducting multiple pilot studies over time to carefully document to funding agencies the stepping stones to the knowledge developed; and 3) employing a team of top researchers and staff, including local faculty and students, as well as key consultants from throughout the country.
When I came to UNF 11 years ago, I also made a conscious decision to focus on what the National Institutes of Health refers to as “intervention research,” that being the development, implementation and evaluation of health promotion and disease prevention programs. By engaging in this type of applied scholarship, the functions of research, teaching and service are integrated. Not only are we engaged in conducting rigorous community trials using experimental research designs, but because we are investigating public health interventions in real-life field settings, we are also providing a critical community service-knowledge linkage. Specifically, most of our research to date has focused on alcohol and drug abuse prevention involving youth from local county schools, which provides a valuable service to the adolescents, their families and the schools who collaborate with us. In addition, because I involve my undergraduate and graduate students in this public health intervention research, and share both the research methodology and research outcomes with my students in my coursework, I’m providing a crucial knowledge-dissemination linkage with our students.
In conclusion, while we in the academy are all different, we are also alike in our need for intellectual stimulation and our desire to make a difference by what we do. The process of scholarship satisfies both needs, while funded scholarship permits us to achieve these needs more efficiently and effectively. Funding for scholarship provides the essential time and tools necessary to forge the strongest and most enduring knowledge linkages. Applied scholarship in metropolitan universities is a matter of necessity, but obtaining funding for applied scholarship is a matter of prosperity, for each of us professionally as well as for all of us collectively.
Thank you for the opportunity to share a few of my thoughts regarding the importance and role of funded scholarship in metropolitan universities like ours. I hope you found my ideas of some import or interest.
Franklin, K.K., Boggs, K.J., Conners, N.A., Crum, C.B., Nawarat, P., Ramirez, C.T., and Trawick, K.C. (1997). Defining institutional effectiveness for a metropolitan university. Paper presented at Mid-South educational research conference, Memphis, TN.
Lynton, E.A. (1996). Declaration of metropolitan universities. Metropolitan Universities, 6 (4).
Stukel, J.S. (1994). Urban and metropolitan universities: Leaders of the twenty-first century. Metropolitan Universities, 5 (2), 87-92.
Walshok, M. L., (1995). Knowledge without boundaries. San Francisco: Josey-Bass. @dist.lec