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Editor's note: Commentary provides university faculty and staff an opportunity to express their opinions in The Miami University Report. Contributions should be no longer than 500-600 words in length and should be directed to Bill Houk (physics), firstname.lastname@example.org. Published commentaries also will be posted online at www.muohio.edu/townsquare/commentary.
_Here we go again, another commentary on how the quality of undergraduate instruction has declined at Miami University for the past 20 years as the emphasis at Miami University has moved slowly but surely toward research and publication. This is a wrong conclusion and message for our students, faculty and administrators at Miami. Let us be clear that we all want the highest quality education for our select Miami students in order for them to be competitive and successful leaders in an era of high-tech global community. The question is how best to attain the highest quality education at Miami. Education through classroom teaching only as was done in the years past, without scholarly research and creative endeavors by students and faculty members, amounts to communicating existing information mostly from textbooks which are not up-to-date by the time they are published. Miami'_s academically selected resident students who pay high tuition deserve better than just classroom learning.
To augment classroom teaching with required scholarly research and creativity applying state-of-the-art technologies and methods means to challenge the students and faculty members to generate new knowledge, device or creative results through in-depth collaborative intellectual endeavors beyond the confine of classroom learning. High-quality research and creativity with higher expectations and challenging requirements not only benefit our undergraduate students learning directly but also bring national recognition for the university which benefits everyone, including students in their job search and higher education endeavors. Miami's student achievements like Truman Scholars, Goldwater Scholars, Rhodes Scholars and top rating in the U.S. News and World Report that most colleges and large universities can only dream of would not be possible only through classroom learning.
Selective graduate education plays a crucial role for nurturing the teacher-scholar model of high quality education for our undergraduate students at Miami. Scholarly research and creativity are requirements, not just expectations for graduate education, and allow Miami to recruit research-active faculty members across the disciplines. Such research-active faculty members devote invaluable extra time and efforts advising, mentoring and engaging in collaborative research/creative projects with undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows on a daily basis in a truly synergistic way to inspire and foster intellectual ability of undergraduate students way beyond the classroom learning. Undergraduate students become equal partners with other researchers and share all facilities including the latest technologies purchased by research grants. Research grants also provide stipends, travel expenses to regional and national professional meetings for students to present their results. Not to mention personal recommendations they write for research-active students. This is the essence of Miami's successful teacher-scholar model.
Do the research-active faculty members teach? This commentator, for more than 35 years, maintained a strong externally funded productive research program involving many undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, at the same time taught two to three large Miami Plan classes each semester for many years and also taught a large number of high-school biology teachers, many junior scholars as well as mentored minority high-school students in the research laboratory during summer. I could not wait to go to my classes to discuss the scheduled content/topic of the day but also to share the exciting new findings by my students and other researchers.
Finally, in order to remain competitive through maintaining high-quality education and fostering the teacher-scholar relationships, all full-time tenured faculty members must be committed to be physically present on campus all five week days as all our students are in order to advise, mentor and engage in research/creative projects involving the students on a daily basis outside the classroom teaching. Additionally what is needed for everyone is to promote a mutual respect and admiration for high-quality teaching and scholarly research/creative endeavors. Based on several commentaries in The Miami Report, one wonders if it is true. Our academic administrators from chairs to the new president have the challenge to maintain and nurture Miami's enviable teacher-scholar model and not to reverse the trend toward making teaching and scholarly/creative research mutually exclusive instead of making them inclusive.
Date Published: 11/10/2005