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Vision for Success:Research and Creative Development Enhances Education and Keeps Students Engaged

July 2014

woman in lab coat hanging an IV bag

Professor of nursing Christine Latham's work helps prospective nurses learn how to best related to and advocate for their patients. She stewards a $1 million grant that seeks to advance nursing workforce diversity.

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It's a compelling vision that takes center stage in the University's strategic plan: keep students engaged, on the path to graduation, and empowered to build lives of purpose. Faculty dedication to research and creative development is an important part of this vision, yielding enriched teaching and learning while collaborative faculty-student projects enhance student persistence and postgraduate success.

"High-impact activities – demonstrated by both faculty research and faculty-student collaboration on research and creative activities – add richness and robustness to student learning," said Tami "Sunnie" Foy, interim director in the CSUF Office of Research Development. "Students achieve academically and personally, thanks to the connections they make beyond the classroom."

By providing renewed, additional support to faculty in search of funding for research, community service and creative activities, the University is continuing a long CSUF tradition. In 2012-13, faculty members attracted more than $19.5 million in grants for these activities. "Higher education institutions are increasingly being asked to improve student learning, increase degree completion rates, push the frontiers of knowledge and better serve their communities," noted José Cruz, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "At Cal State Fullerton, we have long recognized that one way to meet these demands is to invest in faculty research and creative activities."

"Typically, faculty members engaged in research teach more effectively, because they bring their research into the classroom and engage students more by these enriching captivating activities," said Chandra Srinivasan, STEM research development faculty fellow and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Ongoing research and creative activities influence the way faculty members teach, agreed Terri Patchen, student research faculty fellow and professor of elementary and bilingual education. "It makes us more enthusiastic, and that's infectious. Including students in the process allows them to see direct links to the subject."

Arnold Holland '12, faculty fellow for creative activities and associate art professor, said they "make faculty better scholars who are ultimately reinvigorated, and thus more effective teachers." Here, CSUF faculty members share meaningful ways their research and creative activities result in student success.

College of the Arts

Music professor Bill Cunliffe, a Grammy Award-winning arranger and Grammy-nominated composer, recently wrote a wind symphony in honor of late alumnus Mark Garrabrant '81 (B.A. English, B.M. music-performance), who taught trumpet and ran the varsity band. An inventive pianist and bandleader, Cunliffe involves students in all his work and enjoys bringing renowned musicians, such as bassist/composer John Clayton, conguero Poncho Sanchez and vocalist Freda Payne, to campus.

"It's important for students to see faculty involved in the creative work that they want to do," Cunliffe said. "We need to generate knowledge, and if students can get that in a demonstration, rather than merely being told, so much the better."

Alvin Rangel, assistant professor of theatre and dance, concurs that teaching and creative activities are linked. Students provide new insight as part of his creative process while he performs, conducts research and choreographs his specialty, the tango.

Rangel, who has performed his works worldwide, believes that "CSUF's strong commitment to faculty research and creative activities will attract more grants and funding, leading to more successful students and a higher national profile for the University."

College of Communications

Professor HyeKyeung Seung of the Communicative Disorders Program in the Department of Human Communication Studies includes students in her research into the development of speech in autistic children.

"Teaching and research are strongly linked," Seung said. "It's a challenge to find the time and energy for both, but it energizes me and keeps me current. The teaching feeds the research and vice versa," with each making the other more powerful and effective.

The director of the college's new Latino Communications Initiative, Inez Gonzalez, brings together talented communicators and the industry that seeks them. At a recent national conference, Gonzalez and Dean Kazoleas, director of the University's Maxwell Center for International Communications and Media, presented the findings of a national survey of U.S. Hispanic journalists' beliefs about their profession and their use of social media and technology.

"Latino journalists play a vital role in our society, and the initiative reflects our determination to add the courses, training and programs in Latino-oriented communications needed to keep pace with this growing sector," Gonzalez explained.

College of Education

Elementary and bilingual education associate professor Loretta Donovan and professor Timothy Green, facilitators of the college's online technology education master's degree, noted that their students' work was recently included in the journal Tech Trends.

"Our scholarship, service and teaching all involve educational technology," Donovan said. "All our work is intertwined." That interrelationship confirms CSUF's commitment to faculty research and creative activities and underscores its dedication to teaching, Green said.

Associate professor of secondary education Mark Ellis agreed. Ellis recently received a three-year, $1.5-million National Science Foundation grant to examine the effect dual language programs have on increasing mathematics and science achievement among Latino junior high students. The project in Anaheim schools will offer fellowships to bilingual CSUF students preparing to teach junior high school math or science.

"I wanted to be at Fullerton because I wanted to be in a place that valued teaching and to inform others about teaching well," Ellis said. "We develop more productive learning environments and integrate creativity into teaching."

Mihaylo College of Business and Economics

Ofir Turel, professor of information systems and decision sciences, recently co-authored several articles about social media addiction, an area attracting the attention of academia, the medical community and employers.

Turel sees firsthand that some students cannot seem to leave their electronic devices alone, so his research hits home, with students keenly interested in his work studying brain functions and the effects of technology. When research is relevant to student careers and lives, it generates stronger academic interest and aspirations, he said. One of the results is that Mihaylo grads consistently are accepted into some of the nation's top doctoral programs.

Associate professor of marketing Susan Cadwallader, who also serves as director of the Gianneschi Center for Nonprofit Research, infuses community-based learning into her classes and employs papers published in leading academic and practitioner business journals in her coursework.

"Students deeply learn course material by applying ideas found in current business literature to solve actual community problems," Cadwallader said. "This deep learning not only matters to future employers, it creates new knowledge for our field."

College of Health and Human Development

Students involved in research have innate curiosity and want to push knowledge forward, said assistant professors of kinesiology John Gleaves and Matt Llewellyn. They recently organized an international conference on the philosophy of sports that drew more than 100 top scholars to CSUF, exposing students to cutting-edge thinking in the field.

"We want faculty who are doing the research that is going into the textbooks," Llewellyn said, noting that internal grants supported their international travel in pursuit of Olympics research.

Nursing professor Christine Latham employs peer mentoring and volunteer activities to help train nurses to be knowledgeable advocates who help patients and their families navigate the complex health care system. "Many CSUF students mirror the community's socioeconomic profile as first-generation, underrepresented students," Latham said.

Under her guidance, a recent $1-million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration – part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – funds a three-year project to advance nursing workforce diversity.

College of Engineering and Computer Science

Civil engineering associate professor Binod Tiwari involves students in his research into earthquakes and seismic zones, encouraging them to publish in scientific journals, participate in professional conferences and conduct collaborative research.

Following their experiences in Tiwari's lab, one of Southern California's best-equipped geotechnical facilities, his former students pursue civil engineering positions and graduate school. "We get results – our students are leaders in the civil engineering industry," he said.

By incorporating their research into coursework, CSUF faculty members expose students to the latest scientific developments, noted Kiran George, associate professor of computer engineering. His students' projects include a mechanical arm attachment controlled by facial expressions utilizing commercially available technology.

"These projects help students link their degree and career with societal needs," George said. "With new technology emerging all the time, I have to update my skills and knowledge. In turn, this is integrated into my courses in the form of case studies, lab experiments and projects."

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Psychology professor emeritus Allen Gottfried's 30-year Fullerton Longitudinal Study started in 1979 with 130 one-year-old children who were followed periodically; 106 subjects, who live all over the world, remain in the study. Its student researchers have produced more than 125 publications, nearly 300 conference presentations and 115 awards.

Many of the psychologists who "graduated" from the study now teach and pursue research at some of the country's best universities. "We are able to bring the complexity of what we're learning into the classroom," Gottfried explained. "We teach critical thinking skills. Students learn to question and use research to get answers."

Chicano/a studies associate professor Erualdo R. González has conducted extensive field research with students in urban and regional planning.

"This kind of practical and local, tangible activity expands, deepens or even changes students' attitudes about their future careers," Gonzalez said. "It entices and exposes them, gives them possibilities – new ways of analyzing the world."

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Associate professor of mathematics Angel Pineda, now on sabbatical at USC researching ways to make MRI technology faster, mentors student teams, which consult for industrial clients as part of the master's program in applied mathematics.

"The best teaching I do at Fullerton isn't in the classroom," Pineda said. "It's with the research students. We explore problems that no one has solved before, and I help students use their knowledge to solve them."

James Parham experienced the value of primary research as an undergraduate. Parham incorporates it into his work as an assistant professor of geological sciences and faculty curator of paleontology at the John D. Cooper Center, with many of his students studying fossils in his lab and at the center.

"Hands-on research demystifies the entire process of science," Parham said. "Students learn to break it down, format papers and see how the process works. Primary research is a huge career advantage because they can show the projects they worked on to future employers."

Tags:  Academics & Research