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WASC Visit Inspires New Look at Transformational Scholarship

by University Relations

As the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation review nears completion with the Educational Effectiveness Review (EER) slated for October 10–12, 2012, the APU community gears up to present evidence of progress toward supporting its goals of faith integration, God-honoring diversity, intentional internationalization, and transformational scholarship.

Focusing on transformational scholarship, theme leader Laurie A. Schreiner, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Doctoral Higher Education, approached the task of defining and qualifying the concept by first establishing the context. “Growth characterizes APU,” she said of the university’s ever-expanding facilities, diverse student body and faculty, academic programs, and reputation. “Therefore, transformation is part of who we are as a growing faith-based institution. When that growth earned APU the Carnegie designation as a doctoral research university, we entered a prestigious academic community, but we differentiated ourselves by keeping our focus on teaching and developing research inspired by the needs of the world and informed by our faith.”

Forsaking the idea of research for the sake of research, APU breaks the mold of standard practice in academia, and measures the value of research by its ability to transform those involved. Sponsored by the Faculty Research Council, Schreiner and a team of faculty members conducted a yearlong study of APU’s most productive research scholars to discover the impact of faculty scholarship as well as the merit of the transformational scholarship concept. Defining this concept as research that makes a difference, the study revealed several benefits to this focus.

First, it impacts students by changing the way they see the world and engage in critical thinking. They process information differently and ask better questions, which makes them more effective scholars.

Second, it values partnerships between professors and students, which, in turn, enriches the student/teacher relationship and the overall educational experience. At the undergraduate level, this elevates the students’ confidence and sense of value as partners in the process, and at the graduate level, provides essential research experience typically reserved for elite scholars at other institutions.

Third, participation in meaningful research energizes the faculty and invigorates their teaching with a fresh passion. It integrates APU faculty into the broader academy in a way that would not be possible if they focused solely on teaching. Involvement in cutting-edge scholarship transforms their curricula, classrooms, and students.

Fourth, when faculty members engage in significant research, it has the potential to change their discipline. For example, English professor Emily Griesinger, Ph.D., explores the way her faith impacts her scholarship and vice versa by examining literature and critical theory through a faith lens that offers a new perspective to her discipline.

Finally, this unique approach to research transforms APU by increasing its visibility in the academy, enhancing its academic reputation, and creating opportunities to impact the surrounding community and the world.

With goals on the horizon to increase student/faculty research partnerships with paid summer opportunities for undergraduate students, to aim for one graduate research assistant for every faculty member, and to provide research mentors for new faculty, APU stands poised to change the way higher education views scholarship at the intersection of teaching and research.

Originally published in the Summer '12 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).