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Faculty address teaching, research at Friday retreat

The Faculty Senate met Friday to discuss the role of research and teaching and their effects on students and faculty at the University.

The retreat was a springing point for this year's Senate agenda, which will look into the role of research and teaching at the University.

"It was an opportunity for us to decide the essential issues relating to research and teaching," Faculty Senate Chairman David T. Gies said.

While University faculty are sometimes criticized by the public because it appears they are only working as much as they are teaching class, much of their time outside the classroom is spent researching, said Patricia Werhane, Darden professor and Senate member.

Senate members determined research and teaching are inseparable in the role faculty play, Gies said.

"It is not an either / or dichotomy," he said. "The appropriate way to frame the debate is not one verses the other."

Faculty members said faculty who research are more up-to-date with information in their discipline, and enrich the learning environment with material learned through research.

"In my experience the best teachers are the best researchers," Gies said. "They take what they are learning and integrate that into a constant dialogue."

Faculty output, such as articles and books, are what big universities notice, Werhane said.

"Top ranked schools expect faculty to be doing research," she said.

One critique of research is the amount of time faculty must spend working to earn research grants, which take time away from research and classroom preparation, Werhane said.

Faculty in disciplines such as engineering and the medical sciences often feel the pressure to bring in grant money, she said.

Houston Wood, Engineering professor and Senate member, said engineering research does benefit teaching.

"If we don't do research we become very stale," Wood said. "Technology advances so quickly - that [research] information makes courses more up-to-date.

"When I am doing research, I feel like I am teaching," he said. "Research makes the educational experience more than just sitting in the classroom."

This summer, third-year Engineering student Meredith Bell conducted research for Wood.

"Professors doing research open up research opportunities for students," Bell said.

She said she researched parts and their costs for a reusable launch vehicle this summer.

"When you go to class you don't get a lot of hands-on stuff - with research you do hands-on things," she added.

The retreat's outcome is still inconclusive.

"We don't know if we will have a report, or change teaching in the classroom, etc." Gies said. "My sense is that we'll have a couple panels with faculty and students" about research and teaching.