Spring semester at Tennessee Tech is always full of high energy fun with numerous events and activities almost every day. One event that stands out is the annual Research Day, where students celebrate and showcase original research and creative efforts. On Thursday, April 7, Roaden University Center will be packed with students standing beside their respective posters eagerly waiting to describe their latest scholarly discoveries to any interested person who passes by. The work presented is never perfect, but always interesting and typically high quality.
Tennessee Tech was recently reclassified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a Doctoral-Research University. This important symbolic recognition reflects the maturation of Tennessee Tech as a university and the relevance of research to all the groups we serve.
Occasionally, I am questioned about the need for research on a university campus. After all, aren’t we here primarily to teach students, not conduct research? Certainly, there are both traditional two-year and four-year colleges as well as online institutions that award degrees by focusing exclusively on the one-way dissemination of information. I am proud to say, Tennessee Tech is not one of them!
When universities are at their very best, they do two fundamentally simple tasks well. First, they CREATE and DISSEMINATE knowledge. Second, they IDENTIFY and DEVELOP human talent. Faculty led research and scholarship is the only single activity I know that accomplishes both of those objectives.
We all recognize that the best way to really learn something is by doing it. The relationship between a student and a faculty mentor in the context of research or scholarly activities is most similar to that of an apprentice to a master craftsman. The student invariably not only learns firsthand through personal discovery, but more importantly develops the complete set of skills necessary to become an independent professional.
In that sense, research is not a sideline or distraction, but rather the ultimate educational experience. If you doubt that, spend some time with the students in the RUC on April 7. I promise that their knowledge will impress you, but their passion and enthusiasm absolutely will convince you of the importance of research on a university campus.