University Park, IL,
10:56 AM

Annual Research Day Celebrates 50 Years of Scholarship

Governors State University Communication Professor Jayne Goode was puzzled by the number of students failing her class a couple of years back.

Students were seeking her help, indicating their investment in the course, but Goode was stunned to learn the one thing most were missing.

“I was puzzled by the number of students who did not appear to have materials for their other classes,'' Goode told faculty and staff and students gathered for an April 12 Research Day presentation, the fourth annual event and a simultaneous nod to the university’s 50th anniversary in 2019.

In a brief review of university history, Professor Shelly Kumar said GSU has always prided itself on research, first made possible with mini-grants now known as Intellectual Life grants.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the university than through the work being done here—50 years of scholarship at GSU,’’ said Provost Beth Cada.

In academic year 2018-19, scholars and students studied issues as diverse as the extreme impact of climate change, student retention, and awareness among police officers about human trafficking. A high school student presented research on the evolution of the humanities.

Scholars discussed their findings in breakout sessions across the university, while poster presentations dominated the Hall of Governors, engaging inquiring minds in a community of life-long learners.

In Goode’s “Why Aren’t My Students Reading,” a panel of thought leaders discussed why students were reading class materials, including books and open-access information.

“We discovered there is a hidden curriculum—unwritten rules —that we need to demystify,’’ said Kerri Morris, a member of Goode’s working group and GSU’s Director of Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC).

Morris’s inquiry into the unlikely phenomenon of students not reading was met with telling questions from students about the necessity of the book.

The pushback revealed the professors had been proceeding with assumptions that were not communicated to students, many of whom are first-generation and unaccustomed to college culture.

Goode said the solution is simple communication. “We need to have more conversations and let students know what the text book is, and why they need to read it. We need to tell them why it’s important.’’

Absent answers, students often fail or drop out of classes, impacting the entire university—a point President Elaine P. Maimon brought up as she encouraged presenters to keep exploring.

“We are really struggling with this issue,’’ she said. “We need this research to help us determine what to do.”’

Across campus, Frances Kostarelos, GSU Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, explored what local and regional agencies, starting with churches, can do to impact climate change, a global issue being discussed among scientists and theologians.

Scholars from traditionally opposing disciplines are studying the Anthropocene, the current geological age viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

Extreme weather patterns are intensifying underlying problems of poverty and food insecurity, and disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, Kostarelos said.

The rate and extent of impact makes climate change an urgent environmental issue that demands immediate action she would like to see the faith community lead.

“Reduction of carbon emissions will not be enough—we will need innovative solutions,’’ she said.

Professors and college students usually lead the research and discussions on Research Day, but this year a high school student joined the conversation.

Crown Point High School senior Elliot Flynn presented “Chaos within the Humanities: The Postmodern Conundrum.”

GSU doctoral student Alexandrea Horton supported Flynn, who said was pleased to present research at a university-level. “I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity.”

President Maimon thanked all for participating in the day and reminded scholars why their work is important.

“This is what a university is for—researching, teaching, and service—and this day is so emblematic of who we are at GSU with research being presented by faculty and students. You are extending knowledge and making sure our students are involved with the practical application.”