In the spotlight

JCU’s annual Celebration of Scholarship enters its 10th year

By John C. Bruening ’86

Academic scholarship is a bit like that tree in the forest philosophers have been wondering about for ages. If a professor or student does thorough and thoughtful research but few people see or appreciate the work, how much widespread learning is taking place?

Mary Beadle, Ph.D., isn’t a philosopher, but 10 years ago, when she was spending countless hours every semester reviewing student and faculty research as dean of the graduate school, she couldn’t help but wonder why all the work was going unnoticed.

Poster sessions highlight research projects and internships.

“I was reading all this material, and I just kept saying, ‘This is all great work. We have to find a way share this,’” says Beadle, who since has stepped down from her position as dean and is now a professor in the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts. “I saw all this research coming through my office, but it didn’t seem like we were making a fuss about it.”

Beadle’s concerns were the first seeds that eventually grew into A Celebration of Scholarship, a yearly campuswide event that began in the spring of 2002. With organizational assistance from Catherine Anson, Director of Sponsored Research, Beadle established a weeklong series of events designed to communicate ideas shared in the classroom and laboratory.

The program was based on ideas presented in “Scholarship Reconsidered,” a book written by American educator and former U.S. Commissioner of Education Ernest L. Boyer in 1990 that challenged the prevailing definitions and views of scholarship. Boyer’s book separates scholarship into four classifications: discovery, integration, application, and teaching. Since the book was first published, it has influenced the way many colleges and universities view scholarship and their faculties’ approach to it.

Since its inception, A Celebration of Scholarship has included various events and activities: poster sessions highlighting research projects and internships, and panel and paper sessions organized around a theme. The Celebrate the Arts portion of the event includes an arts luncheon in the student center atrium with music, spoken-word and dramatic performances, as well as a weeklong art exhibit in Grasselli Library. The March installment of the Scholarly Lunch series takes place during Celebration and provides a forum for faculty members to share the results of their Grauel Faculty or Summer Research fellowships.

Support from faculty and administrators for the initial idea was less than overwhelming, Beadle admits.

“Anything new is a challenge,” she says. “People, especially faculty, are always gun-shy about presenting in front of people outside the classroom. What if nobody shows up? What if people aren’t interested in what you have to say? When you’re in a classroom, you’re in control, but when you open it up, it’s not as secure.”

Still, a core of faculty, together with Cathy Anson’s logistical support, helped make the first Celebration enough of a success to continue.

“Without Cathy, it never would have happened because there was a lot of planning and organization that had to take place, especially in those first couple years,” Beadle says.

The campus community has developed an appreciation for the importance of sharing information among academic disciplines.

“There are a lot of silos, and you have people in one department who don’t know what’s going on in another department in terms of research,” Anson says. “So it’s been an opportunity for everybody to come together – faculty and students – and get a better sense of what was happening in research.”

After 2007, Beadle handed the Celebration of Scholarship reins to Lauren Bowen, Ph.D., Associate Academic Vice President for Academic Programs and Faculty Diversity, with the help of Marianne Cicirelli, Administrative Assistant in the Office of the Academic Vice President. Bowen has been overseeing the event since.

“We’ve tried to abide by Mary’s original vision in terms of Boyer’s principles, which has meant, among other things, keeping the program dynamic,”

Bowen says. “at the same time, we’ve maintained the various constituent elements from the beginning, such as the art exhibit and the Arts at Lunch series. The poster session remains one of the most exciting and vibrant parts of the Celebration, and we continue to co-sponsor evening lectures with academic programs to ensure prominent outside scholars can speak on campus.”

The increased focus on social justice at JCU and in the Jesuit community is reflected in the more recent Celebration of Scholarship programs.

“A lot more of the internship experiences, service learning, immersion trips, or, in short, all dimensions of the experiential education in which students participate are being shared at the more recent celebrations, which reflects that trend in the university,” Bowen says.

Anson has had the opportunity to see a lot of presentations.

“I’m impressed by what people present in every academic discipline.” She says “I’ve learned things that never occurred to me by attending the events. I’ve seen demonstrations with visual aids of all kinds. We’ve had presentations about robots and software, for example, that were fascinating. It’s an opportunity to take the research out of the classroom and put a spotlight on it; because this is what the university is all about – academics.”

As for the future of A Celebration of Scholarship, Beadle is encouraged has outlived her involvement in it.

“If you have someone who starts something based on an idea they’re committed to, if it’s meant to be, it’ll become part of the institution’s culture,” she says. “The level of support may vary somewhat from year to year, but if A Celebration of Scholarship is still thriving every year, and the person who started it is no longer involved, then it’s part of the institution.”

Comments are closed.