Conference Presentations and My Commitment to Public Scholarship

I’m acclimating to my new home and academic position, and navigating the infrastructure of a new city and campus has occupied a good portion of my time. Unpacking the mountain of boxes that arrived on my doorstep the weekend before classes began has kept me busy as well.

While I thought I’d been more settled in my new living space by now, I’m managing the teaching load—four classes—better than I expected.

Still, as I scroll through my Google Calendar, I worry about balancing teaching, scholarship, and service obligations. I surmise that most people entering full-time positions in academia have similar concerns, no matter if they’re tenure-track or alt-ac.

Among my research projects, I have a conference presentation slated for this fall and some others later in the academic year I’m keeping my eye on. For those unfamiliar with conference presentations in the humanities, essentially, for each talk, I write a paper that I can read in twenty minutes; the paper must be easily followed by a listening audience, and nearly always, a question-and-answer session follows the presentation.

This fall, I’ll deliver a paper at the Carolinas Communication Conference; more information about that engagement is posted below, and I’ll be making updates to this list on a blog page called (no surprise here) “Upcoming Engagements,” which is filed under my “Research” page.

October 5-6, 2012

“Taking Social Media to Work: PBL with Twitter in Business Communication Courses”

Conference presentation at the Carolinas Communication Association given as part of the panel, “The Promises and Pitfalls of Problem-Based Learning in the 21st Century.”

To stay on track for the timely, low-stress completion of this and other talks, I’m going to blog about what I’m reading. By recording my reactions to the books, articles, and media related to my conference presentations, I’ll hopefully complete these talks more efficiently. Due to my increased teaching load and new responsibilities as a faculty member, gone are the days—at least this semester—where I can research, read, and write for large blocks of time, and so I need maximize the time I that I have during the workday that isn’t devoted to preparing for classes, grading, meeting with students, attending faculty and committee meetings, etc.

Maybe more importantly, the posts about my conference-related research hopefully will be of interest to others, including—and maybe especially—those on the outside or periphery of the academy.

When I was applying for academic positions last year, I often spoke of my commitment to public scholarship. I particularly like the way the University of Minnesota’s Public Scholarship Committee has defined public scholarship. They state that

public scholarship means optimizing the extent to which University research informs and is informed by the public good, maximizes the generation and transfer of knowledge and technology, educates the public about what research the University does, and listens to the public about what research needs to be done. This scholarship contributes to the intellectual and social capital of the University and the State (and larger regions), and includes (but is not limited to) the transfer of knowledge and technology that contributes to improved quality of life for significant portions of the populous.

As a faculty member at a state institution, and as a product of state-supported intuitions of higher learning, I feel it is my duty to freely share some of my scholarship with the public. As emphasized in the passage above, it is important to facilitate this transfer of information locally. Yet, digital environments also, I believe, extend the scope of this mandate.

Public scholarship, as the U of M’s Public Scholarship Committee has pointed out, cannot be reduced to the one-way delivery of knowledge whereby those in the academy simply deliver information to the public at large. Public scholarship, rather, is dynamic, and faculty should “listen to the public about what research should be done.” Universities financed by state monies should listen or be attuned to the needs of those who live and reside in the institution’s city, region, and/or state. But as more public scholars use digital spaces to produce and share their work, maybe this “listening” mandate might prove to be more elastic. And maybe, by blogging my research process for conference talks, I can begin to explore the potential of that flexibility as it pertains to my new professional role.


Want to read more? Check out some of the posts in the “Blogging My Research” series.

BMR: A Definition of Problem-Based Learning

BMR: Problem-Based Learning Across the Disciplines

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Posted in Blogging My Research
One comment on “Conference Presentations and My Commitment to Public Scholarship
  1. I am also trying to figure out how to share my research on my blog as a way of engaging in public scholarship, but I’ve found it to be more difficult than I expected. I’m not used to sharing work in progress and it seems that’s only way to blog through the research process. I’m looking forward to seeing how you develop your approach.

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Dr. Amy Rubens
I'm an "ambulant scholar," and I move among several worlds. As a professor of English, I research and write for audiences within and outside of academia. As a teacher of writing, literature, and culture, I facilitate learning. As a blogger, I critique, question, and reflect. Learn more about this blog and the work I do as a professor and workplace writing consultant.

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