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Inside CSULB
Vol 57 No. 19 : December, 2005
Vol 57 No. 19 | December, 2005
Research on the Upswing

Research on the Upswing

CSULB researchers (l-r) John Jung, Laura Kingsford, Beth Ambos and Roger Bauer.

Research? What’s that? Back in the 1950s and 60s, that response or ones similar, with rare exception, came from new academic hires at CSULB. Known primarily as a teaching institution in its early years, the university and its faculty did not put any true emphasis on research.

A couple of individuals at the university in those early years – Roger Bauer and John Jung, who continue to be heavily involved at CSULB – can easily recall what it was like when the word “research” was even brought up.

“In the early days here, there was a philosophy that was rather pervasive that said ‘we’re here to teach, not to do research. I didn’t come here to do research; I came here to teach and that’s it,’” said Bauer, who came to the university in 1959 and retired after 35 years, the last 14 as dean for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “When I came, I thought university professors did research. When I got here, I found out some people didn’t believe that.” Jung had much the same experience.

“When I first came here in 1962, there wasn’t a lot of research going on,” said Jung, who then went to Canada from 1965-68 to teach. He returned to CSULB where he became a full professor and department chair in Psychology in the early 1970s. “It was individuals in various departments who did research, but they were self-motivated people. Overall, though, there wasn’t a big push to do research.”

As Bauer indicated, and Jung concurred, the mindset of then-senior faculty at CSULB was not exactly against research, it was just that, up to that point, it hadn’t really been done on campus and not many knew really how to go about it.

“The people who were senior when I came, they were the ones who kind of built our department,” said Jung. “They had some sort of vision in terms of wanting to hire faculty who would be interested in doing research, but they themselves were not doing a lot of research. It kind of made it difficult because they didn’t really know what they were doing in trying to get us to do research. I won’t say there was friction, but the senior faculty was pushing research and then the junior faculty would turn around and see that they weren’t doing any research. At that time, for the most part, the senior faculty didn’t really understand what it took to do research.”

Even if most around him were set, some dead set, against conducting research, Bauer wasn’t dissuaded. He was determined to incorporate that element into professorial duties.

“I spent my first year getting a research grant. I always thought that was part of our responsibility,” he said. “I tried to adhere to that philosophy when I was department chairman and when I became dean I was even more adamant about it.”

Laura Kingsford, now the Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, arrived on campus in 1980. She was not a stranger to conducting research, probably something that set extremely well with the person who hired her.

“Roger Bauer is the one who hired me when he was dean, and in our conversation during the interview, he said I was being hired to upgrade research on this campus,” said Kingsford, who was happy to hear that. “I came in during a time of transition when research was going to be supported; otherwise, I don’t know if I would have come here. I mean, I love to teach, but research was a high priority for me then. I feel that I came in at a time when research was really starting to be emphasized and began to be readily accepted as part of the responsibilities.”

That seems to be the sentiment more and more on campus, and gladly so if you ask Bauer.

“Nowadays I look at the young people and they seem to be all gung ho to do research," he said. “From my perspective it has been a marvelous transition of attitude. Young people come in now knowing that university professors are supposed to do research.”

“We’ll never be a UC campus,” added Jung, “but we still want to develop the faculty so they will be more knowledgeable and up to date in their fields and the only way you can do it is by research. The younger faculty are really eager to do research and I think that makes them better teachers.

“When I am on a hiring committee and we look at a person’s résumé, we look to see what their research interests are and see how active they want to be. If they want to get promoted there are some expectations that they publish. They are not going to get tenure or get promoted, if they never publish and publishing comes as a result of doing research.”

Even with the stipulation certain faculty need to conduct research, according to Bauer, there has to be a true desire to do research if it is to be successful.

“It has to be inner driven because it takes too much time and energy and it’s such a long-term commitment,” he said. “If you don’t come in with an interest in doing this then you’re probably never going to do it. You’ve got to get started on it right away and that is why it’s important to have requirements for getting tenure and being promoted.

“We’re not going to do research like they do at UCLA or Caltech, I know that,” he added, “but we can do legitimate research that involves students. In fact, I think that’s the key for us because we give our students the opportunity to do research alongside faculty and that is a real strength of our institution.”

Kingsford whole-heartedly concurs. “We want our faculty to be in the classroom and interacting with students. I think that is very important,” she said. “There is kind of a balance. We don’t want to go to the UC model where the students don’t see the faculty.”

Another major step in research was the creation of the Office of University Research several decades ago, now under the direction of Beth Ambos, associate vice president for Research and External Support.

“The creation of the research office helps tremendously,” said Kingsford. “It’s very helpful to have a place to get assistance when going through the grant process.”

The grant and contract awards at CSULB in the past 20 years (1984-2004) have risen from approximately $5 million to a maximum of $48 million in 2003, according to statistics provided by the Office of University Research. The amount of grant and contract funds requested averages more than $100 million annually, with the number of grant and contract applications continuing to increase. At 307 for the 2004-05 fiscal year, it is nearly twice the number of applications just five years ago.

“We are now truly a teaching-intensive, research-driven university,” stated Ambos, a faculty member and administrator since 1989. “Faculty, staff and students are partners in the research and creative activities enterprise at CSULB. What most faculty do in terms of their own intellectual creativity naturally leads to grant applications and often to innovations and enrichments in teaching. Grants can provide faculty support, employment for students, laboratory supplies, outreach to area schools: all the activities we want and need to do to make a CSULB education the best it possibly can be.”

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