Cottom faculty scholarship speech

College of Humanities and Sciences Honors Faculty Scholarship

In recognition of their role in elevating the university to national prominence, the College of Humanities and Sciences hosted a faculty recognition breakfast on April 13 to honor outstanding members of their faculty. The breakfast recognized faulty in the college who in had published a new book, won a significant scholarly award, or spent over $50,000 in research expenditures during the 2015-16 academic year.

As the largest academic unit at VCU, the College of Humanities and Sciences plays a critical role in contributing the university’s status as a Research One Institution, the highest classification of Doctoral Universities in the United States. This designation, which is determined by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, is based on a university’s research expenditures and doctoral programs. With over 17 million dollars in research expenditures from last year alone, the College of Humanities and Sciences makes up the largest research profile on the Monroe Park campus.

“It is my goal as dean to be able to strengthen our research mission in the college, make sure we build strong infrastructure, and our faculty have the resources that are necessary to help bring our university to national prominence as a research institution,” said Montserrat Fuentes, Dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences.

The event featured presentations by faculty members from the Departments of English, Sociology, and Psychology, showcasing their achievements and revolutionary work on behalf of the university.

“We wanted to represent the diversity in research and scholarship in the college so that’s why intentionally we chose different disciplines to illustrate the amazing and different meanings of research and scholarship in the college,” Fuentes said.

Francis Macrina, Vice President for the Office of Research and Innovation, spoke about the college’s commitment to promoting and funding useful research through the creation of institutions and centers. He highlighted the success of the Clark-Hill Institute of Positive Youth Development, which last year partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as a prime example of academic work connecting to the community and working towards creating positive change.

“We need to invest more significantly in our institutions and centers, this is how we will succeed in every possible dimension, most importantly in the creation of new knowledge,” said Macrina.

Dr. Albert Farrell, Director of the Clark-Hill Institute, emphasized in his lecture the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in his center’s work studying youth violence.

“I appreciate being here at VCU where I’ve had the opportunity to learn from so many of my colleagues,” Farrell said. “I was delighted to be in a position where I didn’t have to know about everything, I just needed to know smart people.”

Other lecturers praised the college’s support of research they consider to be vitally important to the community. Tressie Cottom, assistant professor of sociology whose book Lower Ed;The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy has captured the attention of the academy and the public for its provocative arguments on the impact of for-profit colleges in higher education, spoke about the importance of asking difficult questions through academic research which challenge the status-quo.

“I ask questions that right now might not be questions that people want asked, but that at some point in the future may be questions that people will need to have been asked,” Cottom said. “Ideally sociologists should hope to work themselves out of a job, because we would no longer need the questions that people would rather not have asked.”

David Coogan, associate professor of English, read from his new book Writing A Way Out: Memoirs from Jail, a collection of autobiographical stories by Richmond jail inmates which was made possible in part due to the support of the College of Humanities and Sciences. He said his life was changed forever by this experience, because it gave him and the inmates he worked with an opportunity to build something new and meaningful.

“Research really ought to involve the questions that motivate us as we get up and make our way through the day,” said Coogan.

View the brochure with a complete list of honorees here.

Written by Megan Schiffres