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Malloy discusses teaching, research

Matthew Smedberg | Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Notre Dame faculty and University President Father Edward Malloy met Monday to discuss the balance between teaching and research expectations for faculty at Notre Dame. About 60 professors met in McKenna Hall to participate in the discussion, sponsored by the Kaneb Institute and titled “The Balance Between Research and Teaching at Notre Dame.” As part of the debate, Malloy talked about his own teaching experiences and changes in Notre Dame’s academic character under former President Father Theodore Hesburgh and himself.Malloy teaches an English seminar to first-year undergraduates while also serving as a theology professor. His opening remarks principally focused strategies individual professors could use to balance research, classroom teaching and service, the primary areas considered in the tenure process. “There is a special emphasis on the relationship between teaching and research,” Malloy said. In his time as University President, Malloy has significantly reduced faculty teaching loads in order to make the University more competitive with its peer institutions. As a result, research expectations for faculty have increased, but Notre Dame still attempts to place a premium on quality undergraduate teaching. Workshop participants said Notre Dame used a “unitary faculty” system, meaning that no faculty members are devoted solely to teaching or research.Marketing professor John Gaski questioned the wisdom of a strictly unitary faculty. He said some professors might be well-suited to both research and teaching, but others would be better suited to specialize in one area.According to Gaski, the University should allow professors to determine their own balance of research and teaching when they are initially hired.”It needn’t even be permanent,” he said. “People change, their needs change. At different points in a professor’s career, he or she may be able to do more in one area or the other, and the University should provide its support to that.”Engineering professor Steven Skaar said he supported the idea of the unitary faculty but pointed out that, in such a system, just as professors are expected to stay current in their own fields of study with journal articles and conferences, they should be expected to practice teaching methods and attend teaching conferences.Much of the discussion centered around the costs of hiring faculty for the amount of teaching and research for a large university like Notre Dame. Some said the answer lies in having financial resources to pay teaching assistants for large lecture classes. Other discussion participants proposed the creation of non-tenure-track fellowships so that widely known professors could spend a limited amount of time teaching undergraduates.All agreed, however, that any professor should be passionate about what he or she does to be successful. “All the great teachers I’ve had in my life were passionate [about their subject],” Malloy said. “They were excited about their subject, and they passed that excitement on to me.”

Mike Chambliss contributed to this report.