Professors prioritize their education

Story by Rita Fay, Staff Writer

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When professors apply for jobs at UW-Eau Claire, they know that teaching comes first and research comes second. It seems that both professors and students like it this way.

Cathy Rex, an assistant English professor, says research and publication is important in the academic and professional field.
“At Eau Claire, as at most universities, there is an expectation of publication and research if you’re going to tenure and promotion,” Rex said.

With each department the expectations vary, but overall professors are expected to be published if they are going to move up in their career at Eau Claire.

Stacy Thompson, an English Professor, says that there is pressure from the University to publish because it’s a reflection of the amount of work a professor is doing.

“There’s a fair amount of pressure to be published before you are tenured. So you do feel pressure then, absolutely, because your whole career is going to depend on it to some extent and that’s really nerve-wracking,” Thompson said.

The pressure from the university can be diminished if a professor feels their time can be better placed with other commitments. Service commitments, student organization participation and advisor responsibilities all contribute to promotion decisions made by the university.

Heather Landrum, a sophomore psychology major, said she was aware her professors did
research but didn’t know any specific details.

“I haven’t really heard any of my teachers really talk about it. My Psych 101 class is the first class that any of the teachers have said anything about research.” Landrum said.

Eau Claire has much different expectations involving research than a “research one” university, where research comes first and teaching comes second.

April Bleske-Rechek, associate professor of psychology, said that the majority of professors are here because they want to teach, but there are a small amount of professors here that think teaching puts a damper on research.

Professors at Eau Claire teach 10-15 credits a semester and have advising duties as well. This leaves them little time for their research and publication efforts. At a research school, professors teach one or two classes and the rest of their time is put into
doing research.

“(Being at a research school) sounds really great, but at the same time I think most colleagues, like myself, we came here because we like to teach, we like to interact with students,” Rex said.

Landrum transferred here from Northcentral Technical College in Wausau and says that the amount of research professors do had no influence on the college she chose to go to.

“I didn’t want class sizes that were overwhelming because I guess I learn easiest when I read something but sometimes the little bit of extra one on one focus with the teacher makes the difference,” Landrum said.

All three professors said that involving students in their research is one of the reasons they love teaching at Eau Claire. Students provide professors with ideas and research participation.

“We put a prize on engaging student’s collaborative research. That’s the thing I enjoy doing so I don’t feel pressured … I would say our department values it and a lot of us do engage students in research and enjoy it and do I because we want to,” Bleske-Rechek said.

Professors receive support from their department as well as the university. They can
apply for funding to support any projects they may be working on.

Professors can also apply to be released from one semester-long course if they have a lot of research to do.
The university also highlights the research and publication accomplishments that professors have completed by holding forums or writing press releases.

All three professors say they are at Eau Claire because they find teaching more exciting than research. They bring their research ideas into the classroom because they think teaching is more valuable than research.

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