FAIRBORN — The American Association of University Professors’ Wright State University chapter spotlighted the work of four professors in the Miami Valley region April 15 at the Dayton Metro Library. Through lively discussion, Miami Valley residents and faculty members explored “Why Does Dayton Need Wright State University?”
Panelists offered insights into their typical workday, which include teaching, research, participation in WSU’s governance of academic concerns, and in many cases community service as board members or advisors in local non-profits and businesses. The forum panelists were Drs. Sarah Twill (Department of Social Work), Luther Palmer (Department of Electrical Engineering), Marie Thompson (Department of Communication) and Tom Rooney (Department of Biological Sciences). Dr. Sirisha Naidu (Department of Economics) moderated the event, and Dr. Carol Mejia-LaPerle (Department of English) offered closing comments.
“I visit local schools to encourage students, especially historically underrepresented minorities, to think differently a bout science and math,” said Palmer, exemplifing how research and teaching converge while serving the Dayton community.
A significant part of a university professor’s job is invisible to the general populace, according to the panelists. Apart from teaching, they encourage student research, mentor students on possible careers and counsel them on achieving work-home-school life balance.
Dr. Sarah Twill stressed that while classroom teaching at an open enrollment university presented its challenges, she takes great pride in observing and playing a role in shaping her students’ paths to becoming social workers. This sentiment was echoed by other panelists who shared how their classrooms serve as bridges with the community to prepare future professionals for Dayton and the Miami Valley.
Thompson illustrated that she and her students in her “Communication During Illness” class spent hours on weekends building a 6-foot-by-4-foot “Before I Die” wall on casters inspired by artist Candy Chang. Students displayed the wall in different parts of campus for two weeks, thus stimulating numerous conversations about end-of-life desires to live differently and more fully, and reach out to friends and family. The importance of sustaining world-class research at Wright State allows the transmission of cutting-edge knowledge in classrooms and will contribute to a higher quality of life, according to audience members and the speakers.
Panelists and audience members also traded thoughts on the importance of diversity in the programs offered at a public university to produce well-rounded graduates who can adapt to an ever-changing job market, and also contribute as local, national and global citizens. The forum concluded with a conversation about the value of strong public K-12 and higher education institutions, and the importance of their funding to maintain the vibrancy of Dayton and the Miami Valley.