Monday, July 25, 2011

The Research, Teaching, Outreach Circle

The work of business faculty members generally gets categorized into one of five categories: research, teaching, outreach, service, or administration.  Admittedly, the categories are not always mutually exclusive. Administration and service often overlap as do service and outreach. But, allow me in this post to speak as though the categories are distinct and to focus on only the research, teaching, and outreach categories.

Research and teaching are often discussed as though they are somehow antithetical. We may hear our colleagues described as “a great researcher” or “a great teacher,” but we rarely hear one described as great in both areas. (Would this be “a great scholar”?) At the large, land grant institutions, the outreach component is often embedded in a distinct unit: the “extension service.”

Let’s look at each piece:

We conduct research to create new knowledge. We have been trained to do that and it is our job to do it.

We teach in order to communicate knowledge to students. We do it because students expect to be taught and parents expect their children to be taught.

When we reach out to the business community (e.g., when we serve on corporate boards, consult in our areas of expertise, provide expert testimony, conduct corporate training, and perform a number of other professional activities) we communicate knowledge to those stakeholders as well.

Some of us live for the opportunity to conduct research; some of us live for teaching; some of us live for the interaction with the community. I believe it is good that we are not all driven by the same motivations.

I believe it benefits a business school to adopt a philosophy that recognizes the inter-relationships of research, teaching, and outreach activities – or at least the potential synergy that I believe can be gained by recognizing a system of research, teaching, and outreach as fundamental to business scholarship.

Here’s how I conceive it:

We have a circular relationship which I see as progressing from research to teaching to outreach back to research.

We conduct research to create new knowledge. We teach established and new knowledge to produce graduates who add value to the organizations that hire them. That knowledge-based value is the basis for a relationship that leads to outreach activities which provide additional value to the community. Once the relationship is established, doors are opened to faculty to conduct research in organizations. This research leads to more new knowledge.

I start the discussion with research, but since the relationship is circular, start where you feel most comfortable.

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