August 5, 2019 – Across the nation, the winds have shifted for universities and colleges. Four-year universities used to be powerhouses for research and breakthrough innovation in nearly every academic discipline imaginable. And yet, community college faculty have begun to enter the formerly exclusive camps of their colleagues at these large, four-year institutions.
Over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year, faculty members at Davidson County Community College began to make that change. Four instructors from different disciplines, as well as some of their students, have had their research shared nationally. Conducting research connects faculty with their peers and most importantly, supports student success.
“Faculty members conducting and publishing research is not something traditionally seen on the community college level,” Dr. Margaret Annunziata, DCCC Vice President of Academic Affairs, said. “These faculty members exceeded traditional expectations because they love inspiring students and are committed to advancing their respective fields.”
Educating the next generation of healthcare leaders
Susan Bryant, an instructor in DCCC’s nursing program, published her paper, “Collaborating to educate nursing students on sepsis recognition and response,” in Nursing Management. The peer-reviewed monthly publication seeks to educate nurses so they may become healthcare leaders.
During a DCCC Nursing Programs advisory council meeting, a nurse educator at a neighboring hospital brought the idea of sepsis as a major health education issue to Bryant. Wanting to dive deeper, she realized such a project would be a win-win situation for both students and potential employers as those students would be work-ready.
“One of my main interests as a nurse educator is how to improve the way we teach students to recognize clinical deterioration in patients,” Bryant said. “Asking questions about why we are doing something a certain way or what would happen if we changed something about how we teach can be very helpful in improving teaching.”
Rethinking the physics textbook
Physics faculty member David Herrick’s paper, “The Effect of Projectile Weight on the Optimum Launch Angle and Range,” was published in The Physics Teacher. The publication is an academic peer-reviewed journal aimed to equip instructors with the latest topics on the teaching of introductory physics.
Most introductory physics textbooks state a horizontal range of a projectile is maximized at 45 degrees assuming a constant launch speed at all angles. In taking the amount of work the spring must do against the weight of the projectile as it is launched upward, Herrick posited the maximum angle is in actuality less than 45 degrees when solved mathematically.
“I hope that some students somewhere will be motivated to explore the topic further,” Herrick said. “My main motivation was to share the work with other physics teachers and possibly inspire an experimental follow-up on my theoretical result in someone’s lab class. Since it’s a fairly simple solution to a variation on a fairly standard problem, I thought the physics teaching community might be interested.”
Collaborating for student success in STEM
Biology faculty member Joe Felts coordinated, planned and taught a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) biology course on the Davidson campus. Paul Stevens, Felt’s colleague in Biology, additionally taught a section of the CURE biology course. Students developed their own experiments and ideas to better understand what natural pest control might help save almost 60 percent of crop yields in Africa and South Asia.
“I wanted to focus on a problem our students could help address, one that would gain real research experience and be able to do it on a doable budget,” Felts said.
DCCC students Anna Swing and Shannon Patrick submitted gene sequences to GenBank, a national, open access repository for gene sequence data for the National Institute of Health. Student data was also featured on Mendeley, an open access repository that allows scientists to network with communal datasets. CURENet, which is funded through the National Science Foundation, published Felts’s design of the course for other instructors to follow as an example.
Though the research doesn’t end with the CURE course. The college also received funding from the North Carolina Community College System from the NC Space grant for individual student research. Students Harley Hughes, Molly Clark and Sopheap Thompson completed projects under Felts’s mentorship and even presented their findings to the systems office in Raleigh.
“Students benefit in seeing that science is a process and not just memorizing facts,” Felts said. “Seeing instructors conduct research at any level and being engaged in the process provides model for students.”
A new beginning for community college research
According to Felts’s research and review of literature, there is more and more evidence that students that have the opportunity to conduct research in the beginning of their education post-high school have increased retention rates in STEM fields as well as increased retention of members from traditionally under-represented student populations.
Each DCCC instructor remarked they hope to see a continued and growing interest in faculty members on the community college level contributing to the larger work and conversations in their disciplines.
About Davidson County Community College
Founded in 1963, Davidson County Community College is a fully accredited, multi-campus college where students of all ages and backgrounds pursue academic and career-focused education in order to build successful futures. As one of 58 institutions within the North Carolina Community College System, DCCC offers more than 40 degree and professional certificate programs to students in Davidson and Davie counties, as well as affordable college-credit coursework to students who plan to transfer to 4-year universities. With a mission to serve the changing needs of students competing in a global environment, DCCC is committed to quality education, innovative and equitable learning experiences, training, and support across a wide range of 21st-century career fields. Visit Davidson County Community College at DavidsonCCC.edu.
Davidson County Community College