Faculty Research in the arts – a query

[note from director, Silagh White]

aa1s3tyuqss7i1o7Have you ever had a random conversation with a faculty member that haunts you? I had such a one yesterday with architecture faculty, Nik Nikolov. He’s been at Lehigh for a couple of years and has done some impressive research. Two of his projects have been built in response to community invitation; the first with the 2013 annual Playhouse Design Competition of the Eastern PA Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the second for the Christmas City Village for the Downtown Bethlehem Association.

So what haunted me? The conversation was about the balance of teaching and research. Academic arts disciplines (music, theater, visual art, creative writing, poetry, design, architecture) define research through production. Music professors compose music or perform recitals and concerts. Theater professors act, direct, design lights, scenery, costumes. Et cetera..

University faculty / artists also balance a rigorous teaching role in that they not only offer quality training in these disciplines for students, but come up with innovative ways to facilitate student discovery. They don’t just say, “do this like me.” They offer challenges for students to find creative solutions. They encourage students to find barriers in their thinking and break them. It’s not just what they teach, it’s HOW they facilitate student learning. Faculty who are passionate about what they make, and how they encourage future generations to be creative problem solvers takes investigation, rigor and training in itself. The lingering question is why pedagogy is not also considered research? This is what haunts me.

Faculty are evaluated on the quality of their research and teaching, as well as service to the institution. The lines between all three areas blur. But for all of the work, creation and service- Lehigh is always better in that we get a close connection to their expertise.

Response and thoughts are most welcome in the comments below.

UPDATE to the conversation.

This is what I love about making thoughts transparent. People actually read these posts and respond with new information. What did I learn from my public query? Pedagogy DOES count as research. There is also a Journal of Architectural Education, in which Prof. Nikolov has had two papers on teaching design were published. Since Prof Nikolov was so generous in reading this post, I also learned that he has done extensive research in computation and environmental simulation. He also continues to practice as a certified architect on his “off” hours from Lehigh responsibilities.

Prof. Nikolov’s work is impressive, as is the work of all the architecture faculty at Lehigh. They are also excellent human beings; ready to embrace the challenges of new building design while also nursing the creativity and problems solving skills in our students.

I can’t wait to see what happens with the Hammerschalg Design Lecture Series that Professors Viscardi and Nikolov are doing. Find out more about these here.