Sociology Department Statement on Scholarship

Background

The Sociology program at Luther College believes that in order to be the best teacher-scholars and to achieve the optimal learning environment we wish for our students, our faculty must be effective teachers, they must be active scholars, and they must be active members in service to community.  Our belief is that balancing all three enhances our ability to be an effective teacher-scholar.

Excellence in scholarship and research is also viewed as essential to providing an effective and meaningful educational environment.

The purpose of this document is to attempt to describe expectations for one of the three categories—scholarship. Whereas expectations in general must be consistent for the faculty of all departments, as included in the Faculty Handbook (404.1.2), and be the basis of decisions of promotion and tenure, this document attempts to answer the question:  what does scholarship mean for faculty of the sociology program? It is meant to provide guidance to the members of the department as they attempt to balance teaching, scholarship, and community service, by making as clear as possible departmental thinking about expectations for scholarship.

With respect to scholarship, the program desires of its faculty an organized and sustained effort to acquire new knowledge (discovery) and/or the application of new thinking about sociological insights, and/or the modeling of inquiry to undergraduate students.  Public dissemination of the fruits of the efforts to peers is desired, and publishable scholarship that involves our students, is especially commendable.

Forms of scholarship

Traditional sociological research is not the only worthy form of scholarly activity that is recognized. Scholarship by faculty in the sociology program can take several forms:

  • Professional publications
    • Traditional sociological research leading to publication in peer-reviewed sociological or other interdisciplinary journals.
  • Sociological research that leads to other forms of publication such as invited chapters, books, invited lectures, and presentations at professional meetings.
  • Community applications of research, including writing for the general public, also known as public sociology, which may appear as editorials, web-pages, grant proposals and reports, etc. 
  • Supervision and mentoring of undergraduate sociological research leading to student presentations and/or presentation/publication in more local venues (such as ISA, NCUR, MSS).

A note about publications: Presenting the results of one’s scholarship to professional peers is a major component of scholarship itself, and publication in peer-reviewed journals as the means of presentation is not only the most traditional measure of scholarship, but it also can be the most fulfilling aspect of scholarship for the scholar. Writing up research is frequently the most productive activity for creating new ideas to research. Contributing to the creation of knowledge of the field is what we wish to model for our students. Taking research to the stage of submitting results for publication frequently makes more effective the incorporation of the benefits of scholarship into one’s teaching. Writing is frequently a necessary part of critical thinking. All of these aspects of writing for publication indicate why this particular aspect of scholarship is valued so highly in our faculty.

Forms of peer review

As sociologists we feel there are three kinds of peer review important to us at Luther

  • Review for publication of our work in the sociological literature.
  • Review of our work through presentations at sociological (or sub/inter-disciplinary) meetings.
  • Invited lectures.

Publishing in peer-reviewed sociological journals is likely the most respected form of peer review in the profession. Importantly, all three forms of peer review stimulate the rewards of scholarship in the undergraduate classroom.

Fruits of scholarship in the classroom

By its very nature, the fruits of scholarship that are associated with sociological research is most quickly and intuitively manifested in the classroom—new insights can be shared with students in the classroom. Additionally, collaborating with students in research practices, collaborating with colleagues and mentoring junior faculty by encouraging scholarship, and interdisciplinary teaching activities (Paideia II), as well as campus presentations such as WGST brown bags, Paideia texts and issues lectures, faculty colloquiums, and forums and workshops in which colleagues engage in critical dialogue of research enhance the intellectual life of the college.

Expectations

Not all forms of scholarship are equal, and there are various levels of achievement associated with each form. Furthermore, both the form of scholarship and the level of achievement sought can shift as the scholar progresses through his or her career.

The program recommends that faculty at every stage diversify their portfolio with special attention to the first form of scholarship, peer reviewed publications.

Scholarship at its Best

Third-year review: It is important that the candidate be able to demonstrate “a good deal of promise of successful accomplishment.” The emphasis is on the word “promise.” In order to be able to demonstrate such promise, a plan for scholarship in one or both of the first two forms of scholarship listed above must not only be envisioned and articulated, but also that scholarship has, in fact, begun to bear fruit. The preparation for presentation of one’s work to professional peers is highly valued and is an important measure of scholarship at this stage.  Demonstration of research projects in progress, professional association membership and activities, and deliberate efforts to relate one’s research to teaching are important.

Tenure and associate professor rank: traditional research should result in publications which are peer reviewed, ideally, some which are nationally produced, and presentations at professional meetings. There should be a plan for continued scholarship in one or both of these first two forms of scholarship, including professional association membership and regular participation in professional meetings.  In addition, the successful candidate should have evidence of successfully relating research to teaching.

Promotion to full professor: the candidate should have a well-established record of publication and presentation, a vigorous program of research, typically with some outside support, leadership in professional associations (officer, board member, or committee member). Successful accomplishment typically includes recognition of one’s contributions to the field/subfield in the discipline by colleagues (invitations, awards, etc.). Good use should have been made of sabbaticals to further the candidate’s scholarship. Evidence of ongoing and sustained scholarship should be present, as well as evidence of relating scholarship to teaching.

A note about expectations: The word “expectations” was chosen carefully, and the spirit in which it is used is that of providing the department’s best advice to developing faculty members for finding a direction which will lead to a successful career as a teacher-scholar in the sociology program at Luther. The document contains no section on “minimums” or “mandatories.” The tenure/promotion process is not based on a checklist of such things. Nor does the document contain a section on “goals” which the department wishes to impose on individual members of its faculty, even though it has goals for the department and encourages its faculty to develop their own goals.

Distinctive forms of scholarship that can thrive at a liberal arts college of the church

Self-reflections of, as well as research on, the liberal arts, on faith and learning, and the role of religion in education and society are distinctive forms of scholarship at a liberal arts college of the church.  Intentional expenditure of faculty resources in interdisciplinary endeavors such as Paideia II courses, writing sociology for certain general publics, support for faculty to perform community service of a variety of sorts, including participation in chapel are all examples of activities that may be regarded as scholarly activities that are, perhaps distinctive for this kind of an academic institution.  In addition, we perceive our role as sociologists particularly relevant as “we embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community, to discern our callings, and to serve with distinction for the common good.” And provide “ … an education that disciplines minds and develops whole persons equipped to understand and confront a changing society” (Luther College Mission Statement).

(Revised 2014)