Feature News

Faculty seize opportunities to pursue regional and worldwide research

Mar 02, 2017

Faculty at North Central College are blazing new trails as they pursue research opportunities off campus and around the world. 

Perry Hamalis took a yearlong leave as North Central’s Cecelia Schneller Mueller Professor of Religion to conduct research and teach as a Fulbright Scholar in South Korea. 

Assistant Professor of Economics Natalia Bracarense was invited to Duke University as part of a Fellowship Program at the Center for History of Political Economy; and Jason Rice, assistant professor of kinesiology, pursued research about professional sports in China while leading a team of students to China and Japan for study abroad. Both research opportunities took place during fall term 2016.

In addition, Assistant Professor of Political Science Alyx Mark served as a Visiting Scholar in Chicago at the American Bar Foundation (ABF) during 2016. 

[Photos, from left: Ph.D.'s Perry Hamalis, Natalia Bracarense, Jason Rice, Alyx Mark]

All these research opportunities required support from North Central College and initiative by the faculty member. 

“I can’t say enough how overwhelmingly positive the experience was for me and my family, and how meaningful it is for North Central to support faculty who are invited to take these types of opportunities,” said Hamalis. “Hopefully, what I’ve done will communicate clearly to other faculty that prestigious research and teaching opportunities are both possible for us and invaluable for our growth.”

For Bracarense, an official process didn’t exist for junior faculty members like her to take leave for an entire term to pursue personal research. But she found support in both former Dean of Faculty Devadoss Pandian and current Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Abiódún “G-P” Gòkè-Pariolá

“Dean Pandian created a policy to make this research opportunity possible and available to other junior faculty to pursue similar opportunities. I’m very grateful for support at all different levels from my colleagues,” she said.

Bracarense felt she needed further training beyond her Ph.D. work “in order to succeed as a scholar in the history of economic thought,” she said. “The scholars at the Center of History of Political Economy are well-known and the center is recognized as the strongest center of such thought.”   

As dean of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Diane Anstine recognized the value of this opportunity for Bracarense: “Study at the Center has enhanced her expertise, allowed her to contribute more fully to interdisciplinary programs at North Central and brought additional training to supplement student research in this area.” 

Mark, like Bracarense, wanted to expand her research and rub shoulders with a community of scholars, which she found at the ABF. “When you’re addressing real-world issues, it’s valuable to hear other perspectives … and talk to practitioners who are actually doing the thing you’re researching,” she said. Her research focused on access to justice and legal empowerment of the poor by civil legal services organizations.

“Our faculty provost [Gòkè-Pariolá] has instilled in us that professional development and research are important components of what elevates North Central College and makes it a special place for students to be,” said Mark. “The experience helped refine who I am as a scholar.”

In his second year of teaching, Rice said the College’s emphasis on international education and unique China/Japan study abroad program attracted him to North Central. After he was hired, Dean of the School of Education and Health Sciences Heidi Matthews encouraged him to apply and he was chosen to lead the 15-week program. 

Rice focused his research on the rise of interest in professional sports in China, and why people choose the teams and brand associations they do. “Sport is a reflection of society and is interdisciplinary in nature; it’s business, sociology, psychology and more,” he said.

North Central students joined Rice’s research and looked at the intersection of sport business and culture. They attended and volunteered at many sporting events, and even took sets of the American game Spikeball to see if sport could be a cultural bridge for interacting with Chinese people. “Dr. Rice implements experiential and community-engaged learning in his courses. His approach makes projects come alive for students,” said Matthews.

Hamalis taught graduate and undergraduate courses at Yonsei University—“a large, prestigious Ivy League-type school,” he said—gave lectures to the community and a Fulbright colloquium, and is publishing his research findings. His research looked at how the orthodox Christian community relates to the broader Korean culture and to other Christian denominations. 

“I really felt like I was an ambassador both for the United States and for North Central,” said Hamalis. “Another part that was so valuable to me was being a racial minority in South Korea—albeit a privileged one. It was a lesson that couldn't have been gained without living it. Hopefully, it’s made me more sensitive to minority students on our campus and conscious of the varied ways being a racial minority impact them.”

During her fellowship, Bracarense chose to sit in classes again. “After four years of teaching, I wanted to reflect on how to approach the classroom in the most effective way.” The experience changed how she now interacts with her students. She’s also incorporated discussions about different aspects of inequality in her international political economy course and created an honors seminar, looking at business cycles, economic fluctuations and booms. 

“As an institution, we have always been committed to supporting faculty research and scholarship for the direct benefits to the faculty member, the students and the service it provides the community,” said Stephen Maynard Caliendo, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “And, we must constantly reevaluate the infrastructure to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the new generation of teacher-scholars.”