Utah community college educators were advised at their 19th annual conference Friday to concentrate on teaching and scholarship and avoid research.
"Teaching remains the community college's most important function," and research is generally not compatible with that role, said George B. Vaughan, associate director of the Academy for Community College Leadership, Advance-ment, Innovation and Modeling at North Carolina State University.Sponsored by the State Board of Regents and Utah's five community colleges, the conference attracted about 500 participants to the South City Campus of Salt Lake Community College.
In his keynote address to the gathering, Vaughan encouraged community college faculty members to engage in scholarship instead of research. Scholarship, he said, is the "systematic pursuit of a topic, an objective, rational inquiry that involves critical analysis."
According to Vaughan, the pursuit can take the form of a book review, bibliography, lecture, review of existing research on a topic, art exhibit, essay, short story, poem or article.
Vaughan, himself a prolific writer and former president of two community colleges in Virginia, called scholarship the "life blood of any institution of higher education."
He said scholarship requires faculty members to have a solid foundation in their professional fields and keep up with developments in their fields.
SLCC president and conference host Frank Budd told the college communities at the conference that the "community college movement" in the United States has evolved into "an amazing phenomenon."
He said 1,500 public and private two-year institutions now serve more than 6 million regular students and almost as many non-credit students, making them the largest segment of this country's post-secondary school system.
"We are the evidence of democracy in education," Budd said, explaining that community colleges don't exclude any student willing to learn.
And referring to some community college aspirations to become four-year institutions, Budd said, "I don't believe it's necessary (for community colleges) to grow up to be anything other than what we are."