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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Moore Appeal

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Moore Appeal

The Annual Douglas R. Moore Faculty Research Lecture Allows the Community to Share in the Success of Minnesota State Mankato’s Faculty Research

by Rachael Hanel ’97 ’04

Moore AppealRarely do the people of the greater Mankato community get a peek into the day–to–day work and research that takes place in the inner sanctum of Minnesota State University, Mankato. But once a year, at the Douglas R. Moore Faculty Research Lecture, the community has an opportunity to witness that work firsthand.

A community invests in its university much the same way a parent invests in a child's education, says Anthony Filipovitch, a professor of Urban and Regional Studies who presented a faculty research lecture in 1983. The Moore lecture demonstrates some of the rewards of that investment.

"We owe it to [the public] to share it", Filipovitch says. "It's a celebration of what they've created".

The lecture – presented since 1975 and named after Moore, a former University president, in 1989 – aims for community–wide appeal. Each year, a committee chooses a faculty member to speak on a topic relevant to most everyone. One of the criterion on which the lectureship is awarded states: "The proposed project presents its insights in a way that will appeal to both the academic community and to the wider public".

In thirty–two years, topics have ranged from original opera performance, nutrition and cancer, the Ewe people of Ghana, gamma rays, needs of the mentally ill, an account of Minnesota Thanksgivings and building a united Europe.

In 2005, a group of five nursing professors took the podium to talk about how families deal with chronic illness.

Sonja Meiers, one of those nursing professors, says that although all five of them were comfortable presenting at professional conferences and using language their colleagues understood, the Moore lecture required a different approach. Achieving balance, she says, was a challenge. "You have to use understandable language, but not dumb it down", Meiers says.

Meiers adds that the Moore lecture places an important emphasis on the idea of teachers as scholars. Taking part in research helped all of the nursing professors become better teachers, she says. It also reaffirms the idea that important research takes place at the University.

"One benefit of the Moore lecture is to prove that not all research is going on at large universities. We have researchers here, but they're more hidden", Meiers says.

Poatraits in Wigley Administration CenterFilipovitch agrees. The people of the Mankato community don't have to go to Minneapolis or Chicago to find expertise; it's right here.

"We invite the community to come to campus so they can see us as experts", he says.

Jan Eimers, who works in the president's office and has helped coordinate the Moore lecture since 1990, sees rich examples of that expertise each year as proposals filter in. "There's such great research taking place and such talent on campus. It's like I have a front–row seat to it", she says.

Eimers works closely with the committee, made up of faculty who have received the Moore lectureship in the past, that selects each year's presenter. Filipovitch says the hard part of the committee's decision is finding a lecture that speaks to both what he calls "interested amateurs" – people in the community, faculty from outside departments, etc. – and a lecturer's colleagues in that field.

Filipovitch's lecture explored how children view their communities. Professionals from school systems and child–welfare services attended. Presenting to a different group of professionals revealed new issues. "It's one thing to stand up before your buddies; it's another thing to stand up before God and everyone", Filipovitch says.

Filipovitch says it's fitting that a lecture aimed at the general public is named after a University president who worked hard to address the community. Filipovitch didn't know Moore, who served as president from 1974 to 1978, but knows that he came to the University at a difficult time. The turbulent Vietnam War era caused a rift between the town and the campus, and Moore stepped in to try to heal that gap. Now, the Moore lectures continue to stress the bond between campus and community.

The lecture also serves to inspire faculty, to keep them motivated and to encourage them to bring new ideas to students. English Professor Suzanne Bunkers attributes her varied contributions to the field of women's diaries to the validation she received after getting a lectureship. When she applied for the award in 1983, she was a young assistant professor who had just attended a seminar on autobiography. She wanted to pursue more research in that field, but found it hard to find time for it on top of her teaching duties.

"When President Margaret Preska phoned to say that I'd been selected to give the 1984 lecture, I was astounded and grateful. The support shown by Dr. Preska and the selection committee was exactly what I needed to move forward with my research", Bunkers says.

Bunkers has since published a number of books and essays and delivered several conference papers and lectures. The president's lecture also planted the seeds for course development in women's autobiography, memoir and survivors' stories that hundreds of Minnesota State Mankato students have taken over the years.

For Chuck Lewis, a mass communications professor, giving the lecture in 2004 gave him an "excuse" to pursue research – something for which a department chair often lacks time. "Research is important", Lewis says. "For professors, it's not good to go into a coma after you've been tenured and promoted".

Filipovitch knew after seeing the first couple of lectures when he came to campus that it was something he wanted to pursue. "It made me want to compete for it", he says. "It was the stimulus to take my academic work and push it further".

The 2006 lecture will be the 32nd President's Faculty Research Lectureship to be presented and the 19th named after former president Douglas Moore. This year's presenter is Russell Palma from the Physics and Astronomy department. Palma's lecture is titled "Exploring the Sun and Early Solar System: The Genesis and Stardust Missions". The lecture will take place on April 10.

Rachael Hanel is a Madison Lake–based freelance writer and a regular contributor to both TOMORROW and TODAY, the magazine for alumni and friends of Minnesota State Mankato.