With an institution the size of the University of New Mexico, it is easy to get lost in the crowd during lecture classes, which could leave some students feeling disconnected from their professors.
Connecting students to faculty members is what Todd Quinn, the business and economics librarian and an associate professor for the College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences at UNM, aims to do with the Parish Memorial Library Lecture Series.
In order to showcase the research done by University faculty, Quinn has put together a series of four lectures every fall semester that are open to the general public.
“I started this series four years ago, because a lot of students take classes from the faculty… but you never know about their research,” Quinn said.
Each open lecture features a UNM professor’s research in their specific field. By giving professors the platform to discuss their research, Quinn said he hopes it can cultivate positive relationships and connect students to their professors outside of the classroom.
“One of the good things that come out of it are either two faculty that didn’t know each other start talking (about a research project) or a student starts talking to one of the presenters and something may grow from that,” he said. “That’s happened, I think, about every year.”
In the four years that Quinn has directed the series, he said it has given faculty a unique outlet outside of their departments and classrooms to share their research — different from their usual platforms, which do not usually include students in the audience.
To add variety to the series, Quinn said he tries to get one presenter from the Anderson School of Management, School of Public Administration, Department of Economics and one from another department on campus.
He said he does not have a system when picking speakers, noting that the research at UNM in all departments is engaging.
“I know most of the faculty that are in these three departments, and if I see someone, I randomly just ask them,” Quinn said. “Throughout all of campus, faculty is doing very interesting research and this gives them the opportunity to talk to a general audience.”
In order to make sure that the audience does not get lost in the jargon and methodology of a specific field, Quinn stresses to presenters that they will be speaking to a room full of laypeople and students who are possibly from other disciplines.
“That’s not saying anything negative about the audience,” he said. “The jargon can be so specific to their area that the general audience wouldn’t understand it.”
This year, one of the lectures featured John Fleck, the director of UNM’s Water Resources Program.
Fleck said he wanted students to know that it is critical to use the best science to guide society’s decisions by discussing the history of the water supply of the Colorado River Basin and how that knowledge is utilized in making important decisions.
“One of the great things about a university is the intellectual sharing and learning — sharing our work, learning about the work of others and learning together as we ask questions of one another,” he said.
As for the future of the lecture series, Quinn said he will continue to get professors from the three departments and try to get a fourth from a different concentration. He said next year he is hoping to get a professor from Africana Studies.
“I really like putting on the series,” he said. “It would be nice if the audiences were larger (though)... that’s one of my wishes.”
Madison Spratto is a news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.