Potter College launches ‘Behind the Research’ lecture series

Julie Sisler

Behind the Research, a new lecture series sponsored by the Potter College of Arts and Letters Dean’s Council of Students, had its inaugural event Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center.

Ivy Sauders, president of PCAL’s DCS, said Behind the Research is about getting students more connected to research, specifically the research done by professors already on WKU’s campus.

“We all know that our professors do research but we infrequently look into the research that they do and take interest in the fact that they have areas of interest and lives outside the classroom,” Sauders said.

Behind the Research will feature professors who are engaged in research and give them an opportunity to discuss their projects and things like travel, funding and obstacles they’ve faced.

“We all love stories, right?” Sauders said. “BTR is a series highlighting some of the greatest storytellers in our lives—our professors. Enjoy all the fascinating stories about what happens to our professors on their breaks, on sabbatical, and during their years in school.”

Sauders said this series will allow students to create bonds with their professors and gain a greater understanding for the value of liberal arts research.

“BTR will open the door for students to engage with and learn about professors they know and love in ways that have not been available to them before,” Sauders said. “Our hope is that in these deepening of connections students will see the real-life connections to research as an exciting new world to explore.”

PCAL DCS Events and Recruitment Co-Chair Tommy Sullivan said BTR is a unique lecture series because it offers insight into the unpredictability and excitement of research, but is told from the view of individuals that students already know.

“It’s not just another research presentation—It’s professors sharing the fun behind-the-scenes stories that happen,” Sullivan said. “We ask professors to tell about places they wouldn’t have otherwise been, people they wouldn’t have otherwise met, and anything else that happened to them while researching.”

The first speaker was Blair Thompson, interim director of WKU’s School of Teacher Education. Thompson’s presentation delved into how he came to love applied research and what journeys his research took him on.

“I will be focusing on … some of the stories behind the travel and teams we have formed, as well as more specifically on research our School Crisis Research Team is currently conducting regarding the Parkland Active Shooter event,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s presentation looked at various aspects of research that students may not think of, such as the travel involved and certain aspects of teamwork.

This, Sullivan said, is one of the most important parts of research. Sullivan said that when discussing research, including what he himself has done, the stories people want to hear and the ones people want to tell are about the behind the scenes aspects of research. It’s the tales of travel, coincidences and triumphing mishaps that people want to hear more about, he said.

“While the historical research itself is interesting and valuable, there’s so much more to research,” Sullivan said. “It’s these experiences that inspired BTR to promote more students having similar opportunities.”

Larry Snyder, dean of Potter College of Arts and Letters, said BTR can be an opportunity for students to draw the connection between seeing their professors as instructors and as scholars.

“This is a great opportunity for students to get to know their professors as people and fellow learners,” Snyder said. “I think folks will be fascinated by the array of topics and the passion of our faculty. We like to say that you can go anywhere and do anything with a Potter College degree. The BTR series will showcase why we believe that to be true.”

Features reporter Julie Sisler can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow Julie on social media at @julie_sisler.