Twenty years ago this fall, then-President of BSU Adrian Tinsley announced the opening of the Center for the Advancement of Research and Teaching (CART), a new initiative aimed to encourage and provide support for faculty and librarian research.
CART was a bold, innovative concept, and Dr. John Bardo, then BSU’s provost who had conceived the idea, said, “Our goal was to create opportunities for self-motivated and self-directed improvement and change, where faculty members and librarians could come together, experiment, try things and learn from each other, and move the college forward.”
Over the next two decades, CART -- now CARS (Center for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship) -- would achieve those aims and much more. Along the way, it would also expand its mission to influence every aspect of BSU’s learning environment.
“It’s an exciting process to be a part of,” said Dr. Karen Fein of the School of Social Work, one of the two faculty co-coordinators, along with Dr. Pamela Russell of the Department of Movement Arts, Health Promotion and Leisure Studies.
In their roles as co-coordinators, Dr. Fein and Dr. Russell work with the CARS board, assist faculty and librarian researchers, and help plan the annual May celebration, which showcases the year’s research projects.
That celebration, said Dr. Fein, is one of the program’s best activities. “It’s such a wonderful opportunity to present the research that CARS has supported,” she said. “It also allows for discussion around a host of initiatives, some of which aren’t specifically about CARS but, as a community, are central to us all. The CARS celebration in May gives voice to a lot of constituencies.”
Chief among the reasons for the success of CARS, said Dr. Fein, is the commitment of President Dana Mohler-Faria, Dr. Howard London, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Ann Brunjes, acting associate provost for faculty development. “This kind of partnership between faculty and librarians and the university administration is what gives CARS its strength,” said Dr. Fein.
Dr. Russell, who became co-coordinator in 2011, said the numbers behind CARS are evidence of the organization’s impact on the campus. Last year, the program awarded 34 research grants, as well as 151 travel grants to faculty and librarians to present across the nation and the globe.
Additionally, more than 300 people participated in various CARS programs and events, such as a number of colloquia, book clubs, grant-writing workshops, and community writing programs. “We’re serving faculty and librarians in as many ways as we can, which is the mission of CARS,” said Dr. Fein.
The role of CARS has expanded so dramatically that it spun off two new university-wide programs: the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), which promotes student scholarship, and the Office of Teaching and Learning, which provides opportunities for professional development in teaching.
“Both of these units do highly important work specific to issues related to academic excellence,” said Dr. Russell. “The fact that CARS is the original source for each of them is such a credit to the ideas that first gave birth to CARS itself.”
Behind the Scenes
As co-coordinators for CARS, Dr. Fein and Dr. Russell have well-defined responsibilities that contribute to the success of CARS. They assess, advocate for, and implement faculty and librarian scholarship needs and initiatives. In addition, they help faculty and librarians identify others who may have similar interests or desired skills. “This encourages them to think seriously about collaboration,” said Dr. Fein.
Dr. Russell said even for those with years of experience in their fields, writing winning proposals can be challenging, especially as the content has to resonate across departments. “This is where we come in to help bridge that gap,” said Dr. Russell.
In addition to planning the May celebration, the co-coordinators serve on grant review committees for the three CARS grants -- research, small and summer grants -- and review applications for travel grants. “We catch our breath only occasionally,” said Dr. Russell.
Dr. Fein summarized what her involvement in CARS has meant for her, both professionally and personally. “I feel so honored to have been in this position,” she said. “When my term as co-coordinator is up next summer, I guarantee that I’ll still remain involved in CARS, because I believe so much in its work.”
That too is what inspires Dr. Russell. “The faculty and librarians on campus are doing amazing work in amazing places and making unbelievable contributions to their disciplinary expertise and beyond,” she said. “We have so many very talented people engaged in their scholarship. Being a part of that process gives me enormous satisfaction.” (David K. Wilson, ’71, University News)