New Frontiers Showcases Work By Nine Faculty

Renee Ballenger

New FrontiersWith the new year, came new frontiers traversed, in the debut of “New Frontiers,” a new magazine about the research and creative activity on the campus.

Sponsored by the Office of Graduate Studies and Research, and produced by University Relations, “New Frontiers” offers a cultured sampling of the research being conducted on campus.

Featured in the premiere issue are nine faculty and their scholarly pursuits.

“In addition to this publication being a celebration of the quality of faculty scholarship, it is a brilliant illustration to parents of prospective students and opinion leaders that the capable professors in UNK classrooms are often that because of their qualifications as serious researchers, too.” said Dr. John Falconer, director of Sponsored Programs. “Certainly, students can only benefit from this fundamental measure of expertise.”

The cover story of “New Frontiers” 2008 features the potentially world-changing research on solar energy being conducted by Drs. Scott Darveau and Chris Exstrom, both professors in the chemistry department.With the support of a contingent of promising undergraduate student researchers, Drs. Darveau and Exstrom are optimistic about meeting their goal of creating a solar cell film that is up to 60 percent more efficient in energy conversion than current solar energy choices.

While Drs. Darveau and Exstrom combine mentoring students with their research, Dr. Sri Seshadri combines research with mentoring faculty. Dr. Seshadri, a professor of marketing and management information systems, is immersed in research that threads across a mosaic of disciplines, including business ethics, athletic training and e-marketing, and advocates generations of more dynamic research activity in his colleagues and students. He capitalizes on his wide-ranging interests to bring other faculty into research, serving them as mentor, an effort that earned him the Faculty Mentoring Award for the College of Business and Technology in 2005. That same year, he served an internship with Intellicom, a central Nebraska company that provides technology solutions. The first internship of this kind in the college, it facilitated Dr. Seshadri’s work on the feasibility of a virtual community mall.

While Dr. Seshadri looked to the future, Dr. Susanne George Bloomfield, an English professor, took a look back in time for her research. In an article titled “Reclaiming the Lives of Forgotten Women of the American West: Celebrating the Uncommon Woman,” “New Frontiers” shares Dr. Bloomfield’s research into the lives of three female writers who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Dr. Bloomfield chronicled the early years of Nebraska life by telling the stories of Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Kate Cleary and Elia Peattie. The struggles and triumphs of these pioneers, and the resulting societal and cultural contributions, may have only been hastily skimmed until Dr. Bloomfield’s work.

Another professor’s work that is making a difference today is that of Dr. Valerie Cisler, chair and professor in the Department of Music and Performing Arts.Whether she is teaching or conducting research, “It’s all about helping people become better musicians and teachers,” Dr. Cisler said. She concentrates her scholarly endeavors on two main areas: performance, and research on musical composition and interpretation that is directly linked to effective teaching, and international publication of pedagogical books and workshops.

Across campus, Dr. Kenya Taylor, former chair and a professor in the Department of Communication Disorders, has been working to preserve the hearing of Nebraska’s farmers and others. Dr. Taylor’s discovery of the level of damage done to the hearing of Nebraska farmers is dramatic.

Although 10-12 percent of the U.S. population endures some sort of hearing difficulty, 78 percent of Nebraska’s agricultural population have a considerably-reduced capacity to hear. Dr. Taylor, now dean of Graduate Studies and Research, points out that farming is the only major job category with high-noise conditions that has no federal requirements for hearing protection.

Dr. Kate Heelan, associate professor of health, physical education and recreation, is researching the health of Nebraska’s youth. She has implemented the national American Heart Association program called the “Walking School Bus,” where college students meet school children at neighborhood “walk stops” within a one-mile radius of their schools, picking up additional children along the route, and safely escorting them to school. In her research, she is studying the physical fitness changes in the students to better understand, through scientific methods, how the body performs, how to motivate participation, and why regular, simple exercise, like walking, actually leads to better health.

One of Dr. Pradeep Barua’s passions is to understand the past. “To keep ourselves informed about our history is not an onerous task, it is a duty, which is patently obvious to us in the context of today’s world,” he said. A professor of history and prominent scholar of South Asia military history, Dr. Barua is keenly aware of the crucial role the country of India plays in the dramatic changes taking place on the global landscape. India, despite its social and cultural complexities, is a pivotal element in an otherwise unstable area of the globe.

Like Dr. Barua, Dr. Tim Burkink takes a world view in his research. An associate professor of marketing and management information systems, Dr. Burkink has focused on the effects of war and capitalism through his study of the transition of the former Yugoslavia to a free market. Dr. Burkink traces his interests back to his growing up around his family’s grocery store in Scribner where he observed the valuable role his father served as a community leader, and noted that leaders need to understand there is a relationship between the social and economic conditions of the public to the supply and quality of food.

Upon the inauguration of UNK’s “New Frontiers” magazine, Chancellor Doug Kristensen wrote: “The nine faculty researchers featured in this magazine only begin to tell the story of scholarship at UNK. Great is the personal and professional fulfillment that comes from the hands-on process of experimentation, discovery, and confirmation. Great is the confidence our students build as they work side-by-side with faculty mentors.”