A Toxicologist's Perspective on Having and Doing it All: Teaching, Research, and Service at a Small Liberal Arts College
In the United States, a small liberal arts college is loosely defined as an institution that provides a residential and comprehensive education to students seeking a bachelor’s degree. There are many challenges and opportunities that exist within this educational framework for faculty who engage as teacher-scholars. A primary challenge is making time for research, teaching, and service. However, this can become an opportunity when undergraduate research experiences are integrated into the curriculum. This approach benefits students, who report a gain in confidence, experience, and increased enrollment in advanced degrees. Developing collaborations with faculty at other colleges, especially R1 research institutions, can be extremely helpful in supporting and advancing ones research year-round. Furthermore, salary is often only required for three months, making a liberal arts faculty member less expensive (and more qualified) than a postdoc. A second challenge is how to balance and understand the expectations set forth for tenure and promotion. Productivity in the lab can be advanced during the school year through student independent studies or thesis work; this can serve both the student and the faculty. Scholarship in teaching and learning is very important to many liberal arts schools, thus time spent working on and publishing about these subjects may be an adequate alternative to a “traditional” research trajectory. Finally, toxicology’s interface of many scientific disciplines positions professionals in the field in a strong position to succeed as teacher-scholars in small liberal arts colleges.
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