Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 72.17
Liaison Chris Frantsvog
Submission Date March 1, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Luther College
AC-10: Support for Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Jeff Wilkerson
Associate Dean
Dean's Office
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct research in sustainability? :

A brief description of the student research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

The Summer Student/Faculty Collaborative Research program provides an opportunity for Luther students to engage full-time in collaborative research projects with Luther faculty members during the two months of Luther's summer session (June/July).

Grants are available to students in any major. Each full grant provides $3,000 in stipend to the student for eight weeks of full-time research work, on-campus housing for the student, up to $500 for project expenses, and $500 in faculty development funds for the faculty member. Proposals for smaller or shorter research projects are also welcome this year.

Proposals are welcome in all disciplines. In addition, special funding is available through the generosity of donors for projects that will provide research experience to students interested in research or career paths related to the following areas:

-health care, health care management, or health care administration
-cancer research or biomedical research in cellular regulation, gene regulation, or genetics
-business or economics
-modern languages
-humanities, humanistic social sciences, and arts

We also encourage proposals from teams of faculty and students (typically two faculty, two students) interested in pursuing a creative, multidisciplinary project that draws on the insights of the humanities, sciences, and social sciences to address a particular theme or issue, as a foundation for future directed readings or course design.

Over the last several years, students have received stipends for collaborative research projects related to anthropological research of homesteaders in the Decorah area, pollinator policy and incentives, watershed management, native sunflowers, monarch butterfly habitat and climate change.

Luther College also offers students the opportunity to create their own interdisciplinary major:

Interdisciplinary programs combine two or more established academic disciplines to create a powerful learning experience and emphasize integrative learning, critical thinking, and creative problem solving.

This means that you may design your own, customized major to explore your varied—but related—interests. By drawing on the strengths of multiple academic departments, the individualized interdisciplinary major (IIM) can provide an education that gives you the best of many worlds.

IIM Examples
Here are some examples of recent IIM topics:

Art Theory and Criticism
Persuasion and Social Change
French Linguistics
Chinese Language and Linguistics
Movement Fundamentals

Here is a list of the student research topics from Luther College's 2018 Student Research Symposium: https://www.luther.edu/symposium/assets/Schedule_Research_Symposium_2018.pdf

Does the institution have a program to encourage faculty from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct research in sustainability topics?:

A brief description of the faculty research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

Faculty can apply for stipends to support community-based research on topics related to sustainability. Starting in 2016, The Center for Sustainable Communities and the Dean’s Office invite proposals to support community-based research projects with funding support from the Margaret A, Cargill Foundation. These projects should be related to or informed by a particular community. The awards are available to support a variety of faculty research activity and student-faculty collaborative projects and can be used to provide stipends
for student-faculty research on community-based projects, supplies for field-based research, and travel support for presenting the results of their research at professional meetings and conferences.

Examples of sustainability research performed in the last three years:
Biology professor Beth Lynch worked with student Savannah Wilson to study plant diversity in the Driftless region. Wilson and Beth conducted research on forest communities of Finch Memorial Hardwoods, part of the Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge in 2018. During her summer research in 2018, Wilson surveyed the composition of Finch's forest, observing plantlife as well as the delicate microenvironment of the area.

Professor Rachel Brummel led students in 2017 and 2018 in flood resilience research in Northeast Iowa. Over the course of the last 10 years, Decorah and other communities across northeastern Iowa have experienced multiple floods characterized as 100-year floods. As the effects of climate change intensify, events like these are only expected to increase. Halina Pyzdrowski ('17) researched flood resilience in the Upper Iowa Watershed for her summer 2017 research project.

A member of the Biology faculty and students conducted community-based bat monitoring by providing equipment to trained volunteers who walked or bicycled set routes through diverse environments to record bat calls using Anabat units. This baseline data will be important so that the impact of white nose syndrome (WNS) can be better understood once it reaches this area.

A member of the religion faculty and students led community conversations about the nature of community and prominence of women in the book of Judges. Conversations were had in collaboration with women who are part of the broader community and also living in "total institutions" that occupy traditional space. The contexts they investigated for the project included: a women’s correctional facility (Mitchellville, Iowa); a local nursing home; and Luther College.

In 2016 Sociology Faculty replicated a 2006 survey as a 10 year update to continue to document the changes in the attitudes and actions about race as well as attitudes and actions about class and immigration in Olmsted County, MN. This survey is especially important as Rochester (located in Olmsted County) embarks on community improvement and change projects related to its project "Destination Medical Center."

Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:

A brief description of the institution’s support for interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

The following paragraphs are research goals taken from different Department Statements at the college.

Scholarship that engages the community. Scholarship in this form seeks to engage the community in discussions about biology. This may include designing outreach programs for area schools, or leading community-based discussions on biological technologies or phenomena and how they impact the environment with respect to public policy, social concerns, and economic impact. It also involves stewardship of Luther-owned land and promoting the institution’s goals of sustainability. While these activities are often designated as service to the college, they are important missions of the biology department and should be considered as scholarship when the activity leads to the outcomes described above (e.g., peer-reviewed publications, presentations at scientific conferences or legislative forums, performances, extramural funding pursuits).

Luther College and the Chemistry Department at Luther College believe that in order to achieve the learning environment we wish for our students, our faculty must be effective teachers, and they must be active scholars, and they must be active in activities that help sustain the community of this place. The word “and” is important. No matter how active a faculty member is in supporting the general program of the college, general community service cannot substitute for scholarly activity if that person is to be an effective model for our students. By the same token, scholarly activity, even if exemplary, cannot make up for poor teaching. Each of the three activities is important; each requires ongoing attention, time, and commitment; and balancing all three is recognized as challenging.

Original research is the activity of asking and answering significant philosophical, pedagogical, or interdisciplinary questions. Its results are typically expressed in peer-reviewed written works such as scholarly monographs, journal articles, book chapters, encyclopedia articles, translations, edited volumes, and critical editions. They are also expressed in competitively selected presentation of papers at professional conferences, in invited papers and presentations, and in service as respondent or referee for professional conferences, journals, and publishers.

On-going projects that result in course development, collaborative research, or interdisciplinary experiences for students.

The department affirms scholarship as equal in importance to college governance and administration, and the year-by-year shaping of interdisciplinary programs such as Paideia, Women’s Studies, Africana Studies, and others though both scholarship and service are secondary to our central commitment to teaching.

A prime example of multidisciplinary research can be seen in Luther College's project, Body of Water. The Body of Water Project reveals the sacredness of water—this essential molecule and elixir of life—while acknowledging challenges and solutions surrounding water usage and quality on a local, regional, and global scale. Science and the arts are intentionally interwoven to more powerfully inform, connect, and inspire human bodies of water to cherish and protect this precious and damaged natural resource. Biology, Visual and Performing Arts, and Music professors all collaborated on this project with additional contributions from students from different disciplines. https://www.luther.edu/body-of-water/


Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

Luther College's Preus Library provides a wide depth and breadth of resources to support interdisciplinary sustainability research on campus. In the past three years, we have added several resources specifically to support sustainability and the Environmental Studies program, including the databases GREENR & GreenFILE. In addition, we are one of the few colleges of our size that subscribes to E&E News (Environmental and Energy Publishing), which is a premier publication in the industry. In addition to these specialized databases, Preus Library subscribes to a wide variety of resources for closely related disciplines and multidisciplinary database resources (such as BioOne, JSTOR, and AGRICOLA) and current scholarly and trade e-book collections (including JSTOR Books and Ebook Central).

The Library has a dedicated liaison to the Environmental Studies program, and designates a portion of its materials budget to selecting and maintaining resources that support research and the curriculum in that area. Additionally, librarians provide specialized research instruction and guidance for Environmental Studies students and faculty.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The URL above links to the research portion of our Climate Action Plan.

"As a residential liberal arts college, Luther places its primary emphasis on teaching, not research. Thus climate change and sustainability research has not been a primary emphasis in our climate action planning. We do, however, place significant emphasis on involving undergraduates in research and must work to increase opportunities for student and faculty research related to sustainability. What follows are several ways Luther College will promote more research related to sustainability and climate change:

1. Grants: The College must use internal and external resources to increase support for sustainability research. Specifically, Luther should support at least two summer research projects related to environmental sustainability, as was done in the past. Past research projects have contributed to at least two books and multiple articles, posters, and scholarly presentations. Luther will also aggressively seek external grants to support faculty pursuing research in this area.

2. Faculty Development: In addition to promoting greater integration of sustainability within the curriculum, faculty development should also stimulate interest in new research opportunities. For example, The Oneota Project, a summer faculty development program focused on place and sustainability, should serve as a catalyst for promoting sustainability research as well as new approaches to teaching.

3. Environmental Studies: More than 20 faculty from across the disciplines are affiliated with Luther’s interdisciplinary environmental studies program. Many of these faculty are actively engaged in research related to climate change and sustainability. The College will continue to investigate ways to encourage and support research in environmental studies, including following through on plans to fund an endowed chair in environmental studies.

4. Center for Sustainable Communities: This Center will promote opportunities for faculty in business, political science, economics, and other disciplines to engage in research focused on fostering a move toward sustainability within our region. The Center will nurture partnerships between students and faculty on campus and organizations in the region to encourage applied sustainability research with direct relevance to our region.

5. Natural Lands: Luther’s 1,000 acre campus includes hundreds of acres of natural lands that provide a plethora of research opportunities for students and faculty in biology, environmental studies, and other disciplines. The College recently placed 130 acres of floodplain land along the Upper Iowa River into a permanent conservation easement. This move not only preserves this key habitat but also provides unique opportunities for research on ecological restoration and carbon sequestration.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.