What is the best kept secret at Illinois State University? Is it the National Institutes of Justice-funded research to develop portable instruments for the on-site analysis of evidence at crime scenes? Maybe it is the biomathematics cross-disciplinary program that houses an academic journal and will soon be hosting an international symposium on education and research in biomathematics and ecology. Or is it the arts technology program, where students and faculty explore the intersection between art, music, and theater and digital and interactive media?

My answer is all of the above, and much more.

In my two years as interim associate vice president for Research and Graduate Studies, I have discovered that one of the best kept secrets is the vibrant research culture existing across campus. Although I have been a faculty member in the Chemistry Department, where there is a long tradition of involving students in research, I had no idea about the breadth and depth of research activities going on outside of my narrow world in the natural sciences.

I have developed enormous respect for the scholars all across campus, who are doing impactful, cutting-edge scholarship in every college and academic department and school. I also have a new appreciation for the importance of the creative arts to the scholarly life of the University. Now, whenever I speak of “research,” I am careful to specify that the term is used in the broadest possible sense to include all forms of scholarly and creative activities and expression.

I have discovered that one of the best kept secrets is the vibrant research culture existing across campus.

Some may wonder why research is important when Illinois State University has built its reputation as a leader in undergraduate education through outstanding teaching and individualized attention. Research, which is core to the University’s mission as expressed in Educating Illinois, is the ultimate in individualized attention. Students work one-on-one with a professor, building critical thinking skills while creating new knowledge and learning how to communicate this knowledge to the scholarly community. Such skills are critical for the student’s professional development and success in their chosen profession. It’s no wonder that research is identified by the Association of American Colleges & Universities as an educational practice that has a significant impact on student success.

Among undergraduate students, an even better-kept secret might be the 42 master’s and 10 doctoral programs at Illinois State. Frequently I talk with undergraduate students who are not even aware that the Graduate School exists! This is despite the fact that one of every nine students on campus is here to pursue a graduate degree.

This inaugural issue of Redbird Scholar is our first step in revealing the secrets that are research and graduate studies at Illinois State. The stories highlighted in this issue represent an introduction to the rich and ever-changing story of research, scholarship, and creative activities on campus. Every six months, with each new issue, we will add another chapter to the story. I invite you to listen to our story and help spread the word, as scholarship is meant to be shared, not to be kept secret.

John E. Baur
Interim associate vice president for Research and Graduate Studies

P.S. To keep up with research news between issues, be sure to follow @ISUResearch on Twitter. We also invite you to publicize scholarly activities on campus using the hashtag #RedbirdScholar.