President’s Faculty Innovation Grants

President’s Faculty Innovation Grants

The President’s Faculty Innovation Grant initiative was announced summer 2017 with the intention of an investment in faculty-driven research and projects. Applications from active faculty members were due in March 2018 and evaluated by a committee which included Dean of Students Antwone Cameron, Director of Institutional Research Kelly French, and former Vice President of Institutional Advancement Robyn Hoffman, plus Board of Trustees members Dr. Laura Koehl ’80, Sr. Mary Ethel Parrott ’69, SND, and Dr. Anthony Zembrodt ’65. Project evaluation was based on: innovative in concept and design, Thomas More University mission focus, program quality, student outcomes, sustainable beyond summer 2018, affordable/fundable, and the potential to improve the University in the future. Nine grants were awarded in the amount of $19,330. Following is a synopsis of the research funded by this initiative.

“Expansion of the Institute for Religious Liberty”

Presented by Raymond Hebert, Ph.D. 

The Institute for Religious Liberty (IRL) at Thomas More University is beginning the fourth year of its existence. The original intention was to have one major spring-time event per year. In 2017-2018, a second major event was added in the fall as an Interfaith Dialogue. Looking to the future, the IRL Executive Committee and TMU administration have agreed that an expansion would be welcomed, including a continuation of the fall semester Interfaith Dialogue as a permanent addition. This innovation grant allowed Hebert to personally interview every member of the Executive Committee and to visit three of the most active Religious Liberty/Freedom Institutions in the country: the Cato Institute and Religious Freedom Center, both in Washington, D.C., and the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While these networking opportunities will pay dividends for fundraising and program planning, the most important focus for the grant was not on fundraising but on the best ways to involve students, with the idea emerging to create a Junior Fellows Program. This particular direction will, along with the expansion of programming, become a priority during the 2018-2019 academic year. For more information on Professor Hebert’s research project, CLICK HERE.

“Building Capacity for Future Grant Opportunities for the Biology Field Station: Measuring the Factors Impacting Student Outcomes from Undergraduate Experiences”

Presented by Chris Lorentz, Ph.D.

Field Stations provide an ideal venue for active field-based STEM engagement for students of all ages (National Research Council, 2014). In particular, the TMU Field Station has experienced a rapid growth in its research and outreach programs over the past 10 years. Currently no rigorous understanding exists of how such field experiences impact STEM learning at the undergraduate level and who might benefit most from these experiences (NRC 2014). Anecdotal information suggests that such field experiences have a tremendously positive impact on students, including their understanding of the science process and their choice of a STEM career. Over the spring and summer, Lorentz began pulling together the resources and tools from the Organization of Biological Field Stations and the Undergraduate Field Experience Research Network. He also conducted two site visits of similar-sized field stations at Emory & Henry College and Juniata College. In addition, he adopted a new assessment tool to gauge the effectiveness of summer research internships. Lastly, he identified two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to which he will apply in this upcoming academic year and has plans to meet directly with the NSF program director at a fall Field Station Conference at the Schoodic Institute in Maine. For more information on Professor Lorentz’ research project, CLICK HERE.

“Lean Six Sigma at Thomas More University: Prudent Process Efficiencies and Standard Work Processes, Optimize Return on Investment (ROI)”

Presented by Jack Rudnick, Ed.D.

The need to cultivate quality improvement in higher education institutions is fueled by increasing demand for high customer-satisfaction levels and accountability by stakeholders. A problem identified at Thomas More University (TMU) includes the absence of written standard work processes. Higher education institutions’ employment of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) emerges as a tool for higher education institutions to consider for improving quality. Research findings resulted in the strong recommendation that TMU pilot LSS. Quality improvement and mission compliance could be achieved through written standard work processes, metrics, and elimination of non-value added steps. TMU is also projected to gain significant returns on investment (ROI). For more information on Professor Rudnick’s research project, CLICK HERE.

“A Statistical Analysis of Kentucky Bourbon and Other Alcoholic Beverages” 

Presented by Jyoti Saraswat, Ph.D.

“A Chemical Analysis of Kentucky Bourbon”

Presented by Bill Wetzel, Ph.D.

Kentucky produces and ages 95 percent of bourbon sold and consumed in the world, making it an extremely important and lucrative commodity for the Kentucky economy. Using 155 alcohol samples, Wetzel’s research determined the identity of each chemical component present in different bourbons. This chemical analysis conducted in our TMU labs identified chemical fingerprints for a variety of alcohol samples, including the presence of 202 unique chemical compounds, and resulted in the production of nearly one gigabyte of information to be analyzed. Saraswat’s mathematical analysis examined the patterns present in the chemical fingerprints of different Kentucky bourbons.  These results were used to create a platform for assessing the authenticity of bourbon.  These methods could also be used to identify counterfeit bourbons or for quality control.  Future research and work on the project includes collaboration between Thomas More University and the OTR Still House, exploration of possible collaborations with other distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, determination of the chemical composition of the aroma associated with bourbon, and examination of other mathematical methods for pattern recognition. For more information on Professors Saraswat’s and Wetzel’s research project, CLICK HERE.

“Ethical Leadership Podcasting: Engaging Dialogue with the Thomas More Community”

Presented by Anthony Schumacher, Ph.D.

Schumacher’s research involves the incorporation of a practitioner interview into an online course. He interviewed President of Master Provisions Roger Babik, for Ethical Leadership Studies 640 (nonprofit leadership), a course in the Master of Arts in Ethical Leadership. During the interview, Babik discussed the importance of a mission statement and how his organization makes decisions based on that mission, the opportunities/challenges he sees daily as a leader, the role of volunteers, and what his organization needs from the community. Students were surveyed and their feedback will be utilized to determine if additional practitioner interviews will be incorporated into TMU’s Master of Arts in Ethical Leadership courses. For more information on Professor Schumacher’s research project, CLICK HERE.

“Prestigious Scholarships Framework”

Presented by Catherine Sherron, Ph.D.

TMU has excellent students, including those highly talented in academics. Some of these students don’t always know how to get to the next level. This research project, developed and executed in concert with John Ernst, Ph.D., director of the Thomas More University Success Center, aims to help inform faculty and students of possibilities for high-achieving students to build on their talents and accomplishments. Ernst and Sherron will use this scaffolding to help students plan for graduate school or other endeavors (e.g., Peace Corps) and assist them in selecting appropriate scholarships, fellowships, and programs for application. They have begun the process of developing scaffolding and pathways to introduce students to, and assist them in, applying to highly competitive and prestigious scholarships, fellowships, and related programs, such as the Truman, Rhodes, Fulbright, and other private and government-sponsored scholarships and programs. The hope is that preparing for those programs will help highly talented and motivated students across all disciplines further develop their academic potential and introduce them to networks of high-achieving scholars. Success in getting more students into these prestigious programs also raises the University’s academic profile. For more information on Professor Sherron’s research project, CLICK HERE.

“Preparation of a National Cancer Research Grant Application for Collaborative Research with Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory”

Presented by Zach Taylor, Ph.D.

Taylor’s innovation grant supports development of a larger research grant applications. Collaboration between Thomas More University and the Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory will fulfill TMU students’ need for research experience, expanding the capability for them to understand and explore the area of bladder cancer. For more information on Professor Taylor’s research project, CLICK HERE.

“Faculty Ambassadorial Initiative (FAI): An Innovative Way to Engage Faculty in the Recruitment of High Achieving Students”

Presented by JT Spence, Ph.D., and Amy Thistlethwaite, Ph.D.

The FAI is being proposed as a strategy to increase the number and quality of students applying to and subsequently attending the University, resulting from their interaction with a TMU faculty at their home institutions. By showcasing the enthusiasm and expertise of TMU faculty to high school juniors in advanced classes, it is anticipated that the University will be more readily seen as a preferred choice among potential recruits. The final product of the proposed program will be an implementation plan that can be used to expand the program to include additional schools with TMU faculty willing to serve as ambassadors. For more information on Professors Spence’s and Thislethwaite’s research project, CLICK HERE.