What do Professors do beyond the classroom?

West Liberty University’s (WLU) professors are well known for their dedication to students and the learning experience they provide, but did you know that many of them are also constantly working on other academic projects? As a part of their job, and most commonly as part of their passion, professors are often involved in research or writing projects.

Assistant Professor of Communication, Director of The Trumpet & Academic Liaison to Topper Station, Dr. Danielle Mehlman-Brightwell, is one such professor. Mehlman-Brightwell is in the process of writing a chapter for a textbook about Facebook and the spread of fake news. “When the call came out, I felt that Dr. Schmidt and what he was doing in regard to being editor for the book, and what I’m currently writing and researching and working on was a perfect match,” she said.

The world of academia, though rewarding, is competitive. This chapter will be Mehlman-Brightwell’s first contribution to a textbook since having completed her doctorate degree in media communications and instructional technology in 2021. “I’m working on another proposal… I’m working with a co-author on that one, and we’re drafting that one so we don’t know if it’s accepted or not, so this is the first one that I’ve submitted as a proposal and been accepted for publication,” said Mehlman-Brightwell.

With all the other responsibilities and duties that come along with being a university professor, finding time to write and work on any publications can be a challenging task and often requires the sacrifice of other hobbies and interests. “It’s so tempting, even as a professor to say, “Okay I’m going to put it off, I’m not going to do it” but you always have a deadline. It’s hard to balance, but I would say the biggest thing for me is just carving out the appropriate amount of time in order to get the job done,” said Mehlman-Brightwell.

Dr. Aaron Harper, associate professor of philosophy and chair of the department of humanities and social sciences at WLU said, “I do a lot of my writing over the summer… I write a lot on Fridays, I write a lot on weekends, late nights, evenings. That’s when I tend to get it done.”

Harper is currently writing a chapter for a book about college sport ethics. “I’ve written previously on this topic and a couple of philosophers are putting together a volume on college sports ethics and while I have not written directly on college sports, since I’ve written on other sports issues, they asked if I would contribute something,” he said. “This is the third or fourth piece I’ve written in this area of philosophy.

Working on projects outside of teaching responsibilities gives faculty members the opportunity to explore academic interests that they can then relate back to their classroom content. “Right now, I’m writing on college sport ethics and playoffs, tournaments and championships, and that is something that I think connects more to the students I currently have in classes,” said Harper. “Thinking about these ethical issues that many students, student athletes or people interested in sports might think about, has a different way of connecting my research to my teaching.”

All faculty at the university are required to be engaged in research or professional activity though the extent and form of this activity varies by department and discipline. Faculty may be engaged in art work, directing, research or a variety of other activities. As a student, it is easy to forget that college professors do more than just teach every day, but they are constantly at work to enhance the world of academia and, in turn, enrich the learning experience for students everywhere.