Professors use expertise outside of classroom

by Tessa Lengeling

Simpson College professors are exceeding expectations with their work outside of the classroom.
Whether it be research, attending conferences or publishing a book, professors are improving academics and the Simpson experience.
Being in the classroom is only one part of a professor’s job. Researching and keeping up to date with their field is what really utilizes their expertise.
“The expectation of professors to do research or attend conferences will vary from department to department. For most it is keeping up with your discipline by creating knowledge or new articles, art, etc. that you can tie into the classroom,” Professor Kedron Bardwell said.
Bardwell is the Political Science Department chair.
Bardwell does a lot of keeping up with his discipline in political science. Reading journal articles and books on different areas in political science is a major part of his day. He attends about a conference a year and brings back knowledge he learned to use in the classroom.
“Teaching and learning is a big part of my work in and out of class time. You’re not physically doing the research, but you are learning how to teach it better so you can translate the knowledge to the students and they can utilize it in their learning,” Bardwell said.
Physics professor, Aaron Santos, has a similar approach to teaching and researching at the same
time. Santos focuses on working with the students to have them excel in their research with his guidance.
“I help students as much as I can and consider most of my time is devoted to mentoring students. It really is all about them so they can make the discoveries,” Santos said.
Though Santos focuses on the students and their work, he has accomplished a lot himself. Santos has written and published two books and is currently working on a research paper. The paper discusses DNA melting in relation to an experiment on DNA origami Dr. Lyons is doing with students. His books are called “How Many Licks?” and “Ballparking.”
“The books focus on fun physics problems I have done on my own based on math and estimation. For example, how fat would a hockey player have to be to fill the goal? How would filling a football with helium affect its distance? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? All questions that people wonder about, but never actually take the time to apply the math to,” Santos said.
Santos is passing on his knowledge and expertise to students as he works with them to discover new advances in math and science. This summer he plans to have some research students working with him.
“I really want to make research a big thing here outside of the classroom,” Santos said.
Santos is a new professor at Simpson and has the time and motivation to continue research on his own to keep up to date with his expertise. Other professors do not always have this opportunity.


“As you become tenured and take on college responsibilities, it becomes tougher to take on the

other things like your own projects when the college takes up more of your time,” Bardwell said.


Professors become more involved with the college and administration the longer they stay at Simpson. Each tenure track is different, Bardwell says: “You might need to do more research to get tenure for your field, or it could just be keeping up with teaching and learning concepts. Each department is different.”


Bardwell is heavily involved at Simpson. He serves as department chair and works on administrative committees like the First Year Student Program along with classes and advising.


“Other things become more time consuming, like recruiting students and working with the college to up numbers each year. There’s less time to do research, but that is part of the competitive college world we have now,” Bardwell said. 


Bardwell came to Simpson to focus on teaching. He has written a few articles for journals that discuss teaching and learning in political science and the fact-checking exercise he uses in his Mass Media and Politics class. He also discusses student attitudes about civic/public engagement and the effect it has on the fact-checking exercise.


Before tenure, Bardwell would attend research conferences, present his work and learn from

other political scientists. He teaches a research class where students create their own political survey report, but again, the main focus is the student.


Some professors would love to continue their own projects, but just can’t seem to find the time.

But is that really what they became a professor for? Sometimes just answering questions and helping students is what it is all about.


“I enjoy working with the students. Students here are inquisitive, and that gets me excited about the work we are doing. Asking questions is what I enjoy about teaching,” Santos said.


Bardwell said, “Seeing students develop and improve their skills is what I love about teaching. Seeing progress from freshman year to senior seminar presentations. I came to Simpson to teach and advise. Research was half of it, but I don’t really need the extra time to do outside things. I came to focus on teaching.”