Monmouth / About the College / News / Full Story

More academic initiatives announced

Barry McNamara
04/27/2010
Most of Monmouth College’s newly announced academic initiatives will produce tangible results. For example, after completing the Exploratory Success Program (ESP), participants will declare a major, while students who take advantage of Summer Opportunities for Intellectual Activities (SOFIA) will take away completed projects that will be the results of faculty-led research.

While those results will primarily benefit individual students, two of the college’s other new initiatives will have broad visibility.

One is The Midwest Studies Undergraduate Research Journal, an offshoot of the college’s new regional studies initiative. The initial editions will contain Midwest-related research by Monmouth students, but the journal could soon be expanded to include research by students from other schools in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest.

“It will be online at first, but it could go to a print format in the future,” explained assistant professor of history Fred Witzig, who wrote the proposal to establish the journal. “It will provide an opportunity for students to see their name in print, and of course parents and prospective employers will be able to see it, too. Because it’s online, there will also be an interactive aspect, as readers will be able to use a comment interface on each of the articles.”

Witzig expects that most of the research will be in the areas of history, sociology and political sciences, but several other disciplines will be represented, too. There will be one primary student editor – likely a senior – and there will also be student editors in the respective academic disciplines.

In addition to serving as a stand-alone element in the college’s series of new initiatives, the journal will also serve a larger purpose, explained President Mauri Ditzler.

“This Midwest academic journal will provide a tie-in with several of the other initiatives we have planned,” he said. “For example, students who participate in a SOFIA project might present their research in the journal.”

Another visible initiative will be Scotspeak, a forensic organization that previously existed at Monmouth from 2002 to 2008. In fact, public speaking organizations at Monmouth go back much further than that, and the college has a rich tradition in the field, especially in debate.

Forensics came back to Monmouth in 2002 due to an individual student’s interest in intercollegiate debate, and Scotspeak soon grew to include competition in areas such as Model United Nations, Model Illinois Government, Quiz Bowl and Mock Trial.

The shelving of the organization occurred due to a shortage of leadership and funding, but financial support has returned, according to communication studies professor Lee McGaan.

“The funding that the college has committed to the program will allow it to pay for travel expenses and also receive coaching assistance,” he said.

Although most of the competitions will be parliamentary debates, McGaan said there are other possibilities.

“If there is interest in individual events, such as persuasive speaking, dramatic duos, literature readings, and impromptu, then those events could certainly be part of the program.”

McGaan listed several reasons why restoring Scotspeak is a good idea for the college.

“It will be a great opportunity for students to develop their research, communicative and written skills in a competitive environment,” he said. “The debate topics will be varied in subject, therefore students of all majors are encouraged to join. Scotspeak also provides good publicity for the college when the team does well, and it’s a good recruiting device, bringing to Monmouth even more strong overall students who are serious about learning.”

McGaan said the presence of an organized debate team helped bring several students to Monmouth in recent years, including a few from western states who otherwise might have attended different colleges.