Trinity University is well-known for having world-class faculty, and it doesn’t look like that will be changing anytime soon. Below are just some examples of how the University’s early career faculty are contributing to their fields.
History professor Lauren Turek, Ph.D., has been at Trinity since Fall 2015 and has spent her time getting involved with as much of what the Trinity community has to offer as possible.
“We have such a wonderful, tight-knit community of faculty and staff who make the process of settling in as a new faculty member much easier,” Turek says. “Everyone is very eager to share opportunities with early career faculty members—invitations to serve on various committees, to participate in workshops at the Collaborative that help develop your teaching skills, to get involved with undergraduate research, to collaborate on research projects, and to highlight sources of funding to help support individual faculty research.”
This past May, Turek published her first book, To Bring the Good News to All Nations: Evangelical Influence on Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Relations. The book tells the story of how and why politically-conservative evangelical groups in the United States became an influential lobbying force on issues related to U.S. foreign relations, especially human rights and religious freedom, starting in the 1970s.She is already working on her second book, which will trace the history of congressional debates over U.S. foreign aid during the twentieth century.
In addition to her books, Turek has made many scholarly contributions during her time at Trinity, as well as taking on the role of director for Trinity’s new minor in museum studies and co-director for the Mellon Initiative. She is also a co-chair for the University’s Roots Commission, examining Trinity’s history with racial injustice.
“My students at Trinity are really interested in the history of U.S. foreign policy and politics,
which means I am always seeking new primary sources, especially multimedia sources, to make those topics as accessible and engaging for them as possible,” Turek says of how her students have impacted her approach to the field. “This means I am always doing research into foreign relations history, including aspects of that history that are outside of my specific research areas, which is wonderful for me—it keeps me very up to date in my field.”
Health Care Administration
Seongwon Choi, Ph.D., is one of the newest faculty to join Trinity’s graduate program for Health Care Administration. She has worked with the department for a little over two years and has spent her time navigating the courses and finding ways to help her students engage with the broader ideas and principles of the discipline.
Choi’s recent successes include the recent publications of peer-reviewed research papers, such as a conference research paper she created with her students, and a class project emphasizing the importance of external support. In this project, the students from her strategic planning and marketing course are instructed to incorporate social aspects into their studies that address strategic planning and collaboration. Most recently, the focus was on homelessness in Austin.
Students work on this project throughout the semester. First, the students pick different types of organizations, from big hospitals to small mental health clinics, then they look at homelessness from that organization's perspective.
“I thought it was important because now the students are looking more broadly at the social determinants of health and understanding how it affects their health care organization,” Choi says. “I also wanted to challenge the perspective that those social determinants of health fall on other disciplines like social work or policy. These are real problems that students will be facing when they go out and start their career.”
In addition to this project, Choi has worked hard to pivot and make sure her students are heard and feel safe and comfortable speaking up during the pandemic. By taking advantage of available resources and technology, Choi has made sure her students are getting as much as they can from their program despite the continuing challenges of such unprecedented times.
“Personally, I am glad that the pandemic happened when it did. I’m not glad for the pandemic, it's been hard on everyone, but I think this is equipping me with better instruction and teaching perspectives. I've learned so much about engaging students in different ways and thinking outside the box. I think it is really going to help make me more prepared for the next crisis I will face,” Choi says.
Ryan Davis, Ph.D., has made quite a splash in Trinity’s chemistry department in the two years he has worked at the University. In his time at Trinity, he has worked with students on professional publications, built new scientific equipment utilizing Trinity’s Makerspace, and served as the faculty adviser to the Chemistry Club.
Davis recently had his findings published in Science Advances, a top-tier multidisciplinary journal. The study looked at how the phase of levitated aerosol particles (tiny particles suspended in air) changed over time and under different conditions relevant to indoor and outdoor environments. “Aerosols in the atmosphere are currently the largest uncertainty in climate modeling and have negative health effects when they are inhaled,” Davis says.
Respiratory aerosols are also emitted when people breathe, speak, and cough and are considered vectors for transmission of disease (sound familiar?). Despite this widespread importance, predicting the physical and chemical properties of atmospheric and respiratory aerosol is extremely difficult. In order to conduct the study, Davis and the students in his lab developed a levitation-based technique to study the chemical and physical properties of aerosol particles, finding that the inorganic and organic compounds interacted in unexpected ways.
“On a fundamental level, what makes this study so surprising is that these chemicals we used are so common and so well-studied, and our observations were still a surprise. Many of the chemicals from this study are ones you might find in your kitchen pantry. It's uncommon to discover such an unexpected result for systems that have been studied for decades,” Davis says. “This project really epitomizes the interdisciplinary ethos of Trinity. We’re studying chemistry, but you walk into our lab, and it doesn’t look like we study chemistry. We levitated microscopic pieces of matter using electrodynamics, and so much of our equipment was fabricated by research students in the Trinity Makerspace. ”
In less than two years, Davis and his students have developed new techniques and collected enough data for two peer-reviewed publications. Some of the techniques used in his lab are uncommon for a small liberal arts college, but Davis asserts his students have gone above and beyond in learning the techniques and their applications. “Trinity research students David Richards, Kristin Trobaugh, and Josefina Hajek-Herrera, were critical to every publication and everything developed in my lab. It has been amazing to see what undergraduate researchers are capable of here at Trinity,” Davis says. “When I was a student, I loved participating in community outreach—and still do—so it has been great working with students who share my enthusiasm for engaging with the broader community.”
VolkanOzbek, Ph.D., is the newest faculty member in the Department of Business Administration, joining in the fall of 2019. He teaches several upper-level business and management courses, and he emphasizes an approach that extends beyond the classroom.
“My main goal is to make my students fully ready for the job market,” Ozbek says. “I strongly believe that effective teaching comes from establishing strong linkages between the theory and practice. Therefore, I always include in-class discussions, brainstorming sessions, group activities, competitions, online simulations, presentations, and case discussions in my classes. This way, students will have several opportunities to understand how all these theoretical concepts apply in the corporate world.”
Ozbek has implemented this idea in the past by bringing speakers from Fortune 500 companies to speak to his students. His goal is to connect students with top executives from prestigious companies. Not only do students directly hear from those top decision-makers regarding
company strategies and business operations, but they also get to show off their own skills and potentially open doors for their future job searches. Last fall, Ozbek brought in the chairman and CEO of Valero Energy, Joe Gorder, and the CEO of Coca Cola in Turkey, Burak Basarir. Most recently, he brought the vice president of the meat division at H-E-B, John Sauter, and the general manager of Pfizer in Turkey and Russia, Okan Guner.
Ozbek’s successes stretch beyond the classroom, too. Currently, he serves in the Teaching and Learning Support Committee,and he recently solo-authored a paper for the American Business Review, an A-level journal according to the ABDC journals ranking list. His study published his findings that having younger CEOs along with holding many external directorships will help spun-off subsidiaries much better perform in the market.
“I must say it has been extremely rewarding for me,” Ozbek says of being an early career faculty member here at Trinity. “The first aspect that has impressed me the most is the quality of our students. Our students are very hard-working and goal-oriented individuals. As an instructor, seeing their incredible desire for learning makes me do a much better job in my teaching. Secondly, Trinity is a people-oriented academic institution. From day one, I started to receive a significant amount of support from my colleagues, including their encouragement for bringing new ideas on the table.”