CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas–The Office of Community Outreach at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi held its first Broader Impacts Workshop on Feb. 15 in the University Center, Bayview Room. Dr. Michael Thompson, Director of Broader Impacts in Research at the University of Oklahoma, presented on the “Broader Impacts Identity: Crystallizing, specifying and implementing who you are with what you do at the university.”
“I love helping to empower people. That’s my gift,” said Thompson, as he invited faculty, staff and graduate students to be mindful of what unique talents they bring to the table beyond teaching and organizing research projects. He addressed a range of issues that often prevent professors from flourishing in their current positions as well as those things that can lead to burnout.
A core theme of the event was the development of a unique identity or professional voice in the academic community, something Thompson noted as a frequent obstacle to attracting donors or achieving tenure.
“Identity is stepping beyond one’s own role as a professor or researcher and recognizing his or her contributions to society as a whole,” said Thompson. “This entails moving from identity to relationships, and then towards partnerships within the community, which attracts donors and genuine interest in your research and outreach efforts.”
Joe Miller, Director of Community Outreach for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, noted that Broader Impacts has traditionally been associated with research sanctioned by the National Science Foundation. However, his team would like to see the concept expanded to include all disciplines and fields.
“Hosting this ‘Broader Impacts Identity Workshop’ is one of the ways that the Office of Community Outreach is trying to develop and support a community of practice within TAMU-CC that’s focused on being impactful by leaving a legacy in the community,” said Miller. “We know that can happen through research, teaching, service and beyond and we want to support and empower people to do that.”
Thompson also noted that post-doctoral students and professors need to counter-balance their time between personal and professional areas, particularly when trying to teach courses, lead research teams and write articles, often while raising a family.
“Learning to dedicate time and energy to one thing at a time, while strategically taking time off from other ventures, is the key to successfully reaching personal and professional goals while building a legacy,” said Thompson.
Thompson ended his presentation by addressing a world-wide shift towards recognizing academic research, scholarly writing and the sharing of ideas as not only multi-disciplinary, but also focused on how these areas impact society at large.
“Wherever you go in the entire world, they will be talking about Broader Impacts,” Thompson added. “Because being able to fully actualize your goals as an educator and researcher depends on building trust with everyone including graduate students, fellow faculty members, and potential donors.”
Other Broader Impacts events sponsored by the Office of Community Outreach included a series of meetings on the Island University between Thompson and center directors, department chairs, post-doctoral research associates, and the staff of the University’s Research, Commercialization, and Outreach Division.
For more information on Broader Impacts initiatives led by the Office of Community Outreach, visit http://outreach.tamucc.edu/BI/index.html.