Illume Speaks to USD's Diverse Liberal Arts Education

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When Mitch Malachowski, a veteran University of San Diego Chemistry and Biochemistry professor, spoke of the benefit for undergraduate students to have opportunities to participate in faculty research, he does so from a position of his own college experience.

"I was influenced by my own teachers and I learned from them," said Malachowski, a USD professor since 1984. "I was motivated by my memories as an undergraduate student. I remember how unsure I was and I didn't know what I was going to do. But my life changed when I did lab research with John Williams, my organic chemistry professor. Everything changed. It gave me focus and a picture of what I wanted to do. I went from there, got my PhD in organic chemistry and soon after, I came to USD."

Malachowski, who has won numerous USD faculty awards, including the University Professorship, Davies Award, Outstanding Research Faculty Mentor, and, most recently, the 2014 California Professor of the Year by the national Carnegie Foundation, is passionate about undergraduate research. He's a longtime contributor to the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) organization as a past president, as a CUR Fellow Award winner and who, through National Science Foundation grant support, has conducted workshops for institutions who want to establish and/or strengthen their undergraduate research programs and practices.

"I love to teach, I love to work in my lab and I love to work with my students," he said. "I'm dedicated to student success and student outcomes."

Undergraduate Research at USD

Malachowski's long-standing affinity for undergraduate student research and its growth as a higher education high-impact practice at USD, was delivered during a Nov. 3 Illume Lecture Series event titled, "Undergraduate Research: Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too."

The title served as a reminder to his colleagues that their respective research projects — regardless of discipline — are enhanced by student inclusion in the process. It enables students to gain valuable, hands-on experience and spark their interest the same way it did for a younger Malachowski.

"There's no doubt one of the biggest changes on the USD campus over the last 25 years is the move to do scholarship," he said. "When I came here in 1984, that was not the norm. But in one generation, we've really changed dramatically. We've reached a point where I can say most faculty at USD don't even remember what it was like to live in a world before 'teacher-scholar' was the norm. That's how quickly it's changed."

Illume Series Speaks to Liberal Arts Education

But Malachowski's talk wasn't just a lecture for his counterparts; no, it spoke also about an essential subject for liberal arts education opportunities found at USD. His talk was part of the Illume Speaker Series, which began late last spring and has been more robust this fall. It has been started by the College of Arts and Sciences, but it will shift to the emerging and interdisciplinary-focused Humanities Center, which is slated to open on campus in fall 2016.

"The Illume series is a great opportunity for faculty, students, staff and members of the community to come together at the end of the day, sit down and listen to ideas, share ideas and to get a sense of why we're in this in the first place, which is about the exchange of ideas. The Illume series is about illuminating our different perspectives," said Brian Clack, USD associate professor of philosophy and the program director for the Humanities Center.

Clack said Illume offers a mix of USD faculty scholars, invited thought-leaders and prominent public figures who, through their talks, can advance liberal arts education thinking on campus and inspire lifelong learning in USD's surrounding communities.

Just this fall, USD has hosted, in conjunction with Warwick's Books, noted authors Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth Gilbert, former ABC-TV Nightline anchor Ted Koppel as well as Wesleyan University President Michael Roth. Veteran USD Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Del Dickson, and Malachowski have now spoken among USD faculty.

Still to come are talks by Biology Professor Geoff Morse on Nov. 16 — "The Miniscule Majority: Why Insects Dominate the Planet" — and Theology and Religious Studies Professor Emily Reimer-Barry on Dec. 7 discusses "Marriage for Life: Rethinking Catholic Teachings on Marriage in an Era of HIV and AIDS." Both events start at 6 p.m. in Mother Rosalie Hill Hall's Warren Auditorium and are free and open to the public.

Clack said more USD faculty are scheduled for spring semester lecture events as well as one event talk by a prominent humanities education expert. Dates for those events will be announced at a later time.

— Ryan T. Blystone

Photos by Nick Abadilla