Dear new faculty,
I’ve been reading the bios of new faculty on this site (below). I enjoy learning about their research interests and discovering what they have learned from students. At universities we live a powerful reality that should be central to all of human society: we learn from each other.
My own research is in the area of modeling and computational physics – using the tools of mathematics to create understanding and predictions of the behavior of complex physical systems. I had a colleague who once told me all he really wanted students to learn was that mass, momentum, and energy are always conserved. And that from these three apparently trivial statements (themselves fascinating consequences of some simple symmetries of the universe) combined with the logical systems of mathematics, we can describe so much of the world around us, from the behavior of oceans, to ruptures of the earth, to the flow of traffic on a highway, or the flow of humans at a rock concert. I’m fascinated by the powerful utility of simple ideas and the infinite complexity that can arise from simplicity.
A few years ago, I taught a class in Ghana on appropriate technology needs assessment. Most of the students were first and second year, from both the US and from various African nations, but I had a senior along with me to help manage the program. As a growth experience for her, I asked her to give a lecture to the class, and she elected to talk about failures in appropriate technology development. She shared that the well-known group Engineers Across Borders publishes an annual report and analysis of its own failures, so that all could learn from their mistakes. The examples my senior student selected and the impact her presentation made on the younger learners in our class was quite striking to me. Of course, I knew about the value of learning from failure, but I’d never thought to teach failures as a way of learning. Her lesson had a profound impact on approach to the Engineering Across Cultures class that I was teaching at my home university in the US. I began much more systematically to incorporate scrutiny of failures and the investigation of poor analyses into my own teaching.
When I was associate dean in engineering at the University of Michigan, I also had the chance to work with faculty and students in fine arts, and learn from them something of the power of systematic and intentional critique, a mode of inquiry that is fundamental to their teaching and learning.
Through these interactions and many others, I’ve come to believe that the core cultural element of university life is critique. Across our many modes of inquiry, analysis, service, creation, and discovery, this is the common skill that we display. Universities are centers of critique, where creative ideas are born and tempered in the crucible of critical examination.
And of course, I must close by acknowledging, as a nuclear engineering professor, that my colleague was wrong. Mass-Energy is conserved, but not mass and energy separately. But that’s a tale for another day.
James Paul Holloway
Professor of Nuclear Engineering
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Latest faculty opportunities
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), in collaboration with The University of New Mexico Office of the Vice President for Research and the New Mexico Humanities Council (NMHC), is hosting a regional application-writing workshop on March 4, 2020. Participants will learn about the NEH and NMHC programs and initiatives, experience a mock panel session, […] Read More
Join the Center for Teaching Excellence at its Spring conference! This year’s topics will focus on engaging teaching, active learning in the classroom, and metacognition. We invite instructors from main and branch campuses (including faculty, PTIs, graduate students, and other teaching staff) to submit proposals for poster sessions and lightning talks. Dr. Kelly Hogan, STEM […] Read More
Join us for coffee and snacks with one of UNM’s Grand Challenge researchers. Among the questions we will explore: How do UNM researchers identify specific problems to tackle? How do they design their research, and frame questions? What have they discovered so far, and how do they know these discoveries are important? How do they […] Read More
Dr. Koritha Mitchell, an associate professor of English at Ohio State University, will be reviewing two faculty book proposals on March 13. Mitchell is an award-winning author and professional development expert with a specialty in African American literature. She has spoken to scholars at every stage of their careers concerning professional development. The one-on-one book […] Read More
NEW FACULTY ORIENTATION INFORMATION
Save the dates!
UNM’s new faculty are invited to a series of monthly meetings to get acquainted with UNM resources, opportunities and more. Learn more.