King's Research Plan (2007)
Enhancing a Spirit of Enquiry (2007)
King’s University College reaffirms the importance of research in the fulfilment of its academic mission. Through this research plan the College seeks to expand discipline based research and encourage collaborative and cross disciplinary research initiatives in support of its faculty and programs.
The Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, states, as an “essential characteristic” of a Catholic University, that it be “a place of research, where scholars scrutinize reality with the methods proper to each academic discipline, and so contribute to the treasury of human knowledge”; and where the disciplines are “studied in a systematic manner” and “brought into dialogue for their mutual enhancement.”
The creation of a Research Plan for King’s University College is consistent with this defining characteristic of a Catholic University and with the objective in Vision, Values and Learning , “to pursue truth openly and collegially by actively encouraging academic excellence.”
Accordingly, the College is committed to encouraging and recognizing faculty research as well as a holistic and collaborative approach to research that adds breadth to the traditional disciplines and enhances the delivery of our interdisciplinary programs.
Enhancing a Spirit of Inquiry is an expression of the College’s commitment to
- encourage research and scholarship
- develop its research profile
- complement the research profile of the constituent university
- enrich its courses and programs
- expand the research opportunities available to students
- highlight areas of expertise and its social justice and spiritual orientation
- promote collaborative research initiatives and multidisciplinarity
- provide a context for research chairs and research fellows
- attract talented students and faculty
- increase funding opportunities in support of research initiatives
- introduce distinctive high calibre graduate programs
This Research Plan seeks to place the research activities of our faculty within a context that recognizes our uniqueness as (1) a primarily undergraduate institution of higher learning where the importance of teaching is emphasized; (2) a publicly funded institution affiliated with The University of Western Ontario, one of the premier research intensive universities in the country; and (3) a liberal arts institution, sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of London and committed to the enhancement of the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Goals and Objectives of the Research Plan
To cultivate a research environment at the College that encourages group and individual research projects as well as other scholarly activities that promote academic excellence and enhance instructional programs.
To strengthen and extend interdisciplinary, inter institutional and community research partnerships.
To foster research collaboration through the building of national and international networks.
To gain increased recognition regionally, nationally and internationally as a university college with distinctive research areas and graduate programs within the broader University of Western Ontario academic community.
To increase theoretical and applied research that will promote human rights and social justice.
To increase research that will enhance knowledge and understanding of religious traditions and values in general and Catholic traditions and values in particular.
To encourage the research opportunities associated with current and future approved academic centres at King’s.
To increase external and internal resources and opportunities for research and scholarship in conjunction with The University of Western Ontario and the other affiliated university colleges.
To increase internal resources at the College for research and scholarship, including our ITS and Library services.
To provide researchers with information, support, and mentoring in conjunction with Research Western.
To facilitate the contribution to research by student researchers.
Thematic Clusters and Research Initiatives
The compartmentalization of knowledge into the traditional disciplines in the arts and social sciences serves to identify broad areas of expertise. The issues of our day, however, do not easily lend themselves to this taxonomy and in recent decades, research and academic program development have begun to reflect this reality. The baccalaureate structure adopted by the University of Western Ontario allows for degree programs with modular combinations from different disciplines. The traditional programs at King’s complement a range of interdisciplinary and professional programs such as Social Work, Management and Organizational Studies, Childhood and Social Institutions, Social Justice and Peace Studies, and Thanatology that study the human experience from a broad range of perspectives. The increasingly complex and interdisciplinary nature of research forces us to take a step back and apply a taxonomy that recognizes a multidisciplinary perspective in each of its categories.
The work of our researchers falls into three thematic clusters, Society and Human Behaviour, Culture and the Human Experience, and Religion and Spirituality. These three clusters are by no means mutually exclusive and are not intended to be. They simply speak to the social, experiential, and spiritual perspectives that are reflected in the disciplines of the Social Sciences and Humanities.
Society and Human Behaviour
Consistent with its Catholic and liberal arts roots, King’s University College has a tradition of research on the dignity and well-being of the individual in the context of community. The human condition is examined at the individual level, in groups and collectives, and in social structures. In each of these settings researchers focus on the factors that influence well-being, justice and behaviour. Faculty members within disciplines in the social sciences, as well as our School of Social Work, and our interdisciplinary Social Justice and Peace Studies, Childhood and Social Institutions, and Thanatology programs examine the forces and factors that are responsible for stresses, tensions, and conflict as well as those that promote resolution, well-being and social justice.
Culture and the Human Experience
The study of artistic representation and the communication of human experience are at the core of the liberal-arts tradition of learning in which King’s University College participates and are essential to Catholicism’s esteem for the human in all its manifestations. Humanity is shaped by its historical experience and communicates that experience through its culture. Researchers with initiatives in this cluster seek to understand how we are conscious of our identity and how we experience and express our humanity within Canada and elsewhere, in literature, in culture, and through our historical and philosophical works.
Religion and Spirituality
Although one can argue that this cluster can be subsumed by the other two, it must stand alone as a defining characteristic of a Catholic University. In this context, Ex Corde Ecclesiae requires an “institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family” and research that “necessarily includes (a) the search for an integration of knowledge, (b) a dialogue between faith and reason, (c) an ethical concern, and (d) a theological perspective.” Research in this cluster focuses on the Catholic intellectual, social, and moral tradition and on humanity’s search for spirituality by way of the many common religious belief systems and traditions.
The three thematic research clusters and sub-clusters as they apply to the work of our faculty are summarized in the table below.
Society and Human Behaviour
Culture and the Human Experience
Religion and Spirituality
Governance and Civil Society
Theological and Textual Studies
Social Justice and Peace
Religion and Society
History of Religious Traditions
Community and the Human Condition
Intellectual and Cultural History
Social, Personality and Cognitive Studies
The boundaries between the sub-clusters and indeed between the thematic clusters themselves are not always as clearly defined as they appear to be in the table. For example, research that concerns children or international missions may have a breadth that spans a number of clusters and sub-clusters and may have spiritual, political, and cultural dimensions. The unit summaries below describe, in very general terms, the central themes that classify the research being done in the various disciplines and interdisciplinary programs at the College and how such work supports the thematic framework described earlier.
Unit Research Summaries
Childhood and Social Institutions
King’s multidisciplinary Childhood program launched in 1999. Although the study of Childhood sometimes involves children, the two are not identical. Childhood is conceptualized as a social category or social status similar to the way various academic disciplines frequently approach gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, and similar sociological phenomena.
Three general approaches characterize the field. Experiential approaches involve studying with children in an attempt to see Childhood through their eyes or, more generally, to provide a means whereby children’s voices can be heard. Studies in this area are mainly qualitative and guided by theories of children as social actors or interpretative beings. For example, how do children view parenting, family breakdown, or quality time? What meanings do children give to their various changing environments (e.g., media, leisure, school, home, peers). What interrelationships among these sometimes competing arenas do children construct?
A second approach is discursive. This examines how institutionally based adult-experts (e.g., policy-makers, curriculum-designers, early-childhood professionals, psychologists, and sociologists) conceptualize and talk about Childhood. This approach is historical as well as contemporary and relies on documents and interviews. A key focus in these studies is on changing conceptions of protection, provision, and participation rights for children.
The third approach is structural. This involves what is happening to Childhood independent of what children or adults are saying and thinking. Examples include intergenerational distributive justice, the economics of childhood, the legal status of children, and the sociography of childhood. This approach relies on quantitative as well as qualitative methods.
Specific projects ongoing and planned projects in our unit include comparative studies how social policies in Canada, Sweden, and the UK impact childhood historically and today a history of the relationship between notions of competence and childhood; the extent to which childhood relevant phenomena have been and could be documented through large-scale national surveys and development of a social citizenship model for child participation in institutional decision-making.
Since the study of History can be all-encompassing there is difficulty in compartmentalizing the Department’s research initiatives. Certainly all members operate from an acceptance of the College’s Christian/Catholic values, and this is most demonstrable in our teaching, where both reprehensible and noble human attributes frequently must be described and explained. In our more elevated research we have faculty doing work in all three Thematic Clusters, sometimes all three at once. Racial issues in America, for example, fit under Social Justice and Peace, Popular Culture, and Ethics. Canadian Studies is a large area, which overlaps with Governance and Civil Society, and to some extent Religion and Society. In broad terms the major weight of our research would fit into Society and Human Behaviour, where political organization and theory, international relations and warfare, and the issue of human conditions in differing societies would be found. However, both the Culture and the Human Experience clusters also receive much attention, particularly in Popular Culture, and Intellectual and Cultural History. Examples would be the slave trade, common attitudes to race issues, and post-war totalitarianism. The Religion and Spirituality Cluster is the one with the least specific attention, but it is impossible to separate its issues from the other clusters. How can one discuss social issues or culture without acknowledging religion’s impact? In short, it seems members of the Department extend their quests for knowledge over a very wide compass.
Management and Organizational Studies
One could make a strong argument that business is the most pervasive force in the world today. Nearly every person in the world is either an employee of a business or a consumer of the products and services businesses provide. Given the immense influence business has on global society, the study of business and its management is inherently multidisciplinary. At King’s MOS faculty undertake both the study of business and the study of the practice of management. These are two distinct areas.
The study of business involves examining businesses as social organizations and how they operate, how they affect and are affected by the societies in which they operate and by their members. Although an imperfect fit, this line of research could be categorized under the heading “Culture and the Human Experience” since the focus is on the study of what is essentially another societal actor.
The central research question for the study of the practice of management is simply and unabashedly “How can firm performance be improved?” Management scholars are of the view that profitable businesses are a good thing for society and therefore seek ways in which firms can increase their profit, and develop and disseminate theories to research colleagues and practicing managers. The research in this area at King’s balances the philosophical need to create knowledge with the practical need to deliver findings to managers. Given the central role of business in society, this type of research is best described under the heading “Society and Human Behaviour” because it includes the collection and analysis of individual, group, and firm-level data.
Faculty in Modern Languages conduct research on the breadth of artistic representation and the communication of the human experience across the histories of English, French, Canadian and American literatures, as well as conducting interdisciplinary investigation in such sister arts as graphics, music, fine art, and the media of popular culture. These researchers engage with the social, political, and intellectual cultures of many of the eras and states in which art has been produced and critically received. As editors, they are devoted to the reproduction of that art for today’s audiences in both traditional (book) and innovative (digital) forms. As practitioners of both literary criticism and cultural studies, they also reflect on themselves as agents in historical process.
Philosophy and Religious Studies
In keeping with the College’s Catholic mission and Ex Corde Ecclesiae, faculty in Philosophy and Religious Studies are concerned with research that includes epistemology, the integrative role of theology, and a continuing reflection on the relationship between faith and reason and on the moral and ethical issues of our time.
The work of faculty in this area focuses on the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual condition of the human experience. Research in Philosophy includes the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of science, medical ethics, the theory of knowledge, William James, philosophical anthropology, twentieth-century continental philosophy, phenomenology, and theories of subjectivity and culture. In Religious Studies researchers examine Catholic moral theology, professionalism, religion and violence, and Roman Catholic systematic theology as it pertains to the Church, the sacraments, and the ecumenical movement. Research work in Religious Studies at King’s has recently begun to encompass other belief systems and world religions. In this vein, researchers are examining Buddhism and Hinduism, and are studying scripture through the lens of hybridity.
The Political Science Department at King’s University College undertakes its research under the overarching commitment to the Catholic nature of the College. It takes into account the issues of ethics, religious tradition, social justice and peace within its study of governance and civil society, international studies, intellectual and cultural history, community and the human condition, and Canadian studies. The core research expertise of the department is in the areas of subnationalist conflict and the fragmentation of societies, and the institutions, behaviours, cultures, and identities bound up in governance and civil society.
Understanding individual psychological processes, and how these come into play in our social interactions, are essential parts of the study of the well-being of persons. Several of the faculty at King’s are engaged in research on basic questions regarding the nature of consciousness, perceptual and cognitive processes, and motivation. Others examine social functioning of individuals, emphasizing the impact of social influence and the nature of prejudice. Additionally, there are faculty members with research interests directly addressing practical issues within the educational and legal domains, as well as in clinical psychology.
An important element of Catholic/ Christian values and social teachings is a concern for the poorest members of society. Through research and teaching, faculty in the School of Social Work focus on the human condition, oppression, social and economic justice, as well as individual, collective, and social change.
Faculty research in the School of Social Work encompasses all three thematic clusters and includes a range of cross cultural, interdisciplinary, international, national, community, and individual based approaches. Some examples are: Chinese youth in conflict with the law, domestic violence in southern China, team work in primary health care, population health and social determinants of health, national studies of workfare and employee assistance programs, social work and spirituality, and bereavement and care-giving. Faculty research interprets and challenges connections between policy and practice: studying resiliency in child protection, homelessness and housing, addictions and mental health programs, child legal representation and family law. Forms of inquiry implement structural, anti-oppressive, psychosocial, feminist and postmodernist approaches combined with quantitative and qualitative methodology, evidence based research, narrative /post modern and reflective practice, and program/policy evaluation. Social Work research at King’s University College complements research in other disciplines and interdisciplinary programs by focusing on human dignity and potential, and the manner in which these are realized and sustained.
Social Justice and Peace Studies
Research in areas related to social justice and/or peace is not limited to faculty teaching in Social Justice and Peace Studies. Indeed, an examination of research activity of our faculty in Economics, Sociology, Psychology, History, Modern Languages, Political Science, Religious Studies, Childhood and Social Institutions, Social Work, and Thanatology suggests that this may well be the most encompassing research theme at the College. Consider, for example, the following research interests from across the College: the nature of prejudice, and eye-witness memory research (Psychology); international welfare, globalization, and child welfare (Social Work); popular culture and critical theory (Modern Languages); subnationalist conflict, and the fragmentation of societies (Political Science), religion and violence, religion and conflict resolution, Catholic Social Teachings, and the principle of peacemaking (Religious Studies and Social Justice and Peace Studies); social inclusion and exclusion, the politics of difference and recognition, civic engagement (Social Justice and Peace Studies, Sociology); critical analysis of extant social arrangements and their differential impacts upon peoples from diverse backgrounds, leadership within social movements, income poverty in Canada (Sociology); race and discrimination issues, warfare, totalitarianism (History); comparative social policy analysis, social citizenship, and child participation (Childhood and Social Institutions). This list is far from exhaustive, but it clearly illustrates that Social Justice and Peace Studies is one of the key research themes across all of our disciplines and suggests the strong potential for further collaborative interdisciplinary work in this area.
The Department of Sociology has several thematic foci, with a shared emphasis on the study of human social behaviour. The main areas of concentration include both a macro-sociological emphasis on societal and institutional stability/change and the micro-sociological analysis of interpersonal dynamics and cultural symbols. The department enjoys significant disciplinary cross-fertilization, with cultural anthropology strongly represented and several scholars actively engaged in cross-cultural research. More generally, the department stresses the complementarity of sociological theory and a plurality of research methods to investigate social phenomena. Finally, sociology has an applied dimension that focuses on social-justice issues and a critical analysis of extant social arrangements and their differential impacts upon peoples from diverse backgrounds.
Faculty in the Thanatology program are engaged in both the theoretical and clinical dimensions of grief and bereavement, primarily in the sub clusters Community and the Human Condition and Social, Personality and Cognitive Studies. Research initiatives include women’s experiences of reproductive loss, ethical issues in women’s reproductive health, the connection between shame and death, and terror-management theory, collaborative work in the area of lifetime losses, diversity and grief, professional-caregiver issues, chronic sorrow in degenerative conditions, and losses across the lifespan. Faculty in this field have backgrounds in a wide range of traditional disciplines, and their research work is informed by studies in psychology, social work, the health sciences, philosophy, and religious studies.
King’s University College places a high value on research that enhances the dignity and well-being of the human person. In keeping with the defining characteristic of a Catholic University it recognizes that research complements its commitment to excellence in teaching and is integral to the search for truth and for the enhancement of the social, cultural and spiritual condition of humanity. As a consequence, the College will continue to support and enhance the research opportunities of its faculty and encourage discipline-based, collaborative and interdisciplinary research in support of its research mission.
(Prepared by S. Camiletti)