Author! Author! Faculty research leads to new book publishing

Faculty authors’ work ‘advances our reputation, informs teaching, and contributes to our understanding of the world,’ Provost DiLorenzo says

From left: Jared Keengwe, Cynthia Prescott, Helene Weldt-Basson and Forrest Ames are among the faculty who have written books in the last year. Also featured in the story, but not pictured here, is Sean Valentine. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

UND Professor Jared Keengwe has been busy researching and writing, publishing a series of research handbooks on pedagogical models for next-generation teaching, research on global competencies, and virtual training and mentoring of online instructors.

“Writing places us into the marketplace of ideas,” said Keengwe, professor of teaching, leadership & professional practice in the College of Education & Human Development. “There are a lot of avenues for scholars. When I see a gap in knowledge or a need for current information, I start researching and writing.” Keengwe said that what he likes most about writing is the opportunity to connect with the international community of scholars.

Jared Keengwe. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

“When I write, I do not write for myself, but for an international audience,” he said.

Keengwe is one of a number of UND faculty members who published books or manuscripts in the last year, five of whom are featured here. Their work promotes UND and the value of teaching, and helps the University move to Carnegie R1 research status (Goal 4, Enhance Discovery, of the UND Strategic Plan).

In recognition of the scholarship success of our faculty, the provost’s office is hosting a faculty author reception to celebrate those who have published books between 2017-19.  “We are fortunate to have such outstanding faculty at UND,” said Provost Tom DiLorenzo. “Their scholarship advances our reputation, informs teaching, and contributes to our understanding of the world.  That is impressive.”  Senior Vice Provost Debbie Storrs agreed and added, “the reception allows us to pause in our busy schedules to thank our faculty, recognize the significance of their work, and ensure we provide opportunities for faculty to connect across disciplines.”

Pioneer monuments: driving the conversation

Research and books can drive conversation, said Cynthia Prescott , whose book on pioneer mother monuments grew out of her first book on early settlers in Oregon. Her website, pioneermonuments.net, features maps, walking and driving tours, and more about pioneer monuments.

Cynthia Prescott. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

The book focuses on monuments to pioneers that can be found throughout the west, said the professor of history. What began as a comprehensive study of pioneer monuments became a discussion of how settlers were depicted and how reaction to the statues has changed.

“The book is really timely,” said Prescott. When she began researching the statues in about 2003, people were not talking about monuments, and many did not know they existed. “That changed in 2015, when we saw public protests of Confederate statues.”

The way people view frontier life today and how that view differs from historical documents has always interested Prescott, and that research led to her books.

“My hope is that the book can help bridge the divide between academics and the general public,” said Prescott. “Historians are usually writing to each other. I intended this book for a general audience to help them understand the local history of statues. Now, it is also an opportunity to speak to the important ongoing debates about statues.”

“I enjoy engaging in scholarly debate and discussing big ideas at an academic conference or even with a neighbor,” Prescott said. “I enjoy talking about ideas, and looking at how examples add up to a whole. That is exciting to me.”

Human resources: helping define the field

Sean Valentine agrees.

“The best part of writing a book is helping define the field and how it is taught,” said the Robert Page Endowed Professor of Leadership and Ethics, who co-authors a popular  human resources management textbook, now in its 16th edition.

Sean Valentine. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

The book has become something of a standard, and Valentine said that in addition to being used at universities, HR practitioners refer to it, and many use it to study for professional certifications.

“One reason the book is so widely used by both students and practitioners is that we tend to balance academic and practitioner research,” said Valentine. “We cite Wall Street Journal articles, practitioner magazines and academic journals. We let the literature guide us, and we look for trends in HR. We let the natural progression of the field guide what goes into the book.”

Valentine researches corporate ethics and how individuals make ethical decisions. He also does work on whistle-blowing, workplace bullying, and how interpersonal relationships affect ethical reasoning and the corporate environment. His work – and that of his colleagues – often informs the textbook.

“The book is updated every three to four years to keep up with changes in the HR field,” said Valentine. “Laws and legislation change. We do major revisions, and it is quite a lot of work. It takes between a year and a year-and-a-half to complete the revision cycle.”

Compressive flow: Satisfying a need

A book on compressive flow of gas dynamics grew out of a need, said Forrest Ames, professor of mechanical engineering.

“I teach courses on gas turbines, aerodynamics and fluid dynamics,” said Ames. “They all have compressive flow, and I had used another book as a supplement.” As the cost of the supplemental book rose, he felt he could provide more detail and value. A publisher agreed, and Ames began writing, with the condition that UND students could get the volume at half-price.

Forrest Ames. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

“I wrote it for a course.” Ames said. “It is not written for the mass market, but I hope others use it. I hope they find it concise and clear.”

The book is part of a series of short technical books, Ames said, adding that the publisher has asked him to consider writing a second volume.

Ames took an applied sabbatical at the University of Minnesota, where he spent a semester writing the book, using notes from teaching.

“I am familiar and comfortable with the material,” he said. “It was nice to have the time to concentrate. The least fun part was developing solutions for the homework problems I dreamed up!”

Three books in a year

“The best part of writing is when you have an idea and something to say,” said Helene Weldt-Basson, professor of languages, who published three books in 2018.

“I was juggling three projects, and they all came out in one year,” she said. “It was challenging, but I have good organizational skills and have learned to manage my time well and work in advance.”

Helene Weldt-Basson. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

Her book on postmodern parody in Latin American Literature has been well received. She was working on a critical edition and translation of The Prosecutor, the last book of a trilogy by internationally known Paraguayan author Augusto Roa Bastos, when she had the idea for a book on parody.

“I thought it would be interesting to look at postmodern parody, since nothing had been done on parody in Latin American literature for a while,” she said, adding that she invited other scholars to contribute essays to the book.

Weldt-Basson is a specialist on Roa Bastos, and received an honorary doctorate for her work on him. She wanted to produce a critical translation of The Prosecutor so the entire trilogy would be available in English.

“I felt the last book in the trilogy should be translated,” she said.

“The book is not well-known in the United States, but it is an important book in Paraguay,” said Weldt-Basson. “I felt that the last book in the trilogy should be translated.”

She also wrote a critical analysis in Spanish of Gunter’s Winter by Juan Manuel Marcos, focusing on postmodernity in Paraguay. She said the book is disguised as a detective novel but is symbolic of the dictatorship in Paraguay.

“The exciting thing about writing is the challenge to get thoughts on paper,” she said. “It is a satisfying feeling to have a finished product.”