Research Enhancement at Soka University

In parallel with our initiatives to enhance teaching, we launched several programs to help support and incentivise faculty research at Soka University.  One of our initial efforts was to include Soka University of America in leading databases such as SCOPUS and SCIVAL, and so in my first year as Dean, I managed to get these databases to include Soka University and several other small liberal arts colleges to their databases to enable tracking of faculty research output.  This allows for a benchmark and a method for measuring progress. In the years as Dean of Faculty, I worked closely with my Associate Dean Michael Wiener and our Sponsored Research Officer, Shuna McMichaels to help highlight and incentivize faculty research. These efforts include several tracks, described below.

To enhance the visibility of the faculty scholarship, we sponsored a monthly “meet the author” talk by faculty members, where they would give a presentation about their most recent book, article or artistic work to our university community. These events, organised by Michael Wiener, took place in our Athenaeum, and allowed for faculty to learn more about each other’s scholarship and also engage in discussions afterwards over a nice catered reception. A series of these talks took place over AY 2018-19 and AY 2019-20.  In addition to the community-building event, I worked with the SUA library to improve the representation of faculty works on our library website and in the physical exhibits at the library. The library kindly moved aside some of the displays in the entry to the library and made space for two bookshelves and display cases to showcase (literally) the amazing scholarship of our university community. This culminated in a wonderful faculty research reception on May 2, 2019, at the SUA library, attended by over 20 faculty to celebrate faculty research. The short news items about this sent to all faculty is below.

Faculty Works Exhibit at the Library. We have had a wonderful opening of the Faculty Works exhibit at the library – thanks to Esther Chang, Junyi Liu and Hiroko Tomono for their wonderful efforts bringing the exhibit together. Please do stop by when you have a chance. We also are discussing with the library about having additional events like our last Friday reception at the library to encourage faculty discussions about their intellectual pursuits and enjoy leaning more about each other’s research projects.  We also have an online directory of faculty works created by the library at this location:

Along with the physical display of faculty books, manuscripts and works of art, we also have a catalog of faculty publications from the last five years available on our Portal.  This document, showed the wide range of faculty publications and was a helpful document for sharing the SUA scholarship with others. A PDF of this document and cover of the booklet is available below. Faculty research citations.ver.May3.2019

Alongside these great community-building events, the Associate Dean Michael Wiener and I worked together to provide course relief for exceptionally productive scholars within our faculty and a Merit Award program in which a review of the past two years of faculty publications provided the basis for recognition in an awards banquet, in which our university President, VPAA and Dean all celebrated the accomplishments of the faculty. They also received a cash bonus as well to recognise their hard work in producing excellent scholarship while also teaching our students at SUA. Our ratings for publication output followed a precise algorithm, whereby we awarded points for the quality of the publications that faculty were using for their journal articles, and the quality of the university presses used for monographs. Quantifying this system was a challenge but necessary to assure fairness in the program. Our journal ratings were based on a mix of journal metrics from Scopus, Scimago, and other websites, while our Monographs were rated according to rankings available at AAUP and Elsevier. An excerpt of these journal and monograph ratings from our memo to faculty is below:

Journals: Guides for citation rates and quality of journals in Sciences, Medicine, Social Sciences, Health, Arts and Humanities:

Monographs: Resources for finding high quality book publishers and academic presses:

The process for enhancing and incentivising faculty scholarship is ongoing, and in my new position as Vice President for Sponsored Research and External Academic Relations, I look forward to helping advance faculty in their research with externally funded grants, and to work to foster collaborations with liberal arts peer institutions and also with R1 universities. Together these efforts will help our students at SUA have a deeper and more rewarding undergraduate experience, as faculty can help them connect to the most urgent questions in their fields and to work alongside them in creating new knowledge and artistic creations in our libraries, laboratories, and studios. Below is a photo from our May 2019 Merit Award banquet which is described at the SUA website in this story –