Teaching in the Department of Social Sciences
The primary mission of our faculty is to educate, train, and inspire cadets so that they will be prepared for progressive development throughout their careers as Army officers. Faculty research is an essential adjunct to the principal focus we place on teaching. We strive to meet our objective of providing first-rate instruction in the classroom in part through the encouragement of the growth of intellectual inquiry among faculty and cadets.
Faculty research plays an important role in supporting the academic program at West Point. There are a number of specific advantages that accrue to the faculty through a vigorous research program. A substantive research effort facilitates the continued development of the faculty. Such a program also lends greater prestige to the institution which, in turn, permits the recruitment of better students. An active program of both basic and applied research will provide greater visibility to the West Point faculty and enhance the perceptions of the quality of our teaching staff, both to external audiences and, perhaps more importantly, to ourselves.
Involvement in academic research and policy analysis by our faculty will keep us current on the latest developments in our disciplines and demonstrate the relevance of our subject matter to important public policy issues. Research also provides an opportunity to involve cadets in challenging, real-world problems and produces the excitement of active debate that is essential to a stimulating academic environment. The academic reputation of any institution, including West Point, depends to some extent on the quality of the research conducted there, as evidenced in published works in scholarly, educational, and professional journals, through presentations at academic and professional conferences, or by analysis and policy-development research performed for military and civilian agencies of the government. That academic reputation, in turn, influences the quality of individuals attracted to apply for admission to the Military Academy.
The Department feels strongly that a faculty committed to academic research and policy analysis will have a positive impact on the level of teaching and training of cadets. Our faculty members must seek to provide an intellectually exciting atmosphere in the classroom. This excitement can be achieved, in part, through a faculty engaged in professional activities and pursuing original inquiry. The teacher must be more than an instructor; he or she must be a professionally competent individual and recognized as such by the student. This perception can be enhanced by the instructor's maintenance of contact with his or her discipline outside of the classroom. Research enhances our ability to establish and maintain a classroom environment that is stimulating and conducive to creative work.
We hope there are opportunities where cadets can be integrated into a research project. Research projects provide students the opportunity to pursue independent academic investigation under the supervision of a professional in the field. Through the direction of cadets in research programs or the involvement of the students in the instructor's own research, we hope to instill the qualities of critical judgment, creative imagination, and competence in handling unique situations that a cadet might not gain from routine classroom instruction.
West Point is an undergraduate teaching institution, and we must not lose sight of our primary objective--educating, training, and inspiring cadets. We do not strive to become a major research center, where faculty become so involved in their personal research that it detracts from their teaching and reduces their availability to the students. Our research effort is designed to supplement our fundamental priorities while supporting scholarly inquiry and policy analysis in the disciplines of economics and political science.
The disciplinary interests of the Department of Social Sciences are primary motivation for academic research, but we will afford the greatest possible freedom of maneuver to our faculty in their pursuit of individual research topics. The content of our courses, our unique relationship with various agencies of the Department of Defense, and the extensive contacts with current and former government officials provide the Department of Social Sciences with obvious opportunities for pursuing research in the field of national security policy. Indeed, the Department has a long tradition of important contributions in this area.
The time and resources we have to commit to research are limited, and it is important that our efforts be coordinated to ensure that those resources are used as effectively as possible. Our rotating faculty naturally is concerned primarily with its central function of teaching; consequently, it can be difficult to surmount the time, financial and administrative hurdles involved in the initiation of a major research project. Therefore, we have undertaken efforts that are designed to reduce these impediments. Experience has shown that there are advantages to research projects that include a number of officers who can contribute to the effort. Therefore, there are a number of opportunities where contributions can be made as an integral member of ongoing research programs. Of course, we also encourage individual research projects that support completion of the doctoral degree or that contribute to intellectual growth or the development of public policy.
Faculty members are encouraged to apply for grants for attendance at seminars, workshops and training courses sponsored by government agencies when such participation benefits their teaching mission or research efforts. Stipends or assistance received for participation in these courses must be handled in accordance with the Dean's Policy and operating Memorandum (DPOM) 5-2. Prior to soliciting or accepting any institutional grant or gift, faculty members should carefully review this memorandum and consult with the Department's Research Officer and the USMA Assistant Dean for Academic Research.
The Office of the Dean has established procedures through which faculty may request funding assistance to support their research efforts. Each spring and fall the Dean's Academic Research Division solicits proposals for research funds allocated one of these individuals for assistance in preparing his or her product for publication or presentation.
The pedagogic breadth of the Department of Social Sciences is unusual; our department represents the equivalent of three or four departments in many civilian colleges and universities. We encourage our faculty to maintain close contacts with their professional colleagues in the academic world, not only through research activities but by the establishment of scholarly interchanges. Interested officers are encouraged to attend learned society meetings and conferences in order to keep abreast of the latest developments and to broaden our contacts with the civilian academic community.
We also maintain close liaison with a number of agencies of the federal government. The Department of Social Sciences has a tradition of both analytical and personnel support to agencies of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the Council of Economic Advisors, as well as both houses of the Congress. The establishment of close ties with these agencies enables our faculty to stay abreast of contemporary developments in our professional endeavors. The Department frequently places officers on temporary assignment with these agencies in the summer, and subsequent tours of duty are facilitated through this liaison. Department members and alumni are sometimes referred to as the "Lincoln Brigade," a reference to the late General George (Abe) Lincoln, the Department head who was instrumental in developing the concept of the soldier-scholar, so many of whom rose to positions of the greatest responsibility. (Lincoln Hall is named in honor of General Lincoln.) This tradition of service in the broader national security community continues as a trademark of the Department.
Research is an important aspect of our efforts to provide an effective, open, exciting teaching and learning environment. Of course, each member of the Department must balance his or her teaching responsibilities with an appropriate mix of administrative, extracurricular, and research activities. No two members of the Department will strike exactly the same balance across the range of their endeavors during their tours. For those who wish to pursue a research project or agenda, however, the Department will provide support (scholarly, advisory, financial, and moral) to the greatest extent possible.