Andrews University has instituted a senior research professor status for retired faculty. The position allows retired faculty members to remain professionally active with continued affiliation to the university while stepping down from full-time teaching.
University policy states that the status was designed “to provide a mechanism for affiliate and adjunct faculty members to conduct research and interact with other individuals who have interest in their areas of expertise.”
Andrews University president Andrea Luxton explained that “senior research status allows individuals who have otherwise retired to continue having an important presence at the university. It recognizes the significance of their research over the years and provides them an official frame within which to continue that. This, in effect, models to the campus the importance of research,” she said.
Øystein S. LaBianca became an advocate for the creation of the position in 2018 when he began to contemplate retiring from his position as professor of anthropology and archaeology. He noted that “retirement is about three things: purpose, direction, and meaning. For me, that meant being able to continue being active in my profession, but with the luxury of being able to work in a more focused manner on my research.”
The senior research professor position is used at other academic institutions, and LaBianca saw it as a way for him and other professors at Andrews University to continue their research efforts following retirement. LaBianca was the first to be awarded this status with a vote by the University Board of Trustees on March 3, 2020.
Andrews University expects those with this status “to remain active in research activities, including conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications, under university affiliation.” University policy also states that professors “are allowed to apply for and receive external funding for research through the university and may mentor Undergraduate Research Scholars and Graduate Grant in Aid of Research students. Appointees have access to the university library and other specified research facilities and support services.”
LaBianca has utilized his time as senior research professor at his lab in the Siegfried H. Horn Museum, continuing part-time mentoring and teaching as well as organizing direct archaeological projects in Jordan. In addition, he has collaborated with colleagues on grant proposals and contributed written articles to various Festschrifts.
He noted, “My long-term goal is to be able to complete production of the 14-volume Hisban Final Publication series reporting on five decades of research at biblical Heshbon. Ten volumes in this series have already been published, and I am steadily making progress on the remaining four. This would be very difficult to accomplish were it not for this new position.”
Duane McBride, senior research professor and retired professor of sociology, has also been active with this new rank. McBride said he has found that the position allows him to contribute to the advancement of Andrews as a faculty member while continuing his career in a less time-consuming and stressful way. In addition to his research, he also engages in part-time teaching and research mentorship for the university.
“My main project is a 2022/2023 Global Survey of the Seventh-day Adventist church members,” McBride said. “On this project I am working with Karl Bailey, Shannon Trecartin, Alina Baltazar, Petr Cincala, and Rene Drumm. We also recently obtained funding to continue to analyze data from our 2017/2018 global church member survey.”
McBride said that scholarship is definitional to being a university. “Andrews University is the only national comprehensive university in the Adventist system in the U.S. I feel very privileged that I can advance scholarly discourse in my profession and contribute to the advancement of the reputation of our university.”
In addition to LaBianca and McBride, Thomas Shepherd has also received senior research professor status, and Greg Constantine, artist-in-residence and research professor of art emeritus, is in the process of applying for this rank.
To Shepherd, research is an avenue to empower discussions, open new vistas of understanding and build enthusiasm for subjects of discussion. “Research is important to me because it expands our knowledge base of Scripture and its rich blessings in our life,” he said.
In 2021, Shepherd gave three presentations and submitted seven articles and book chapters for publication, with topics ranging from a description of narrative analysis to translation and collaborative studies on specific verses of Scripture. “My senior research status affirms me in focusing attention on important areas of research and provides a university affiliation for my ongoing research in the Gospel of Mark and textual criticism,” he explained. His plans for the future include a major book on narrative analysis and the publication of papers through the Society of Biblical Literature, where he serves as a co-chair of the Mark Passion Narrative Seminar.
Luxton emphasizes the importance of fostering a positive research environment at Andrews, stating, “Those with senior research status provide increased research stature to the university as their continued research is seen as part of the portfolio of research completed by faculty. It also provides an environment rich in research skills that encourages young and emerging scholars among the other faculty and/or students.”