“Research across boundaries.”
That serves as the call to action for Bentley’s Thought Leadership Networks, first funded as a pilot initiative in the 2014-2015 academic year and now entering the next stages of their development.
Any individual scholar or discipline might unwittingly approach a complex issue in a parochial manner. These new networks engage a multidisciplinary group of scholars and thought leaders, pushing all to take a broad-based approach and wider view.
This was the vision and hope of then-Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Mike Page, when he authorized the Faculty Research Council to offer up to $90,000 in funding for “exploratory” Thought Leadership Network (TLN) proposals and up to $140,000 for each of the next five years to establish and develop these networks. Page had seen an organic growth in trans-disciplinary research at Bentley in recent years and wanted to harness and support that development in a systematic way. Another goal was expanding faculty partnerships with colleagues at other institutions and with thought leaders in business and other fields.
As TLN Subcommittee chair Dhaval Dave puts it, the networks are “the perfect logical extension of what Bentley is and what it stands for: We’re known as a business fusion university, training students in trans-disciplinary perspectives and knowledge. The TLNs will capitalize on that identity and push it forward in a broad stroke.”
According to Dave, the Stanton Research Professor of Economics, TLNs have the same spirit and intent as initiatives usually funded by much larger institutions. Entities such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities routinely create multidisciplinary, collaborative, coordinated scholarly networks to study an expansive research question or questions on related topics.
In Phase I, the networks created the virtual infrastructure necessary to support research into the chosen questions. The focus was on convening research conversations, identifying priorities and opportunities, and clarifying next steps – essentially mapping the scholarly landscape for the questions at hand.
You can learn more about the following TLNs at their webpages:
Other TLNs are devoted to developing undergraduate/faculty research collaborations at Bentley; expanding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education across the business curriculum; and cybersecurity.
BROAD REACH AND THE FUTURE
TLNs are broader than any single research project or approach, and need not consist only—or even primarily—of Bentley faculty. Participants to date include representatives from Pfizer, Harvard School of Public Health, IBM, public safety agencies, and others. The health care TLN, for example, held a research retreat for Bentley faculty, faculty from other institutions, and other relevant thought leaders in both the public and private sectors.
Both Dave and Page report that the TLNs are a welcome conduit for trans-disciplinary scholarship. They have helped reshape and reinvigorate conversations taking place in faculty hallways on how to bring scholars and other thought leaders together.
Over time, some TLNs may run their logical course, others may emerge as virtual centers of scholarship on a given topic, and still others may become actual research centers at the university. In all cases, TLNs are meant to convene some of the most important research conversations of our day, and to help put Bentley on the map as a leader in such efforts.