Professional development drives the Gopman Research Fund

Dr. Beth Alswanger Gopman is a believer in excellence, particularly as it pertains to teaching and its impact on improving our communities. Excellence in teaching often includes the capacity to research and data, and that typically costs money. Working with former Associate Provost for Academic Programs Dr. Patte Brewer, Dr. Gopman established the Herbert L. and Dr. Beth I. Alswanger Gopman Research Fund in 2009, with a goal to support the research, scholarly activity, and research-based teaching projects of UI&U faculty and administrators.

By providing funds for professional development of faculty and staff, the Gopman Research Fund encourages excellence in teaching and supports the university’s continued vision to provide students with a relevant education that brings life to Union’s mission to engage, enlighten, and empower adults to pursue professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility.

The Gopman Research Fund, the only one of its kind to date at Union, has allowed our faculty to fulfill professional and personal goals, which in turn, makes them better professors and mentors to our students.

Since its inception, the fund has provided support for four projects initiated and implemented by faculty to further areas of interest and scholarship. The faculty recipients and projects are listed below.

Recipients and Projects

2016 Christopher J. Voparil, Ph.D., Faculty, Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program.
PROJECT TITLE: Richard Rorty and Social Justice.
The grant allowed Dr. Voparil to conduct first hand research on Dr. Richard Rorty, an influential American philosopher and social justice scholar whose papers are archived at the University of California, Irvine. His research focused on two particular dimensions of his work: 1) his theoretical contribution to current debates on justice, using the wealth of unpublished essay housed at UC Irvine; and 2) biographical data on Rorty’s own efforts on behalf of social justice, about which there is little knowledge, including his work with Amnesty International. Dr. Voparil is researching Rorty for a book on his contributions to current debates on social justice and his work with Amnesty International.

2015 Thomas Frederick, Ph.D., Faculty, Bachelor’s programs; Frank Scala, M.Ed., Faculty, Bachelor’s programs and Chair, Education major; Robert Cotter, M.Ed., Director of Information Technology and Director, Center for Teaching and Learning.
PROJECT TITLE: Take One…Action.

This project was a collaboration designed to assist faculty with the development of personally produced videos to be used online as teaching tools. This grant enabled the training of more than 25 faculty members on basic video production techniques. The faculty members who successfully completed the training were rewarded with an Articulate Replay license, a software application that integrates a web camera, lecture slides and narration into a single video file. Faculty can also easily develop screencasts for demonstrations and simulations with this application. The program is being assessed for continual improvement but has made a difference in the quality of Union’s online instruction and student engagement.

2013 Woden S. Teachout, Ph.D., Faculty, Master of Arts program.
PROJECT TITLE: Oral History Project on Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan
Dr. Teachout travelled to Kyrgyzstan as a Fulbright Scholar. She researched bride kidnapping which is a real and ongoing phenomenon in Kyrgyzstan and it has been widely studied by sociologists and anthropologists, but the voices of the participants themselves have not been part of the scholarly conversation. Using the resources and training from the grant, Dr. Teachout mentored Kyrgyz colleagues and a Peace Corps volunteer in developing a large oral history collection: nearly 50 interviews from brides who stayed, brides who escaped, grooms, family members and neighbors. It has been an important project both in terms of capacity development for Kyrgyz scholars and also in providing a perspective on bride kidnapping. She and her primary Kyrgyz colleague just finished editing a book of the histories that will be published in Kyrgyz and Russian, aimed at a Kyrgyz audience so that they have an understanding of the real legacies of this practice. Dr. Teachout is also conceptualizing a book project based on the experience.

2011 Joseph Nolan, Ph.D., Doctoral Faculty.
PROJECT TITLE: Technology for Teacher Preparation and Professional Development in Countries of Crisis and Poverty: A Feasibility Study.
Dr. Nolan’s abstract was a feasibility study of the possibilities of a simplified teacher preparation and professional development to be delivered to countries of crisis, conflict or poverty through e-learning. The purpose of his research was to examine the feasibility of providing, through existing free online learning platforms, social networking, and information networks, to provide preservice teacher education and professional development on a simplistic level in modularized formats to aid the teacher with a scarcity of time and net accessibility.

About the Gopmans:

Lifelong philanthropists, the Gopmans are deeply involved in their local community and staunch supporters of higher education at every level. While studying for her Ph.D. at Union, Dr. Gopman explored the needs of children with mental and physical disabilities, and developed a pilot study focused on the positive and natural socialization of siblings of special needs children within school settings. Her studies culminated in the development of an implementable instructional curriculum titled, Tolerance: Our Voice. She graduated in 2009.
Dr. Gopman and her husband, Herbert, support education and other nonprofit organizations. She serves on the board of directors of the Hearing and Speech Center of Florida, as well as on the Board of Directors of the South Florida Touchdown Club Foundation. In 2007, Dr. Gopman received a certificate of appreciation from the Miami Beach, FL, city commission honoring her work with the city’s Community Development Advisory Committee and the Miami Beach Commission on the Status of Women. She was also recognized for her outstanding community service and giving spirit by the Crescent City Juneteenth Commission which presented the Phillip Randolph Phenomenal Woman Quiet Soldier award to Dr. Gopman in June 2014. She and her husband are also active in bringing attention to problems facing veterans in the United States.