Initial Publication Date: January 31, 2008

Moving Your Research to a Two-Year College (2YC)

The information below is based on a session at the 2007 Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences Workshop, led by Mike Phillips (Illinois Valley Community College).

Two-year colleges generally expect their faculty to focus most of their energy on teaching, and the remainder of it on service to the school and the broader community. But some two-year college faculty members are interested in continuing the research they began in graduate school. Here's some advice on how to continue scholarly activities at a two-year college.

Jump down to Challenges * Strategies


Getting a research program up and running is a challenge for any new faculty member, but faculty at two-year colleges may face challenges beyond those of their colleagues at four-year colleges and universities:
  • Lack of financial support (institutional)
  • Lack of dedicated research space
  • Lack of time (heavy teaching load)
  • Lack of help
Nonetheless, there are ways to overcome these challenges; the strategies below can help.


Partner with a college or university

Think about what you can offer in a collaborative relationship. For example, you provide local field coordination & expertise; they provide equipment, field assistance, and financial/grant support. One way to become successful is to become an expert on the local geology. Find out who is doing research in your area and see if you (and your students) can participate. Local coordinators can be very valuable as they reduce field work costs, lower barriers to land access, and assist with other logistical issues.

Propose projects with strong educational components

Your institution wants you to focus on teaching, so make sure that the research you do has a strong educational focus, and they will be likely to support it. Your majors and pre-service teachers gain much more from doing geology than they do from just hearing about it in the classroom. If you incorporate research experiences into your course load, you also maximize your own time. Research can be part of a regular course (ie. lab topics, extra credit, honors projects) or a special topics or summer course.

Think about possible university partnerships here, too; one of the broader impacts NSF is looking for is the involvement of underrepresented groups in research. Two-year colleges often have much higher percentages of students from underrepresented groups than nearby four-year colleges and universities.

Work on research that will benefit the local community

Since most 2-year schools are community focused, a local project or a project with a local angle is usually more enticing. Projects that include students are also favored because of the education focus typical of two-year schools.

Communicate how your work supports your institution's mission

It is always good practice to develop a good relationship with your supervisor and let them know what you are doing and how it impacts student learning and the local community. Two-year schools like to promote their local involvement and student focus in the local media. Local promotion often results in additional opportunities when local people want to become involved or local leaders request additional work.

Reduce your teaching load

If you have an opportunity to work on a grant-funded project, see if your college will allow you some release time the grant writers can use as part of the in-kind contribution to the grant. If it is a large, career-enhancing project, look into your college's sabbatical policy. You may be able to take a semester off with pay, work half-time for a year, or make other arrangements that will free you for field work.