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Professor and student co-author academic article

December 22, 2015

When we think of professor-student research collaboration, the humanities usually are not the first subjects to come to mind. Academic research in the sciences is easier to see and is usually more publicized. Just this year, NNU faculty and students have studied large cats in Costa Rica, launched an experimental payload with NASA, and researched fire monitoring and assessment technology; however, these science research projects are not the only professor-student research collaboration taking place at NNU.

This year, professor-student research in the humanities reached print. Dr. Benjamin Fischer, English professor and head pastor of Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church, and Philip Derbesy, a 2013 graduate, researched together while Derbesy was still a student at NNU. This research project eventually led to the writing and publication of a scholarly article, “Literary Catholicity: an Alternate Reading of Influence in the Work of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton.”

“As with all research, it began with an inclination,” Fischer replied when asked what placed “Literary Catholicity” in motion. After finding a surplus of similarities in the work of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, Fischer recruited Derbesy to partner with him to better understand the correlation between the two authors.

“Most people don’t know what research in the humanities looks like, so many students don’t even think to ask.”
For the next six months, Derbesy would read and research Lewis’s and Chesterton's work while frequently meeting with Dr. Fischer to discuss the findings. After collaborating, Derbesy and Fischer started writing the article; Derbesy presented the evidence while Fischer constructed the introduction, conclusion and interpretation of the evidence.

Once the article was complete, the co-authors sent it to Brill Academic Publishers to be reviewed and critiqued. The article was immediately accepted and sent to Lewis and Chesterton experts to confirm credibility and to make suggestions. After six months, the article was returned Fischer and Derbesy. Reviewing the suggestions and making some adjustments, they re-submitted the article, and Brill Academic Publishers put “Literary Catholicity” in print.

Dr. Fischer’s research project with Derbesy was not his first professor-student research collaboration. In NNU’s Language, Literature, and Cultural Studies Department, professor-student research is continuous, yet many are oblivious to it. “Most people don’t know what research in the humanities looks like, so many students don’t even think to ask,” explained Dr. Fischer.

Many of his teacher’s assistants and other interested students have partnered with Fischer in unique projects focused on religion and the arts. As both an English professor and a pastor of Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church, Dr. Fischer comes across many atypical English research topics. For example, one research project consisted of the transcription of a collection of old missionary letters.

Besides receiving an opportunity for in-depth, unique research, professor-student collaboration also helps humanities students in future education and careers. When asked about the value of research for students such as Derbesy, Dr. Fischer commented, “English graduate programs are very difficult to be accepted into, so co-authoring this article helped Philip get into graduate school.”

Following his graduation from NNU in 2013, Philip Derbesy earned his MA degree from University of Missouri (‘15) and is currently enrolled in Case Western Reserve University’s Ph.D. program.

The accessibility of professors and quality research at NNU has created opportunities for students such as Derbesy achieve their goals.

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