Summertime means tick time in Alabama, and three JSU profs — Robert Carter, Chris Murdock and Benjie Blair — are trying to shatter long-held debates about tick-borne Lyme disease and the South, where the sickness isn’t common.
What JSU’s three professorial amigos are doing is neither sexy nor immediately lucrative. But their work, if ultimately successful, could become a piece of a larger puzzle that solves medical questions surrounding Lyme disease and its treatment.
In other words, JSU administrators ought to be proud that three of their university-paid professors are playing with bugs.
Note, however, that JSU is not the quintessential research university that earns annual headlines for out-of-classroom work performed by its tenured professors. JSU is, in all candor, a regional public university in east Alabama. Its purpose is to educate.
JSU, per its online listing of visions, missions, goals and values, is a “learning-centered university.” President Bill Meehan’s online welcome to JSU students describes the school as a “student-centered university.” None of that means professional research isn’t part of the university’s calling. But publicly, the main core of JSU’s mission is clear: teaching students and awarding degrees.
We’re thankful JSU is part of Calhoun County.
Nevertheless, this little tick story iminating from the Friendliest Campus in the South proves that research-oriented projects should be part of JSU’s story. These tick-studying professors are hardly the only ones at JSU who have contributed — or will — to the long-term scholarship in their fields.
The push-and-pull between professors who want to conduct research and administrators who want them to teach is legendary. Financing for projects, whether about ticks or anything else, isn’t bountiful. Defining a professor’s top priority — and that of the university, too — resides at the heart of this discussion.
At JSU, the three tick professors are well on their way to making a mark in their profession. We’re glad they are. We expect JSU’s administrators are, as well.