Researcher Spotlight: Ruth Chen
Feb 1, 2022
Dr. Ruth Chen’s research in educational scholarship has evolved over the years, reflecting her educational and work interests at each stage.
Her earliest research projects go back to her undergraduate studies. Although she was a science major, she also took courses in social sciences. “I sought out advisors in social sciences and wanted to work on research projects with that focus. I didn’t have interest in doing basic science research outside of what we had to do for our degree,” she says with a chuckle.
Things changed in graduate school. “By that time, my research was more focused in the health sciences and applied. A thesis was a component of my studies. My interests were geared toward nurse practitioner roles and the implementation of pediatric nurse practitioners in underserved populations in the United States,” she explains.
Recently her research has focused on faculty development and education technologies. “After finishing my nurse practitioner training and master’s degree, I thought I was going to move toward more clinical practice, so my research focused on asthma management and pediatric cardiology. After I went back to get my PhD, I made a shift towards education scholarship. At the time, there was a big shift towards educational technology and approaches to learning using technology. That was the focus of my PhD work,” she notes.
In 2002, Chen joined the School of Nursing at McMaster. In 2017, she was appointed assistant dean, academic resources & department education coordinator. This involved overseeing part-time instructors and clinical faculty appointees to ensure the instructional needs of the school were met. “When I took on that role, I moved towards research topics that would be overlapping with that position, like faculty development,” she says. Chen has recently completed her term as assistant dean in the SON, and is beginning as the assistant dean, faculty development for the Faculty of Health Sciences. She is continuing as department education coordinator for the School of Nursing.
Her research and educational scholarship projects continue as well. “Most recently, I have been really interested in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in academic institutions. We have just finished a scoping review of student perceptions of faculty diversity in higher education. It highlighted how students are looking at faculty and administration composition and they want the faculty and their administrators to reflect the diversity of the student body. The increasingly diverse student body across higher education institutions is not well represented in the faculty and administration,” she says.
One thing that Chen enjoys the most about research is the opportunity to collaborate with others across disciplines and professions to pursue a common topic of interest. “There are many opportunities for interdisciplinary and interprofessional collaboration, and these partnerships allow for continuous exposure to a broad range of perspectives, for ideas to be challenged and strengthened, and for diverse groups to work together towards shared goals in healthcare and academia,” says Chen.
For new researchers and educational scholars, she offers the following advice: “Identify a mentor, or mentors, who are committed to your professional development. These mentors can offer support, sponsorship, and exposure to the multiple paths there are in research, and academia in general, and you can get guidance early on with how to pursue a path that interests you.”