Board of Regents approve two NSU faculty grant proposals worth $138,303 to enhance academic programs


Two faculty grant proposals from Northwestern State University worth $138,303 have been approved for funding by the State Board of Regents through the Regents Support Fund.

The proposal, “Enhancement of Methods Course Offerings through the Acquisition of Musical Instruments” by Dr. J. Mark Thompson, professor of music – low brass in the Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts, was funded for $110,228.00. Assistant Professor of Music – Music Education Dr. Mitchell Davis is project director and co-principal investigator for the grant project. “Enhancement of Automation, Robotics and Operation Research Infrastructure for Engineering Technology” by Associate Professor of Engineering Technology Dr. Xinjia Chen received $ 28,075.00.

Thirty-two proposals were funded at the state’s public and private universities. The proposal by Thompson and Davis was number three overall and Chen’s was ranked ninth.

Northwestern State has a long history of preparing students to become music educators. There are 102 students enrolled in a music education track containing instrumental music. Each student must complete the sequence of methods courses necessary to train them how to perform and teach each instrument necessary for success as a P-12 music educator.

“To be most effective in this task, it is essential to have sufficient numbers of each instrument on hand in order to give students adequate access to learn how to perform and teach them,” said Thompson. “The current inventory is not sufficient either in numbers or condition to fully support the classroom needs.”

Davis pointed out that on average, each methods course has an enrollment of 18 students and this number has grown steadily as our overall music enrollment has increased.

“The average age of each instrument is about 25 years, with several over 60 years old,” said Davis. “Routine maintenance has been performed as needed, but student-line instruments are not designed to have a significant lifespan.”

According to Thompson, in the recent accreditation process, the National Association of Schools of Music concluded that the procurement of instruments for music education classes was a matter that needed immediate attention and should be of highest priority.

“The acquisition of these instruments will enable NSU to more effectively prepare music education students and satisfy accreditation-related concerns,” said Thompson. “An additional benefit of this grant is that it allows Northwestern State to incorporate modern band instruments into the methods curriculum.”

Chen’s grant will allow the Department of Engineering Technology to create a cutting-edge laboratory of automation, robotics and operation research (AROR) as an enhancement to its engineering technology program, which currently enjoys full ABET accreditation. Chen said engineers and technologists with expertise in AROR are extensively needed by industry as they can play crucial roles in making manufacturing processes significantly more productive and safer.

“With such a state-of-the-art laboratory of AROR, we will significantly enrich our curriculum and engage our students in various design and capstone projects from local and regional industries, as suggested by the Industry Advisory Committee and required by ETAC of ABET for accreditation,” said Chen.

Faculty in the Department of Engineering Technology plan to work closely with students to pursue theoretical and practical research in frontier topics such as optimization the performance of automatic and intelligent systems, while managing the risk of system failure due to uncertainties, according to Chen.

“This will drastically improve the image of our programs and help to attract more students to pursue engineering technology in our department,” said Chen. “This laboratory can also be used by industrial engineering technology students, as automatic control and artificial intelligence is an essential filed of industrial engineering technology. The laboratory will allow our department to make a giant leap forward in training our students with the most needed cutting-edge technology and opens many doors for their employment and technical careers.”