Colloquium kicks off with acclaim for McClean

February 22, 2018 / by / 0 Comment

Key figures at the first annual Dr. Kevin McClean Research Colloquium included (from left) Dr. Donna DeMilia, Dr. Daisy Savarirajan, Chip Lamca, Dr. Isac Artzi, Dr. James Helfers, McClean, Dr. Timothy Larkin, Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick, Dr. Ed Slover, Professor Tracy Vasquez and Dr. Moronke Oke.

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Dr. Kevin McClean loved being at Grand Canyon University. He got to campus around 7 a.m. every day. He helped organize student activities, including an annual research colloquium. If there was a major event in the evening – he especially enjoyed basketball games – he would be there.  

Dr. Kevin McClean addresses the audience yesterday at the colloquium that was named in his honor. (Photo by Slaven Gujic)

Even lunchtime was a labor of love – and purpose.

“I always felt it was important for faculty to be around for students and that the students saw that. I always felt that was part of the job,” he said. “I ate religiously at the Student Union. I felt faculty should be seen there, too. I had a crew, and we’d always eat over there because we wanted to see the students and wanted the students to see us.”

The popular Colangelo College of Business (CCOB) professor retired in 2016, but his dedication is still being felt. And now his legacy is preserved in an annual event – he was the guest of honor Wednesday afternoon at the first annual Dr. Kevin McClean Research Colloquium.

It was easy to see why the Eta Chi chapter of Delta Mu Delta, the international honor society in business, wanted to name its event for McClean. His first colloquium, in 2008, came right around the time GCU President Brian Mueller arrived at the University, and Mueller quickly saw why McClean had won GCU’s “CEO Award” the year before.

“When you go to a new place, one of the first things you want to do is find out who the difference-makers are,” Mueller told the colloquium audience. “Kevin McClean’s name kept coming up. He cared about this place.”

That was evident when McClean held his first colloquium in 2008. “We wanted this just to be a platform to get people interested and to get researchers to feel that they had a place to expose what they were doing,” he said.

GCU President Brian Mueller said he discovered soon after his arrival in 2008 that McClean was a “difference-maker.” (Photo by Slaven Gujic)

It grew over time, and Wednesday’s presentations featured research that shows how much the University has accomplished in the last 10 years.

“They dazzle me,” he said. “It’s heavy, heavy research.”

The presentations included:


“Allegory and Wonder in the Medieval Landscapes of Pilgrimage Texts and ‘The Travels of Sir John Mandeville’”

“How do you make sense out of our views of the world?” wondered Helfers, a professor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS). One way is through medieval travelers’ descriptions and interpretations of landscapes. Mappa Mundi (global maps) and narrative descriptions of Holy Land sites during the Middle Ages are structured by a religious perspective and allegory.


“Reflections from Team Teaching Social Studies Methods Course in a Teacher Preparation Program”

The two College of Education adjunct faculty members injected team teaching into their approach and found that it was effective when it used known best practices. It was particularly important, they found, to include reflection time for both themselves and students.


“Forms of Missionary Support and Their Impact on the Served Populations”

The College of Theology professor is a board member of Vine and Branches Global Ministries, which leads mission trips to Peru. He makes about five trips a year himself. The experience has taught him that being a missionary also means having to be good at business, and his research offers models for alternative funding besides donations.


“Antimicrobial Products from Sonoran Desert Plants”

The emerging problem of antibiotic resistance of microbial pathogens has led to the search for novel antimicrobial alternatives. Historically, medicinal plants are a good source of antimicrobials. The two College of Science, Engineering, and Technology professors reported the antimicrobial efficacy of diverse plants indigenous to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.


“Immersive Mixed Reality Technologies in the Classroom – Current Achievements and Future Potential”

Future students might be learning through mixed reality devices such as the Microsoft HoloLens, which combines virtual reality, augmented reality and interaction with real objects. Artzi, the Program Lead for Computer Science, said it would be possible to teach by creating 3D graphics objects that interact with the environment.


“Beyond Online vs. Face-to-Face Comparisons: The Interaction of Student Age and Mode of Instruction on Academic Achievement”

In a study of 1,276 students in an undergraduate business program, the Assistant Professor of Management and Marketing found that traditional-age students performed similarly no matter whether they took the class on campus or online. But non-traditional age students who took the class online scored significantly higher than those who took it on campus.


“Sociology Speaks: Sociology as a Multi-Disciplinary Toolkit”

The CHSS professor studied the wide variety of undergraduates, both sociology and non-sociology majors, taking Introduction to Sociology courses. His goal was to help students with the engagement of multiple disciplines and by sharing classroom techniques for sociology skill-building.

Dr. Moronke Oke and Dr. Donna DeMilia, the CCOB professors who serve as Delta Mu Delta faculty advisors, had to choose from 15 submitted presentations. And GCU’s research program figures to grow even more if the University’s return to non-profit status is approved by the Higher Learning Commission – it would open the door to grants not currently available to GCU because of its current for-profit status.

That excites McClean, a New York native who traveled all the way from his home on Long Island to be at the event. He still serves as an adjunct business professor and senior doctoral chair (“It keeps me occupied,” he said), and having the colloquium named for him is yet another way to stay connected.

But he also wants the event to be an important part of the spring semester schedule.

“It’s nice to be remembered in a positive way, and it also gave me some satisfaction that this is going to continue,” he said. “People are picking up the mantle and saying, ‘This is a good thing to do.’”

Just as all that interaction with students was the right thing. But it also gave him joy.

“I like the place. I was blessed – blessed to wind up here,” he said.

The blessing goes two ways. It doesn’t take much research to figure that out.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or







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