Dr. Theising’s Reflection on Scholarship






I believe strongly in the principles set forth by the Alliance for Regional Stewardship (ARS), which provide a new way of looking at traditional research functions at engaged metropolitan universities.  I think these descriptions, provided by Chancellor Vandegrift to the members of the SIUE Economic Development Task Force (of which I am a member), give important insight to understanding my scholarship and the contribution my urban scholarship makes to the various communities SIUE serves:


Research to Innovation


From . . .                                            To . . .

Idea generation                                 Idea application


Individual inventions              Collaborative innovations


Single discipline focus                     Interdisciplinary focus


University-centered work                  Regional collaborations


(From Alliance for Regional Stewardship.  2006.  Tools and Insights for Universities Called to Regional Stewardship, 23 Fig 8.)



My work is increasingly collaborative and interdisciplinary.  In an effort to go beyond my own paradigms, I have collaborated on multiple projects with another faculty member in my own department, as well as with a colleague on the Carbondale campus.  My work has been presented at conferences of Political Science, History, Sociology, as well as several professional groups.  I serve on the governing board of the St. Louis Metropolitan Research Exchange, a collaborative group of research institutions pursing research on the metropolitan St. Louis area.  This is one way I put my scholarship in front of other institutions and disciplines, and help build collaboration across the region. 


On July 1, 2007, I was named Director of the SIUE Institute for Urban Research (IUR).  I take this appointment as an endorsement of the importance of my scholarship to the University.  In the press release announcing my appointment, Graduate Dean and Assistant Provost for Research Steve Hansen said, “Andy has an outstanding record of research in urban issues” (Malone 2007).  In this new role, my personal research agenda became integrated with the agenda of the IUR, which has already begun implementation.  This institutional position helps me advance all four of the ARS descriptors of innovation:  applicative, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and regional.


About Urban Scholarship


            Urban scholarship is rather distinct within Political Science.  The study of state and local politics was once considered the “backwater” of the field, notes Ronald Weber (Weber 1994, 255).  Urban politics has also been criticized in the field for its reliance on case studies, qualitative analysis, and theoretical perspectives (Mladenka and Jones 1994, 287).  Mladenka and Jones observe that scholarly journals publish fewer articles on urban scholarship than in other subfields of the discipline, that urban scholars are not prominent among editorial boards of the major journals in Political Science, and that empiricists in the discipline do not take urban research seriously (Mladenka and Jones 1994, 287-288). 

            This is not to say that urbanists cannot make a contribution—quite the contrary is true.  For all their criticism of the urban subfield, Mladenka and Jones acknowledge that urban scholars have much to offer, and highlight the fact that urban scholarship is a “hallowed” tradition, that the local level of government is where profound change is most closely and directly experienced—local settings are where global, national, and voting behavior outcomes happen at street level and where day-to-day lives are affected; and that the great quantity and diversity of local governments allows a fantastic scientific “leverage” that gives needed samples to test theories and understandings (Mladenka and Jones 1994, 288-289).


            I find my work as an urbanist quite rewarding.  It is important work to me, it is valued by the University, and most importantly it is valued by the region.  My work has been used by educators, practitioners, and public officials to improve quality of life for residents of the region—which is the highest purpose my work can serve.



   Chicago—a favorite city!



Linking Scholarship and Coursework


As an urbanist, I have found my research to be closely linked to the courses I have developed for the Political Science Department and I believe that my teaching and my research have benefited from the linkage.  I have developed a meaningful urban research agenda that has been well-established, yet has plenty of room for growth and creativity for years to come.  I also find that my urban research fits closely with SIUE’s desire to be recognized as a premier metropolitan university.


            I enjoy sharing my research with students, and regularly integrate this material into courses whenever possible—as a formal presentation and lecture, or as an informal example given extemporaneously during class discussions.  I especially enjoy taking students on field expeditions to see the study area for themselves in order to make their own primary observations.  The three new courses I have developed all stem from my research agenda.        


Contributions of My Scholarship to Other Scholars, the Community, and the University


To Scholars:


My work has been cited and utilized in several places, and I meet with other scholars regularly to share resources and promote complementary scholarly activity.  I do not view other scholars as competitors; rather, I view them as advancing understanding and interest in my field and validating my work.  I am most proud of the acknowledgement given me by historian Dr. Malcolm McLaughlin in his 2005 work on the East St. Louis Race Riot:


“In the United States, I owe a large debt of gratitude to Dr. Andrew J. Theising, a political scientist with a keen interest in the past and present of East St. Louis.  On my first research trip to America, Andrew offered me his hospitality, showed me around East St. Louis and the local area, and made available his collection of many publications, documents, and photographs, which now comprise the Theising Research Collection of the Bowen Archives at the Lovejoy Library of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.  I benefited from the many conversations we had about the history of the city and also from the tremendous help and support he offered me with the practical aspects of my research trip to St. Louis” (McLaughlin 2005, xiii).


I think Dr. McLaughlin’s statement illustrates my willingness to be a cooperative member of the scholarly community, my ability to cross academic disciplines, and that I have produced meaningful scholarship.


To Community:


One of the most significant developments regarding my scholarly work occurred in 2003, when my research was made into a public television documentary (Made In USA:  The East St. Louis Story) and my research was published as a companion book to the documentary (Made In USA:  East St. Louis, Illinois—The Rise and Fall of an Industrial River Town).  The documentary won a 2003 “Excellence in Journalism Award” from the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists and a 2004 regional Emmy Award.


            Further, my work has garnered the attention of several practitioners.  The documentary developed from my work has been shown by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis at its community development conference, by the International City Managers Association at its Brownfields conference, as well as broadcast to local television audiences.  I regularly give tours of East St. Louis and have contributed information to efforts of community activists and the East St. Louis Charter School, and business organizations. 


            Other book titles that I’ve been involved with:

  • East St. Louis Sesquicentennial Series, Series Editor (Virginia Publishing, 2011-2012)
  • Images of America:  East St. Louis, with Bill Nunes.  (Arcadia Publishing 2011)
  • St. Louis Currents:  The Bi-State Region after a Century of Planning, co-editor with Mark Abbott and contributor (Reedy Press, 2010)
  • The Making of an All-America City:  East St. Louis at 150, contributor (Virginia Publishing, 2011)



To the University:


            My establishment of the Andrew J. Theising Research Collection in the Bowen Archives here at SIUE has helped make SIUE a leading repository of research material on East St. Louis.  That city is not served by a local historical society, and its historical materials are scattered.  There have been some important donations to the archives from past mayors of East St. Louis, but I argue that it is my collection that gave SIUE prominence in this area.  (I have addressed this donation in detail in the Reflections on Service statement.) 


Not only have I made my own contribution to SIUE, I have helped secure the donation of the John Bowman Papers from the personal collection of Raymond W. “Sandy” Peters of St. Louis—John Bowman’s great-grandson.  John Bowman founded the City of East St. Louis in 1861 and a large collection of Bowman’s personal copies of the newspaper he published has been donated to the Bowen Archives.


Accomplishments in Scholarship


            The book has proven popular with both the public and academics, and has brought a degree of favorable attention to SIUE.  The release event was hosted by the Missouri Historical Society and drew a capacity crowd exceeding 300.  Numerous book signings and presentations were made.  The book was prominently featured by the major newspapers in the metropolitan area, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Belleville News Democrat, and the Suburban Journals.  The book has been used in multiple courses at several institutions by different disciplines, including the Washington University School of Architecture, the Washington University College of Arts and Sciences, the East St. Louis Action Research Project of the University of Illinois, and SIUE’s School of Education and Historical Studies Department.  The book was named 2003 “Best Book by a Local Author” in the Riverfront Times.  While this was not an academic honor, per se, it illustrates the point made earlier that urban scholarship has an important contribution to play in the community.

In 2010, the book went into its second printing and remains the authoritative volume on East St. Louis. 


I enjoy sharing my scholarship with practitioners, professionals, government officials, and other scholars through conference involvement.  I have been active in professional conferences each year.  In October 2002, I was asked to be the opening general session speaker at the Rays of Hope Conference, a key Midwestern conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis for academics and professionals interested in economic development matters.  I was selected by the Federal Reserve to make this presentation because of my knowledge of East St. Louis and urban areas in general.  The topic of my presentation was “The Decline of Urban Areas,” and explained the public and private sector influences that caused the demise of great American cities.  The presentation was well-received and my comments on East St. Louis made a local headline in the News Democrat. 


In October 2003, I presented a jointly authored paper (with Debra Moore) at the Conference on Illinois History, a state-sponsored academic conference held in Springfield.  My paper, The Hollow Prize of East St. Louis:  How Institutional Function and Institutional Culture Limited a City’s Future.  This was an important paper for my research agenda, as it examined the institutional decision-making capacity of an industrial suburb.  I am especially pleased with the paper’s interdisciplinary attributes:  a Political Science paper, borrowing heavily from the Sociology literature, presented at a History conference.  It has since been published. 


I was invited to be a discussant in September 2004 at the Brownfields 2004:  Gateway to Revitalization Conference sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the International City/County Managers Association.  This was a major national conference for academic, professional, and political participants involved in urban, economic, and environmental endeavors.  The conference showed the public television documentary based on my research, and I facilitated the discussion of the programs key points.


In addition, I have pursued funded research opportunities.  One example was a proposal to study the effect of TIF in the St. Louis MSA, with particular attention to its application in the Metro East area.  The project, “A Comparative Contextual Analysis of the Effect of TIF on Economic Development in the Bi-State St. Louis MSA,” received funding in the amount of $8,500 from the SIUE Institute for Urban Research.  In preparing and receiving this grant, I became a research fellow at the Institute and received Human Subjects Certification from the National Institutes of Health.


More recently, I have shifted my work into applied research.  I am one of the principals (representing SIUE) in the Applied Research Collaborative, an applied research partnership between SIUE, Saint Louis University, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.  As a team, we work with local, state, and national agencies to carry out targeted research projects on a fee-for-service basis.  This has included doing economic development research for East-West Gateway Council of Governments, as well as program evaluation work for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. 


My research agenda is built around the effects of suburbanization on urban cores, particularly the effects of industrial suburbs.  It is centered on four components and each component has three different action outcomes:  research outcomes, teaching outcomes, and service outcomes.  The accompanying table explains this in more detail.  I feel that my research agenda is well-established and is serving me well as a teacher and a scholar.  My area of research adds value to the knowledge of my field and it serves CAS and the University well.  Peer evaluations of my scholarship included in my evidence of scholarship support these conclusions. 


A premier metropolitan university necessarily has connections to its community.  My scholarship focuses on the SIUE community, and my research (and service) helps the university, community leaders, and citizens generally have a better understanding of the region.  I believe strongly in SIUE’s mission, and am pleased to align my scholarship (as well as my teaching and service) with it.


Conclusion:  Maintaining a Meaningful Research Agenda


            My scholarship is strong and is making a contribution.  My personal research agenda, which now has become institutionalized as part of the Institute for Urban Research, has clear outcomes on my teaching, research, and service.  In a word, I like to feel that my scholarship is integrated. 

I have tried to maintain an active research agenda that makes a contribution at multiple levels.


            I believe that my research has gone from “idea generation” to “idea application,” that my work has evolved from being individual to being collaborative, that my work makes a contribution to my discipline but also has interdisciplinary value.  Finally, I believe that in doing work that has practical value and understanding, I am contributing in the shift from university-centered work to that which builds regional collaborations.


On July 5, 2006—three years after its publication—my book was the 100,138th best selling book on Amazon.com, and on March 13, 2007, it ranked 93,979th.  While these numbers have little scientific value, I do interpret them to indicate that the book still has a degree of interest and relevance to the academic community and readers at large. 




Works cited:


McLaughlin, Malcolm. 2005.  Power, Community, and Racial Killing in East St. Louis.  New York:  Palgrave McMillan.


Malone, Zhanda. 2007. “Theising Named IUR Director,” Edwardsville Intelligencer.  June 18.


Mladenka, Kenneth R. and Bryan D. Jones. 1994.  “Urban Politics and Political Science,” Political Science:  Looking to the Future.  Volume Four: American Institutions.  William Crotty, ed.  Evanston, IL:  Northwestern Illinois University Press.


Weber, Ronald.  1994.  “A Study of State and Local Politics…,” Political Science:  Looking to the Future.  Volume Four: American Institutions.  William Crotty, ed.  Evanston, IL:  Northwestern Illinois University Press.