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I am Scott Furtwengler and This is How I Work

Today, in the “How I Work” series I am interviewing Scott R. Furtwengler. Scott is the Director of Institutional Research at Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, TX, an external evaluator for Rice University’s Office of STEM Engagement, and an instructor and affiliate researcher at the University of Houston, where he earned a PhD in Educational Psychology & Individual Differences with a specialization in Learning & Development. Scott’s research interests include human learning, psychosocial development, theories of motivation, achievement goals, performance, and engagement among typical and atypical learners and the interaction of environmental, genetic, and psychological factors on student success. Additionally, he conducts program evaluations and research on creativity.

Scott attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he earned a BA and MA in English. He has served in higher education for over twenty years, predominantly as an administrator for post-secondary honors programs at several institutions, including SIUC, Miami-Dade College, the University of Tennessee, the University of North Florida, and most recently as the district dean of the Honors Program at San Jacinto College in Houston.

A founding board member of the National Association of Fellowships Advisors, he is a writer, a musician, and a former high school volleyball and basketball coach. You can learn more about Scott’s background and research at and follow him on Twitter: @sfurtwengler.

Current Job: I currently serve in several roles. My full-time position is Director of Institutional Research at Brazosport College. I also serve as an instructor at the University of Houston teaching a graduate course on theories of human development and I am an external evaluator for Rice University’s Office of STEM Engagement. I conduct independent research on theories of motivation and creativity.
Current Location: Houston, Texas, USA
Current mobile device: Droid Turbo
Current computer: MacBook Pro and Dell Latitude

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
As director of institutional research, I support the college’s mission by leading and conducting innovative research; collecting, producing, and disseminating quality data; producing reports for and making presentations to our stakeholders, compliance agents, and accreditation agencies; and I support student success initiatives. My research interests include the role that achievement motivation, including beliefs, goal orientation, and attribution, plays in learning and performance. I am also currently developing a scale to measure creative identification.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
I currently use SPSS for statistical analyses, but I’m exploring other programs, such as R. For data mining I use a web-based program called Zogotech. I recently began using Remark Web Survey 5 to conduct surveys via the internet. It’s much more efficient than standing at a mall
interrupting people going about their business with a pencil-and-paper survey.

Additionally, I don’t know what I would do without access to an online database of scholarly literature.

What does your workspace setup look like?
I alternate between my office at work, my home office, and one or two of my favorite coffee shops. My office at work is generic. I’m more comfortable at my home office, so I’m including a picture of that.

What is your best advice for productive academic work?
Stay on top of your work and try to have three or more studies that you’re conducting in your research program. Some studies or experiments don’t pan out, so don’t rely on only one.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
I make lists. I have a whiteboard at my office at work.

In my home office, I adhere poster-size Post-It notes to the wall.

I also carry a notebook make lists and jot down ideas.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
Not that I can think of.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
My curiosity. I continue to develop questions that I want to answer.

What do you listen to when you work?
I listen to a variety of music, from Chopin to jazz to alternative rock.

What are you currently reading?
I make a habit of reading whenever I can. My wife, who’s a librarian, and I never go anywhere without a book, just in case we have to wait. In addition to reviewing manuscripts for scholarly journals and articles for my own literature reviews, I’m currently reading “Believing” by Michael McGuire, “Diffusion of Innovations” by Everett Rogers, “Creativity” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness” by V.S. Ramachandran, “Are We Getting Smarter?” by James R. Flynn, “A Brief History of the Mind” by William H. Calvin, “Naked Statistics” by Charles Wheelan, “The Drunkard’s Walk” by Leonard Mlodinow, “Research Design” by John W. Creswell, and “Educational Research” by Burke Johnson & Larry Christensen.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?
I think I’m a good mix of both. The extrovert side allows me to make connections with other researchers and participants in my studies. The introvert side is useful in that I often have to spend a lot of time alone reading scholarly literature and analyzing data.

What’s your sleep routine like?
In bed between 10-11 PM and awake between 5:30-6:30 AM.

What’s your work routine like?
I wouldn’t say that I have a routine. I work on projects and take breaks to socialize, walk, or exercise. I used to continue to work at home in the evening but I’ve cut back on that to spend more time with my wife.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
To be responsible for my own future; to not let others decide my destiny in life.

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