Last fall Provost Riordan called together a workgroup to write up the University’s Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement reclassification report that is due on April 15, 2014. Along with nearly 300 other institutions in the U.S., the University of Kentucky was classified in 2006 and 2008 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for its exemplary work in Curricular Engagement and Outreach & Partnerships. This elective classification is a national recognition of UK’s work in community engagement. The process is a form of self-review and reflective assessment which, according to the Carnegie Foundation website: “involves data collection and documentation of important aspects of institutional mission, identity and commitments, and requires substantial effort invested by participating institutions.”
Dr. Katherine M. McCormick,Professor in Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education and the James W. & Diane V. Stuckert Endowed Professor in Service-Learning, chairs the Provost’s workgroup. Members of the team include:
- Hannah Eddy – Provost’s Office
- Cindy Edwards – Stuckert Career Center
- Sarah Hermsmeier – Student Affairs
- Dr. Randolph Hollingsworth – Undergraduate Education
- Lisa Higgins Hord – Community Engagement
- Dean Mary John O’Hair – Education
- Jessica Powers – Student Success
- Tara Rose – Assessment
- Dean Sharon Stewart – Health Sciences
- Dr. Roger Sugarman – Institutional Research & Advanced Analytics
- Sarah Whitaker – International Center
This reclassification effort is complicated by the fact that the Carnegie Foundation has changed several characteristics of its definition for community engagement. In addition, the University community has many different perspectives on UK’s role as a land grant institution, the state’s flagship public research university, and may not be fully aware of this organization’s particular approach to community engagement. According to the website (highlighted text added for emphasis):
Community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.
The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.
The workgroup has ramped up its efforts to address these key issues in the Carnegie reclassification framework and has begun to reach out to the academic units on campus through the Provost’s Deans Council to get input.
How do we here at UK rate ourselves in regards to community engagement?
This is an important question for us all to wrestle with as we seek to write up the Carnegie Foundation’s report. The advice given to the workgroup by Dr. Patti H. Clayton (a practitioner-scholar in Curricular Engagement) is not a “victory narrative” that showcases a few, marginalized efforts by University-affiliated personnel. Instead, we are seeking how the above type of community engagement is integrated across the institution and that any change for improvement happens systematically and intentionally. Since mutuality and “reciprocity” are what defines and distinguishes this kind of community engagement, then we would agree as an institution that we would seek a more democratic form of partnership relations in all of our community-based endeavors.
Traditional outreach efforts emphasize the use of University resources and expertise FOR a community’s use – a form of technocratic engagement that is fueled by our land grant mission of the Progressive Era in the early twentieth century. Instead of relying on collaborative interactions and the building of community relations first, the traditional outreach process for the University is to address some observed deficit (perhaps discovered by researchers or raised up by political debate). In this scenario, the flow of knowledge is uni-directional: from credentialed academic experts to a community organization or group of residents. Traditional power dynamics maintain social and legal boundaries that create silos both within the university and separate from the community.
With the new Carnegie classification report, the University will need to explore ways by which to achieve a more democratic-based engagement through policy, procedures and mission. This means that University representatives will focus on learning first, not just dissemination of expertise; on building community first, not just assigning specialists to solve a preconceived problem. We would seek out those kinds of partnerships that would offer a mutually-transformative relationship, and find innovative ways that would offer co-leadership roles. This requires a tectonic shift in traditional power dynamics.
What will it take to be successfully reclassified as a “community engaged” institution by Carnegie?
For the University of Kentucky to succeed in its reclassification by Carnegie, many discussions and debates need to take place. The workgroup has come up with a series of examples that can help identify the kinds of curricular engagement going on here at UK – and the Provost sent that list to the Deans. This list is to help differentiate between the academic learning opportunities in community-based experiences and the type of outreach partnerships that are typically associated with extension and training programs or community service and volunteerism.
Curricular Engagement at UK describes the teaching, learning, and scholarship that engages faculty, students, and community in mutually beneficial and respectful collaboration. Their interactions address community identified needs, deepen students’ civic and academic learning, enhance community well-being, and enrich the scholarship of the institution. Examples include but are not limited to:
- experiential education – a philosophy and methodology in which educators engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection
- internships – a professional-level learning experience in the workplace with work delegated and project assigned
- externships – provides opportunities such as shadowing a professional without having work delegated and projects assigned
- cooperative education – provides academic credit for structured job experience
- field experiences – educational opportunities designed to enhance student understanding of a field of study or discipline
- capstone courses – culminating experiences in which students integrate disciplinary with interdisciplinary knowledge and connect theory to practice
- practica – courses at the upper division or graduate level designed to provide supervised practical knowledge of a subject or discipline
- clinicals – offer small group instruction and self-directed learning in the context of patient problems, most often in life or health sciences
- residencies – planned programs of post-professional clinical and didactic education
- community-based research – a collaborative approach to research that equitably involves community members, organizational representatives, students and researchers in all aspects of the research process
- service-learning – credit-bearing learning experiences which balance course concepts and content, appreciation of the discipline within societal context, and promote civic responsibility through meaningful community service that meets a community-identified need
Outreach and Partnerships at UK describes the many ways in which the university provides outreach to the community (both near and far). Examples include but are not limited to: extension and training programs, non-credit courses, library services, community service, and volunteerism.
Download a handout of these definitions here (.pdf file).
Strategic planning and the Division of Undergraduate Education
Ben Withers, the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, has taken the idea of community engagement into his planning for the Division of Undergraduate Education and for the overall vision for Improving Undergraduate Education at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Withers believes that “the power of high impact practices such as service-learning, education abroad, and undergraduate research will support our retention efforts especially during the first and second years.” In the long run, the Division will be poised to take a leadership role across the University in encouraging and supporting faculty and teaching staff to incorporate community engagement in their classes and co-curricular activities.