“Colleges and universities are one of the greatest hopes for intellectual and civic progress.…I am convinced that for this hope to be fulfilled, the academy must become a more vigorous partner in the search for answers to our most pressing social, civic, economic, and moral problems, and must reaffirm its historic commitment to what I call the scholarship of engagement.”

Boyer, E. (1996). The scholarship of engagement. Journal of Public Service and Outreach, 1(1), 11-20. Available from http://openjournals.libs.uga.edu/index.php/jheoe/article/view/253/238

As many of you know, UNG is one of a select group of institutions in the country to have been granted the elective Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. This designation helps UNG make a strong statement about who we are as an institution, so much so, that in our 2014-2019 Strategic Plan, we explicitly state that we will maintain this classification (Goal 3, Objective 1, Strategy 1). According to the Carnegie Foundation, “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.”

Community engagement can also represent an approach to scholarly work. In Scholarship Reconsidered:Priorities of the ProfessoriateErnest Boyer (1990) proposed a new model of scholarship. He had observed a steady decrease in the relevance on colleges and universities in society and called for higher education to “break out of the tired old teaching versus research debate and define, in more creative ways, what it means to be a scholar” (p. xii).

So then, how do we go about redefining what it means to be a scholar or gain a more creative understanding of what “counts” as scholarship? Boyer proposed a new way to think about the work of the professoriate, identifying four areas of scholarship: discovery, teaching, application, and integration. For Boyer discovery implies that academic research should contribute “not only to the stock of human knowledge but also the intellectual climate of a college or university” (p. 17). To contextualize that knowledge, integration refers to “making connections across the disciplines, placing the specialties in larger context, illuminating data in a revealing way” (p. 18). Knowledge should also be shared, and when understood as scholarship, “teaching is…a dynamic endeavor…good teaching means that faculty, as scholars, are also learners” and “the work of the professor becomes consequential only as it is understood by others” (p. 23-24). Finally, the application of scholarship asks us to posit several important questions, including, “How can knowledge be responsibly applied to consequential problems? …Can social problems themselves define an agenda for scholarly investigation?” (p. 21).

Years later, Boyer completed his model with the scholarship of engagement, which brings together discovery, integration, teaching, and application under a single “umbrella” that can cut across and weave through all missions of the university. This is what makes engaged scholarship so interesting to me. It is not about placing teaching and research in contrast with each other, it is understanding how all forms of and approaches to scholarship fit together. The scholarship of engagement allows for us to make civic and intellectual progress. They are not mutually exclusive; attention to one does not have to detract from the other. If fact, each can strengthen the other.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently posted an interview with Robert J. Jones, the President of University at Albany (part of the SUNY system). President Jones discusses why it is important for institutions of higher education to become “deeply engaged with communities.” He speaks specifically from the perspective of a public research university, and I think his message is also clearly applicable to UNG’s mission. In particular, he focuses on the fact that public engagement can be a central part of the university’s academic core. I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch the full interview.

At UNG, our mission is to foster a “culture of academic excellence in a student-focused environment,” and to give our students “broad access to comprehensive academic and co-curricular programs that develop students into leaders for a diverse and global society.” An engaged approach to scholarship can help us fulfill that mission. Through service-learning (an engaged pedagogy), for example, students can become active participants in the generation of knowledge, develop their professional and leadership skills, and better understand their classroom material in a larger, societal context. To this end, we can answer Boyer’s (1996) call for higher education to develop “a larger purpose, a larger sense of mission, a larger clarity of direction in the nation’s life.”