Institutionalization of Community-Engaged Scholarship at Institutions That are Both Land-Grant and Research Universities

Jaeger, A. J., Katz Jameson, J. & Clayton, P. (2012). Institutionalization of community-engaged scholarship at institutions that are both land-grant and research universities. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 16(1), 149-167


This case study examines North Carolina State University’s community-engaged scholarship faculty development program established in 2009-2010. Reflections by the program coordinators and participants reveal that the university’s paradoxical identity as both a land-grant and a research institution has produced tensions in three areas: funding support; reappointment, promotion, and tenure policies; and faculty commitment. During the 2-year process of designing and implementing the program, the authors concluded that simultaneously holding an institutional identity as a land-grant university and as a research university creates a paradox that challenges the institutionalization of community-engaged scholarship on a campus.

This paper addresses two aspects of knowledge mobilization (and related concepts like community engagement): 1) institutional perspectives; and 2) capacity building at North Carolina State University (NC State). NC State has an identity both as a research intensive university and as a community engaged university, identities that were provided to it by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The authors define successful institutionalization of community engaged scholarship. “Institutionalizing community-engaged scholarship at NC State would include such elements as continued financial support for faculty engaged with the community; employing administrative personnel whose responsibilities focus on community-engaged teaching and learning; the continuance of current faculty devel­opment efforts that address community-engaged scholarship; recognition in the form of promotion and tenure for commu­nity-engaged scholarship; and integration of the various offices, programs, and other efforts that support community-engaged scholarship at NC State, but are not formally connected.”

They cite the need to shift from technocratic to democratic orientation where there is a shift away from traditional scholarship to one that recognizes experiential knowledge and the ability of faculty and students to learn from community and that this shift needs a transformational change felt at the institutional level. They use a framework [Eckel, P., Hill, B., & Green, M. (1998). On change: En route to transformation. Washington, DC: American Council on Education] that maps change onto two axes: depth and pervasiveness. “Change that is low on both depth and pervasiveness is called adjust­ment. An isolated change is one that has depth but is not pervasive. Far-reaching change is highly pervasive but lacks depth….transformational change is both deep and pervasive“.  “Change will be sustainable only if it is pervasive throughout the institution’s colleges and departments” and if it aligns with the mission and vision of the institution as well as with personal vision.  To support this change, NC State created the Vice Chancellor’s Office of Extension, Engagement, and Economic Development, a Center for Excellence in Curricular Engagement and Institute for Nonprofit Research, Education and Engagement and supported activities by the Center for Leadership, Ethics, and Public Service as well as activities of individual faculty members.

The article describes a further initiative to build capacity by launching the NC State community-engaged scholarship faculty development program. The program arose out of conversations with faculty, administrators and students. But not community. NC State developed a program to develop capacity for community engaged scholarship and they didn’t report talking to community.

The vision [of the program] was to create an intergenerational mentoring community of faculty whose community-engaged scholarship activities were explicitly designed for curricular connections and/or research projects in col­laboration with students and community partners. Its goals were to:

  • create a shared discourse that incorporated both teaching and research into a common understanding of community-engaged scholarship;
  • increase the participants’ understanding of community-engaged scholarship and their related capacities and needs at different stages of faculty careers;
  • create a cross-disciplinary and intergenerational mentoring community of scholars with different levels of experience in community-engaged scholarship; and
  • support the development, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of new community-engaged courses and research projects that involve undergraduate students as partners.

Again…all without reporting community involvement. Community members were also not among the participants in the course which involved junior and senior faculty as well as graduate students. How is it feasible to build capacity for community engagement by supporting only one side of the community campus collaboration?

The curriculum is described in Table 1 in the article. It doesn’t describe any activities related to finding partners, building trust, sharing or evaluating engagement although all of these might be covered in the 2 hour session titled “sustaining community engaged partnerships”.

This is also in contrast with some of the “Lessons Learned” presented in the article. One lesson is that community partners need to be co-learners and co-creators of new knowledge. “The participants in NC State’s faculty development program came to understand that all partners and all parts of the community-engaged scholarship process contribute to both a research project’s goals and the community’s goals.” “This reflection reinforces the notion that a successful reframing of community-engaged scholarship includes the ability to see a community as an integrated, rather than separate, component of the university.” Integrated but not involved in either planning or executing capacity building sessions.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the intent, the vision, the goals and even the curriculum of the NC State program is an important step in building capacity on campus for these activities. My problem is twofold: 1) it was designed in a very campus centric fashion and 2) it did not build capacity for community to engage with the campus. This is another situation where academics give lip service to reciprocity and sharing power with community. See previous journal club observations on this here and here.

Despite this, the program appears to have yielded results. “The program supported three new community-engaged/ service-learning courses and two other revised courses. Six par­ticipants developed new community partnerships. Each of the doctoral students re-conceptualized at least part of their disserta­tion to have a community-engaged focus.” Time will tell how these community campus collaborations are sustained.

The Morre and Ward paper [Moore, T. L., & Ward, K. (2010). Institutionalizing faculty engagement through research, teaching, and service at research universities. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 17(1), 44-58] looks interesting although I haven’t read it. The authors report that this paper indicates that research intensive universities have a hard time matching the rhetoric of community engagement with action to support community engagement. In tougher economic times, NC State removed or restructures the Center for Excellence in Curricular Engagement and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Extension, Engagement, and Economic Development. Rhetoric is only a starting point. For it to count, rhetoric needs to be backed up by action.

Questions for brokers:

  1. There is a lot written on community engagement. But that is a very campus centric perspective. How can you move beyond community engagement to community-campus partnership? Will this also help you move in the Eckel framework of institutional transformation from adjustment to isolated change to transformational change?
  2. The article refers to a Carnegie designation for community engagement. This is only eligible for US academic institutions.  Does such a designation help the goals of community engagement on campuses because it gives campuses a standard to achieve? Or might it also challenge engagement initiatives if a campus would like to develop initiatives but may not prioritize engagement if its efforts risk being seen as “not good enough”? Non-US academic institutions are nonetheless able to become members of the Talloires Network.
  3. Re Morre & Ward: they claim it is hard for research universities to match the rhetoric of engagement with real investments and action. Here’s a point for debate: if engagement and related activities are not part of an institutional academic plan then it is nothing more than rhetoric. If engagement isn’t a priority in an institutional academic plan then it is only marketing.

ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) is producing this journal club series as a way to make evidence on KMb more accessible to knowledge brokers and to create on line discussion about research on knowledge mobilization. It is designed for knowledge brokers and other knowledge mobilization stakeholders. Read this open access article. Then come back to this post and join the journal club by posting your comments.

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