Civic Engagement in Graduate Education: Preparing the Next Generation of Engaged Scholars Wingspread Conference Report

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1 Civic Engagement in Graduate Education: Preparing the Next Generation of Engaged Scholars Wingspread Conference Report Context of the Meeting: Responding to a rising conversation around civic engagement and graduate education, the Upper Midwest Campus Compact Consortium, comprised of Iowa Campus Compact, Minnesota Campus Compact, and Wisconsin Campus Compact, convened 41 individuals from around the nation for a discussion, Civic Engagement and Graduate Education: Preparing the Next Generation of Engaged Scholars, at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin, March 1-3, In the words of conference participant Victor Bloomfield, Associate Vice President for Public Engagement at the University of Minnesota, Graduate education and the advanced research that accompanies it depend on public support. As our scholarship has become more specialized, and our enterprise larger and more expensive, we are in danger of losing public understanding and support. Higher education is increasingly looked on as a private good, and our research with the possible exception of biomedical research is viewed by large segments of the population as either irrelevant or designed to enrich large corporations. With some laudable exceptions, our facility and students do not make personal contact with the general public in ways that enable the public to understand what we re doing and allow them to feel that they have a stake in our success. Prior to this Wingspread Conference, conversations about civic engagement in higher education had largely been focused on undergraduate education. This conference provided an important and necessary opportunity for decision makers from graduate institutions throughout the Midwest to begin the discussion about the need for, and process of, transforming graduate programs so as to address the civic missions of these institutions. 2 1 This was supported by a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service Learn and Serve America program. 2 In addition to the universities represented the National Science Foundation, Campus Compact staff, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association s (NCA) Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, Carnegie, community activists, the Committee on Institutional Collaboration, state officers, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and other researchers were also invited to be part of the conversation. Page 1 of 5

2 Page 2 of 5 While many factors contributed to the timeliness of the conversation, the following three played a large role in framing the context of the discussion 1) Graduate students themselves are interested in civic engagement. According to At Cross Purposes: What the Experiences of Doctoral Students Reveal about Doctoral Education, a report by Chris M. Golde and Timothy M. Dore for The Pew Charitable Trusts, over half (52.1%) of students are very interested in providing service to the community. Only 13.8%, however, reported any preparation by their programs for this role.... Future faculty would benefit from some discussion of how to undertake service responsibly and effectively. We recommend supporting students in these interests and, even more importantly, nurturing these civic impulses in new faculty. 2) Enhancing civic engagement opportunities would also address other priorities in graduate education. Numerous national reports emphasize the need to prepare doctoral students to teach using pedagogies appropriate for diverse learning styles as well as to pursue a wide range of careers since faculty positions will not be available for all graduates. Teaching service-learning courses, conducting community-based research, and developing the partnerships on which both activities rest, will offer graduate students significant opportunities to apply and further develop their intellectual expertise, introduce them to alternative career paths, and help them develop the real world skills (teamwork, communication, etc.) perceived as important to non-academic employers. 3) Civic engagement has become an important part of accreditation and classification in higher education. In 2003, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools introduced (and in 2005 began applying) a new accreditation criterion Engagement and Service requiring institutions to demonstrate responsiveness to the constituencies and communities they serve, including connecting students with external communities through their educational programs. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is currently piloting a Community Engagement elective classification for institutions that demonstrate an exchange of knowledge and resources between higher education institutions and their larger communities in a context of partnership and reciprocity. Discussion Highlights: In the course of the three-day conference participants engaged in focused discussions on the issues and challenges involved in embedding civic engagement in graduate education, shared stories of engagement efforts on their campuses, and began to articulate what indicators of engagement might look like at the graduate level. A number of themes emerged over the course of the three days: Common definitions of what civic engagement in graduate education should look like will require determining who/what the education is for. There is a need to create a public agenda for graduate education and to hold institutions accountable for meeting it.

3 Page 3 of 5 An epistemological shift is required to infuse civic engagement into the graduate education curriculum. What is the role of engagement in the production and dissemination of knowledge? Where does community-based knowledge fit into graduate work? To realize that the goal of graduate education is not just the training of future faculty, but the development of a creative class that generates wealth, civic engagement at the graduate level needs to go beyond projects and to be fully integrated into the graduate curriculum. This will require a shift from largely individual work that culminates in a single-authored dissertation to a more collaborative approach. Leadership matters. Deans and department chairs can help change the focus and priorities of our institutions. To do this requires that they partner with other supporters of engagement across the institution. A market for engaged scholars needs to be created. Our institutions need to be willing to hire engaged faculty. Engaged research needs to be valued, recognized and rewarded. We need to single out individuals who do it well, build intellectual communities, begin modest changes to promotion and tenure processes, and seed curriculum transformation. Students and communities are asking for engaged scholarship. Graduate students at the meeting reported feeling disconnected much of the time when engaged in traditional graduate studies. They reported that their experiences with teaching service-learning and conducting community-based research were the most satisfying of their student careers. Promising signs exist. Foundations are interested in this work and supportive of it. In addition to their support, we also need to engage our disciplinary associations and to work with change agents such as the National Science Foundation. We must be careful, however, in our efforts to transform graduate education that we do not create a new orthodoxy. Questions for Discussion: Questions that emerged from the Wingspread conversation could be used to prompt discussions on the campuses of those institutions represented. They could also serve as a discussion guide for national conversations within disciplinary associations and other higher education organizations. 1. What types of civic engagement are necessary for the production and dissemination of knowledge in the 21 st century? 2. What are the benefits and challenges of integrating civic engagement into graduate education? 3. What does engaged research look like when it goes beyond projects and becomes integrated into existing systems? 4. What are appropriate benchmarks and rewards for evaluating and recognizing engaged scholarship?

4 Page 4 of 5 5. What can we create systemically in US graduate education that builds on existing civically engaged teaching/learning/research? 6. What are the points of leverage in graduate education to shape and make this work? 7. What opportunities do incorporating civic engagement into graduate education present for increasing the recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations of graduate students? In particular, people from our communities? 8. What models and examples exist that would help faculty in each discipline imagine the creative, scholarly, and research possibilities of a civically engaged program? Progress since the Wingspread Conference: Although less than a year has elapsed since the conference, tangible results have already been realized: The guidelines for the Carnegie elective classification of engaged institution were amended to explicitly include graduate education as one arena in which institutions can demonstrate engagement through the curriculum. Michigan State University established a certificate for graduate students with competency guidelines related to engagement. University of Iowa established the week-long Obermann Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy, in which up to fifteen graduate students work with faculty and staff to develop strategies to integrate academic and larger communities, explore opportunities for combining scholarly and creative projects in their communities, and consider ways that universities can encourage and acknowledge innovative pedagogy and scholarly or creative practices. Central goals for the Institute include: encouraging graduate students to weave engagement into their teaching and scholarship; building a community of graduate students from across disciplines who have a shared interest in engaged scholarship; showcasing successful university-community partnerships; furthering conversation within the University about the role of the engaged academic and about ways universities might encourage that engagement; and highlighting the ongoing importance of public engagement in fostering community building and respect for diversity. At the University of Minnesota, the Graduate School recognized with an honorable mention prize in its innovative ideas contest a proposal to foster engagement in graduate education, and has made engagement an explicit criteria for selection in a new postdoc program. Meetings of faculty, deans, and students from all graduate programs in each of the Upper Midwest Campus Compact states will be convened before July 1, The plan for each meeting will be to work from the central questions listed above, raise the issue of civically engaged graduate education, solicit current examples of engaged scholarship, and invite participants to contribute to a call to action document

5 Page 5 of 5 Recommended Action: In consultation with national Campus Compact, the Upper Midwest Campus Compact Consortium will explore the connections between this and similar initiatives in other states (California Campus Compact convened a conversation at Stanford in April 2006) to determine the center of leadership for a national forum. 3 From such a national convening, the following would emerge: A document for national distribution which is a call to action for significant change would be produced. This paper will raise these critical issues to be discussed on campuses, and perhaps in disciplinary associations, with graduate students and with community partners. A plan to engage disciplinary associations early in the conversation, and invite them to publish and respond to the document or organize conference sessions to discuss it. A collection of examples of community based research and civically engaged scholarship from all disciplines, especially entire programs that include a civic component and projects that add to national research. The Wingspread Conference on Civic Engagement and Higher Education: Preparing the Next Generation of Engaged Scholars was an important step in a significant transformational process. More work is needed to articulate indicators of engagement in graduate education, to galvanize deans, chairs, and graduate faculty to incorporate engaged pedagogies and scholarship into the training of graduate students, and to expand the kinds of research and teaching validated in graduate education. Respectfully submitted by Catherine Reid Day Minnesota Campus Compact Pamela Proulx-Curry Wisconsin Campus Compact (262) Sandra Hansen Iowa Campus Compact This issue will be addressed at the national assembly of Campus Compacts, January 22-25, 2007 in New Orleans.

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