NERCHE Working Paper: 2014 Series, Issue 2: The Challenges of Rewarding New Forms of Scholarship: Creating Academic Cultures that Support Community-Engaged Scholarship
The need for and value of civic engagement is widely acknowledged and frequently advocated by students and faculty at American universities. Over the last several decades, recognizing the variety of forms of scholarly research and academic achievement has become commonplace on many campuses. The Carnegie Foundation now assesses and validates community engagement as one critical measure of a university’s identity and success. Many faculty stress community involvement, internships, and various forms of experiential learning in their courses and view them as critical components of a university education.
Typical failure rates in first-year courses contribute heavily to overall institutional drop-out rates between the first and second year. In partnership with 30 colleges and universities, the Center for Academic Transformation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RIP) has demonstrated how information technology can be used to improve the quality of student learning, increase retention, and reduces the costs by redesigning large-enrollment introductory courses. Of the 30 projects, 22 have increased student learning and retention; all 30 have reduced their instructional costs. This article discusses six common characteristics all projects share and illustrates how these characteristics play out among urban and metropolitan universities, using five case studies.
Based on one community partner’s experience in the Healthy Public Housing Initiative, the concept of becoming allies in advocating community change is explored as a unifying framework for the initial engagement and partnership development process. Integrating advocacy and community change as a central partnership goal allows the community’s expert knowledge to emerge and be heard and supports relational equity in community-university partnerships.