Sunday, August 03, 2008

scholarship in public

when i told my friend and colleague kelly quinn that i was going to write my tenure packet this summer, she suggested i read a document called "scholarship in public: knowledge creation and tenure policy in the engaged university" put out by imagining america, a national consortium of colleges and universities committed to public scholarship in the arts, humanities, and design. i had heard of imaging america before, via kathy woodward at the university of washington, and remember julie ellison visiting UW one summer as part of the simpson center for the humanities annual institute on the public humanities for doctoral students. kq's suggestions are always smart, so i packed "scholarship in pubic" for my trip to stonelake farm.

the "scholarship in public" report concentrates on two things: "publicly engaged faculty and on how to change tenure and promotion policies for them" (p. 5). the report's audience is graduate students; junior faculty and senior faculty; "middle ground" leaders like department chairs, center and program directors, and deans; and university leaders like presidents and provosts.

for me - and for anyone else currently involved (or may one day get involved) in public scholarship and writing a tenure packet - the most useful part of the report was a paragraph on page six. it's the place where "scholarship in public" offers an excellent definition of public scholarship:

"Publicly engaged academic work is scholarly or creative activity integral to a faculty member's academic area. It encompasses different forms of making knowledge about, for, and with diverse publics and communities. Through a coherent, purposeful sequence of activities, it contributes to the public good and yields artifacts of public and intellectual value" (p. 6).

the first part of the report seeks to expand what counts as scholarly and creative work. instead of obsessively (and inaccurately) placing all pieces of scholarship within the narrow categories of research, teaching, and community service, the report urges a more holistic approach, one that considers a continuum of scholarship. for example, the report cites portland state university's tenure policy as the right idea:

"One should recognize that research, teaching, and community outreach often overlap. For example, a service learning project may refl ect both teaching and community outreach. Some research projects may involve both research and community outreach. Pedagogical research may involve both research and teaching. When a faculty member evaluates his or her individual intellectual, aesthetic, or creative accomplishments, it is more important to focus on the general criteria of the quality and significance of the work ... than to categorize the work" (p. 8).

according to "scholarship in public," adopting a continuum of scholarship is a good thing for universities (and colleges and community colleges). incorporating a continuum of scholarship into tenure and promotion policies: 1) makes it easier for a university to evaluate new or undervalued professional practices or artifacts; 2) helps to foster an intellectually and culturally diverse faculty; and 3) makes a statement about how a university defines its intellectual community and mission (p. 10).

the report's first part ends with three important points. first, recognizing a continuum of scholarship requires recognizing a continuum of artifacts. this could and should include publications and presentations, awards and recognitions for community outreach, adoption of faculty member's models for problem resolution, contributions to public policy, and models that enrich the artistic and cultural life of the community. second, public presentations of knowledge matter and count. having a member of the campus community engaging with various publics and sharing his or her knowledge and experience is a good thing for universities, colleges, and community colleges. and third, we must expand who counts as peers. we need - and those who evaluate us need - to broaden our concepts and communities of review.

parts two and three are interesting but are not directly relevant to my current focus to write my tenure narratives while at stonelake farm. but they are important and not to be missed. part two charts concerns of faculty doing or not doing public scholarship. it notes that although today's graduate students are extremely publicly active (check out UW's institute on the public humanities for doctoral students and look out for HASTAC scholars program coming to a campus near you), their mentors often urge them to stop. further, junior and mid-career faculty postpone or under-report their public scholarship. finally, there is also a heightened risk for students and faculty of color who are often already facing increased service expectations and responsibilities. part three is about changing the culture and includes tangible suggestions: working with and educating presidents, provosts, and deans; supporting departmental chairs; rewriting a department's statement on scholarship; exploring the intersections of departments, centers, and deans; employing participatory policy change (see what indiana university-purdue university indianapolis requires of its senior faculty on page 30 of the report); and, most importantly, listen to graduate students and learn about the projects that excite them.

the report is long - at 55+ pages too long - but it covers so much ground and is full of ideas and information about constructive ways to encourage public scholarship and collaborative community-based arts and cultural events and to reward them as scholarly activity.

as i leave the cybercafe on stonelake farm and return to the octagon and the fields below it, i begin to mull over the words i'll use to describe RCCS and the september project in my tenure narratives. with imagining america's fifty-two word definition of publicly engaged academic work swimming in my mind, i see all kinds of words and sentences taking shape.

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