Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Faculty Role Integration and Community Engagement: Harmony or Cacophony?

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Faculty Role Integration and Community Engagement: Harmony or Cacophony?

Article excerpt

Colleges and universities that aim to sustain or expand community partnerships and institutionalize civic engagement face important faculty challenges. Faculty adoption of community-based pedagogies and research approaches, in turn, faces important practical and conceptual barriers, as engagement activities appear in competition with expected teaching, research, and service roles. Semi-structured interviews with 29 faculty members at one private liberal arts college, all of whom engaged in teaching, research, and/or service in their local community within a broadly supportive institutional environment, explored whether and how faculty achieved integration among teaching, research, and community engagement roles within local expectations for high teaching and research achievement. Findings reveal three faculty orientations toward integration of teaching, research, and community partnerships--an "integrated" view, an "if only ..." view, and a "non-integrated" view. Faculty development strategies that seek intentional integration of these three roles may facilitate and improve faculty research and teaching and institutional impact in the community.

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Scholars widely maintain that institutionalizing civic work in higher education and creating sustainable community partnerships requires colleges and universities to go beyond dependence upon student volunteer service and to connect communities with faculty teaching and research (Bringle & Hatcher, 2000; Furco, 2001). Creating ties to the "academic core" (Lombardi, 2001) means connecting civic work to pedagogies, academic programs, and research agendas. It is easy to see the advantages to this approach. While student volunteers may come and go, faculty members, courses, and programs persist. Community service initiatives exclusively tied to students can be poorly resourced or short-lived. Academic-community partnerships gain access to more substantial resources and more sustainable relationships if civic needs are connected to faculty teaching and research.

Assisting faculty members to develop community-based teaching and research projects that serve civic ends presents common faculty development challenges. For faculty prepared to embrace civic pedagogies or scholarship, the question of how to incorporate it into teaching and research can loom as large as the question why might for others less oriented to community-based projects. While advancing community-based efforts among faculty requires development of relevant syllabi, appropriate pedagogical and research approaches, equally important and perhaps more complicated is the challenge of weaving community-based teaching and research into the traditional core roles of faculty as teachers and scholars. Faculty involvement (or uninvolvement) in community-based pedagogies and research projects will be decided by their perception of role compatibility between teaching and scholarship and civic engagement.

How do community-based projects "fit" with existing teaching and research roles? Are they perceived to be in harmony or in competition with these roles? Studies suggest faculty often seek and find overlap and integration among roles (Colbeck, 1995, 1998, 2002a, 2002b, 2004; Neumann, 1992, 1996). Across disciplines, faculty "integrators" aim for and sometimes achieve synergy between roles. The pursuit of balance among competing roles is a frequent faculty work theme (Bess, 1998; Menges, 1999). Berberet (1999) argues that "an integrative professional paradigm" that brings community service into alignment with teaching and research is both critical and promising for faculty and institutions. Some of the highest quality community-based research and service-learning (as illustrated by Campus Compact Ehrlich Award and NERCHE Lynton Award winners) is found in teaching, research, and community service that is seamless and integrated (Benson, Harkavy & Puckett, 1996; Campus Compact, 2006; NERCHE, 2006; Reardon, 1998). …

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