Faculty Institute blends scholarship and community engagement

Author: John Guimond

Community Engagement Faculty Institute

The University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns hosted its inaugural Community Engagement Faculty Institute May 30 through June 1 to help faculty deepen their understanding of the theory and practice of academic community engagement.

Sixteen faculty and graduate students from the Hesburgh Libraries, the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning, Mendoza College of Business, the Spanish program in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and the departments of anthropology, English, physics, political science, theology and sociology participated in the Faculty Institute.

More than 30 speakers presented during the event, which featured daily readings on the scholarship of engagement, service learning, the pedagogy of reflective writing, and community-based research, augmented by guest lectures from campus and community experts.

“Last year there were more than 120 community-based learning courses offered across disciplines at Notre Dame, and the number is growing,” said Connie Snyder Mick, assistant director of the Center for Social Concerns and director for Social Concerns Seminars and Community-Based Learning. "Our goal for the Institute was to inform faculty on how to integrate community engagement into their scholarly portfolio. Academic community engagement draws on faculty’s existing expertise, but it also requires the additional knowledge and support the Center for Social Concerns has developed in its nearly 30 years of service.”

The Institute was itself a model of engaged learning, featuring a mix of lectures by faculty and community experts from several community partners on the theory and practice of community engagement, along with travel into the local community to learn with community partners who address a range of social concerns, such as poverty, health care and education.

Center for Social Concerns

“Community-based learning (CBL) and community-based research (CBR) are fantastic ways to break down the traditional disconnected class and instead offer our students the real world as their laboratory," said Suzanne Coshow, an associate professional specialist in the Mendoza College of Business who participated in the Institute. "CBR provides students and faculty with meaningful opportunities to impact both themselves and the larger community through research. I feel lucky to be at an institution that not only values CBR and CBL, but provides opportunities like this Faculty Community Engagement Institute as only part of the many resources and support available to help with community engagement.”

“I came to the Faculty Institute to learn more about the supporting infrastructure for Community Engagement offered at the CSC," said Thomas Loughran, a professional specialist in the Department of Physics. "Community-based research activities supported through the CSC are complementary to but have not always been well-connected with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach efforts at the University. The potential for greater collaboration and new synergies became much clearer during our three days together at the Institute.”

According to Snyder Mick, the CSC focuses on sustainable engagement that helps student, faculty and community development. Building strong, reciprocal relationships is key to sustainable engagement, so the Institute was designed to foster campus-community partnerships through site visits to partner organizations and by welcoming community partners on campus to discuss their role in community-based learning. Faculty learned from community partners about the care they take in facilitating strong orientation, placement, supervision and reflection as students work at their organizations. Faculty and staff with expertise as theorists and practitioners of engaged teaching and research underscored the importance of intra-campus dialogue and partnerships. Faculty from STEM to the humanities shared knowledge and inspiration that crossed disciplinary boundaries.

“Our goal was to leave faculty feeling renewed and inspired in their teaching and research objectives even as they left with a concrete sense of the material and human resources that can sustain their engaged scholarship long after the Institute,” Snyder Mick said.

For more information on the Faculty Institute, please visit blogs.nd.edu/community-engagement-faculty-institute/. Faculty interested in joining the Institute next year should contact Snyder Mick at cmick@nd.edu.