Results of community engagement study shared

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The results of a study measuring the community engagement of faculty, staff and students were revealed at SynergyWorks, a discussion held to share perspectives on community partnerships and how to measure the benefits of these partnerships with the community. More than 120 faculty members and administrative staff attended the March 22 event, that included a panel discussion and small group dialogue.

Ruth Stegeman, director of the Office for Community Engagement, shared the results of 114 interviews conducted with faculty, staff and students during the past year. She said the depth and intensity of community partnerships at Grand Valley is impressive. She said 52 percent of faculty interviewed said they incorporate community service and partnerships as a way of teaching, and 38 percent incorporate community service into teaching and research.

Community engagement is part of their curriculum and part of the way they teach,” said Stegeman. “Faculty members choose community engagement as a method of teaching because the partnership with the community brings experiential knowledge, skills, and other expertise to the learning goal and addresses a particular community problem.”

Stegeman said national experts believe 30 percent faculty and staff participation is the tipping point for a university to be considered engaged in their community and Grand Valley surpasses that mark.

Stegeman used the Biology Department as an example of how community engagement is a focus for learning, noting that biology chair Neil MacDonald mentors his faculty and staff to find synergy by bringing their teaching, research and service together.

A panel discussion was held with Provost Gayle Davis, deans Fred Antczak and Cynthia McCurren, and Liberal Studies Chair Wendy Burns-Ardolino.

Provost Davis said she has seen huge growth in community engagement since arriving at Grand Valley in 2002, especially in the areas of internships and service learning. “Much of the community has adopted us as their university, ever since our founding,” said Davis. “We enjoy a good relationship with community partners and we are well served by engaging in the community. I’d like to see our involvement become even more widespread and work toward finding the time, space, and finances and rewards for faculty and staff who want to move in this direction.”

Davis said students need to understand the importance of doing work in the community for their own self interest and their future. She also said it’s time for Grand Valley to get on the “bragging band wagon” so the depth of the university’s community involvement is well known.

Roundtable topics included professional development, student impact, promotion and tenure, community impact and sustainable community partnerships.