Engaged Department Initiative

The Engaged Department Initiative (EDI) is a growing effort to formally and strategically incorporate community engagement in the curricula of participating departments. Supported by the Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence, the EDI works with departments to scaffold community engagement into courses that are developmentally-appropriate for students. The Initiative, which began as a collaborative effort by Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, and Aquinas College, is now preparing for its third year of connecting Grand Valley classrooms with the community. 

Currently, the Office for Community Engagement is wrapping up the work of Cohort I. Cohort II, having completed its first semester in the Initiative, is gaining momentum as each of the three participating departments, The School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration, Mathematics, and Public Health, has been working to establish partnerships in preparation for further work with the community.

If you are interested in participating in the initiative or would like more information, please contact Director of Community Engagement at 616-331-8971. You may also view the logic model behind the Initiative here

About the Initiative

The goals of the Engaged Department Initiative (EDI) are increased faculty knowledge and skills in community-based teaching and research, expanded community-based learning opportunities for students, and enhanced community partnerships. Over the course of 18 months, departments work toward:

  • Integrating community-based learning as a strategy to achieve key academic goals for students and faculty
  • Incorporating curricular scaffolding of community-based opportunities to enhance student learning and development
  • Building collaborative approaches to community partnerships
  • Establishing a culture that supports and rewards community-based teaching and scholarship

From within each department a group of faculty self-select to serve on the team that will drive the work and represent their department. Team members are given additional support through collaborative multi-departmental meetings among a cohort of teams. By using a cohort model, the EDI creates a community of practice through which faculty can collaborate both across and within departments to brainstorm ideas and provide support. Guided by established benchmarks, the Initiative provides a level of accountability that propels teams forward in their work.

Through the EDI, participating departments are awarded a $4,000 grant to support their work. Here are some examples of how departments have used the award:

  • Hiring a student worker to support faculty and partners
  • Supporting professional development opportunities
  • Providing hospitality for meetings with community partners
  • Purchasing supplies to support the partnership

GVSU faculty Danielle Lake and Karyn Rabourn are working together on an interdisciplinary assessment team to provide ongoing, iterative feedback to participating departments, and to assess the long-term and widespread impact of the initiative.


Cohort I

  • Geography and Sustainable Planning
    • Team Members: Elena Lioubimtseva, Jim Penn, Jeroen Wagendorp, Kin Ma
  • Anthropology
    • Team Members: Deana Weibel, Elizabeth Arnold, Russell Rhoads, Tara Hefferan, Heather Van Wormer, Michael Wroblewski
  • Hospitality and Tourism Management
    • Team Members: Mike Sciarini, Patty Janes, Lisa Sisson, Gail Zemmol, Lorie Tuma

Cohort II

  • School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration
    • Team Members: Richard Jelier, Neal Buckwalter, Davia Downey, Michelle Wooddell, Quincy Williams
  • Mathematics
    • Team Members: Karen Novotny, Feryal Alayont, Esther Billings, Jiyeon Suh
  • Public Health
    • Team Members: Ranelle Brew, Katie Barnhart, Karen Niemchick

Page last modified September 18, 2017