Current Issue, Vol 8 No. 2:

Message from the Editor

Greetings, JCES readers. It is with great ambivalence that I write this, my final editor’s message for JCES. Being editor of JCES brought much to my life. I have had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of individuals. From the students who have worked in the office to the full-time staff affiliated with the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, my job as editor was made easier because of them. During my tenure as editor, a very difficult job was made possible through the hard work of three editorial assistants, Dr. Kyun-soo Kim, now on faculty at Grambling State University, Dr. Jessica Averitt Taylor, now on faculty at Northern Kentucky University, and Vicky Carter, a doctoral social work student, our current assistant to the editor. Each of them kept us organized, on task and moving forward. They did and continue to do far more to contribute to the success of JCES than most people realize. We are fortunate to have had Kyun-soo and Jessica at critical times in the journal’s development and we are very fortunate as we approach another critical time in the journal’s growth to still have Vicky. To each of them I say thank you and you are appreciated. A special accolade goes to Dr. Edward Mullins, production editor of JCES, whose talent and artistry continue to add to the unique aesthetics of JCES. But more than that, his strategic use of visuals gives the journal a vibrant, new, and different look and appeal. His commitment to readability adds to the journal’s accessibility to all. He oversees the production of each issue of JCES and I appreciate his work.

Outreach and Engagement Staff and Communities of Practice: A Journey from Practice to Theory for and Emerging Professional Identity and Community

        The emergence and recognition of outreach and engagement staff and non-tenure track faculty in higher education literature as key figures in the success of university outreach and community engagement are welcome developments for these practitioners. This article describes the perceptions of outreach and engagement staff at large, public research universities with decentralized engagement initiatives. The authors describe efforts to organize outreach and community engagement staff to create supportive networks, improve practice, provide professional development opportunities, and advocate for practitioner interests and needs. Community-of-practice theory offers a model for connecting, organizing, and sustaining outreach and engagement staff practitioners and their emerging professional identity.

Responsible Engagement: Building a Culture of Concern

        As we scale up engagement with communities around the world, how do we ensure that the foundational engagement principles of responsiveness, respect, and accessibility are never compromised? While community engagement is important and can have a dramatic positive impact, it can also result in unintended negative consequences for all stakeholders, including community members, students, faculty, and staff. At Penn State, we are developing a framework for an Engagement Review Board (ERB) to proactively educate university members about the principles and best practices of engagement, and to work with them to ensure that collaborative projects benefit all stakeholders in spirit and substance. This article summarizes the larger challenge of equitable community engagement and makes the case that there is a need for additional protection such as through an ERB. The various resources and functions that can be provided by an ERB across the life cycle of engagement projects are described. The objective is to stimulate discussion on how we can collectively develop an infrastructure—undergirded by a “culture of concern” rather than a “culture of compliance”—to strengthen and mainstream community engagement without making it more onerous to all stakeholders.

Youth Engagement – Engaging for Change: Changing for Engagement

        This paper documents the incentives for, processes of, and outcomes from our multi-year community-based research project on youth engagement. In line with the theme of the 15th Annual Conference of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC)—Engaging for Change: Changing for Engagement—this paper illustrates our project in terms of the conference’s three sub-themes: (1) Why engage?, (2) How do we engage?, and (3) What impacts are we having? Contextualized within these sub-themes, the paper describes opportunities and challenges of youth engagement from youth and professional perspectives by highlighting insights of our youth leaders and community partners, along with some reflective remarks by our university researchers. The paper provides tangible descriptions and illustrations for the significance of “strategic engagement” (Speer & Christens, 2013) by focusing on the use of “strategic youth and partner engagement.” Importantly, this strategic engagement centerpieces the voices and talents of our youth leaders, supported by our community agency partners, along with a background role of university researchers.

Expanding Engagement Opportunities at a Large Land-Grant Research University: The Engagement Ecosystem Model

        How does a public university with over 80,000 students across 24 campuses provide every student with an engaged scholarship experience? This article chronicles the first steps of this ambitious journey to educate a new generation of engaged scholars by building engagement ecosystems: networks of students, faculty, courses, and communities working together on compelling socially relevant projects around a common theme. By incorporating projects from an impact-focused community engagement program into a cross-section of existing classes, universities can expand engagement opportunities from a select few to the vast majority of the students. This article reviews current approaches to scale engagement opportunities before describing the principles and mechanics of the Engagement Ecosystem model. A case study of the pilot implementation of this model is presented with preliminary assessment results (n=1,165), key lessons learned, and future expansion plans.

Hear Our Voice: Case Study Connecting Under-Represented Communities to Research and Legislators on Safe Routes to School and Active Transportation

        Although research indicates the built environment influences the walkability of a geographic region among a general population, less is known about the built-environment influences among communities that face health and socio-economic disparities. Built-environment initiatives like Safe Routes to School and Active Transportation that do not take into account the unique assets/barriers of these communities can inadvertently widen disparities. With a health equity lens, this project focused on bridging information gaps that exist between underserved communities, research, and health policy-making. Community listening sessions focusing on Safe Routes to School/Active Transportation were held in the spring of 2014. Over 180 participants from some of Minnesota’s communities of color (Native American, Somali/Oromo, and LGTBQ Two-Spirit) generated recommendations for policy and program decision- makers. These recommendations illustrated that in addition to the built-environment Safe Routes to School/Active Transportation address, public safety concerns needed to be addressed for successful implementation of Safe Routes to School and Active Transportation in their communities.

The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine by Adults and Children in the South

        A community of students, at different ranks, and two faculty members engaged in the development of a research project aimed at studying the consumption of complementary and/or alternative medicine (CAM) in the South. A well-established store in the community was identified for the study because of its focus on natural products and well-being. The students and faculty developed a CAM survey and the store owners provided feedback and gave approval to conduct the study on their patrons. The survey explored CAM use among adults and children in comparison to CAM uses in other regions of the country. Challenges and lessons learned from the engaged project are discussed, along with the findings that included family remedies and folklore recipes used in the South for varying ailments and symptoms.

“Let Us Pick the Organization”: Understanding Adult Student Perceptions of Service-Learning Practice

        Service learning offers a pedagogy by which adult students are guided toward understanding their potential for leadership in civic life and community development, strengthening the impact that universities have in communities. In this study, qualitative data is analyzed to determine how adult students perceive their service-learning experiences and what the university could do to involve them more in the future. Respondents provide some evidence that they value opportunities to give back to communities where they have a connection; appreciate hands-on learning that is integrated with classroom learning; benefit from placement experiences that build upon prior knowledge and skills; and prefer greater choice in the selection of their service-learning placement. As the number of adult students entering higher education continues to rise and their retention remains a challenge, understanding how these students are engaged by service learning becomes an important area of exploration for post-secondary institutions.

Helping Diminish the College Knowledge and Access Divide: Development of a College Outreach Camp to Serve Community Needs

        This descriptive case study examined the development of a college outreach summer camp at a university in Texas. The camp aims to diminish the college knowledge and access divide that exists between first generation college-going, lower-income, and underrepresented students and their counterparts in the region in which the university is located. Drawing on one year of survey data, interviews with program personnel, program documents, and newspaper articles about the camp, this study highlights some of the camp’s early successes, as well as growing pains of starting such an effort to serve community needs.

Enacting Environmental Justice Through the Undergraduate Classroom: The Transformative Potential of Community Engaged Partnerships

        In this paper, we document our efforts, as activist scholars, to cultivate among our liberal arts students a critical environmental justice consciousness through engaging with community organizations. We detail our efforts to make the classroom a space in which to engage environmental justice beyond a narrow and short-term focus on the disproportionate impact of environmental harms in low-income and minority communities to a more expansive and consistent attention to histories of inequality and processes of marginalization. We argue that community engaged partnerships afford opportunities for educators to combine theory with practice and disrupt students’ assumptions about what or who constitutes the environment. Our socially privileged students, in gaining a better understanding of structural/historic privilege and how their own positionality implicates them in environmental injustice, have been able to re-evaluate and reframe their political and theoretical commitments and carve out meaningful ways to contribute to environmental justice work.