Broadening Perspectives: A Multidisciplinary Collaborative Teaching and Learning Experience

Carol Plummer, Teresa K. Buchanan, C. Barrett Kennedy, Lawrence Rouse, and John Pine


Following in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and conducted when Hurricanes Gustav and Ike struck the coast of Louisiana, a unique service-learning course stretched the boundaries of students and faculty in new ways. First, students and faculty from five distinctive disciplines designed the course collaboratively, infusing different perspectives into every aspect of planning and teaching. Second, the content area—human impacts of disasters and disease—required students (future leaders who will one day make critical decisions in the midst of uncertainty and conflict) to grapple with major human tragedies. Third, the course objective—to encourage critical analysis—required students to examine multifaceted and complex issues as they considered the environmental, political, and social effects of disaster and disease. Finally, this course used a qualitative research project as its service component, and the partner was our own university. The goal of the project was to offer information that would help the administration plan for future disasters. Students directly experienced disaster-related challenges through planned assignments requiring critical analysis and a ropes challenge experience simulating a crisis environment. In the first few weeks of class, proving that in education as in life timing is everything, Hurricane Gustav severely damaged the community and simulation became reality. While this course, entitled Honors 2000: Critical Analysis and Social Responsibility: The Human Response to Disaster and Disease, is not precisely replicable because of unique hurricane occurrences, any team of faculty can replicate the collaboration, flexibility, responsiveness, and authenticity that characterized the experience.


Service-learning is a pedagogical approach that integrates community service with academic study to promote student reflection, critical thinking, and creative problem solving. Bringle and Hatcher (1996) provided a comprehensive definition of service-learning as “a credit-bearing educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of the course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of service responsibility” (p. 68).

Adult learning theory is the framework for service-learning. Knowles (1972), with his explanation of andragogy as the art and science of teaching adults, viewed adult learners as mature and self-directed people who come into learning experiences to solve problems. Life experience is a valuable learning resource, and demands of social roles stimulate an adult’s readiness to learn. The teacher is a facilitator of knowledge who creates a comfortable and respectful learning environment using an andragogical pedagogy that responds to students’ needs and expectations with student-centered authentic learning activities.

Student-centered instruction uses pragmatic approaches to teaching that encourage self-awareness, personal responsibility for learning, and ongoing evaluation (Ephross, 1989).

Honors 2000 is a service-learning course offered to all entering Honors College freshmen and sophomores at Louisiana State University. This course, Critical Analysis and Social Responsibility: The Human Response to Disaster and Disease, is taught collaboratively by multidisciplinary teams of faculty. In the semester in which this research was carried out, three five-member teams and one three-member team taught 350 students in 18 sections of 20 students each. One of the teams, the one described in this paper, consisted of five faculty members who came from the following academic units: architecture, education, environmental studies, oceanography, and social work. Each member of this team had been directly and actively involved in recovery activities following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005 to the present). Their goal was to create a communication-intensive, experiential learning course that would introduce students to research while surveying the broad interdisciplinary parameters of disaster preparedness and response. With the university administration and student government as community partners, the faculty developed a service-learning project for which students interviewed senior level students who were on campus during the 2005 hurricane season (Katrina/Rita, fall 2005). The course was designed to: (1) offer multidisciplinary perspectives about disaster and disease; (2) survey literature related to human response to disaster and disease; (3) help students develop critical thinking skills; and (4) introduce the use of qualitative research as both a service and community activity.

Course Description

This course was planned over the summer by a team of five faculty members and three students. Two students had taken this course in the preceding school year, and one was a freshman when Hurricane Katrina disrupted her studies. The students compiled, analyzed, and evaluated multiple texts, videos, and online teaching resources. They also conducted a pilot of the research project. The faculty, using that information, together crafted a syllabus with planned readings, experiences, and assignments to facilitate student learning (see Appendix A for a list of assignments).

Honors 2000 was designed to foster critical thinking about the universal and particular aspects of human response to crises. The course consisted of 100 undergraduate college students, divided into five sections of 20 students each. Each week, the class met together (all 100 students and five faculty members), and later in the week the sections met independently for small group discussions and activities. These activities included:

1. Lectures and large group presentations of provocative content and activities

2. Weekly small group processing, discussion, and activities

3. An experiential learning component, the obstacle course

4. A research project suitable for freshmen that introduced qualitative methodology

5. Written assignments with peer and faculty feedback for content and writing style

6. Oral presentations of findings from 200 interviews about hurricane experiences

In addition to traditional academic instruction (readings, lectures, in-class activities, traditional assignments), the course incorporated two features described in detail below. The first unique feature engaged students in a simulated crisis environment (an obstacle course) that used andragogical pedagogy through experiential learning in activities that required students to make authentic decisions as a community, work with fellow students as team members, and exercise leadership. This occurred early in the course and served as a reference point throughout the semester, as faculty members reminded the students of the discomfort, successes, and challenges they experienced.

The second unique feature used a slightly different approach to service-learning. To provide valuable information for future planning by university administrators, the course participants interviewed students who had directly experienced the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on campus. This activity took place toward the end of the course. The interviews were integrated into the curriculum after consultation with administrators and student government officers who requested information in the form of a report on student experiences and suggestions. The team decided that gathering information from seniors (who were freshmen in the fall of 2005) was most critical because many would be graduating the following semester.

During this course, students developed their critical thinking skills as they solved faculty-generated dilemmas, grappled with provocative guest lectures, and examined their own and others’ decision making processes during disasters. The following sections describe how these features were used to present multidisciplinary perspectives about disaster and disease, survey literature about human response to disaster and disease, help students develop critical thinking skills, and use research methods for service-learning.

Multidisciplinary Perspectives

In addition to meeting throughout the summer to plan the course, faculty met weekly during the semester to discuss the class and make any necessary adjustments to course readings and activities. Each faculty member, representing distinctive disciplines, consistently and continuously provided input from the point of view of their academic background and expertise. For example, the social work professor lectured on post-traumatic stress disorder, presenting the internal challenges faced by those who experience disaster. The professor of coastal environment lectured on the unique vulnerabilities of the coastal area to natural disasters, presenting his own research to deepen understanding of the creation and prevention of such disasters. The professor of disaster management had much to contribute regarding the history of disasters and human responses to disaster and disease. The professor of architecture lectured about the importance of place and space, including safe building designs for safe communities. The professor of education helped design, facilitate, and consolidate learning and assessment activities. Thus, the students learned concepts related to the broader social issue without being limited to a single lens or subject delineation (Beane, 1997).

The content of the course draws from a number of disciplines. Disaster science management draws from the fields of business, environmental studies, geography, anthropology, human ecology, landscape architecture, sociology, political science, public health, public administration, religious studies, architecture, education, civil and environmental engineering, oceanography and coastal studies, and others (Auerswald, Branscomb, LaPorte, &, Michel-Kerian, 2006; Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2007). The required readings, presented below, reflect the multidisciplinary nature of the content:

The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (2003)

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond (2005)

Bayou Farewell by Mike Tidwell (2003)

The First Horseman: Disease in Human History by John Aberth (2007)

The Plague by Albert Camus (1960)

The entire Honors College faculty selected those texts for use in all the sections of the course. For the sections described in this paper, students also read and reported on a text from the list below. The texts selected by this particular faculty and student planning team were:

The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, by John M. Barry, 2004.

Rising Tide: The great Mississippi flood of 1927 and how it changed America, by John M. Barry, 1997.

Everything in its Path: Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood, by Kai T. Erikson, 1976, winner of the Sorokin Award

Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, by Eric Klinenberg, 2002

Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, by Eric Larson, 1999

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, 2006 (2007 Pulitzer Prize, fiction)

Down and Out in the Great Depression: Letters from the Forgotten Man, Robert McElvaine, editor, 1983.

Polio: An American Story—The Crusade That Mobilized the Nation Against the 20th Century’s Most Feared Disease, by David M. Oshinsky, 2005 (2006 Pulitzer Prize, history)

Category 5, by Ernest Zebrowski and Judith Howard, 2005

Finally, students attended and reflected upon showings of these movies: “Hotel Rwanda”; “An Inconvenient Truth”; “Low and Behold” (a movie directed by LSU graduate Zach Godshall about an insurance adjuster after Katrina); and “The Sleeper,” a play about New Yorkers after 9/11 directed by LSU Honors College student Kathleen McMurray.

Human Response to Disaster and Disease

Through these readings and course experiences, students examined the human impacts of disaster on their own lives, families, friends, and associates in both their home and campus communities. The content of the course was presented as the history of disaster response and the difficulties and complexities associated with disaster and disease. Through readings about historical responses to catastrophes, personal accounts of reactions, and both futuristic fiction and classic literature, students learned about the powerful forces that accompany disasters. Students examined hurricanes and floods associated with hurricanes Camille, 1969, and Katrina, 2005. They also studied coastal erosion, the bubonic plague of the late 14th century, and the AIDS epidemic. Course discussion linked current and historical events to ethical considerations about citizenship and individual responsibility.

Just weeks after the course began, an authentic learning experience emerged when Hurricane Gustav devastated the campus and surrounding areas. The faculty immediately incorporated this disaster into the class by integrating information about this hurricane into the course material, focusing on the students’ own experiences and developing their self-awareness through journals and reflection papers, class discussion, and individual discussions about students’ decisions during this disaster (e.g., to go home, do volunteer work). Because Hurricane Gustav seriously damaged the city and campus, much of the course content paralleled the students’ own experiences.

Critical Analysis

Throughout the various class experiences, faculty emphasized critical thinking and student reflection about disaster preparation, effects, and responses. The foundation for this approach, a crisis decision making and leadership development activity (obstacle course) with the LSU Sports and Adventure Complex, was scheduled early in the course. The objective of the experience was to help students understand the role of individuals and communities in disaster preparedness and response through this authentic, experiential learning activity. A ropes course, or Challenge Course, is an obstacle course designed to help individuals and groups develop strong concepts of leadership and teamwork. The challenge experience combines action and reflection to open the door to personal discovery and interpersonal understanding through demanding cooperative work on a series of physical activities (on high or low ropes, for example) or group problem solving to accomplish a joint physical task (climbing over a wall, balancing on a platform). A key objective of the approach is for team members to discover how individual contributions are vital to the success of the team.

This experiential program explores the intricacies of communication, cooperation, and trust within a safe, structured environment. Through a combination of mental and physical demands within a controlled setting, the groups were challenged to effectively overcome obstacles while developing trust and teamwork, thus encouraging personal confidence and initiative and creating a learning environment that was comfortable and respectful. Class members had opportunities to take risks and have fun, a time-proven mechanism for breaking down interpersonal communication barriers and providing opportunities for growth. This form of active engagement promised long-lasting benefits that would allow each student to continue to learn from this experience, through reflection exercises, discussion, and experiential learning activities over the course of the semester.

This experience incorporated the Challenge by Choice ( philosophy in which participants are encouraged to try new things, take risks, and push the boundaries of their individual comfort zones, a philosophy that allowed group members to choose their own level of involvement. With this in mind, the challenge program activities were intended to be accessible to all levels of physical ability and fitness. There were a variety of roles, from observing to strategizing to getting intimately involved in the action. The fundamental key to success was not a measure of individual strength, skill, or agility, but a measure of the group’s cohesiveness.

One of the highest priorities of the challenge program is physical and emotional safety. For this experience, developing and exercising compassion, tolerance, and understanding were essential goals of the team-building exercises. Faculty worked with the program facilitators to create experiential learning activities that provided appropriate challenges in an environment that fostered emotional and physical peer support. The success of the semester was premised on the ability of the students to work as a team in their critical analysis. The course was also tailored for students to gain experience in leadership, team-building, and problem solving, while fostering communication, creativity, cooperation, camaraderie, self-awareness, and self-esteem. A key goal was that participants would leave this experience with skills that could be applied not only to all aspects of the course, but to the rest of their lives.

One challenge of the course was to prompt Piaget’s disequilibrium to help students learn and grow, so faculty deliberately simulated the kind of discomfort that they might experience through the process of interviewing students affected by Katrina-Rita, necessitating the asking of tough questions and eliciting uncomfortable, emotional memories about the personal impact of the 2005 hurricanes. It was essential to engage students in their own simulated crisis environment that would build a sense of community and create a foundation for teamwork. The exercise on the Challenge Course required them to define and analyze choices, work with fellow students as a team, and negotiate and implement action plans. This class activity was designed to make students more aware of their own responses to a crisis, how their class-mates deal with crisis, and how peer pressure impacted their own decision-making. This crisis simulation introduced students to many of the disaster response themes presented throughout the semester, and through student-faculty interactions, it also established the basis for a learning community of students and faculty.

The challenge program offered a team-building exercise that challenged the analytical, social, and physical skills of most students. Students stretched themselves by literally getting (uncomfortably) close in order to understand that teamwork is fully operational only when based on collaboration and trust. Collective problem identification and articulation (defining the problem), analytical thinking coupled with dialogue and negotiation, identification of objectives and development of strategies for achieving them—all provided the foundation for a successful semester.

In addition, the students reflected on the practice of good leadership skills through engaged “followship.” As Honors College students, many viewed themselves as leaders. Through the challenge ropes course, they were forced to think about the broadest possible definition of shared leadership roles and responsibilities in the context of a community, and to consider that leadership qualities were essential attributes of good team players (“followers”).

Faculty also encouraged students to explore the limits of their self-confidence by engaging in what were for the most part unfamiliar physical challenges through a variety of Challenge Course elements. By doing so, faculty hoped to establish the community group as a safe arena for taking risks without fear of failure, knowing this would likely energize the semester’s discussions by encouraging students to express divergent opinions and perspectives while overcoming their conditioned fear of failure (exceed self-imposed limitations), which serves only to limit our ability to learn and achieve.

Importantly, an inclusive dialogue and coordinated, collective action were necessary for success in the Challenge Course. Whether by working together to raise a horizontal, segmented tent pole on their extended finger-tips through coordinated group action or rearranging themselves on a horizontal telephone pole by age, then first name alphabetical order, then height without falling off, students demonstrated a capacity to transcend basic inhibitions and exercise the thinking and communication skills necessary to achieve the objectives of each course element.

It was important to emphasize that each student had input, and even the quietest voice has a role and responsibility in the collective dialogue. Each individual member of the community could conceive of possible solutions and everyone had to succeed collectively in order for each one to succeed individually, with the chain only as strong as its weakest link. Importantly, this approach both demands and fosters an environment of respect and trust as a basis for building success.

The intensive progression of Challenge Course activities (elements) were intended to habituate students to the process of authentically stepping out of their comfort zone as a means to keep learning, building self-awareness and self-confidence, practicing compassion and respect, and measuring how and when to trust. A key objective was that the students would discover new levels of personal and collective confidence through engagement with the Challenge Course and would begin to conceptualize a comfortable and respectful learning environment. In this environment, students might shed inhibitions, get over any fear of failure, and become bolder and less risk-averse, so that they might be better able to sort out the different possibilities and permutations of problem-solving.

Qualitative Research as Service and

Community Engagement

A key experience that helped students think about preparedness and disaster response from a multi-disciplinary perspective was the research project. After many meetings and iterations of interview drafts, and with expert help from the campus Oral History Center, the faculty team finalized an interview protocol focused on student perspectives about the campus response to Katrina and Rita, immediately and over time. The protocol consciously avoided a focus on sensitive issues or personal tragedy. Instead, it consisted of open-ended questions that allowed students to only share details about their experiences they chose to discuss. This activity was not designed to produce publishable or generalizable findings, but rather to introduce students to research methodology in a way that was suitable for first-year undergraduates. It was also designed to facilitate individual engagement with the university community, a new setting for the freshmen whose individual needs called for an introduction to the university culture.

During the summer, the faculty planned the study and obtained IRB approval. After audio-recording equipment was obtained, the student workers were trained in use of the recorder, trained in qualitative interviewing skills, and asked to pilot the interview schedule. Two student workers interviewed the third who had been a freshman in 2005 when the hurricanes struck. They also piloted the interview with several faculty and staff members. Together, the student workers and faculty used the pilot experience to finalize the interview questions and process. Student workers also transcribed the interviews and noted how much time each task took to accomplish, helping to ensure the student assignments would be reasonable.

This data collection activity was designed with multiple objectives that encouraged students to take personal responsibility for their own learning, work as a team, provide input to the university on successes and failures regarding their responses to Hurricane Katrina, recognize opportunities to help and support those impacted by disasters, learn about qualitative research, and model civic engagement in our university community. Although the students conducted the interviews in the latter half of the semester, they were prepared from the beginning to interview seniors who had been freshmen (like the students in this course) at the time of Katrina. Specifically, early in the course, students were given background information about the project, provided with an interview schedule, and instructed in the basics of recruitment and interview engagement. They were given a coding framework along with information and lectures about human response to disaster and disease throughout history.

Data Collection

In pairs, students conducted four interviews—two where they were the primary interviewer and two where they observed and managed the technical details associated with recording the interview. In this way, each student directly participated in four interviews, but each individual student was only responsible for the transcription and coding of two interviews. They recruited people for the interviews from personal contacts (fraternities, dorms, friends, and family members) or, for those few who could not find students who had been at LSU during Katrina, from a list of students provided by the faculty. All interviews were done with informed consent and were audio-recorded. Interviews were conducted outdoors, in public buildings, or at locations based on the preference and comfort of the interviewee. Most interviews took a half hour or less. A total of 200 interviews were completed for this project.

Data Processing and Analysis

After the interviews were completed and transcribed, students did an individual overall reading of their four transcripts and looked for the emergence of major themes. Some also did line-by-line coding based on a schema provided by the instructors. After doing their own coding, they compared their coding with those of their partner. After this, small groups pooled their findings and looked for common themes across multiple interviews. Individually, and then in groups, using the critical analysis skills promoted throughout the course, students began to generate general conclusions. Additionally, students noted unique and unusual statements or experiences. They selected quotes that represented the range of responses and integrated all of the information into a final report prepared by each group. Emphasis throughout the process was placed on student reflection and finding a deeper understanding of student concerns regarding preparedness and response. Students used grounded theory to ascertain the key points interviewees made in their responses, rather than having coding schema that was predetermined.

Results and Reports

After discussion and analysis within each section, each group presented its findings to the entire class. After presentations about these findings, each group was given ongoing evaluation in the form of written feedback from faculty members and other students, with both positive comments and suggestions for improvement and additional critical analysis. Each group used the feedback to improve their presentation for a final public presentation given to the community partners, the university administration, and student government. Students prepared both a written report and a presentation that described their assessment of student and campus awareness of the need of emergency preparedness and what constitutes appropriate emergency response.

The overarching conclusion of one group was that disasters create a sense of the unknown, the uncertain, and the unexpected. Based on quotes from their interviews, the group documented a sense of the unknown—with a lack of information creating anxiety, people seeking rapid and accurate updates, and a recognition that some anxiety is inevitable in such circumstances. The students found evidence in the transcripts of their interviews that disasters create unanticipated stressors. A heightened sense of vulnerability was also apparent in the interviews. Here is evidence of this in their own words:

Driving became a nightmare. …I was worried that my whole freshman semester was going to be pretty messed up. …The PMAC (Athletic Center) was like a big emergency triage center. …It was pretty crazy. …There was no food in the grocery store. …Everything was slightly more difficult, well significantly more difficult, for everyone.

It was just a little frightening to know that a city so big and so close to us could just be completely demolished like it was. …[I had] general worries about the campus and the population increase and how I was going to fit into all that. …I mean, just the overall shock of you know, holy cow, this happened to us.

Additional findings included a denial of vulnerability, feelings of losing control over one’s life, and fears about the possibility of other crises. For example, one student said:

You know, on TV, we see all these things about the Virginia Tech shooting. That doesn’t worry me on a daily basis, but it could happen.

As they examined the university response to the disaster, students in all sections found that most LSU students enrolled at the time of Hurricane Katrina had positive perceptions about the actions taken by the LSU administration. Specifically, the interviewees made positive comments about the university’s flexibility, openness to new students (who joined the campus after being displaced by the hurricanes), and faculty adaptability.

Because the disaster created by hurricanes Gustav and Ike occurred in the midst of the semester, the interviewers’ own experiences closely resembled those experienced by the interviewees. Also, many of the interviewees compared and contrasted the university responses to hurricanes Katrina and Rita with those following Gustav. The students reported that the interviewees often unfavorably compared the university response following Gustav and Ike with that following Katrina and Rita. That was interesting because the administration had changed after Katrina and Rita, and the response to the second set of storms (which actually had a much worse direct impact on the campus community than the storms of 2005) was perceived as substantially different by faculty and staff who were also present during each storm.

The faculty team was extremely impressed with the students’ observations and conclusions from the interview analysis and class discussions. The process demonstrated that undergraduate students were quite capable of partnering with faculty as full members of a research effort. The student analysis was insightful, sensitive, and developed through a unique perspective.

In summary, as researchers students gained interviewing skills, learned the basics of data collection, obtained knowledge in use of equipment and data management, experienced coding and learned about inter-rater reliability, were able to provide a synthesis of massive amounts of data, and engaged as members of their campus community taking responsibility to contribute by providing feedback to our community partners. They took the responsibility for this learning activity and they benefited from ongoing self, peer, and faculty evaluations.

Integrating Course Components

Given the multi-faceted nature of this course, integration of various components was essential to help the research hang together rather than fall apart. In addition to ongoing cross-referencing of experiences such as films in the small seminar meetings, interview responses in the large class lectures, and the obstacle course in journal entries, the following specific examples further illuminate faculty efforts at integration. Explicit linkages were necessary to help students weave the entire class experience into a coherent whole.

Faculty provided suggestions for weekly journal writing that included questions like, “How do the things you did in the ropes course relate to the lecture topic on facing fear of the plague, or help you acknowledge your fear about interviewing, but move forward and do it?” In their journaling, students practiced critical analysis skills learned from information provided both online and in class activities throughout the course.

In order to emphasize the prevention aspect of human response to disaster and disease, faculty used a concrete personal symbol—aluminum water bottles—to represent how individual actions can assist in disaster prevention. The bottles were given to each student to help them think about what the environment, sustainability, and personal health issues. This concrete item helped ground their examination of disaster and disease in the consideration of personal responsibility and the importance of taking small actions to prevent future problems.

A problem occurred during one of the large class student presentations when the technology failed, and the designated student speaker froze, The rest of his group involved in the presentation did nothing to assist. The faculty used this as an opportunity to discuss teamwork, joint responsibility, and relate their obstacle course experiences to other settings.

Finally, a very important linkage occurred when a formal reception was scheduled for university administrators and student leaders (our community partners) to hear student presentations of their combined findings about student experiences following Katrina. The students took the presentations very seriously, believing they had something essential and important to contribute, potentially making a difference when and if future disasters happened at our university. A positive experience of civic engagement, being aware they could contribute something valuable, and being carefully listened to, may translate to increased community involvement in the future.


This course exemplified the successful implementation of a number of innovative characteristics of service-learning and progressive higher education. In addition to being an exemplar of a grant-funded service-learning class, it also was a model of effective multidisciplinary teaching and of research conducted by undergraduates.

The team collaboration went beyond what is usually possible in college teaching, with weekly meetings lasting from June through December. For this type of complex teaching and learning experience, faculty found that a high level of coordination and communication was essential (Brookfield, 1986). One faculty member noted, “When we didn’t meet regularly things got more difficult.” Being supported by a small grant made the amount of work and commitment more palatable for faculty. The funding supported the purchase of equipment and funded student workers who helped develop the course readings, assignments, and research protocol. It also subsidized student participation in the ropes course experience.

This course was characterized by extreme collaboration, including strong leadership involvement of students. Faculty modeled and required a great deal of collaboration, thus facilitating a comfortable and respectful learning context and showing the type of cooperation that is required of individuals, communities, and societies after a disaster. Effective coping requires people to take risks and to attempt new actions. Student collaboration included an expectation to team with a classmate (someone they did not know) to conduct interviews. It was challenging for these new college students to find a senior to interview. In fact, although this experience was designed to meet their developmental need to fit into the campus community, it was a difficult and somewhat frightening experience for most students. As Kolb and Fry (1975) maintained, the facilitation of this type of learning is entirely different from typical college instruction—an engaged learning that helps students make meaning and can be widely generalized. Planned ambiguity challenged students to take responsibility for their learning while emphasizing the critical analysis component of the course, both essential in this format, to student learning (Mezirow & Associates, 1990; Tennant & Pogson, 1995).

Multiple perspectives was an important theme of the course. The faculty provided different perspectives, not only from their distinctive disciplines, but also through authentic learning activities and using a wide variety of readings (graphic and classic novels, chapters, and texts), videos, movies, online activities, lectures, and guest speakers. They covered many topics (the collapse of societies, hurricanes Katrina/Rita and Gustav/Ike, the effects of Camille on Nelson County, Virginia, the Buffalo Creek flood, the Black Plague, AIDS, and polio). Students were asked repeatedly to reflect upon their feelings and opinions about content of the course and their experiences, individually and in small groups, in order to develop self-awareness through comparisons and contrasts with others’ experiences. These experiences represented many different perspectives related to disasters, and the faculty continually inserted thinking that represented their distinctive disciplines into the course learning.

Traditionally, solitary and logical reasoning about philosophical issues has defined critical thinking. The best metaphor for that model is Rodin’s sculpture of The Thinker. A typical scholarly definition that embodies this idea is “the process of analyzing and assessing thinking with a view to improving it” (Paul & Elder, 2007). However, that type of critical thinking is not particularly well-matched to the demands and characteristics of our post-modern world (Mezirow & Associates, 1990).

Alternatively, the metaphor of a quilt can portray modern transformational critical thinking. In this metaphor, the member of a community of learners actively brings together shared pieces of different perspectives to create new knowledge that is creative, striking, and relevant (Thayer-Bacon, 2000). This service-learning course experience successfully facilitated transformational critical thinking. The students’ final papers, conversations in class, and their exam responses all showed evidence of this. Students began to construct an understanding of human response to disaster while developing their critical thinking skills. This course was an exciting teaching and learning experience that was particularly effective at facilitating post-modern critical thinking. As Knowles provided guidance and an underlying theory for this course, we return to his major precepts, recognizing their significance in building this successful educational endeavor. In order to help students learn how to be skillful in directing social change, we drew on activities that would increase their self-awareness, be guided by a friendly and informal climate, and would build skills in human relations and group work, built through respect for others (Knowles, 1972).


Auerswald, P.E., Branscomb, L.M., LaPorte, T.M., Michel-Kerian, E.O. (Eds.). (2006). Seeds of disaster, roots of response: How private action can reduce public vulnerability. Boston: Cambridge University Press.

Beane, J. (1997). Curriculum integration. New York: Teachers College Press

Bringle, R.G., & Hatcher, J.A. (1996). Implementing service-learning in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 67, 67-73.

Brookfield, S.D. (1986). Understanding and facilitating adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Coomes, M.D. & DeBard, R. (Eds.) (2004). Serving the Millennial Generation: New directions for student services. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Ephross, P.H. (1989). Teaching group therapy within social work education. Journal of Independent Social Work, 3(4), 87-98.

Haddow, G., Bullock, J., & Coppola, D.P. (2007). Emergency management (3rd Edition). Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Howard, J. (1993). Community service-learning in the curriculum. In J. Howard (Ed.). Praxis I: A faculty casebook on community service-learning (pp. 3-12). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan OCSL Press.

Huff, M.T., & Johnson, M.M. (1998). Empowering students in a graduate level social work course. Journal of Social Work Education, 34(3), 375-385.

Knowles, M.S. (1972). Innovations in teaching style based upon adult learning. Journal of Education for Social Work, 8(2), 32-39.

Lemieux, C.M. (2001). Learning contracts in the classroom: Tools for empowerment and accountability. Social Work Education, 20(2), 263-276.

Mezirow, J., & Associates (1990). Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: A guide to transformative and emancipator learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Thayer-Bacon, B.J. (2000). Transforming critical thinking: Thinking constructively. New York: Teachers College Press.

About the Authors

Carol Plummer is an associate professor in the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work at the University of Hawaii. John Pine is director of the Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. C. Barrett Kennedy is a professor in the School of Architecture at Louisiana State University. Lawrence Rouse is an associate professor in the School of Coast and Environment at LSU. Teresa K. Buchanan is an associate professor in the College of Education at LSU.

Community Engagement: A Student Perspective

Morgan Bessaw, Genevieve Gerke, Melissa Britt Hamilton, and Liza Pulsipher

As students in the multidisciplinary master’s of bioregional planning program at the University of Idaho, we worked with a local community during our first year studio class. In 2010 we partnered with Priest River, a small (population 1,700) north Idaho town. This town’s heritage is tied to the logging industry, and the town is experiencing high unemployment due to mill closures and a reduced demand for wood.

As one of several teams working on different areas of community development, we began by meeting with key stakeholders. We brainstormed ideas for joint goals and objectives and collaboratively decided on three succinct goals: establishing a common vision, creating a toolbox for the community to use for future engagement projects, and identifying leaders to ensure project sustainability after we graduated.

During our time there we faced unanticipated hurdles. The biggest obstacles were student constraints, a compressed time frame, community apathy, and lack of community trust. As students, we had tight schedules and limited budgets. We funded most of our own transportation and food expenses and also supplied most of the meeting supplies. Over the course of the semester, we hosted five community engagement meetings.

Time is an essential component when working with a community, and it was difficult to accomplish our goals in a 16-week semester. A core group of about 10 residents consistently attended our meetings, but we also had casual participants. Due to our time constraint we could not continually revisit materials and conversations from the earlier sessions, which left new participants confused and unwilling to commit to leadership roles. Residents were curious about the long-term sustainability of the project, but when presented the opportunity to assume leadership, no one stepped up to the challenge. The distance to Priest River from Moscow, Idaho, about a 3-hour drive, limited the number of meetings we could host and affected our ability to fully gain the trust of local residents. Without gaining acceptance we were not able to match community’s expectations with our abilities and time frame.

Though we were invited to the community by leaders seeking new vision and community resilience, other community members remembered previous failures and assumed failure. In the face of the obstacles, it was hard for us to garner support or have productive dialogue. Those who invited us didn’t always show up to the meetings because of their previous negative experiences.

Despite these obstacles and setbacks, we still met our pedagogical goal: to learn first-hand what collaborating in a rural community can be like. We were also able to remind the community through our presentation of the successes they had been able to engineer during our tenure with them. These successes included strengthening the existing Citizens of Priest River Group and obtaining several economic development grants, including funding for a community garden and an economic development specialist. A critical lesson learned from this project was the importance of working with a physically and socially accessible community. Placing student teams in a community full-time could be beneficial in gaining the trust of local residents and building enthusiasm for ideas generated. Creating momentum for planning goals is a long-term process that requires the full commitment and engagement of community members to create the kind of support needed for community change. Community development requires a major commitment of time, while community engagement takes patience and trust.


Our thanks go to Dr. Nick Sanyal for his continued support throughout this project.

About the Authors 

The authors are all 2011 M.S. graduates in bioregional planning and community design from the University of Idaho. The program is multidisciplinary and encourages learning by working in local communities. Morgan Bessaw received her B.S. in environmental science from the University of San Francisco. Genevieve Gerke has a B.S. in environmenal studies from The College of Idaho. Melissa Hamilton received her B.S. in biology from the University of South Carolina. Liza Pulsipher received her B.S. in conservation social sciences from the University of Idaho.

Community Engagement: A Model Mental Health Partnership

Gerry Akland

I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Wake County North Carolina affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a volunteer nonprofit organization with the mission of improving the lives of individuals and their families living with severe and persistent mental illness. NAMI Wake is made up of volunteers who are united in that mission. Our board represents a cross-section of the community because mental illness affects all people regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, and even political party.

In late 2007, Dr. Jessica Jameson of North Carolina State University reached out to our organization to research our board’s communication processes and help us function more efficiently. Although I am a natural born skeptic, I nevertheless joined with all the other board members and agreed to be “studied.” What I initially thought was going to be an enormous waste of the board’s time to fulfill the needs of the N.C. State students and their professor has resulted in an ongoing source of technical assistance, training, and support that has been invaluable to our nonprofit.

The N.C. State team observed and audio recorded all our monthly board meetings from January 2008 through February 2009. They also had private, individual interviews with each board member. My understanding is that they wanted to use methods that were sufficiently robust to capture the primary activities between and among the board members. It should be noted that no one on the board ever complained about being taped or having another visitor or two at the board meeting. I would also add that, in my opinion, their being present did not affect our behavior.

Based on the observations and interviews, the investigative team worked with us to develop skills and ways of operating that helped us become more efficient. For example, they suggested that we needed procedures to identify when it is appropriate and efficient to use email to make board decisions that require timely decisions. Additionally, after noting a lack of full involvement from all board members, they suggested strategies for improving the involvement. They also suggested ways to balance the governance and operations portion of our meeting to ensure that the most important issues were being addressed. The team even suggested that we should consider changing our agendas to reflect an element of excitement and variation from meeting to meeting. It never occurred to me that agendas could be exciting!

Our partnership with Dr. Jameson and her students did not end with their final report or with the legacy of procedures we have developed or changed based on their recommendations. NAMI Wake has developed a continuing relationship with the individuals involved, and we know we have passed on our passion for our mission and vision for those with mental illness.

As we all agree that our partnership is an outstanding example of a successful partnership, I would like to ask the readers to offer their time and talents to nonprofits, especially NAMI affiliates across the nation. Just Google NAMI and you can find links to the affiliates in all states. I have no doubt that you would be welcomed with a big hug. N.C. State’s ability to do field research in a way that is beneficial to all involved and to then take what they have learned beyond just our group to effect change is how a university-community partnership should work.

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: Ships Passing in the Night?

Dr. Mathews lectures at The University of Alabama in 2009.
Dr. Mathews lectures at The University of
Alabama in 2009.

“As communities discover the invaluable “wetlands” of organic decision making, some academic institutions are aligning their research with citizens to become “coproducers of democracy.” 

David Mathews

Marguerite Shaffer, director of American Studies at Miami University, is one of a surpris-ingly large number of faculty members who are at odds with an academic culture that isn’t hospitable to their efforts to combine a public life with a scholarly career. She is concerned about what is happening in her field and about the world her two children will inherit. I have often quoted what she said in an interview for the 2008 issue of the Higher Education Exchange because it captures so well what troubles other faculty:

“I have joked with colleagues that I am in the midst of an academic midlife crisis — questioning every aspect of life in academe. In thinking about my future in the university, I have wondered whether my time will be well spent researching and writing a scholarly monograph that might well get me promoted, but that will be read by only a handful of like-minded scholars with similar intellectual interests. I have questioned the time I devote to teaching critical thinking skills to students who are socialized, both inside and outside the university, to care more about their final grades and potential career options than the knowledge they can share and the collective future they will create.”

The Shaffers of academe are one of the forces driving a civic engagement movement on campuses across the country. Not so long ago, the civic education of college students was of little concern. Now, thanks to educators like Shaffer, that indifference is giving way. Leadership programs are common, and students are taught civic skills, including civil dialogue. There are also more opportunities to be of service these days, which is socially beneficial as well as personally rewarding. These opportunities are enriched by students’ exposure to the political problems behind the needs that volunteers try to meet. University partnerships with nearby communities offer technical assistance, professional advice, and access to institutional resources. Faculty, who were once “sages on the stage,” have learned to be more effective in communities by being “guides on the side.” All in all, there is much to admire in the civic engagement movement on campuses.

Another civic engagement movement is occurring off campus. At the Kettering Foundation, we have seen it clearly in communities on the Gulf Coast that are recovering from Hurricane Katrina. We have combined what we learned from several communities into a fictional composite in order to report from across the region. In this representative community, “Don” and his wife, “Mary,” live in an old fishing village much like Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The community traces its origins back to an 18th-century French settlement, and Don’s family has been there since 1831. Mary came from Pennsylvania for a vacation — and stayed — as have other northern transplants. The residents of the community include Creoles descended from French and West African ancestors, as well as a large group of fishermen who recently arrived from Southeast Asia. There have been some tensions among these different groups but, fortunately, no serious clashes.

The hurricane destroyed a good many houses, and Don and Mary are still living with relatives in the area. Their hardware store was damaged, though not badly, and they were able to reopen within a year. Business is slow, however, because many people left for less vulnerable areas of the state. The fishing industry was hit very hard; boats were blown inland, and it took considerable effort to get them back into the water. Fishing is a competitive business, yet most families pitched in to help one another. When the schoolhouse collapsed, churches that survived made space available for classes while a new building was being constructed. Don volunteers at the local fire station, which received supplies from a station in another small town two states away. This assistance was critical while waiting for state and federal support to arrive. Crime has gone up, but the police chief has begun a program of community-assisted policing, which he hopes will be effective if neighbors will participate.

The big news is that outside developers, aided by a planning grant from the state development office, are considering buying up a large tract of land just south of the town limits. They intend to build a “world class resort.” Some people see prosperity just around the corner; others worry that the developers will dominate the reconstruction and shut them out of the decision making about the community’s future. This prompted some concerned citizens to meet every week at the fire station to develop their own plans for the town. People wanted to restore their community — both its buildings and way of life — and felt that they had to come together as a community to do that. The community was both their objective and the means of reaching that objective. This has been the goal for many of the other civic engagement movements in communities that are trying to cope with natural disasters, economic change, and other problems that threaten everyone’s wellbeing.

Interestingly, a year or so after Katrina, a group of scholars studying communities that survived disasters validated the instincts of Don, Mary, and their neighbors. These communities were resilient because they had developed the capacity to come together. And the resilience proved more important than individual protective measures like well-stocked pantries (Schoch-Spana, 2007; Dallas, 2008).

People with a democratic bent like Don, Mary, and their neighbors don’t want to be informed, organized, or assisted as much as they want to be in charge of their lives. And they sense that this means they need a greater capacity to act together despite their differences. That is why they say they want to come together as communities to maintain their communities. Unfortunately, they often have difficulty finding institutions that understand their agenda.

According to a recent Kettering and Harwood study, nongovernmental organizations are often more interested in demonstrating the impact of their programs than in facilitating self-determination and self-rule (2009). Even citizens may be uncertain of what they can do by themselves and want to put the responsibility on schools, police departments, or other government agencies. For instance, in one community, citizens decided that there weren’t enough adult mentors for the young people who were getting into trouble. Yet rather than identifying places where youngsters could find adults within the community who would be responsive, these citizens wanted social workers to handle the problem.

The Wetlands of Democracy
Prompted by what we don’t know about communities coming together, the Kettering Foundation has begun to collect stories and analyze case studies (2002, 2006).

One of the first things we learned from people like Don, Mary, and their neighbors is that they absolutely refused to call what they were doing “politics.” They wanted to distinguish what they were about from what goes on in elections and govern ments, although they usually voted and weren’t rabid critics of the government.

We don’t have a name for what we are seeing, but the more we see, the more we have come to believe that we are looking at something more than civil society at work, more than revitalized public life, and more than grassroots initiatives. We don’t think we are seeing an alternative political system like direct democracy; rather, we are looking at the roots of self-rule. Democratic politics seems to operate at two levels. The most obvious is the institu tional level, which includes elections, lawmaking, and the delivery of services. The other level is underneath these superstructures, and what happens there is much like what happens in the wetlands of a natural ecosystem.

We have been experimenting with a wetlands analogy to describe what supports and sustains institutional politics. Wetlands were once overlooked and unappreciated but were later recognized as the nurseries for marine life. For example, the swamps along the Gulf Coast were filled in by developers, and the barrier islands were destroyed when boat channels were dug through them. The consequences were disastrous. Sea life that bred in the swamps died off, and coastal cities were exposed to the full fury of hurricanes when the barrier islands eroded. The wetlands of politics play roles similar to swamps and barrier islands. They include informal gatherings, ad hoc associations, and the seemingly innocuous banter that goes on when people mull over the meaning of their everyday experiences. These appear inconsequential when compared with what happens in elections, legislative bodies, and courts. Yet mulling over the meaning of everyday experiences in grocery stores and coffee shops can be the wellspring of public decision making. Connections made in these informal gatherings become the basis for political networks, and ad hoc associations evolve into civic organizations (Harwood, 1993).

In the political wetlands, as in institutional politics, problems are given names, issues are framed for discussion, decisions are made, resources are identified and utilized, actions are organized, and results are evaluated. In politics at both levels, action is taken or not; power is generated or lost; change occurs or is blocked. We aren’t watching perfect democracy in the political wetlands because there isn’t such a thing. But we are seeing ways of acting, of generating power, and of creating change that are unlike what occurs in institutional politics.

Recently, we have been calling these characteristics “organic.” Like any generalization, this one has its drawbacks. Still, we were drawn to the term, in part, because it doesn’t have the varied meanings of words like “civic” and “public.” The word “organic” connotes things that are natural or close to ordinary life, things that are human and function like living organisms. That which is organic is also loosely structured, more like a blob than a square or, in political terms, more informal than formal. There are other qualities that seem to be unique to organic politics:

  • Citizens are defined by their relationships with other citizens rather than with the state. Relationships are not the same as those of family and friends, yet they are unlike those in institutional politics, which may be based on patronage or party loyalty. Organic relationships are pragmatic or work related. They form when people coalesce in order to rescue and restore during a disaster, when they build houses for the homeless, or when they help police watch for drug dealers in their neighborhoods.
  • The names people give to problems reflect the things they hold dear and their basic concerns — their highest hopes and deepest fears as human beings. Safety from danger. Being treated fairly. The freedom to act as they see best. These names are different from those that people use when they are acting as professionals and politicians. For example, citizens want to feel that they are safe in their homes, and this feeling of security is less quantifiable but more compelling than the statistics professionals use to describe crime.
  • The knowledge needed to decide what to do about these problems is created in the caul dron of collective decision making. It is formed by the interaction of people with other people, by the comparison of experience with experience. This knowledge is different from the way scholarly knowledge is created, which is through rigorously disciplined science.
  • Decisions are based on the recognition that concerns are interrelated as well as com-peting, which is not the assumption in majority voting. Organic decision making is deliberative. Deliberation involves carefully weighing possible actions against what people consider most valuable, which has to be determined in a specific context. Institutional decision making can also be deliberative, although it is more often based on negotiation and bargaining.
  • The resources needed to implement decisions come from citizens’ innate abilities, abilities that are magnified when people join in collective efforts. Citizens’ resources are often intangible, such as commitment and political will. These are different from the resources of institutions, which tend to be material and technical.
  • The citizenry acts in various ways, which are loosely coordinated by a shared sense of direction. Actions taken by institutions are usually uniform and directed by a single plan or central agency.
  • The commitment of resources to action is enforced by covenants or the promises people make to one another. Institutional commitments are enforced by legal contracts.
  • Power comes from the ability of citizens to make things through their collective efforts and from the relationships forged in these efforts, rather    than from institutional authority.
  • Change comes about through collective learning and the innovation it generates, rather than from modifications of law and policy.

Organic politics has its own structures: not board tables but kitchen tables, not assemblies like legislative bodies but common gatherings, once in post office lobbies but now on the Internet. These structures are more like sand than concrete. Ad hoc groups and alliances form, then fall away as a project is completed, but reappear when another task is at hand.

Why the Disconnect?
It would seem that two civic engagement movements, occurring at the same time and often in the same locations, would be closely allied — perhaps mutually reinforcing. That doesn’t seem to be happening very often. Research reported by Sean Creighton in the 2008 issue of the Higher Education Exchange suggests the connection is quite limited. Even though academic institutions have considerable expertise and a genuine interest in being helpful, they don’t necessarily know how to relate to the self-organizing impulses of Don, Mary, and their neighbors.

Creighton found that few university-community initiatives “focused on building relationships with community partners, much less on projects that increased the civic capacity of those community organizations and the individuals they served.” There are exceptions, of course. But, by and large, we have found that the emphasis is on institutions serving communities better by listening carefully and communicating more clearly.

Academics and neighborhood associations are quite aware of power differences between them, and universities often try to share institutional power; that is, to “empower” citizens. Yet, communicating with, serving, and empowering communities isn’t the same as building indigenous civic capacity — the capacity of a citizenry to join forces and act.

One study isn’t enough to generalize about all types of partnerships, so the Creighton report is more of a caution light than a stop sign. Efforts by colleges and universities to reach outside their walls is certainly a positive development. Too much benefit has come from the service provided by academic institutions to take their contribution lightly.

Why, though, are these two civic movements in danger of passing like the proverbial ships in the night? More important, how might these efforts become mutually supportive? One reason may be that like the natural wetlands, the value of the political wetlands isn’t easily recognized.

Because politics in the wetlands appear insignificant or deficient by institutional standards, professional staffs tend to colonize democracy at this level and remake it in their own image. The mechanisms for doing this are well- intended and familiar: empowerment projects, participatory mandates, accountability standards, and engagement campaigns. These build support for deserving institutions (like public schools), promote better understanding of government agencies, and provide institutional legitimacy. Their goal is to connect citizens to institutions; yet, in the rush to do that, the need for citizens to first engage one another is often overlooked.

Fixation on institutional politics may be another factor in obscuring the significance of what happens in the larger ecosystem of democracy. And this fixation may contribute to lack of discussion of the various kinds of democracy that are being promoted by both on- and off-campus engagement projects. One common reaction to the variety of initiatives in civic education, for instance, is to think of them as competing methodologies serving the same end. In fact, these campus projects may reflect very different notions of democracy, particularly different concepts of the role of citizens.

Some colleges and universities insist they serve democracy simply by existing. Maybe so, but what kind of democracy? Even when academics use the same terminology, they may not have the same concepts of democracy in mind. As reported in the 2006 issue of the Higher Education Exchange, Derek Barker found five distinct practices all using the same generic label, the scholarship of engagement.

Nothing is wrong with this variety; nonetheless, wouldn’t it be beneficial if the concepts of democracy in different projects were made more explicit? One of the characteristics of democracy is a vigorous debate over its meaning. A crucial distinction needs to be made between projects that address the problems in a democracy (violence, injustice, poverty) and those that deal with the problems of democracy (moral disagreement, polarization, alienation). Both kinds are worthwhile, yet the problems of democracy may be getting less attention. If so, the potential in making use of what happens in the wetlands of democracy will remain unrecognized.

One indication that the problems of democracy aren’t visible is the way that deliberative democracy has been interpreted. The recent attention given to the important role deliberation plays in democracy has come about because of a serious problem of democracy — how to justify or make legitimate decisions when there are significant moral disagreements over which decisions are best. Deliberation is key because it takes into account the things that are held valuable, which give rise to moral disagreements. That is a far cry from the way public deliberation is often understood today, which is merely as one of many techniques used to promote civil discourse. We could certainly do with a little more civility in our political rhetoric — but public deliberation is far more than a methodology for ensuring politeness. It is an essential element in a democracy in which citizens are actors producing public goods.

Make no mistake; anytime there are moral disagreements, emotions will flare. That happens in deliberations. Far from suppressing emotions, deliberations recognize and help people work through strong feelings. The objective is to make sound decisions that have legitimacy because the concerns that produce the emotions have been recognized. Although not resulting in total agreement, deliberation helps people find enough common ground to act together and become effective political actors. One of the most powerful insights to come from deliberative forums is the political power available in seemingly trivial activities, like giving names to problems that need to be solved. When people fail to see names for problems that reflect their personal experiences and what they value, they feel outside the political system looking in. On the other hand, when people deliberate, they usually rename problems in their own terms. They claim the power inherent in owning their problems.

Moving On
The challenge higher education faces is to not let its engagement movement stall; one way to do that is to align its efforts more closely with those of Don, Mary, and their neighbors. Some colleges and universities are already beginning to do this. Kettering doesn’t know about all of these initiatives, so I can only draw

As already mentioned, citizens don’t necessarily see the potential in the wetlands of democracy or the power that comes from joining forces with other citizens. An experiment on the Wake Forest campus has broken through that barrier with a four-year program that gave students a better sense of how they can become effective political actors, not just on election day, but every day (2007). Two faculty members, Katy Harriger and Jill McMillan, introduced deliberative democracy as a way of doing politics. Deliberative forums were organized at multiple sites: in classrooms, in the campus community, and in the town where the university is located. Deliberation wasn’t presented as just a way of conducting forums, but as a way of living democratically.

This experiment shows that deliberative democracy challenges academic institutions at every level: from the nature of teaching and the character of the extracurricular program to the very meaning of scholarship. Perhaps the greatest challenge is epistemological. Deliberation creates morally relevant public knowledge about what is most important to people’s collective well-being. This knowledge has to be socially constructed by citizens; it is neither better nor worse than expert, scientific knowledge, just different. The role of public knowledge (perhaps better called practical wisdom) is to generate sound judgments about what should be done in politics. How institutions of higher education contribute to this knowledge, which people need to rule themselves wisely, is an open question.

On another front, a new coalition of cooperative extension folks is taking on the challenge of finding ways to strengthen the democratic capacities in organic politics in order to form resilient, self-governing communities. We can hope that this coalition will be able to better align the ways their institutions go about their business with the way citizens go about theirs.

Still another group of initiatives is emerging from more than 40 centers and institutes that have sprung up around the country using public deliberation to give people direct experience with organic politics. Some promote deliberative forums to make the collective decisions that are needed to launch collective action on state and local problems. Others use the forums to combat the polarization that creates stalemates in our policymaking. These forums, often based on the National Issues Forums series of issue books, look at the pros and cons of three or more possible courses of action on controversial issues like abortion, race relations, and environmental protection.

Some of these institutes, such as the ones at Hofstra and Kansas State, are embedded in their universities. Others are freestanding, like the one in Alabama, and have ties to several universities. A number of institutes, including the one at the University of Hawaii, have strong connections to state legislatures. Still others are embedded in their communities but collaborate with a nearby university, as is the case for Penn State and the ad hoc Public Issues Forums of Centre County group.

Whether it is these 40-plus centers and institutes, the cooperative extension coalition, experiments in undergraduate education like the one at Wake Forest, or other initiatives I haven’t mentioned here, higher education is not only keeping its civic engagement movement going but also giving that movement a stronger democratic cast. The academy is bringing its efforts more in line with the efforts of people who want to do the work of citizens. This paper hopes to contribute to this alignment, which has the potential to stimulate fresh conceptual insights and tap into new reservoirs of civic energy.

We need more opportunities on and off campus for Marguerite Shaffer and her colleagues to meet with Don, Mary, and their neighbors, not as service providers and recipients, but as coproducers of democracy. The exchange can also help academic institutions renew their sense of themselves.

Colleges and universities are more than knowledge factories to be judged solely by their efficiency. From the American Revolution through the civil rights movement, they have been part of the greatest experiment of all, an experiment based on the proposition that we, citizens, can actually govern ourselves.

Barker, D.W.M. & Brown, D.W. (2009). A different kind of politics: Readings on the role of higher education in democracy. Dayton: Kettering Foundation Press. Schoch-Spana, M., et al. (2007). Community engagement: Leadership tool for catastrophic health events. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science (5),1, 8-25. Dallas, P. (2008). Studies of a role for communities in the face of catastrophe, Connections, 31-34. Harwood, R.C., & Creighton, J.A. (2009). The organization-first approach: How programs crowd out community. Dayton: Kettering Foundation and the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. For communities to work. Dayton: Kettering Foundation, 2002. Engaging citizens: Meeting the challenges of community life. Dayton: Kettering Foundation, 2006. Harwood Group. Meaningful chaos: How people form relationships with public concerns. Dayton: Kettering Foundation, 1993. Harriger, K.J., and McMillan, J.J. (2007). Speaking of politics: Preparing college students for democratic citizenship through deliberative dialogue. Dayton: Kettering Foundation Press.

About the Author David Mathews, who served as secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare during the Ford Administration, is president of the Kettering Foundation and former president of The University of Alabama. He can be reached at

Book Reviews

Making the Case for Progressive Community Planning

Tom Angotti, New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-262-01247-8

Reviewed by Tammy Arnstein

Tom Angotti’s New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate articulates both a systemic community problem and a diverse array of community-based solutions. The problem—displacement of the poor and people of color from their homes and communities—is reflected in the struggle for community rights and empowerment that Angotti views as intrinsic to combating this displacement. The text offers concrete examples of how the displaced and those threatened by displacement are organizing and educating their communities to combat dislocation and to demand justice.

The insights into successful practices are informed by Angotti’s more than 20 years of experience as a professional planner and professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College, City University of New York. His community and activist planning qualifications are notable: former chair of the Pratt Institute Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, member of the activist-oriented Steering Committee of Planners Network, and founding member of the New York Campaign and Task Force on Community-based Planning. In New York For Sale, Angotti redacts his practitioner and academic experiences, deftly blending the two perspectives to offer a searing critique of what he regards as planning at the service of industrial capitalism and neoliberalism. The author examines New York City community planning responses to a range of community injustices, including urban renewal, gentrification, real estate speculation, large-scale planning, and the concentrations of environmentally hazardous activities in poor communities, while also situating these responses within wider economic, political, and social contexts.

Angotti begins with an overview of the terms and concepts used throughout his text, including his Marxist-derived theoretical perspective on how state-sponsored planning “both reflects and mediates the contradictions of capitalism—contradictions within the capitalist class and between capital and labor” (p. 7). This creates highly unequal and unjust urban and suburban land use patterns and economic and environmental conditions, most notably displacement and environmental injustices. Angotti views the relatively recent movement to resist these oppressions as political acts, stating that he wrote this book explicitly to document the strategies, insights, and knowledge gained by community planners over the years to help inform future community planning efforts. He also gives voice and recognition to community planning and activist groups who often go unrecognized, explaining:

This book…looks at urban policy from the bottom up from the vantage point of the mature, progressive community movements whose struggles for social justice continue to play a powerful role in shaping the city (p. 6).

One of Angotti’s basic premises is that planning—“a conscious human activity that envisions and may ultimately determine the urban future” (p. 7)—is not a neutral process and, in fact, is political. The role of planning has seen an ideological shift reflected in the move away from Keynesian state interventionism to neoliberalism, which calls for decentralization, deregulation, and the privatization of public services. In the former political climate, a planner’s role was to create technical solutions to social problems, while in the neoliberal regime the planner strives to prevent any interference to market forces to ensure the most efficient and profitable delivery of goods and services. Both systems have created racial, class, and social inequities that persist today, and that have been instrumental in displacing and marginalizing people of color and poor communities through state-sponsored urban renewal programs in the 1950s and 1960s, divestment in urban communities in the 1970s, real estate speculation and megaprojects, and gentrification.

According to Angotti, progressive community planning is the optimal means by which to counteract the private and public sector actions that historically have degraded community stability and well-being. Progressive community planning, Angotti explains, is

uniquely characterized by its focus on local and global equality, social inclusion, environmental justice, and community land. …{I}ts purpose is to yield new strategies to bring about fundamental change in our economic and political systems (p. 19).

In essence, progressive community planning is simultaneously a social movement, an incubator for alternatives to the neoliberal planning model, and an avenue of expression for populations whose needs have historically not been taken into consideration.

Angotti is aware that this type of planning is a challenge. He cites two themes that recur throughout the book as critically important caveats and as potential pitfalls in progressive community planning. First, he warns that it is difficult to balance mitigating environmentally dangerous land use practices while simultaneously limiting gentrification and real estate speculation. Angotti points out that after some poor communities took ownership over improvement of their abandoned and crumbling neighborhoods during the period of federal disinvestment from urban communities, they ended up subsequently being displaced by wealthier residents and speculators who were drawn to the revitalizing neighborhoods and who drove up housing values to where the original tenants could not afford to remain. This represents the tragedy of gentrification: residents who put their love and labor into improving their neighborhoods, by, for instance, working to combat unfair burdens of toxic land usage or by cultivating community gardens on abandoned lots, unwittingly create the conditions for their own displacement, precisely because there are no controls or policies in place to protect them. This is the logic of neoliberal policy, according to Angotti; within this system the government’s main role is to facilitate profit at the expense of the guarantee of a decent quality of life for all residents.

The second issue that Angotti identifies as an obstacle for progressive community planning involves challenging the notion of community participation that government or real estate developers claim to embrace as part of their decision-making process. Angotti refers to participatory planning as a “myth,” explaining that:

…[P]articipation can mean nothing more than sitting silently at a public hearing or attending scores of meetings that have no significant role in making decisions that matter. Participation can be confused with real democracy—the power of people to collectively control the decisions that affect their economic and environmental futures. Progressive community planning must be inspired by new visions of participatory democracy and not the traditional approach of representative democracy, in which stakeholders represent other people in the planning game (p. 29).

Angotti proposes a corollary to the myth of participatory planning: consensus planning. He refutes the assumption that planning can be conflict-free and yield a win-win situation for every stakeholder. He presents examples of community-planning efforts that consisted of alliances made between groups that did not always agree on outcomes or situations where diverse opinions played out through compromise and negotiation.

Although the book’s title pits the interests of disenfranchised communities against those of global real estate, Angotti provides a historical analysis of both the real estate industry and of government planning and policy roles in marginalizing and displacing people of color and low-income communities. He describes the character of the contemporary real estate market in New York City by noting that, in New York, real estate is local while finance is global. Given that these two sectors intersect in many city areas and neighborhoods, the struggle against global finance-backed real estate is simultaneously part of both the local and global arenas. Angotti provides a history of how government policy has facilitated the rise of a powerful real estate market that has systematically segregated communities by race and class and has displaced disempowered communities in its quest for additional profit. He also outlines some of the historical oppositional responses to economic, political, and social marginalization, such as the labor union and civil rights movements and efforts to combat exploitation by the real estate market and powerful industries that have been and continue to be economically and politically intertwined.

Angotti provides case study examples of community planning efforts that he has personally documented. There are varying degrees of success with each of these efforts, but the author has identified the reasons for successes and the obstacles that have resulted in failure, resulting in teachable moments within each community planning effort presented. Angotti believes that these lessons are transferable to other urban contexts; yet I question this portability in some cases, given that much of the social, political, and economic landscape discussed is unique to the New York City context. Nevertheless, the organizing tactics employed by community planners offer both inspirational and tactical examples and lessons for progressive community organizers working in varied contexts.

Angotti is not able to offer a recipe for how gentrification and displacement can be kept safely in check, but in his final chapter he provides a list of strategies that progressive urban planners and activists can use in their work, including land use and people-oriented strategies that focus on future generations and prioritize quality of life over profit margins. Ultimately, Angotti’s examples of community planning failures and challenges appeared to outweigh the number of successes; yet he remains hopeful that community planning can be a powerful force for social justice if its strategy is to become a multifaceted movement representing a diversity of interests, such as LGTBQ rights, environmental justice, right to housing, anti-racism, and immigrant organizing, to name a few. The most compelling contribution of this book is Angotti’s obvious faith in progressive community and social movements and the work of community activists and planners to triumph over neoliberal policies that exacerbate long-standing inequalities. Angotti’s argument that there are vital linkages between collective action, community empowerment, and participatory democracy is at once compelling and motivating.

About the Reviewer

Tammy Arnstein is a Ph.D. student in comparative and international education at Teachers College, Columbia University.


Education in Times of Emergencies Requires Balancing Theory, Practice

Kevin M. Cahill, editor, Even in Chaos: Education in Times of Emergency. New York: Fordham University Press and The Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation, 2010

Reviewed by Megan Scanlon

For generations, the humanitarian world has by and large been reactive, responding to man-made and natural disasters with food, shelter, and medicine. In the past decade, however, there has been a marked shift in the humanitarian dialogue, prompting a growing debate about what works and what doesn’t, as evidenced by books such as Michael Barnett’s and Thomas G. Weiss’ Humanitarianism in Question and Fiona Terry’s Condemned to Repeat, not to mention a growing number of humanitarian blogs such as “How Matters, “Blood and Milk,” and “Aid Watch” that revolve around the “do no harm” imperative. Consequently, songwriter Leonard Cohen said, “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” The emerging field of education in emergencies is that light making its way through some of the identified cracks in the humanitarian world, as illuminated by Even in Chaos: Education in Times of Emergency, edited by Kevin M. Cahill, M.D. The bedrocks of education in emergencies, as stated in Vernor Munoz’s chapter, “Protecting Human Rights in Emergency Situations,” lie in their “physical, psychosocial, and cognitive protection” properties “that can be both life-saving and life-sustaining” (p. 13). Accordingly, Cahill tells us that “Education is, as contributors in this volume will attest, not only an expression of a basic human right, but represents the only proven path to growth, development, and peace” (p. 2). Even in Chaos demonstrates that providing educational opportunities in emergency situations is needed, doable, and can be fruitful for affected individuals and communities.

Balancing theory and practice, Even in Chaos provides new perspective for its audience. In an appropriate and refreshing manner this compilation gives much needed attention to the voices being affected, providing valuable anecdotal evidence while reporting a wealth of statistics with the praxis to influence policy, and therefore giving the reader a grander and detailed scope of the problem. Each chapter is rooted in Munoz’s suggestion that “for those that do offer assistance, they should act with those affected rather than for them” (p. 10), while simultaneously managing to illuminate the multiple layers of difficulty that accompany the concept of acting with. The authors facilitate to the reader a sense of ownership and empowerment among newly and loosely formed communities of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) that could not be further from a “melting pot.” In his chapter, Gonzalo Sanchez-Teran exemplifies this by explaining the many complications concomitant with forming a parents’ association for an IDP site in Dar Sila, Chad: “No less than 20 villages are present in each site, often coming from different geographical areas and sometimes with serious problems of understanding among each other. It is difficult to involve people in a school that involves so many actors. Making each village feel not only just a part but also an owner of the school, and therefore responsible for it, proved to be a challenging task” (p. 220).

According to the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, “approximately 75 million children are out of school worldwide; more than half of these children are living in conflict-affected states. Millions more are living in situations affected by natural disasters,” adding up to almost one sixth of the world’s population and projecting significant consequences such as individual and collective trauma, political instability, economic turmoil, and the high potential for social disintegration and social disunity. Youth refugees and IDPs like Valentino Achak Deng, Sudanese author of What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng” (McSweeney’s, 2006) writes that much of their development occurred in refugee camps, a decidedly bleak existence if little to no opportunity is presented. However, this is not to say that youth affected by conflict and displacement are not active participants. Neil Boothby, internationally recognized expert and advocate for children affected by war and displacement, says in a Center for Defense Information interview (

[B]y and large children are…resilient…if we understand resilience as not something that magically exists, but [as] the interaction of the child and the opportunity. So it’s the interior and the external that merge. And I think again our role in this is to recognize the fact that kids can overcome adversity, but they’re not going to do that necessarily on their own.

Boothby’s statement reflects the book’s overall theme of human dignity. An example is Arancha Garcia del Soto’s chapter on psychosocial issues in education, who writes:

Resiliency is closely tied to the consideration of the mutual support and interaction between individual and community wellness. It permeates every single emergency program.

Furthermore, in their respective chapters, “Hear Our Voices: Experiences of Conflict Affected Children,” and “After the Storm: Minority School Development in New Orleans,” Zlata Filipovic and Juan Rangel deftly illustrate the role played by quality education as a stabilizing and enriching agent of socialization. In Filipovic’s chapter, a young man named Kon says, education can allow children of war and disaster

to gain back a sense of humanity…to become a social being again through interaction with others…without this…the effects of war are carried until they explode somewhere along the line and hurt more people (p. 78).

Moreover, Rangel speaks to the power of the United Neighborhood Organization’s outlook, one that views schools as “anchors of communities, institutions where immigrant assimilation plays out, and children and families are socialized to…norms of…society” (p. 285).

Even in Chaos truly covers all of its bases. Yet, what could be strengthened is a rich narrative that organically allows the reader to empathize consistently throughout each chapter. While recognizing that Even in Chaos is not a piece of fiction, the bottom line is that in a world of six billion people we are moved by the characters in our lives; moved not even necessarily by what they say or do but how they say or do it. These stories of the lived experiences of those in emergencies remain, for some parts, absent. However, the feel of the book reflects the idea that the best policy makes use of the resources available, and as the proceeds from sales go to training humanitarian workers, on a grander scale, above any book review, the contributors are indeed making use of the resources available, and making concerted, quality coordination efforts to improve the field of education in emergencies.

While reading Even in Chaos, the reviewer was reminded of an interview she conducted with a former gang member, who said, “Education is the best form of intervention for any social ill of any kind,” which is perhaps the most important message to take away from this compilation. It is evident that the contributors of Even in Chaos strive to make that intervention a reality for those severely affected by emergency situations. As Deng says, “Perhaps the most that can be accomplished [in emergency situations] is a process of trial and error and of learning from practical experience” (p. 313).

About the Reviewer

Megan Scanlon is a New York University alumna.


Publisher Samory T. Pruitt Vice President for Community Affairs The University of Alabama
Editor Cassandra E. Simon The University of Alabama
Production Editor Edward Mullins The University of Alabama
Editorial Assistant Jessica Averitt Taylor The University of Alabama
Editorial Intern Brett Bralley The University of Alabama
Design Intern Antonio Rogers The University of Alabama

The Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship is published at The University of Alabama by the Office of Community Affairs for the advancement of engagement scholarship worldwide. To reach the editor e-mail or call 205-348- 7392. The NASA infrared image on the cover is of Hurricane Katrina as it approached the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Marsha H. Adams, The University of Alabama Jay Lamar, Auburn University
Andrea Adolph, Kent State University Stark Campus Hal A. Lawson, The University at Albany, State University of New York
Katrice A. Albert, Louisiana State University James Leeper, The University of Alabama
Theodore R. Alter, Penn State University Robert C. Liebman, Portland State University
Robert E. Bardon, North Carolina State University Marybeth Lima, Louisiana State University
Anna Sims Bartel, Bates College Hildy L. Miller, Portland State University
Delicia Carey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert L. Miller, Jr., The University at Albany, State University of New York
James D. Cashman, The University of Alabama Mary Ann Murphy, Pace University dt ogilvie, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Jeremy Cohen, Penn State University Jacob Oludoye Oluwoye, Alabama A&M University
Jan Cohen-Cruz, Syracuse University Michael E. Orok, Alabama A&M University
Richard L. Conville, The University of Southern Mississippi Ruth Paris, Boston University
Susan Curtis, Purdue University Clement Alesander Price, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Mary Elizabeth Curtner-Smith, The University of Alabama Josephine Pryce, The University of Alabama
David J. Edelman, University of Cincinnati A. Scott Reed, Oregon State University
Barbara Ferman, Temple University Michael J. Rich, Emory University
Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Michigan State University Howard B. Rosing, DePaul University
Philip A. Greasley, University of Kentucky Sunil Saigal, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Susan Scheriffius Jakes, North Carolina State University Nick Sanyal, University of Idaho
Phillip W. Johnson, The University of Alabama Amilcar Shabazz, University of Massachusetts
Lisa Hooper, The University of Alabama L. Steven Smutko, North Carolina State University
Rhoda E. Johnson, The University of Alabama Lee H. Staples, Boston University
Mary Jolley, Community Development, Tuscaloosa, Ala. John J. Stretch, Saint Louis University
Kimberly L. King-Jupiter, Lewis University  J. Robert Krueger, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
William S. Kisaalita, University of Georgia John R. Wheat, The University of Alabama
Kim L. Wilson, Purdue University
Diane F. Witmer, California State University

Twenty Years of Experience in Service-Learning at The Ohio State University College of Medicine

Research at Ohio State shows that service-learning curricula can improve health care, give back to the community, and help medical students grow personally and professionally.” 

Douglas M. Post, Firuzan Sari Kundt, Eileen Mehl, William A. Hudson, Linda C. Stone, and Franklin R. Banks 

The profession of medicine is grounded in the provision of exemplary service to the patient and the practice of effective teamwork (Institute of Medicine, 2001). The typical pre-clinical curriculum for medical students, however, tends to focus on the intellectual pursuit of basic science knowledge and rewards individual achievement in this area of study. Service-learning, defined as a structured experience that combines service in a community setting with reflective learning, can offer an effective curricular balance in keeping with the values of the profession (Seifer, 1998).

The purpose of this paper is to describe 20 years of experience with a required servicelearning curriculum, entitled the “Community Project” (CP), at The Ohio State University College of Medicine (OSU COM). The authors consist of the program director for a four-year clinical skills course that houses our service-learning curriculum (Post), a program coordinator for this course (Kundt), a program manager for Medicine Administration who is a former program coordinator for this course (Mehl), the associate director of Medical Education (Hudson), the associate dean of Student Affairs (Stone), and the director of our service-learning curriculum (Banks). Our group has a long-standing commitment to and enthusiasm for this type of educational activity for medical students. We believe that through service-learning curricula we can improve health care, give back to the community, and help students grow personally and professionally early in their careers. This article addresses the following components: 1) a historical perspective on service-learning education at the OSU COM; 2) a description of the CP; 3) lessons we have learned over time; 4 ) outcome data associated with this educational activity; and 5) potential future directions.

Service-Learning and the Medical Profession
Medical schools are increasingly incorporating service-learning activities into their curricula. Service-learning is defined as a combination of community service and preparation/reflection, an activity in response to community needs, in which students learn about the service context, their roles in the community, and the connection between their academics and service-learning activities (Eyler, 2002). Reflection has been defined as “the intentional consideration of experience in light of particular learning objectives” (Hatcher & Bringle, 1997, p. 153). Reflective practice requires active engagement by the learner in his or her learning. Evidence suggests that combining academic study with extensive reflection leads to positive outcomes, including a deeper understanding of problems and enhanced cognitive development (Batchelder & Root, 1994; Eyler & Giles, 1999).

The Pew Health Professions Commission (PHPC), the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) have addressed the multiple advantages that can be gained from a service- learning curriculum (O’Neil, E. H., & PHPC, 1998; LCME, 2007; IOM, 2004). These organizations exert tremendous influence on health care policy and medical education. Collectively, these organizations assist health care professionals, health profession schools, health care delivery organizations and public policy makers respond to the challenges of improving the health of individuals and their communities. The LCME is recognized as the official accreditation body by physician licensure boards of all U.S. states and territories, the Canadian provinces, and the U.S. Department of Education. The IOM provides evidence-based recommendations to a variety of constituents, including policy makers, health care providers, and the public.

In a service-learning curriculum, students can learn about their social and public roles in the community, and hands-on learning activities may help develop professional values while improving community health. The academic institution can achieve community goodwill through demonstration of the university’s service mission and enhancement of campuscommunity partnerships. In addition, the promotion of medical students’ professionalism and future civic involvement through servicelearning can benefit societal health. Recognizing these benefits, the LCME has recently adopted a new accreditation standard for U.S. medical schools: “Medical schools should make available sufficient opportunities for medical students to participate in service-learning activities, and should encourage and support student participation” (LCME, 2008).

Typically, service-learning programs support underserved populations, tend to be elective opportunities, and are offered both within and outside of required coursework. Outcome data indicate high student satisfaction with service-learning education associated with fulfillment of unmet community health needs, although effects on academic performance have been mixed (Averill et al., 2007; Blue, Geesey, Sheridan, & Basco, 2006; Burrows, Chauvin, Chehardy, & Lazarus, 1999; Elam et al., 2003). We believe educators at other medical and health professional schools can adapt components of our CP model and create or enhance service-learning opportunities at their own institutions.

In the mid 1980s, the OSU COM developed the Medical Humanities and Behavioral Sciences (MHBS) course, designed to be a comprehensive approach to social and behavioral science education applicable to the practice of medicine. One full day per week of the first-year curriculum was dedicated to this required course. The course and its components are fully described elsewhere (Post et al., 2008).

A decision was made to incorporate a community learning experience into the MHBS curriculum during the 1988-89 academic year. The overall goal was to introduce first-year medical students to the wide variety of health and social service agencies that impact the health of individuals and families residing in the community. In addition, rather than working with attending physicians, the originators of the CP believed it was important to expose students to training from nurses, social workers, and other medical and social service providers who work in community settings. The original premise was that our medical students needed to experience the broader spectrum of health care and learn from professionals other than physicians.

The implementation of the CP has evolved over time, mostly in response to student feedback. In the original design of the curriculum, first-year students were scheduled to complete their community experience over three consecutive weeks. They were randomly assigned to agencies and learning took place primarily through observation and interviewing clients and staff, rather than through the provision of direct service.

During the early years of CP, evaluations revealed that a substantial number of students wanted to provide active service and work with an agency of their choice. In response to this feedback, “The Community Service Project Option” program was implemented as a pilot project in 1995 (Banks & Heaney, 2000). Twenty-four students submitted written proposals for their service activity to the co- directors of the project. The service requirement was set at 12 hours minimum. Evaluation data indicated student enthusiasm for the service component; however, many felt it was difficult to identify and make contact with an appropriate agency.

This led to the formation of a Community Project Fair. This initiative, more fully described below, began in 1996. That year, representatives from 29 agencies presented their service opportunities to all first-year students at the OSU COM and recruited student volunteers. At this same time, the structure of the pilot “Community Service Project Option” was expanded and developed into a required educational activity for all first-year students. Both of these changes were highly successful and remain intact today.

During the 2002-03 academic year, the CP was awarded a $5,000 service-learning course development grant from the Service Leaning Initiative (SLI) at The Ohio State University ( This university organization provides training and assistance to enhance courses in service-learning across the university, offers grants for course development and provides awards for student and faculty excellence in service-learning activities. The grant was written to address student feedback regarding inconsistency in the quality of learning experiences across agencies, as well as to fulfill our need to enhance communication with the agencies.

The grant funded two incoming second- year medical students to contact and interview community agencies over the summer months. Incoming second-year students were selected because they had recently completed their Community Service Project. They reviewed medical student evaluations of agency sites from previous years. Based on the numbers of students who partnered with an agency, the nature of evaluation comments, and length of commitment to the program by the community partner, 20 agencies were chosen to be interviewed. The purpose of the interview was to receive feedback from the agencies regarding the quality of our program, gather information regarding how we could better address their needs, and use their feedback to improve program effectiveness. Written reports on each agency were completed and an agency assessment template (Table 1) was developed.

Each academic year, the completed assessments are made available for review to first-year students during our Community Project Fair as well as on the restricted access course website.

Description of Community Project
The CP currently consists of several components: the Community Project Fair, the performance of community service, and the completion of several assignments designed to promote student reflection on their service activities.

The Community Project Fair
The Community Project Fair takes place early in the academic year. Community agencies are invited to present their mission and services to all first-year medical students. Agencies usually bring brochures and distribute “freebies” such as pens, markers, and other promotional material to students who express interest in volunteering with them.

The CP program has a large database of actively participating agencies that work with our students. Since all community agencies that participate in CP are not able to attend the Fair, students are encouraged to review other agencies from the CP agency database and to initiate contact on their own. The work of our community agencies ranges from area student mentorship programs, to state-subsidized and privately-owned public health programs, to addressing diversity-related issues of the local population. Our criterion for acceptance of new agencies includes a strong mission orientation towards a health and/or social service goal, as well as the ability to provide meaningful service-learning projects for our students. The Community Project leadership team reviews agencies that express an interest in participating in our program; almost all are approved. In addition, students are allowed to create their own agency. Several student-led initiatives continue to be active and effective after several years of involvement. Agencies have remained loyal, very few have ceased involvement over time, and each year they express appreciation for our students’ efforts. The OSU COM provides funding for the Community Project Fair and supports the efforts of the CP leadership team in creating a quality servicelearning curriculum. Funding for the Fair is approximately $1,400, and includes costs for food and beverages, set-up (tables/chairs, tablecloths, balloons, etc.), and parking tokens for our community agency representatives.

Community Project Assignments
The various learning activities associated with CP are listed below:

1. Project Proposal: Within one month after the Community Project Fair, students are required to submit a proposal stating where they intend to complete their CP, what they will be doing and contact information for the agency representative with whom they will be working.

2. Community Agency Report: Three months after students complete CP proposals, they are expected to write a community agency report. Students respond to a series of questions (Table 2) that address the mission, staffing, finance, and organizational structure of the agency. They also describe their service activities and critically assess and reflect on the agency’s effectiveness.

3. Patient/Client Interview: The patient/client interview is due one month after the community agency report. Students assess the agency’s services and the quality of these services as perceived by patients or clients. They respond to a series of questions (listed in Table 2) that address the type of services received, assessment of services, barriers to access of services, suggestions for improvement, and agency qualities that were appreciated by the patient/client.

4. Minimum of 12 Service-Learning Hours over 9 Months: Students track their agency service hours over the course of the academic year and record these on a tracking form. Their community agency representative signs off on the same form to verify hours provided.

5. Project Presentation: Each student is required to make a 10-15 minute reflective presentation to a group of 11 other students and a facilitator regarding their CP experience. In the clinical skills course that houses the CP, 12 students and a physician facilitator meet approximately once a week in three-hour small group sessions over the entire academic year. The CP presentations take place during one of these small group sessions towards the end of the academic year. Students must also complete a one-page description of their agency and distribute this to peers prior to beginning their talk. In past years, presentations primarily addressed the nature of the students’ volunteer activities, as well as the staffing and organization of each agency. Recently, we shifted the focus from recounting activities and tasks to the sharing of a reflective narrative. This change resulted from discussions among the CP leadership team regarding the benefits of reflection. Our group believes that medical education can be a transformative experience through a process of critical reflection (Mezirow, 1991). These presentations provide students with opportunities to reflect on their volunteer experiences and how these may have changed their perspective on community service and their role as future physicians in the community. Students who participated in the same service activity often present projects together. Presentations are evaluated by the small group facilitator using a structured checklist.

6. Agency Assessment Sheet: These are collected by facilitators to assure complete records for future classes. As previously described, the agency assessment sheet is designed to assist first-year students with their agency decision, as well as to enhance quality control of the CP program. This form is listed in Table 1.

Scoring weights for student performance on the different CP components are listed below.

Project Proposal: 10%
Community Agency Report: 20%
Patient/Client Interview: 20%
Completion of a minimum of 12 servicelearning hours: 10%
Project Presentation: 30%
Agency Assessment Sheet: 10% 

Each of the above written assignments is graded by the director of the Community Project, who also provides feedback to students on the quality of their reflections.

Methods We have used a variety of measures to investigate the impact of the Community Project program. To assess student involvement in this activity, we track the total number of hours students devote to service-learning projects. Most students submit their hours by completing a one-page form which requires the agency contact information, a brief description of their service-learning activities, the number of hours contributed, and the signature of their supervisor at the agency. Some students, particularly those who volunteer outside of the Central Ohio region, have their agency representative send the CP coordinator an e-mail with the information as outlined above. This information is then entered into an excel database. 

In order to obtain feedback from students regarding the quality of their CP experience, they are asked to complete an evaluation of their service-learning curriculum during the end-of-year Community Project presentation session. Using a five-point scale, ranging from poor (1) to excellent (5), students are asked to rate the quality of the various components of CP, including the Community Fair, the agency report and patient-client interview assignments, the end-of-year presentation, as well as their overall experience.

This academic year, we invited agency representatives to a spring recognition luncheon for the first time. The purpose of this program was to recognize the community agencies

for their valuable contributions to student education and to secure their input regarding the quality of the program. Representatives who attended the luncheon were asked to complete an evaluation form. Using a five-point scale, ranging from poor (1) to excellent (5), agency representatives were asked to rate the quality of the CP from their perspective. The form is listed in Table 3.

The Medical School Graduation Questionnaire (GQ) is a national questionnaire administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). It has been administered annually since 1978 to U.S. graduating medical students. The GQ consists of two parts. Part 1, the Program Evaluation Survey, includes questions related to the student’s medical school experiences, student support programs, and potential problems, including mistreatment. Part 2, the Student Survey on Priorities in Medical Education: Diversity, Career Aspirations, and Indebtedness, includes questions related to educational and non-educational debt, specialty choice, and the medical school’s cultural environment.

One of the questions on the GQ asks: “Do you believe that the time devoted to your instruction in the following areas was inadequate, appropriate, or excessive?” (Lockwood, Sabharwal, Danoff, & Whitcomb, 2004). Under the Population Based Medicine section, the questionnaire assesses student opinion regarding their education in the role of community health and social service agencies. All fourth-year students are requested by the OSU COM to complete the GQ during the month of February.

We began to track students’ CP hours during the 2003-04 academic year. Over the past three academic years, the total number of service hours has increased from 3,497 to 5,665 hours, a 62% increase. Our first-year students currently average 27 hours of service to their agencies, more than double the 12-hour requirement.

For the 2007-08 academic year, the response rate for student completion of the CP evaluation form was 74% (148) out of a class of 200. Descriptive statistics were used to calculate means and confidence intervals for each of the survey items. The mean rating of students’ overall CP experience was 3.83 out of a possible 5.0 (95% CI = 3.70-3.96). Results for each item on the evaluation form are listed in Table 4. Both mean scores and comments listed on the evaluation form indicated a higher rating by students of experiential learning activities, including the Community Fair and the actual service component of CP, as compared to those designed to promote reflection. Students often mentioned increasing service hours while decreasing or eliminating written assignments in their comments regarding improvement of their CP experience (Table 4).

Starting in 2004, the yes/no responses on the agency assessment sheet (Table 1) for three consecutive academic years were summarized. Corresponding percentages for yes/no answers by students are listed in Table 5.

We invited 39 community agency representatives to our recognition luncheon, and 14 (36%) were able to attend. All attendees completed the agency evaluation form. Although the sample size was small, we did get a 100% response rate from attendees at the luncheon. The evaluation form listed a variety of questions concerning the effectiveness of our students and the CP for their organization. Both mean scores and comments listed on the evaluation form indicated a high rating by agency representatives. Results for each item are listed in Table 6.

Table 7 compares responses of OSU COM students to responses by a national group of medical students over the past 10 years on the AAMC Medical School Graduation Questionnaire’s Population Medicine section. Return rates for this questionnaire have averaged 74% over the past eight years. Results of a 2×3 chi-square analysis revealed that on average, over the past 10 years, OSU COM students believed the time devoted to their education in the role of community health and social service agencies was significantly more appropriate, as compared to the national group of students (p < .001).

Educating medical students on the use of community resources is a high-priority recommendation (Institute of Medicine, 2004). Through the Community Fair, the provision of services to a self-selected community agency, and the end-of-year presentations to their peers, medical students at The Ohio State University are taught about resources that are available in the Central Ohio community to enhance patient care. Our program exceeds the LCME recommendation of encouraging participation by requiring all first-year students to complete a service-learning curriculum. We fall somewhat short, however, of fulfilling the recommendations of the PHPC to require a significant amount of work in community service settings and to actively involve agencies in building service-learning programs. The recognition luncheon we offered this past spring is a positive step towards more actively involving our community partners. We are planning to offer this function again next year and will more actively recruit the agencies with whom we work to attend. Increasing the number of minimum service-learning hours would bridge the gap between our current requirement and the PHPC recommendation.

Evaluations from students and agency representatives, as well as the number of hours students commit beyond their requirement, for the most part indicate a very positive response to our servicelearning curriculum. Regarding the higher ratings by students of experiential learning activities, the literature on service-learning indicates that service loses meaning without reflective practice (Eyler, 2002). Perhaps incorporation of alternative reflective learning activities would enhance students’ experiences in this area and subsequently improve evaluation scores (Epstein, 1999).

We believe the greatest strengths of our program include the following: 1) required participation by future physicians in a service-learning curriculum (identical to required participation in a basic sciences curriculum); 2) offering students a diverse choice of educational experiences through a community fair or similar program; 3) student self-selection of their desired learning environment; and 4) active student participation in curriculum design and continuous quality improvement efforts. Weaknesses include the relatively passive involvement of the community in building and improving the curriculum, an area we are currently addressing. Obstacles we have encountered include the relatively large class size at the OSU COM and associated administrative difficulties. In addition, we have been struck by the variability in student attitudes towards this type of curriculum. We have discovered, however, that increasing student participation in the process has helped diminish the negative attitudes towards servicelearning work. Each breakthrough in the curriculum has been a result of listening to students’ concerns and constructively responding to their suggestions.

There are a few limitations that warrant discussion. Limitations include the relatively narrow outcomes we have examined up to this point. The next step involves an investigation into how a service learning curriculum may impact broader outcomes, including medical school graduates over time, the agencies and clients/patients served by the agencies, and the health of the communities we serve. A second limitation involves the self-report nature of most of our outcomes, and the bias that may result.

Lessons Learned
1. Graded Course Requirement
We have learned a number of lessons over the 20-year existence of CP. The first has been to establish a graded course requirement and allot protected time in the curriculum for completion of service-learning activities. From its inception during the 1988-89 academic year, the CP has been a required educational activity for first-year students. Three weeks of the behavioral science course schedule are devoted to CP and no other course activities are scheduled in order to give students protected time to work with their agencies. This stems from our belief that all medical students should experience the educational benefits associated with community involvement as part of their professional education. This requirement sends students the message that the learning associated with the CP is valuable and that community service is an important professional responsibility.

However, until fairly recently, performance on the CP did not count for a grade. During the 2002-03 academic year, we decided to change our system of grading so that CP performance would count for 10% of the overall grade in the first-year behavioral science course. As part of this effort, we determined how much weight to allocate to the various CP components in the overall grading scheme. These percentages have been previously described.

Two years later, we decided to create deadlines for assignments and consequences for turning in late assignments. Prior to this change, many students ignored assignment deadlines and turned in late work at the end of the academic year, without penalty. For example, only 57 students (28% of the class) completed and returned their agency assessment sheet during the 2004-05 academic year. When the new policy was enacted, 181 students (93%) completed this assignment on time. Making CP part of the overall course grade and creating consequences has led to significant changes in student behavior.

2. Variety and Flexibility in Service-Learning Opportunities
A second lesson involves the development of a wide variety of service-learning opportunities and adaptability to students’ personal choices. We believe in the value of offering students a diverse choice of service- learning options and support students working with agencies who have not been part of the CP program in the past. Our students typically enter medical school with strong service backgrounds and many desire to continue their previous agency affiliations. Some of these agencies do not participate in the Community Project Fair. We review non-participating agency requests and almost all are approved. This flexibility of choice is widely appreciated by the students.

3. Student Involvement and Leadership
A third lesson involves tapping into the valuable contributions of our students. This has been most apparent in the growth and support of student leadership efforts over time, a change best exemplified by the establishment of two recent student-directed projects, Medical Students for Kids and MD Camp.

Medical Students for Kids was originally created under faculty leadership through grant funding. When funding ended, students formed a non-profit entity and have maintained the project since 2003. Second-year students direct the program; first-year students mentor local elementary students who attend school in underserved areas. Some of the first-year students who complete the program move into leadership positions during their second year, sustaining the program over time.

MD Camp was created in 2004 by a first- year medical student for his CP. It is a summer program for local high school juniors and seniors from groups that are under represented in medicine. This program was designed to inform such students about career opportunities in the field of medicine. The medical student received grant funding and donations for the program and also recruited other first-year students to staff it. With faculty help, student organizers wrote a curriculum and recruited under-represented high school students. This past summer, over 20 local secondary students attended MD Camp. This program recently received an Alpha Omega Alpha Student Service Grant.

Over the past five years, student involvement in all aspects of medical education has become a hallmark of the OSU COM medical curriculum. The umbrella organization that provides opportunities for student ideas to flourish is Project Professionalism, created by students in conjunction with the associate dean for Student Affairs (Stone, 2007). Project Professionalism is a student-driven initiative fully supported by the service-learning culture of the College of Medicine. The Project serves as an incubator for student initiatives that reach out to members of the medical center, the local community, and the global community. The Project consists of 15 student activities, including Humanism in Medicine, which highlights humanistic behaviors of the medical team; MedServe, which brings students into an on-going relationship with a local clinic that serves the underserved; MedPaws, which trains owners of cats and dogs in therapy techniques; the graduation class oath project; and Podemos, our Honduras global health initiative. The Project provides an environment for students to be innovative and to work with other students who share similar goals. A CP working group within Project Professionalism was created by students in 2003 with the intent of improving students’ service-learning experiences. The medical student chair and co-chair of this group collaborate with CP academic leadership to help meet this goal.

4. Rewarding Excellence
A fourth lesson involves our growing awareness of the importance of rewarding excellence. During the 2003-04 academic year, we began to participate in an award program sponsored by SLI at Ohio State. At the end of each academic year, several awards are presented at a university-wide recognition ceremony sponsored by the SLI, titled the “Celebration of Excellence in Community Scholarship and Service Awards Presentations.”

Past awardees associated with our servicelearning curriculum include the CP director for the past 12 years (Banks), who received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Community- Based Teaching. This award recognizes one faculty member across the entire university who demonstrates outstanding leadership in service-learning education. During the 2003-04 academic year, three medical students received the Award for Excellence in Volunteer Service for participation in more than 100 hours of service-learning activity. Over the next four academic years 6, 24, 20, and 26 students received this award.

In addition, the student who originated the MD Camp concept was honored with the OSU Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award. One person at Ohio State received this award each year, and it carries a $1,200 honorarium. We believe this public recognition of excellence benefits the students, the College of Medicine and the university, and supports the culture of professionalism and service for which we continuously strive.

We believe OSU COM students have benefited from our 20-year history with service-learning education. A number of future directions are currently in either the planning or early implementation stages.

We are exploring the potential value of establishing a group of faculty physician mentors for the CP. Faculty mentors would have established relationships with specific agencies (i.e., serve as a member of the board of directors of the Ohio American Cancer Society or Columbus Aids Task Force) or possess a passion for service-learning work (i.e., provide service to a homeless shelter, be involved in local charity organizations). This framework could provide valuable role models for students and further contribute to a service-oriented culture in the OSU COM.

In addition, a student group within Project Professionalism is currently researching the organizational structures of other medical schools’ community service and service- learning programs. Their goal is to assess the feasibility of a college-staffed community service administrative office. Potential benefits of this initiative to the college include increased service-learning opportunities for students, expansion of services to the community, and coordination of grant funding activities.

Another potential future direction involves extension of this initiative into the second, third, and fourth years of medical school. Working with student representatives of the COM Professionalism Council, an integrated, longitudinal professionalism curriculum for undergraduate and graduate medical education is being developed. The underlying philosophy is that a professional approach to education and standards of professionalism should be taught from the first day of medical school and continued over the entire course of medical school and into residency. The service component of the CP is a natural bridge to this framework.

Finally, we are discussing the potential for using the CP to help establish relationships with students from other health sciences disciplines. Students from medicine, veterinary medicine, optometry, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, allied medicine and public health could cooperate to provide team-oriented, service-learning work to community agencies. This mechanism could provide the education regarding teamwork and interdisciplinary collaboration often lacking in the medical school environment. Working as a team to provide meaningful service would require learners to identify needs and formulate action while transcending cultural differences in various professions (Vella, 1994). An inter- professional approach to service-learning could benefit students’ transitions into the team environment of the clerkship years and introduce them to differing perspectives on service work and clinical care (Mareck, Uden, Larson, Shepard, & Reinert, 2004). Various components of our service-learning curriculum can be adapted by other institutions to help meet the new LCME accreditation standard. In addition, it would benefit other institutions if programs with successful service-learning curricula could disseminate their experiences through panel discussions at medical conferences or joint publications. This type of dialog would help other medical schools consider curricular options and determine if and how to follow suite. The creation and improvement of service-learning curricula can provide substantial benefits to communities, students, institutions of higher education, society, and the patients we serve.

Averill, N.J., Salee, J. M., Robinson, J.T., McFarlin, J.M., Montogomery, A.A., Burkhardt, G. A., Schulz-Baron, M.D., & Elam, C. (2007). A first-year community-based service- learning elective: Design, implementation, and reflection. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 19(1), 47-54. Banks, F.R., & Heaney, C.A. (2000). Service-learning opportunities at The Ohio State University: The community medicine rotation and the Community Project. In S.D. Seifer, K. Hermanns, & J. Lewis (Eds.), Creating community responsive physicians: Concepts and models for service-learning in medical education (pp. 69-75). Washington D.C: American Association for Higher Education in cooperation with Community-Campus Partnerships for Health. Batchelder, T.H., & Root, S. (1994). Effects of an undergraduate program to integrate academic learning and service: Cognitive, prosocial cognitive, and identity outcomes. Journal of Adolescence, 17, 34-1356. Blue, A.V., Geesey, M.E., Sheridan, M., & Basco, W.T. (2006). Performance outcomes associated with medical school community service. Academic Medicine, 81(Suppl. 10), S79-S82. Burrows, M., Chauvin, S. W., Chehardy, P., & Lazarus, C.J. (1999). Required service- learning for medical students: Description and evaluation. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 11, 223-231. Elam, C. L., Sauer, M. J., Stratton, T.D., Skelton, J., Crocker, D., & Musick, D.W. (2003). Service-learning in the medical curriculum: Developing and evaluating an elective experience. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 15, 194-203. Epstein, R.M. (1999). Mindful practice. Journal of the American Medical Association, 282, 833-39. Eyler, J. (2002). Reflection: Linking service and learning – Linking students and communities. Journal of Social Issues, 58(3), 517- 34. Eyler, J. & Giles, D.E. Jr. (1999). Where’s the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Josey- Bass. Hatcher. J.A. & Bringle, R.G. (1997). Reflection: Bridging the gap between service and learning. College Teaching, 45 (4), 153-158. Institute of Medicine. (2001). Crossing the quality chasm: A new health system for the 21st century. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. Institute of Medicine. (2004). Improving medical education: Enhancing the behavioral and social science content of medical school curricula. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Liaison Committee on Medical Education. (2007). Functions and structure of a medical school. Retrieved January 3, 2008, from http://www. Liaison Committee on Medical Education. (2008). Accreditation standards: New standard on service-learning. Retrieved January 3, 2008, from htm#servicelearning. Lockwood, J.H., Sabharwal, R.K., Danoff, D., & Whitcomb, M.E. (2004). Quality improvement in medical students’ education: the AAMC medical school graduation questionnaire. Medical Education, 38(3), 234-236. Mareck, D.G., Uden, D.L., Larson, T.A., Shepard, M.F., & Reinert, R J. (2004). Rural interprofessional service-learning: The Minnesota experience. Academic Medicine, 79(7), 672-676. Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Josey-Bass. O’Neil, E.H., & the Pew Health Professions Commission. (1998). Recreating health professional practice for a new century: The fourth report of the Pew Health Professions Commission. San Francisco, CA: University of California, Pew Health Professions Commission. Post, D.M., Stone, L.C., Knutson, D.J., Gutierrez, T.L., Sari, F., & Hudson, W.A. (2008). Enhancing behavioral science education at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Academic Medicine, 83(1), 28-36. Seifer, S.D. (1998). Service-learning: Community-campus partnerships for health professions education. Academic Medicine, 73(3), 273-277. Stone, L.C. (2007). Project professionalism: A student-driven initiative. The Ohio Family Physician, 59(3), 39-43. Vella, J.K. (1994). Learning to listen, learning to teach: the power of dialogue in educating adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

About the Authors All the authors are members of the faculty or staff at The Ohio State University, and all but Banks are in the College of Medicine. Douglas M. Post is associate professor of family medicine. Firuzan Sari Kundt is program coordinator in the college. Eileen Mehl is program manager and William A. Hudson is associate director of medical education. Linda C. Stone is associate dean for student affairs in family medicine. Franklin R. Banks is associate professor emeritus in the College of Public Health. The first author may be reached at

Widening the Circle: Prison Arts Performances as Gifts

“In-class and public prison arts performances are viewed as instances of gift giving, yielding major benefits but also potential problems.” 

Ryan Browne 

After outlining the major benefits — and problems — of both in-class and public prison arts performances, and presenting an explication of gifts found in Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, I offer a normative lens through which these performances should be viewed: as exemplary instances of gift giving.

Mechanized doors, spools of razor wire, electrified fences, bars, grating, flickering fluorescent lights: These are not the settings of a typical art studio … unless one creates art in prison. The occurrence of art within prison has a robust and well-documented history, from inmate sketches of pastoral scenes on the walls of centuries-old jailhouses to the contemporary poet Jimmy Santiago Baca composing and publishing poems while incarcerated. Indeed, “There are many working artists in prison — men and women who have already determined that the creation of personal or cultural expression helps them to do their time” (Hillman, 2003, p. 17). For almost as long as prisoners have been at their art behind bars there have been artists coming in from the outside to instruct, supply materials, and serve as an audience. Many artists have begun prison arts programs in order to find a space, bracket time, and provide greater opportunity that is officially endorsed by the prison’s staff for the artists and their art.

This kind of space is not empirical, as in Newtonian or quantum space, though it does encompass location — the gymnasium, the chapel, the law library; space, in the prison arts context, is less scientific, more humanistic: the attitudes, the intentions, the feelings present, in addition to physical place. Certainly some places are more conducive to the creation and appreciation of art, places that are not found in prisons, such as a studio, workshop, or gallery. But carving out space that facilitates and nurtures the creation and appreciation of art within the prison is one of the most important goals of prison arts classes.

The dominant metaphor used by the artists who enter correctional facilities and find or create spaces where art happens is the circle; as Leslie Neal (2003) asserts, “The circle must always be made” (p. 76). This identification makes sense for the dedicated space of an arts class within a regimented and oppressive prison atmosphere. Although circles are enclosed and definite, they are shielded, insulated, protective, symbolically much more like a “womb” (p. 76) than a confining prison cell. Simply the presence of a circle differentiates space; the space within a circle is different from the space without. So too with a prison arts class: The arts occur within the prison, yes, but specifically within the circle, and so are distinct from the prison. Ask anyone who has visited a prison arts class, and he or she will confirm this fact. The work done in these classes is fundamentally different from (perhaps even in direct opposition to) the workings of the prison.

However, prison arts programs do not just provide sanctioned space, time, and opportunity in the classes they offer. A thrill and joy accompanies the knowledge that others are reading your poem or considering your drawing. This is why “most curricula are organized around producing culminating events — performances, exhibitions, and publications” (Hillman, 2003, p. 18). The presentation of a prisoner’s work, whether in class or in public, enriches the benefits of prison arts classes by widening the circle. It may be surprising, then, to learn that there has not been a detailed consideration of prison arts performances and their benefits. I attempt to offer just such a consideration here. After outlining the major benefits — and problems — of both in-class and public prison arts performances, and presenting an explication of gifts found in The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (Hyde, 1983), I supply a normative lens through which to view these performances: as exemplary instances of gift giving.

Prison Arts Performances Within the Circle
Often at least one performance takes place within the circle each class meeting, and depending on the art form, the class may consist entirely of in-class performances. These performances can range from a prisoner volunteering to read aloud a poem that is under discussion, to the demonstration of an original dance-step during stretching and warm-ups. The in-class performances can be as formal and organized as inviting a visitor or guest artist to class for an arranged performance, or as informal and spontaneous as a teacher holding up a student’s painting in order to illustrate a shading technique to the whole class. In the poetry courses I teach, I like to bring in audio recordings of poets reading their own work; this, too, is a performance, which often leads to another performance, when students, inspired by what they just heard, stand up and recite their own poems.

Some of the major benefits of performances that occur within the circle go hand-in-hand with their drawbacks. First of all, in-class performances lead to increased comfort, familiarity, and trust among peers and between the students and the teacher. Recently, during a miniature workshop in one of my poetry classes, a student’s poem was up for discussion, and, as is customary in our class, another student volunteered to read the poem aloud before the author read it. After that student read it aloud, another student, having enjoyed the poem and the reading of the poem so much, requested if he too could read it to the class. Once the original author read it to us, the other students lauded their fellow poet and the poem. Because the poet was quite shy and often reluctant to speak up during class (he did not say a word for the first three weeks of class), the gradual opening-up of the poet — he was deftly and confidently answering questions about his process and poems by the end of the workshop session — and the enthusiasm of his peers makes this incident particularly noteworthy. The reading of the poem, the performance of the poem, allowed for a deeper relationship to take hold among the students.

Unfortunately, in-class performances also leave both teacher and students vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation by those who might take advantage of such intimacy. It may be the case that some people teach prison art classes to satisfy (sometimes unhealthy) personal desires, such as sadomasochistic fantasies or “savior/ saint complexes” (Williams, 2002, p. 296), and some prisoners take advantage of sincere, earnest teachers. Manipulation of this kind can occur at any level of an educational institution; however, the repercussions of such manipulation in a prison can have more immediate and dangerous consequences.

Times may arise during or after a performance within the circle that are sometimes referred to as teaching moments, instances where the teacher notices an opportunity to highlight a technique or draw attention to a main emphasis of the class that appears in a performance. Moments like these can be particularly powerful and illustrative because the students get to see a concrete embodiment of an abstract concept under consideration enacted in the art and performance. What better way to illuminate how the enjambment of lines in a poem can create tension for readers than to point out that very technique in the poem a student just read aloud?

However, problems can occur during an in-class performance when what the teacher identifies as a teaching moment impinges upon the attitudes, instincts, or culture of the prison and prisoners. For example, take Pat MacEnulty’s (2003) recollection of a discussion in an in-class fiction workshop of a prisoner’s story:

I saw the raw material for a fabulous short story, and I began to suggest ways to improve the piece, to heighten the dramatic potential, and to deepen the characterization. Like pioneers under siege on the Oregon Trail, the rest of the participants formed a protective circle around the writer. They insisted that the story was perfect as it was and that the writer shouldn’t change a thing. I tried to convince them that good writing required manipulation and revision. I wanted them to look at their experiences objectively in order to be able to turn these events into the stuff of fiction or memoir (p. 63).

MacEnulty (2003) recognized the power of the material in the student’s story, but also its need for refinement, and saw this story as a great opportunity to point out the importance of revision in writing. The students also recognized the power of the story, its power to “validate their worth as human beings” (p. 64), not (only) the deft narrative or apt metaphors, but the value in the fact that it was something this prisoner created with her own abilities and skills. When MacEnulty began to critique this creation, the defenses went up; the critique was interpreted to have come from outside the circle, so the circle narrowed to exclude MacEnulty. In this case, the goals and interests of the teacher came into conflict with the goals and interests of the students. “Fortunately, I had established a rapport with these women, and the writer whose work was in question and I were ‘homies.’ Otherwise, I would have lost the group” (p. 63). The trust and intimacy that MacEnulty had established, perhaps through other in-class performances, helped her neutralize the unanticipated backlash from this teaching moment and maintain her place within the circle.

A compelling in-class performance can also serve as inspiration for the prisoners. When I have my students listen to a recording of Jimmy Santiago Baca reciting a poem, the first thing they want to do — after heaping praise upon the formerly incarcerated poet — is stand up and share their own work. At no other time am I more assured of the efficacy of the arts in prison. A possible problem with such moving performances, though, could be the withdrawal of a student with a fragile ego or low self-confidence. Incarcerated men and women experience a barrage of implicit messages, from the very condition of the facilities in which they live, from society’s overall attitude toward prisoners, and from explicit messages in the form of physical assault, rape, and theft by other prisoners and sometimes staff, all of which (re)affirm a sense of personal worthlessness. Individuals with long histories of neglect and abuse at the hands of others and society understandably have shaky confidence in anything they produce [How could anything that comes from this battered being have any worth? a prisoner may think.] and they may compare their own work to the work they come into contact with during a performance within the circle. In a situation like this, a performance may cripple instead of inspire.

Journeys from the Circle: Public Prison Arts Performances
All of the benefits and problems of performances that happen within the circle, in the security and familiarity of the space of that particular prison arts class, accompany performances that move beyond the circle, that leave the circle, or that are sent out of it to the outside world. Public readings, dance recitals, mural projects, Shakespearean productions of Hamlet, any prison arts performance that does not take place within the classroom, can build trust, concretize abstract elements of study, and inspire; but they can also precipitate exploitation and manipulation, result in conflicts of interest, and seize hold of creativity and confidence.

A public performance can increase the trust of the students in the teacher; it affirms that they were instructed, guided, and provided with the opportunity to create something compelling, and the performance stands witness to the students’ abilities to create art that can hold its own outside of the circle. The teacher also begins to grow comfortable with the students and to trust them as artists. As Grady Hillman (2003), a long-time teacher in correctional facilities, points out, “If we are attentive, our students teach us the power of the tools we use in our art” (p. 14). Reciprocity deepens any relationship, and a public performance is a materialization of teacher/student reciprocity.

At the same time, efforts must be made to assure that the prisoners are not the objects of the performance, but the subjects, that they are the “participants and creators” (Thompson, 2003, p. 57). The prisoners, and their art, should not be paraded around frivolously or put on display “as a simplistic one-way statement about their offending” (p. 57). Such exploitation only serves to perpetuate the abuse of incarcerated men and women. Ideally, the paintings of serial killer John Wayne Gacy (and the paintings of anyone, for that matter) are exhibited and purchased as art, not as kitsch or as a joke. A prison arts performance should “open up questions and doubts in both the prisoners’ and the audiences’ minds,” (p. 57), not serve as the first stop on a personal freak show.

It is, however, a remarkable thing that incarcerated men and women can produce and perform such gripping art in such adverse conditions. When I imagine my students’ staying up until the early morning hours working on poems because it is the quietest time to write, when I think of the small cell, the lighting, the dearth of materials and yet poem after poem after portrait appears in the annual anthology produced by the prison arts program for which I teach, my own work is invigorated. William “Buzz” Alexander (2003), a champion of prison arts, asks, “Who imagines prisoners dancing with a focus and passion that causes an audience to catch its breath” (p. 132)? Not only can the performance inspire and give confidence to the prisoners in pursuit of their art, but it also can enkindle the artistic spirit in those who witness prison arts performances.

Just as an in-class performance can provide teaching moments, so too can a public performance by the prisoners themselves offer rich opportunities to teach. There are few better ways to learn a lesson or familiarize oneself with a technique than by enacting that lesson or technique. Public prison arts performances can be viewed as a consummation of what has been transpiring within the circle, and therefore as one big teaching moment.

Unfortunately, as with performances in the circle, sometimes the goals the teacher has for the public performance differ or come into conflict with the goals of the students, and to stubbornly march on despite these conflicts can lead to manipulation, exploitation, and arrested creativity and confidence. As evidenced by the previous example from MacEnulty (2003), care must be taken in adjudicating the goals of the teacher — in MacEnulty’s case, writing with the “aim to publish” — and the goals of the prisoners — who write “to save their lives” (p. 64). A teaching agenda must not displace the space created by the circle or transmogrify what leaves the circle.

There are certain benefits, though, that can only arise from a public performance. Prison arts performances are typically grand events: a professionally published anthology, an invitation-only dance recital, a performance of Hamlet’s fifth act complete with set and props. Buzz Alexander (2003) describes an annual art exhibit facilitated by The Prison Creative Arts Project at the University of Michigan:

The annual art exhibit is talked about and prepared for by prisoners throughout the system all year, on evaluations the artists rate every aspect of the exhibition above 9.5 on a 10-point scale, and artists testify again and again that public exposure has meant everything to them in terms of confidence, determination, and hope (p. 127).

Public performances generate excitement — importantly, positive excitement — among the prisoners. They promise a release from tedium (even if only for one evening) and are a rare occasion for which outsiders come into the prison to enjoy something inmates have produced and not to scrutinize, survey, or condemn. And, much more often than not, the performances are well received, which confirms the prisoners’ sense of worth and reinforces confidence in their abilities as artists.

The audiences benefit from these performances, too; they get to satisfy their own aesthetic thirst by attending a play or an exhibit. In addition to the artistic merit of these performances, the audience also gains information and insights about prison, although many prison arts performances are not about prison or the prisoners’ experiences of incarceration (Johnson, 2002). However, as mentioned above, care must be taken by the audience not to objectify the prisoners’ experiences or performances, especially when recounting the performances to others who were not in attendance.

Because a public prison arts performance is produced with the explicit intent that what’s created within the circle leaves the circle, it can also create unique problems. Any public performance can be a logistical nightmare, but a public performance in prison further complicates already stressful preparations. Take, for example, a theatrical performance, and some of its typical concerns: assembly of sets, acquisition of props, casting, and booking a venue.

In a prison, these concerns can become nearly insurmountable roadblocks. How is a set constructed with nails, hammers, and saws, when certain kinds of ink pens are not even allowed in a prison? How are props procured (think of the sword in Macbeth!)? During artist Judith Tannenbaum’s (2000) work on a performance of Waiting for Godot at San Quentin Correctional Facility in California, a particular prop, a length of rope, had to be kept “in a special locked box” (Johnson, p. 150) and signed out for each use. With the ubiquitous possibility of transfers, inmate infractions, and facility-wide lockdowns, casting a play requires a flexibility and open-endedness that can be disastrous for rehearsals and, ultimately, the production of a high-quality performance in a reasonable period of time. Determining a suitable venue within the prison for the performance can also be difficult, since very few productions are granted permission to be taken on the road. Is it to be produced in the unairconditioned gym? The cramped chapel? Among the stacks in the library? Add to all of this the necessary presence of correctional officers at any event held in a prison and the fact that most prisons are severely understaffed, and a public prison arts performance can run into a slew of problems right away.

Logistical problems seem insignificant, however, when compared to another problem that a public prison arts performance can create. Whether a dance recital, a theatrical production, an art exhibit, or a poetry anthology, these performances are enacted and produced by men and women who have perhaps victimized someone, and any encounter between a victim and a victimizer can lead to revictimization. Victims reasonably assume they will not have to speak to, see, or in any way interact with their victimizers once their victimizers have been incarcerated. But, because a public prison arts performance leaves the prison, leaves the circle, is produced with the intention that it will enter the outside world, a serious concern arises. For some victims, the pain, suffering, and thoughts of the trauma they have endured never ceases, and sometimes the only solace they have is the fact that the person who so profoundly injured them has been caught and cannot return to harm them again. The damage to a victim caused by an unexpected encounter could be untold. Something seemingly inconsequential, like a name at the end of a poem, if that name is the name of a victimizer, may actually be wrought with problems. The threat of revictimization is the single most dangerous aspect of any public prison arts performance. However, I think an introduction and consideration of Hyde’s extended study of gifts will prevent a sweeping condemnation of prison arts performances based on this, or any other, possible pitfall.

The Gift Circle
The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property is a historical, anthropological, and philosophical survey concerning art, gifts, and gift exchange. There are many kinds of gifts — peace gifts, death gifts, gifts of maturation — but Hyde highlights one kind of gift that is relevant for our purposes: artistic gifts. Everyone has had a transformative experience with art. I still remember the first poetry reading I attended, where poet Kate Daniels read a poem about how, after she had given birth and returned to her work at Vanderbilt University, she relieved the unbearable pressure of the milk in her breasts into her office trashcan! A door had opened up to me; I never knew you could write about stuff like that, let alone poeticize it. I felt as if I had been let in on a secret, a secret that fundamentally altered my perception and approach to poetry. This is why Hyde seems exactly right when he says, “for it is when art acts as an agent of transformation that we may correctly speak of it as a gift” (p. 47). The secret that I felt I received was actually a gift, not a secret at all. In fact, as we shall see, a gift is quite different from a secret.

Hyde outlines a number of characteristics of gifts and draws transformational art into the realm of gift. Gifts come to us by or through another’s volition, not our own; gifts must be “bestowed upon us” (p. xi). A true gift must continually circulate, or as Hyde emphasizes, “the gift must always move” (emphasis original, p. 4). Paradoxically, Hyde points out, “a gift isn’t fully realized until it is given away” (p. 50). A gift, then, entails two parts: receiving the gift and giving the gift away. But, importantly, there is no obligation of return explicit in the giving of a gift (pp. 9, 20). Instead, “Between the time a gift comes to us and the time we pass it along,” we embark upon the “labor of gratitude,” not to even the score with the original giver because we must, but to cultivate the gift in such a way that we can then bestow a gift upon another (p. 47). Hyde states, “It is only when the gift has worked in us, only when we have come up to its level, as it were, that we can give it away again … ; therefore, the end of the labor of gratitude is similarity with the gift or with its donor” (p. 47). And the end of labor entails the passing along of a gift. Additionally, because gifts are given by one person to another, “the giving of a gift tends to establish a relationship between the parties involved” (p. xiv). But Hyde stresses that some gifts should not be accepted because the gratitude and relationships it creates can be prohibitively complex and even dangerous (pp. 70, 72).

When speaking about the space created by prison arts classes, we have used the term circle; coincidentally, Hyde speaks about the circular nature of gifts and their exchanges. The prison arts performances either stay within the bounds of the circle, or they journey out beyond the circle (during a public prison arts performance). In this way, the circle functions as a boundary, at times a quite permeable boundary, but a boundary, a demarcation, a border, nonetheless. The circle, for Hyde, also represents “the container in which the gift moves,” but he refers to it as a “body” or “ego” as well, and the body or ego can expand to encompass many or contract and exclude all but one (p. 16). So, our talk of the circle and prison arts performances translates quite well into talk about gift and gift exchange.

In light of Hyde’s phenomenological account of gifts, I know that when I heard Kate Daniels read her poem, she was not imparting a secret — something to be squirreled away, kept to myself for my own pleasure — but passing along a gift, a transformational art experience. For weeks I retold what I could remember about the poem to my friends (to my delight, they also seemed amazed that someone could write a poem about milking her breasts into a trashcan). Her reading changed poetry for me, uncovered what could be written about and how it could be written. It ignited a sense of gratitude in me, as well, and awakened the feeling that I too had something to share, that I must labor in this something’s production and assure its entrance into the world.

What I have experienced with prison arts performances echoes Hyde’s characterization of gift. I have been gifted many times over by the men with whom I have worked. When certain students read poems in class (whether their own work or that of others), my understanding of those poems — and poetry — changes. The way they read, the tone, the pace, the rhythm, their seemingly instinctive comprehension of the life of the poem, opens the poem up to me in a way that had never been available before. At these times, I also know reading the poem transforms them; the gift stirs them, alters them, impresses upon them to reciprocate. Similarly, the prison program’s annual anthologies change the men who decide to submit work. Now, poetry is not just a bit of self-expression jotted down on scraps of paper; it does not just serve as a break from tedium; the men are not simply unskilled toilers. No, the poetry is an exercise in craft. The men are poets, artists who labor in the production of their poetry. And they now feel the gratitude and the pull to continue to labor for their gifts. When I leaf through the annual anthology, I am taught about poetry’s plasticity, its caches, through the forms, metaphors, and uses of language found in those books. And, just as with Kate Daniels’ reading, I am struck with the desire to write my own poems. I feel I have to write, to labor to create something that could stand as a kin to the work in the anthology. I must return the gift.

Providing a population that is at best ignored, and at worst dehumanized, the means to create art in poetry, drawing, and photography classes — and then sharing that art with others through the annual APAEP anthologies and art exhibits, so that it may move, may circulate — is a gift. My relationship with students, their relationships with me, with all the artists who visit my classes, with each other, with other inmates, with the prison staff, with the readers of the anthology, with the exhibit-goers, and the sense of gratitude and call to return that which has been received, are all parts of the gift.

The effort, practice, and revision that culminates in the performance the prisoners give is their labor of gratitude, the second part of the gift, the circulation of the gift, for they have already received the gifts the art class offers: the poems, paintings, photographs, dance steps, voice training. The performance itself — the anthology, exhibit, theatrical production — is a gift to be received.

A Gifted Response to Pitfalls
Now we may return to the two unique pitfalls of public prison arts performances: the logistical problems such performances create and the potentially disastrous revictimization that could arise from prisoners’ public performances. First, if the energy expended, the fretting, the successful navigation of bureaucratic hoops, the near-breakdowns are all viewed as the labor of gratitude, then the complicated logistics simply become a part of the production and circulation of a gift. A look at Hyde’s distinction between work and labor will clarify this point. “Work is an intended activity that is accomplished through the will”; sweeping the stockroom for minimum wage is work (p. 50). “Labor,” says Hyde, “can be intended but only to the extent of doing the groundwork, or of not doing things that would clearly prevent the labor” (p. 50).

Even though composing and distributing mountains of memos, confirming officer and staff schedules, compiling a guest list, arranging practice, and scrounging up props, may seem like work to be done in preparation of a public performance, they are, in fact, the labor of a public prison arts performance. Yes, many of these things can only get done because of the strong wills of the teachers and administrators of the prison arts programs, but the assertion of will here is all groundwork for the gift, for the performance; if the actual performance is willed into being, willed to take a certain shape, if the labor mutates into work — and there is not genuine reception and return of the gift — then the gift is lost. As the performance nears and stress mounts and unexpected hiccups disrupt plans, it is important for those strong-willed teachers and administrators to keep this distinction in mind or else risk corrupting their labor and losing the gift.

The threat of revictimization is the second problem particular to public prison arts performances. It is naive to overlook the fact that some students in prison arts classes have, as a result of their previous criminal activities, victimized others. The trauma of victimization can last long after the perpetration, prosecution, and penalization of a crime; therefore, any connection (or reconnection) between a victim and victimizer may be the catalyst for repeat victimization. And since I have argued that public prison arts performances are gifts produced within a circle, within prison, with the explicit intention that the gift will leave the circle, pass through the prison gates, go “around the corner” and “out of sight,” and work within the receiver, inspiring a relationship and labor of gratitude, these gifts may pose a danger to victims who may be the unintended and unwitting receivers of public prison arts performances (Hyde, p. 16).

Even if a victim was invited to a staging of Waiting for Godot in which her or his assailant is cast, it is difficult to imagine that victim actually showing up to the performance. In fact, with the precautions taken by a facility in compiling a list of guests cleared to enter the facility the day of a performance, it is equally difficult to imagine that an invitation from an inmate would ever make it into the hands of a victim. However, when the public performances are exported outside the prison walls — in the form of art instillations, poetry readings broadcast on public radio, anthologies of collected work — it becomes easier to conceive of a situation where a victim might see the name of a victimizer below the title of a charcoal portrait or catch a snippet of an assailant’s voice on the radio while flipping through stations in the car and be forced to confront the trauma of victimization all over again.

In instances like these it would be correct to say that the public performances are not seen as gifts at all but as anathema. Indeed, Hyde recognizes that certain gifts ought to be refused: “We often refuse relationship, either from the simple desire to remain unentangled, or because we sense that the proffered connection is tainted, dangerous, or frankly evil. And when we refuse relationship, we must refuse gift exchange as well” (p. 73). When the connection essential for gift exchange is rebuffed or severed, then there is no gift. The attempted relationship between victim and victimizer is rightly refused if the result would be “evil.”

To suggest that a potential connection between a victim and victimizer via a public prison arts performance should be refused, however, is not intended to burden the victim or participate in a form of victim blaming. Should a victim take it upon herself to refrain from leisurely scanning through radio stations on the off chance she will hear her convicted rapist reading a sonnet? It is certainly reasonable for any victim to assume that with the incarceration of a victimizer comes a complete cessation of contact, and for many victims this is the case. Unfortunately, there is always a chance, however slight and despite the institution’s best efforts, a letter may arrive in the mail from a victimizer. But, and not to sound callous or unsympathetic to the plight of victims, it would be disastrous to eliminate the mail privileges for all inmates because of the statistical few who would abuse the system. Similarly, I think the positive impacts of public prison arts performances far outweigh the possible — though, admittedly potentially devastating — pitfalls.

Fortunately, most prisoners who stick with prison arts classes and participate in performances are men and women who realize why they are in prison, and the arts classes are steps in a path that will change their lives. The prison artists want to leave — and never return to — prison. They are not using the public performance to terrorize their victims from behind bars; they are there for the gifts, and the gifts for which they labor are not meant for their victims.

Conclusion: Bringing the Gift Full Circle
By drawing upon Hyde’s work, I have provided a normative lens through which to view prison arts performances. Unfortunately, how we treat the typical gift and its giver differs significantly from how we treat prisoners and their art. To consider prison arts performances as gifts is to reexamine our circle — who it encompasses, what it circulates. “For our circle,” says Neal, “truly is the metaphor for community and who we are, who we would like to become, and how we may choose to restructure our world” (p. 76). Our circle contains our gifts, contains our community. Our circle should widen to include those who are incarcerated as they widen their circle to include us.

But, practically, what answers, if any, do viewing prison arts performances as gifts provide? It is unclear whether it supplies an answer for rising incarceration rates or swelling prisons. It is even less clear if treating performances as gifts can defray the enormous costs of imprisonment. Even when considering the treatment of inmates, the introduction of the language of gifts can be problematic. Speaking of prison arts performances as gifts seems to spur even more questions: What changes should be made to the preparation and enactment of performances to ensure the maximum gift output? In the presence of gifts, how should we behave differently as teachers, prisoners, audiences, or victims?

With a conceptual framework, the next step for prison arts programs is to formulate and standardize instructional and behavioral models for the bestowal and reception of gifts in prison arts performances. Fortunately, with the booming emphasis placed on community engagement initiatives by universities and corporate entities (all of which I strongly urge to adopt Hyde’s notion of gift when facilitating projects), prison arts programs have powerful and innovative partners in developing such gift receiving and gift giving models.

Alexander, W. (2003). Smitty, prayer, astronomy, Y2K and the wicked stepmother. Asia Romero: Dimensions in the work of the prison creative arts project. In R.M.-C. Williams (Ed.), Teaching the arts behind bars (pp. 125-137). Boston: Northeastern University Press. Finio, P. (1986). An anatomy of a prison arts and humanities program. The Prison Journal, 66, 57-75. Hillman, G. (2003). The mythology of the corrections community. In R.M.-C. Williams (Ed.), Teaching the arts behind bars (pp. 14-27). Boston: Northeastern University Press. Hyde, L (1983). The gift: imagination and the erotic life of property. New York: Vintage. Johnson, R. & Chernoff, N. (2002). Opening a vein: Inmate poetry and the prison experience. The Prison Journal, 82, 141-167. MacEnulty, P. (2003). Arts programs in recovery — finding out the way. In R.M.-C. Williams (Ed.), Teaching the arts behind bars (pp. 62-73). Boston: Northeastern University Press. Neal, L. (2003). The sacred circle. In R.M.-C. Williams (Ed.), Teaching the arts behind bars (pp. 74-79). Boston: Northeastern University Press. Schrift, M. (2006). Angola prison art: Captivity, creativity, and consumerism. Journal of American Folklore, 119, 257-274. Williams, R.M.-C. (2002). Entering the circle: The praxis of arts in education. The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, 31, 293-303. Tannenbaum, J. (2000). Disguised as a poem: My years teaching poetry at San Quentin. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Thompson, J. (2003). Doubtful principles in arts in prisons. In R.M.-C. (Ed.), Teaching the arts behind bars (pp. 40-61). Boston: Northeastern University Press.

About the Author
Ryan Browne is a graduate of and instructor in the English department at The University of Alabama. He may be reached at ryan.j.browne@

The Pub, the People, the Place, the Passions, and the Principles: The Social and Personal Context of Engagement in a Collective Action

“Thoughts and actions of boycott participants after a historic pub stopped selling a locally produced beer are explored and found to be motivated by a range of community concerns.” 

Paul Sparks and Tom Farsides 

Towards the end of 2006 the owners of a small, historic public house withdrew from sale the locally produced beer that had been sold there for many years. Pub regulars instigated a boycott in an attempt to have the beer reinstated. Following a four-month widely supported boycott and considerable media coverage, the pub company owners returned the local beer to the pub. This paper reports on a selection of the experiences of some of those taking an active role in the boycott. Following intensive semi-structured interviews, we extracted a number of themes from participants’ accounts. We identify potentially important factors in the “causal net,” explaining their involvement in the boycott. Affective experience, collective interests, and deontological considerations [the obligation to do the right thing even if doing so could be personally damaging] emerge as important dimensions of people’s discussion of their participation. The findings are discussed in relation to theoretical perspectives bearing on an understanding of action choices.

(I)t is very common to single out only one of the antecedents under the denomination of Cause, calling the others merely Conditions. … The real Cause is the whole of these antecedents; and we have, philosophically speaking, no right to give the name of Cause to one of them exclusive of the others. … If we do not, when aiming at accuracy, enumerate all the conditions, it is only because some of them will in most cases be understood without being expressed, or because for the purpose in view they may without detriment be overlooked. (John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic)

Collective action spans the interests of a number of social science disciplines. Formal definitions of collective action from within social psychology sometimes reflect the discipline’s focus on social groups: “A group member engages in collective action anytime that he or she is acting as a representative of the group, and the action is directed at improving the conditions of the entire group” (Wright, Taylor, & Moghaddam, 1990, as cited in Kelly & Breinlinger, 1996, p. 19). Perspectives from sociology adopt a somewhat more heterogeneous focus, admitting “many types of collective action” (Oliver, 1993) with many using the term (following the work of Olson, 1965) to refer “to activities which produce collective or public goods, that is, goods with the nonexcludability property that their provision to some members of a group means that they cannot be withheld from others in the group” (Oliver, 1984, p. 602). In this paper we address a small-scale collective action which took the form of a boycott of a small pub in a small market town in the south-east of England during 2006-07. The reasons for the boycott are explained below. Our concern in this paper is to describe some of the experiences of a sample of those actively engaged in the campaign insofar as those experiences provide some potential insights into the motives for people’s engagement with the action.

In the hills above Lewes in 1264, the forces of Simon de Montfort clashed with those of Henry III, his brother, and son (later Edward I). The details of the famous Battle of Lewes (see Mann, 1976) are not important here but the direct link between these events and the setting up of the first national Parliament in 1265 is seen as the “major contribution that Lewes has made to the history of democracy” (Poole, 2000, p. 6). Many people consider that another Lewesian contribution to the public good flows from its one remaining brewery, Harvey’s. Harvey’s beers have been sold in Lewes since the establishment of the brewery in 1790, including in pubs owned by other breweries. One of these pubs is the Lewes Arms (LA) bought by Greene King from Beard’s (formerly a Lewes brewery) in 1998; however, in 2006, the decision was made by Greene King PLC to remove the sale of Harvey’s Best Bitter beer from the pub. The Lewes Arms is a Grade II [a designation by the government for important buildings of special interest] building in the heart of the town, adjacent to the building that was formerly Beard’s brewery. Harvey’s is now the only remaining brewery in a town known to once possess “seven churches, seven breweries, and seventy inns”1 (Davey, 2006, p. 5) and is hugely popular locally. Over the years, Greene King had removed Harvey’s beer from other local public houses, including some in Lewes, and a massive effigy of Greene King had been paraded and burned at the local annual bonfire celebrations in 2003 largely as a response to this. The threat of the impending removal of Harvey’s beer was known to the regulars of the Lewes Arms in advance and opposition was extensive and swiftly organized. A petition calling on the pub company owners to retain Harvey’s beer/bitter was available for signature in the pub itself (it was eventually signed by over 1,200 people), and an initial meeting was convened (in the Lewes Arms) in early October 2006 to discuss possible responses to any removal of Harvey’s bitter from the pub. The local Member of Parliament signed the petition and became involved in discussions with the pub owners in an attempt to resolve the dispute2. On December 19, Harvey’s best bitter was withdrawn from the Lewes Arms and a boycott of the pub was initiated. A “Friends of the Lewes Arms” (FOLA) group emerged in support of the boycott and of “restoration” of Harvey’s to the pub, vigils were organized, a website was set up, media attention developed, informal meetings of FOLA took place, badges, car stickers, and banners were produced, an “Exiles Music Night” was arranged, and — most (in)visibly3 —the local population largely avoided the pub (rumours spread that bar takings were severely damaged) as the boycott remained largely solid. After a very quiet winter for the pub (a “winter of discontent” for the boycotters), on April 20, 2007, the pub company owners announced that Harvey’s would be restored to the Lewes Arms beginning the following week, expressing the view in a press release that it had “underestimated the depth of feeling and level of reaction about our initial decision.”

The decision by Greene King to restore Harvey’s Bitter to the Lewes Arms was widely seen as a local victory. There were great celebrations at the pub that weekend4 and of course the boycott was over. The Independent newspaper ran with the headline “Drinkers win battle of Lewes: a boycott by the locals brought a major brewery to its knees,”5 and many involved with the campaign were unambiguous about the importance of the events that had occurred. The restoration of Harvey’s to the Lewes Arms was seen variously as a great collective effort, a prime example of an effective consumer boycott, an instantiation of the local defiant view that “we won’t be druv,” a victory for those campaigning for local produce, a blow against corporate greed, and an affirmation of the importance of preserving communities, historic local pubs, and hugely popular local traditional beer.

In the series of interviews for this study, we describe the accounts and experiences of some of the people closely involved in the boycott campaign. The purpose of the interviews was both to record the experiences of the campaign that people chose to mention and to explore particular themes of social psychological significance (such as participants’ motives for involvement and their perceptions of the campaign’s outcomes). In this paper, we provide an account of some themes relating to background factors and motives that were highlighted by participants during the interviews. In all cases, we construe these themes as embodying potentially important motives for involvement in this campaign or as referencing distal parts of the causal network (van Fraassen, 1980) influencing people’s motives. In taking this approach, we take a cue from Mill (see above quote) in making no clear distinction between “causes” and “antecedent conditions” in the explanation of action. Moreover, we also find it useful to draw upon the ideas of Giddens (1982) about the “unacknowledged conditions of action” as important features of the causal network of action.

1Davey actually notes nine breweries. 2The MP’s constituency office was located roughly midway between the pub and the Harvey’s brewery. 3Thanks to participant #9 for this “observation.” 4The beer had been delivered and was ready to drink (and was drunk) on Thursday, April 26, 2007. 5The Independent, April 22, 2007.


Twenty-one people who were actively engaged in one way or another in the LA campaign were invited to take part in the research. Participants’ involvement in the campaign was indicated by information provided by the Chairperson of the “Friends of the Lewes Arms” group. Nine (four females, five males) agreed to take part within the required time-frame, and it is their accounts that form the data for the present study. Data were collected during July and August 2007. Given the small number of participants in the study and their high distinctiveness within a small community, all identifying information (other than participant numbers indicated in parenthesis) has been removed from the interview excerpts to promote anonymity.

Interview schedule.
A semistructured interview schedule was set up: This schedule centered around the themes of participants’ experiences of the boycott, their motives for taking part, and their views on the outcomes of the campaign. Individual interviews were arranged at a place most appropriate for participants and at a time that was mutually convenient to participant and interviewer. Usually this was in the participant’s home. Interviews lasted between 62 minutes and 200 minutes (M=132 minutes).

Recordings of the interviews were listened to on multiple occasions by both authors before the recordings were fully transcribed. Broad topics of interest that arose from the interviews and from the subsequent discussions between the researchers were considered and debated as the interviews were listened to (and read) repeatedly and carefully. The findings reported here relate to extracted material that addresses the motives that played a role in participants’ decisions to take part in the campaign. Some of these motives are interpreted as such because they are made in direct response to questions about reasons for getting involved in the campaign, and/or they reflect statements prefaced with direct statements about causes or reasons behind their participation in the boycott. Some of the statements are made in the absence of direct reference to motives, goals, causes, or reasons; however, since the authors identify these statements as encapsulating objects of value for the participants, they are judged as likely to have played a role in the structure of motives that underpinned their engagement with the campaign.

The interrelated themes identified are presented below. Subsequently, reflections on the relationship between these themes and various theoretical frameworks familiar to social psychological perspectives (although these frameworks did not direct the conduct of the research in any structured way) are offered.

The Pub
“I like going in” (#9). Descriptions of the pub were, perhaps unsurprisingly, uniformly positive. The pub itself was described in glowing terms: “a fantastic pub” (#1), “a quintessential pub” (#4), as “quintessentially Lewes” (#4), as “having a certain spirit here not found in other pubs” (#7), as an “important community facility” (#1), a “community hub” (#1), likened to one’s own home (#8) or “a second sitting-room, where you sit around and natter about this and that” (#4). The Lewes Arms was described as being a “completely central part of my life” (#2), “a central part of everybody’s lives” (#6). One participant suggested that “we’re so lucky to have this place” (#2). Another participant described how they “really liked,” this “perfect,” “special” place (#2). Another, redolent of the view that the pub is the “primordial cell of British life” (Charles Booth, as quoted in Brown, 2003, p. 109), suggested “it’s a f—— good pub. People like pubs. It’s an important part of the community. It’s an important part of people’s lives” (#8).

However, there was also an acknowledgement of the dangers of creating a false image of the pub. For one participant, while it is an “ideal pub” (#5) and “it’s like pubs ought to be” (#5), the sentiment is also expressed that “it’s not a paradise” (#5):

“(I)n fact a mythology had been built up amongst the LA that it was a complete paradise where everybody went in like that awful American Cheers. You know, where everyone knows you. It wasn’t like that … if you haven’t got some sort of irritation, it’s not a proper pub you can’t have … if it were too bucolic and glorious, it would be insufferable … I don’t go there for the whole ‘Cheers’ experience; I go there to see people I know and talk to my friends … I don’t want it to be the apple-cheeked matronly type behind the bar and everything to be all too perfect and wonderful because it would be (the) ghastly tourist faux version … it’s the fact that it can be dull, it can be grubby, it can be annoying” (#5).

Congruent with the simile of the home or sitting-room, the removal of the local beer was likened to “a burglary” by one participant (#8). Ostensibly, the campaign was about the restoration of the local beer to the pub: for some, restoration indicated the success of the campaign; for others, the restoration of Harvey’s was a means to another end: “We want the right to drink Harvey’s back … but it [the declaration] was shorthand for what was important: We want the Harvey’s back in order that we have everything else … the Harvey’s represented … the package” (#5).

Indeed, a dominant feature of the interviews was understandably the wish to “get the pub back to what it was before … The actual campaign wasn’t just about the beer” (#1). The goal of saving the pub was one of saving “the community” (#5). At a broader level, however, there was also the view that the LA was “important beyond Lewes” (#8) and that “good pubs are valuable and rare” (#2). One participant commented upon the physical structure, calling it “an important building … special … precious” (#2), although another suggested that the pub was not particularly attractive when empty. However, the core feature of the pub seemed to be represented by its social, rather than its physical, fabric.

The People
“The pub was the people … it wasn’t the building … it was the people in it” (#5). As a preliminary caveat to the categories that we are presenting, we should note that the identification of the pub with the people obviously makes for an uneasy separation of the two. Essential to the social role that the LA was seen as playing were the people who made use of the pub. At one level, a positive feature was the “variety of people … people from all walks of life” (#1), even “huge variety of people” (#2), the “complete cross-section of people … . One of the best things about the pub … the complete diversity … it’s truly one of those pubs, that’s what makes it so special” (#8). Different groupings were likened by one participant to different “tribes” (#5). Another participant commented on the “disparate group of people who went in there … you could always go in there and you could always meet someone that you knew” (#9). “It is a place where you can just walk in and just bump into somebody you know and just have a chat, even if you don’t know them terribly well” (#4).

The ecosystem metaphor was used by some to describe the social structure of the pub. “Without Harvey’s you don’t get the Harvey’s drinkers and without the Harvey’s drinkers, you haven’t got the pub’s ecosystem” (#2). “If the beer goes, all the people go” (#3). “It was about the beer because a number of people who did say they would no longer frequent the pub if the beer wasn’t there would have changed the dynamics of it all” (#1).

One participant recalled a busy occasion when he recognized everyone there he could see; on the other hand, he later commented how dismal the pub can be when you “don’t know anyone” (#5). While it was clear this was a busy pub and not everyone there knew each other, among some there was a view that: “ … (T)he one thing about the Arms, the best thing about the Arms I always found, is you can go in there any time of day or night and there would always be someone to talk to. It might be that there’s just one other complete stranger that you’ve never met before, but if they are in the Arms … they’d be worth talking to because they’d found their way into the Arms rather than any of the other pubs in Lewes, and you would also go into the Arms because you’d know you’d see your friends in there; you couldn’t guarantee that they’d be out that particular night but if they’re going to be out anywhere they’ll be in the Arms” (#8).

The Place
For some, the history of Lewes constituted an important element of the campaign. On the one hand, Lewes as a town was described as having a “strong community spirit” (#3), an “underculture of subversion” (#9), as well as a “history of dissent” (#3), a feature of the town that maps onto an important element of the history of the public house in England (Brown, 2003; Jennings, 2007). One participant suggested that “people were drawn to Lewes” (#3) by that dissenting spirit. Reference was also made to the history and camaraderie of the annual bonfire celebrations and to the town’s connection to the life of Tom Paine6. One participant suggested that “you can’t live in Lewes without having a sense of history” (#3). The campaign itself was also viewed as a means of “keeping Lewes as a nice place to live” (#7), as a means of preserving something personally and socially important (#9).

The Passions
The pub clearly elicited a great sense of affection: One participant indicated “I love it very much” (#8), and another described how they “fell in love with the Lewes Arms” (#4) when they first came there. Perhaps as a consequence of the strong affection held for the pub, a number mentioned the strong emotions they felt when Harvey’s had been removed, or had been threatened to be removed, from the pub. One participant reported being “angry and annoyed” (#1) when the local beer was removed, another “angry” (#3), another “absolutely appalled” (#5), another “infuriated” (#9), another “furious” (#4), another’s “heart sank like a stone” (#2). More widespread emotions of people connected to the pub were mentioned: it was suggested that people were “passionate about Harvey’s” (#6), that the removal of Harvey’s was “a deeply felt thing” (#4), which “hit a lot of people’s deep emotions” (#2), and “so many people were pissed off about it” (#8). At the same time, there was also the suggestion that Greene King’s actions served as an “outlet for personal fury against the corporate world” (#5). Allied with the strong feelings aroused by the prospect of the removal of the local beer, and of the removal itself, was the feeling not only of the sense that “we had a very high moral ground … built on a series of very good, carefully discussed, and worked-out arguments” (#3), but also of the “visceral sense of being right” (#4).

6Author of The Rights of Man and Common Sense, Tom Paine had lived and worked in the town between 1768 and 1774. 7Resonance with “activism does not revolve around considerations of perceived effectiveness but reflects a feeling of moral duty or responsibility to ‘stand up and be counted,’ to register a protest about injustice even if one cannot hope to bring about change, at least in the short term. Not to do so, would be contrary to an important aspect of self” (Kelly & Breinlinger, 1996, p.173).

The Principles
There is a Sussex adage, “we won’t be druv,” that featured prominently in participants’ accounts. This saying underlines a certain mixture of autonomy, reactance, and bloody-mindedness (#2), a “resistance to being pushed around” (#2), a certain “stubbornness” and “independence” (#4), or more poetically explained by one participant as, “no bugger from outside tells us what to do” (#2) and encapsulated in the view that “this big corporation shouldn’t be allowed to dictate to us” (#4). The “we won’t be druv” adage seemed to be used as a rallying cry for the campaign, treated more literally by some and more rhetorically by others. Ironically perhaps, there was also some reference to some of the few non-observers of the boycott also employing the same aphorism in order to justify their unwillingness to comply with the boycott!

Other principles or rules found their way into participants’ accounts: “always fight” (#5), “never give up, never ever give up … you can do anything” (#9). One participant talked of their “conscience” (#8); another suggested that “we have to take responsibility” (#3). Another spoke of offering “moral support to others” and of explaining the action as something that “just had to be done” (#7), by another as “the right thing to do” (#3), another “because it’s what I do” (#5) and “didn’t think much about the outcome” (#5).

Some of the comments appear at first to reflect a non-utilitarian concern with the consequences of the campaign. One participant noted, “The thought of actually winning – I don’t know if anyone ever really thought about that. I don’t know. I don’t know. It just had to be done, I think” (#7). Another suggested:

“People would say, ‘You’re not going to win, you know.’ I suddenly thought, it never occurred to me that we would, and when we did win, I do remember saying I’d never actually been involved in a campaign before where we’d won … it never occurs to me to do it to win, you just do it to fight … it didn’t occur me to think about it … it was only towards the end when we got all this mad press interest after the Guardian article, that it started really hotting up and I remember sitting there with [X] and thinking we might actually win: how alarming! (laughter) … just that sense of I’m not going to lie down and just do nothing, I’m not going to accept this … I like being an active thorn in people’s sides … I didn’t really think much about the outcome, I just thought ‘this is what I do’”(#5)7.

The negative psychological consequences of inaction and the positive consequences of action were also apparent: “If we don’t do anything, we’ll feel terrible … action makes you feel better” (#3). In terms of a broader impact, one participant observed that “Even if we didn’t win, they wouldn’t try it elsewhere” and the action would “damage Greene King” (#9).

Personal histories.
It was apparent from some of the accounts that some participants had a history of some kind of activism: “strike veterans” (#5), as one participant put it. This involvement was related to the environmental movement and to trade union activism. However, this was by no means a universal feature of people’s accounts; one participant described themself as not very involved; one even described themself as “not the sort of person who takes to the streets” (#1). One had been actively involved in previous campaigns and petitions organized by the regulars of the pub.

Greene King [Pub Owners].
“The Leopard never changes its spots” (#2). Unsurprisingly, the brewing company that owned the pub (Greene King) came in for lots of criticism. At one level, there was suspicion of their motives, dislike of their “arrogant attitude,” a feeling that they had a “moral responsibility” (#1) towards the communities within which they operate and within the pub itself: “It’s theirs to run but not theirs to smash up” (#2). At another level, there was a more angry criticism of what was seen as their hypocrisy for promoting local pubs while at the same time “they were about to wreck what was by anybody’s standards an ideal local social pub” (#3). For this last participant, this “gross hypocrisy … was really one of the key things that drove the campaign all the way through” (#3). Another participant suggested, “GK were holding themselves out to be one thing and in fact behaving in another way. They were saying they were … supportive of real ale, local pubs, and local people … and they were actually behaving … corporately in a way that was completely at variance with what they said” (#9). One described a campaign goal as bringing “GK to their knees” (#7); another described the company as “extraordinarily bloody irritating” (#9); another that they “loathe corporate bullying” and described the company as “scum awful” (#5); another described the company position as “corporate bollocks [nonsense] and demonstrable bull—-” (#9).

Despite the explicit raison d’etre of the campaign to restore Harvey’s to the LA, the view that Harvey’s was “the one constant” (#5) at the LA, that the LA was “soaked” in Harvey’s, (#4) or, alternatively, “fueled” by Harvey’s (#2), there was a widespread view, as we have mentioned, that what would be lost if Harvey’s were removed from the LA was the Harvey’s drinkers. In fact, some participants were keen to point out that they themselves were not Harvey’s drinkers, but that if Harvey’s were removed from the LA, a number of people for whom the beer was very important would abandon the pub and thus the social character of the pub would change. For one participant it was obvious “if you took the Harvey’s out of there, you’d kill the pub” (#6).

Harvey’s itself as a small brewery was commented upon as being an important feature of Lewes, the place: “Harvey’s do a lot for Lewes”; “Harvey’s are a big part of Lewes” (#6). And one participant likened drinking Harvey’s to drinking holy water in Lourdes and described one long-term regular of the pub as “part man, part Harvey’s” (#5).

“If we stopped doing everything for which we do not know the reason, or for which we cannot prove a justification … we would probably soon be dead” (Hayek, 1988, cited in Gigerenzer, 2007, p. 54). “Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex than our subsequent explanations of them” (Dostoevsky, cited in McKenzie-Mohr & Smith, 1999, p. 19).

The passion for the pub (and all it entails) and the anger at the threats to its existence are dominant features in this handful of accounts of the experiences of those who were actively engaged in protesting about the removal of the local beer. Our overview offers some indication of people’s reflections on their involvement in this local collective action [or their “rationalization of action” (Giddens, 1982)] and of the backdrop to their actions that they chose to mention. We do not doubt that part of these accounts may reflect participants’ wishes to convey their experiences and that part may be motivated by more extrinsic goals (e.g., constructing a particular version of events that took place; cf. Drury & Stott, 2001). Nevertheless, we would hope that these accounts provide some indication of part of the explanation of this local collective action by highlighting some of the motives that are likely to have played an influential role. We have limited our interpretation of participants’ comments and have sought to avoid generalizations, although we have of necessity needed to be selective in the illustrative material that we have presented.

Because of both the nature of the structure of these interviews and of the incomplete insight that people may have into the full causal structure of their actions (cf. Giddens, 1982; Nisbett & Wilson, 1977), we should point out that certain influential factors in participants’ engagement may not be well represented in these accounts. For example, the roles of emotional/affective factors, of social influence processes, or of other socialcontextual factors (e.g., group size, education levels, social networks [Oliver, 1984]) may be relatively underrepresented. We do not view this as a shortcoming of the research; rather, it is an inevitable yet interesting feature of such accounts that certain influential factors will be highlighted with others remaining unacknowledged (cf. Garfinkel, 1981; van Fraassen, 1980). The accounts elicited here are just that, and we would not wish to downplay the role of conscious or unconscious psychological influences or contextual factors that influenced people’s actions but that are not represented here in these accounts. Nevertheless, the stories of this small group of participants demonstrate a number of motivational factors that are likely to have played a role in people’s decisions to get involved, and stay involved, in this campaign. We make no attempt to judge the relative strength of these motivational factors or to assess the influence of any of their interactions. We would simply point out the diversity of potential explanatory factors: we are not attempting to provide a comprehensive account of the antecedent conditions of people’s actions. It should also be borne in mind that these are just a handful of the views of some actively engaged in the campaign and that the pattern of motives of the hundreds who observed the boycott are likely to have been somewhat different.

This concern for the future of the pub and the people is marked by a strong sense of affection for the pub. Orwell’s (1946) famous description of his ideal (albeit mythical pub) is not out of place with many descriptions of the “local” at the centre of this dispute and of the formulation of the goal of the boycott campaign to “get the atmosphere back” in the pub:

My favourite public house, The Moon under Water, is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights. Its clientele, though fairly large, consists mostly of regulars who occupy the same chair every evening and go there for conversation as much as for the beer. If you are asked why you favour a particular public house, it would seem natural to put the beer first, but the thing that most appeals to me about The Moon under Water is … its atmosphere.

In this paper we have stayed fairly close to the data in order to provide an illustration of the themes arising in participants’ accounts of their involvement in this boycott. It would be possible to interpret or frame these in any number of ways that might be influenced by well-known theoretical ideas about social action. Motives, for example, might be interpreted in terms of an augmented theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991; Conner & Armitage, 1998) in which affective influences, identity-related motives or normative/moral judgements might be seen as operating alongside more utilitarian concerns with the likely outcomes of action. Similarly, and highly congruent with the above framework, the accounts might also be viewed from the different kinds of social action put forward by Weber (1947), which include orientations towards zweckrationalität (instrumental outcomes), wertrationalität (compliance with certain values), affective influences, and the influence of habit/ tradition. Alternatively, and specifically from the literature on collective action, the findings might be interpreted in terms of material, solidary [in law, similar to group obigation] arising “from social relations with other participants” [p. 279]), and purposive (arising “from internalized norms and values” [p. 279]) incentives to action (Oliver, 1993). It would also be perfectly possible to compare the themes identified in our participants’ accounts to broader theoretical ideas relating to, for example, collective identity (Polleta & Jasper, 2001), participation (Klandermans & Oegema, 1987), and affective processes (Snow & Oliver, 1995) in the literature on social movements, or to the literature on the psychology of cooperative behavior (Tyler, 2008). While we have largely declined this opportunity in favor of a more descriptive perspective less likely to constrain ways of interpreting the data, we don’t doubt that the construction of themes from these interviews was influenced both by our own partisan attitudes8 and the theoretical perspectives with which we are familiar.

A prominent feature of these interviews is that participants’ stories seem to reflect less of a self-interested, consequentialist account of attitudes and actions than many economic and psychological theories would appear to propose. Given the possibility of alternative interpretations of what participants had to say, such accounts may of course be construed in terms of people’s self-interest (cf. Fehr & Gintis, 2007), but perhaps not readily without losing the usefulness of a distinction between self-interest and other kinds of motive (Holmes, 1990; see also e.g., Singer, 1993). Parts of these accounts provide a hint of what James March has called a concern with “obligations” rather than “expectations,” with “appropriateness” rather than “consequence,” and with a “sanity of identity” rather than “rationality” (1994, p. 268). It is thus perhaps ironic in the face of views that might seem less than “rational” from the perspective of many psychologists and economists that one of the participants complained, with some apparent irritation and incredulity, about Greene King’s apparent lack of rational judgment during the dispute: “If you are engaged in a conflict, you expect the other side to act rationally” (#9). Another participant complained about how some of the handful of those who did not observe the boycott “weren’t susceptible to rational argument” (#4). The arguments for the effectiveness of irrationality (e.g. Frank, 1990) are not unfamiliar to decision theorists and it has perhaps been telling in terms of motivational theories and of great benefit to the Lewes community that its citizens have not turned out to be the “rational,” self-interested, consumerist, homo economicus caricature portrayed in some academic research [a view recently described as a “biased” view of human nature “hitched to the wrong anchor” (Fehr & Gintis, 2007, p. 44)]. A lack of “rationality” in these interpretations should not be construed as an accusation of unintelligibility or disparagement; rather, it is an indication that people’s motives are perhaps not that well represented in the kinds of narrow material self-interest, or in the calculation of “objective” costs and benefits (Oliver, 1994, p. 278), that is often portrayed as characteristic of economists’ models of decision-making processes (cf. Marglin, 2008). The passion, the persistence, and belligerence9 of these activists and of the citizens of Lewes more generally, and the importance they attach to a sense of community seem to have served them well.

8As an axiological snippet, we might note that both authors are familiar with the ambience of the pub and the quality of the local beer.

From participants’ accounts, one gleans the idea that the pub was an important part of their lives and that important values and principles were at stake in their actions. At the same time, the boycott was seen in perspective. One participant described it as “struggle lite” and that “ultimately it was serious but also you know … nobody’s going to die” (#5). Another indicated that he used to “strike for pay, now I go out and strike for beer. How the mighty have fallen!” adding, “one of the most pleasant picket lines I’ve ever stood on” (#4). The campaign itself was marked by “general humour and banter [and] funny stories” (#1); it was “great fun … if you’ve got a bunch of people whose main interest in life is being in a congenial boozer, it’s not going to be a dreary campaign” (#5).

In light of the local legacy of Tom Paine, the recent 200th anniversary of his death10 and his role in the history of the U.S. Declaration of Independence (Keane, 1995) with its inclusion of a right to the pursuit of happiness, it is perhaps apposite to note Hirschman’s (1998) inversion of this idea in his suggestion of the benefits of “the happiness of pursuit” — “the felicity of taking part in collective action” (p. 103). Participants, we suspect, would readily concur both with this sentiment and with the importance of “voice” (Hirschman, 1970), of trying to exert influence on an “objectionable state of affairs” (p. 30) via their participation in this collective activity.

9Perhaps this is better (and/or more flatteringly) characterized as “strong reciprocity”: “the behavioral disposition to cooperate conditionally on others’ cooperation and to punish violations of cooperative norms even at a net cost to the punisher” (Fehr & Gintis, op. cit., p. 45). 10June 8th 1809.

We would hope that our account of people’s involvement with the vitality of their community might provide useful points of reference both for others who study civic engagement and for those who are directly engaged in pro-community actions. The dangers of over-generalizing empirical findings should, of course, always be heeded, but we would hope that the social context and motives discussed in this article provide some potential clues about how the quality of communities and community life might be promoted and enhanced.

Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211. Brocki, J.M. & Wearden, A.J. (2006). A critical evaluation of the use of interpretative phenomenological analysis in health psychology. Psychology and Health, 21, 1, 87-108. Brown, P. (2003). Man walks into a pub: A sociable history of beer. London: Pan MacMillan. Conner, M. and Armitage, C.J. (1998). Extending the theory of planned behavior: A review and avenues for further research. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 15, 1429-1464. Cushman, P. (1990). Why the self is empty: Toward a historically situated psychology. American Psychologist, 45, 5, 599-611. Davey, L.S. (2006). The inns of Lewes: Past and present. Lewes: Pomegranate Press. Day, G. (2006). Community and everyday life. London: Routledge. Drury, J. & Stott, C. (2001). Bias as a research strategy in participant observation: The case of intergroup conflict. Field Methods, 13, 1, 47-67. Fehr, E. and Gintis, H. (2007). Human motivation and social cooperation: experimental and analytical foundations. Annual Review of Sociology, 33, 43-64. Frank, R.H. (1990). Passions within reason: The strategic role of the emotions. New York: Norton & Co. Friedman, M. (1995). On promoting a sustainable future through consumer activism. Journal of Social Issues, 51, 4, 197-215. Gamson, W.A. (1992). The social psychology of collective action. In A.D. Morris and C.M. Mueller (Eds.), Frontiers in social movement theory. New Haven: Yale University Press. Garfinkel, A. (1981). Forms of explanation. Yale: Yale University Press. Giddens, A. (1982). Profiles and critiques in social theory. London: MacMillan. Gigerenzer, G. (2007). Gut feelings. London: Allen Lane. Hirschman, A.O. (1970). Exit, voice, and loyalty: Responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Hirschman, A O. (1998). Crossing boundaries: Selected writings. New York: Zone Books. Holmes, J. (1990). A secret history of self- interest. In J.J. Mansbridge (Ed.), Beyond self-interest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Jennings, P. (2007). The local: A history of the English pub. Stroud: Tempus. Keane, J. (1995). Tom Paine: A political life. London: Bloomsbury. Kelly, C. & Breinlinger, S. (1996). The social psychology of collective action: Identity, justice, and gender. London: Taylor & Francis. Klandermans, B. & Oegema, D. (1987). Potentials, networks, motivations, and barriers: Steps toward participation in social movements. American Sociological Review, 52, 519-31. McKenzie-Mohr, D. and Smith, W. (1999). Fostering sustainable behavior. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers. March, J. G. (1994). A primer on decision-making: How decisions happen. New York: The Free Press. Marglin, S.A. (2008). The dismal science: How thinking like an economist undermines community. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Mass Observation (1987). The pub and the people: A worktown study by mass observation. London: the Cresset Library. Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Nisbett, R. & Wilson, T.D. (1977). Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological Review, 84, 231-259. Oliver, P.E. (1984). If you don’t do it, nobody else will: Active and token contributors to local collective action. American Sociological Review, 49, 601-610. Oliver, P.E. (1993). Formal models of collective action. Annual Review of Sociology, 19, 271-300. Olson, M. (1965). The logic of collective action. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Orwell, G. (1946) “The Moon under Water,” Evening Standard, February 9, 1946. Reprinted in Orwell, S. & Angus, I. (Eds.), George Orwell: As I Please, 1943-1945: The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell, pp. 63-65. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Polletta, F. & Jasper, J.M. (2000). Collective identity and social movements. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 283-305. Poole, H. (2000). Lewes past. Chichester: Phillimore. Putnam, R.D. (1996). The strange disappearance of civic America. The American Prospect. Winter, 34-48. Singer, P. (1993). How are we to live? Ethics in an age of self-interest. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Snow, D.A. & Oliver, P.E. (1995). Social movements and collective behaviour: Social psychological considerations and dimensions. In K.S. Cook, G.A. Fine, & J.S. House (Eds.), Sociological Perspectives on Social Psychology. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Tönnies, F. (1988). Community and society. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. Tyler, T.R. (2008). The psychology of cooperation. In B.A. Sullivan, M. Snyder and J.L. Sullivan (Eds.), Cooperation: the political psychology of effective human interaction. Oxford: Blackwell. van Fraassen, B.C. (1980). The scientific image. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Weber, M. (1947). The theory of social and economic organization. Glencoe: The Free Press.

Authors’ Note
The authors thank the members of Friends of the Lewes Arms who took part in this research, to Charlotte Rea and Lizzy Gatrell for their work in transcribing the interview files, and to three anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

About the Authors
Paul Sparks is senior lecturer in social psychology and health in the department of psychology at the University of Sussex. Tom Farsides is lecturer in social psychology in the department of psychology at the University of Sussex. Sparks may be reached at p.sparks@

Learning About Social Work Research Through Service-Learning

Laura A. Lowe and Jeff Clark 

“A service-learning experience with the homeless, though not a perfect canvas, helps social work students connect the dots of research basics. “

Abstract Social work educators have struggled to find ways to encourage students and practitioners alike to engage in research. This project examines the impact of using a service-learning experience with a homeless agency on students’ attitudes toward social work research. Quantitative methods were used to collect and analyze data on students’ comfort and self-efficacy regarding social work research, and qualitative data informed the research regarding students’ attitudes toward the service-learning experience as well as their learning experiences in general. Results indicated students’ attitudes toward research improved over the semester and that they demonstrated learning through, found benefit from, and enjoyed engaging in the service-learning project. The authors conclude that service-learning can be a useful pedagogy for engaging students with social work research.

Research indidates that most social work professionals don’t engage in scholarly research and when they do, don’t publish their findings (Lazar, 1991). Preparing new practitioners to conduct research appears to be the most efficient way of addressing this problem. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) considers the mastery of research skills to be an important component of training competent and ethical social work practitioners.

While Secret, Ford, & Rompf (2003) argue that social work students have generally positive attitudes toward social work research, other researchers have reported that social work students are reluctant to learn and conduct research (Epstein, 1987; Forte, 1995; Green, Bretzin, Leininger, & Satuffer, 2001; Montcalm, 1999; Wainstock, 1994). In addition, social work students appear to have higher levels of math anxiety than many other students (Royse & Rompf, 1992) and perhaps have less interest in research than students in related disciplines (Green et al., 2001).

Dunlap (1993) writes: “Social work educators must take the lead” (p. 8) in encouraging social work students to engage in research activities during their professional careers. She goes on to suggest that one way is to “use more effective teaching strategies, notably those that satisfy student preferences by linking research and practice” (p. 8). One such method that clearly links research and practice is involving students in research projects in the community, and several social work educators have advocated for its benefits in facilitating student learning about research (Hyde & Meyer, 2004; Kapp, 2006; Knee, 2002; Sather, Carlson, & Weitz, 2007; Wainstock, 1994; Wells, 2006).

This study proposes to evaluate the impact of a service-learning experience, one type of community engagement, on social work students’ attitudes toward research. Specifically, through the context of a research course required for undergraduate social work majors at our university, we hoped to improve students’ engagement with the academic content by involving them in a research project with a community partner agency in need of help with research. By examining changes in students’ research self-efficacy and attitudes toward research, we hoped to offer evidence that the service-learning experience contributed to their understanding and perception of the utility for research in social work practice.

Social Work and Service-Learning
Texas Tech University defines service-learning as … a pedagogy that links academic study and civic engagement through thoughtfully organized service that meets the needs of the community. This service is structured by and integrated into the academic curriculum, which provides opportunities for students to learn and develop through critical reflection ( servicelearning, 2009).

Williams, King, and Koob (2002) and King (2003) suggest a natural “fit” between the mission and values of the social work profession and service-learning. Phillips (2007) argues similarly, noting that the profession’s central tenets of “values/ethics, diversity, social and economic justice, and social welfare policy and services” (p. 6) coincide ideally with those of the servicelearning movement. However, while others have noted the issue, Phillips focuses on the fact that while “one would expect social work to be a foundational discipline of the [higher education civic engagement] movement and at the forefront of service-learning methodological development” (p. 6), the relationship between social work and service-learning is “tenuous,” at least currently. Certainly, few evaluation studies have been published. Lemieux and Allen (2007) found only eight examples which met criteria for service-learning in a recent review of the social work literature published since 1990.

One explanation postulated is the lack of clear differentiation between field experiences and service-learning. It is suggested that social work educators may overlook service-learning as a specific pedagogy because they assume all work in the community to be service-learning and/or that field practica are service-learning experiences (Lemieux & Allen, 2007). However, these types of experiences lack key components of service- learning. Community service alone fails to adequately link the experience of student service with academic content or provide opportunities for critical reflection. Field experiences, while clearly applying academic content, lack the important idea of “reciprocity” in servicelearning. As Phillips (2007) argues, students in the required field experience focus on honing their own skills in the provision of services. In other words, field practica are really about the students’ needs to practice providing services rather than on the needs of the community. Ultimately, it is the agency doing us (the university) a favor by providing this opportunity to our students.

Regardless of the reasons for most social work educators’ failure to use service-learning as a central pedagogy, others advocate for its increased use in social work courses. Service-learning has that capability of marrying theory and practice in a way that can potentially engage students and therefore, “there is reason to believe that the use of service-learning in social work education can greatly contribute to the positive academic outcomes and to the professional development of social work students” (King, 2003, p. 45).

Our Service-Learning Component Our community partner, an agency serving the homeless, was a loose collaboration of concerned citizens, social service and religious providers, and others who were currently homeless or had been homeless. At the time of our involvement, they had no formal organizational structure, funding, or employees, so all work was conducted on a completely voluntary basis. Prior to the beginning of the semester, the first author was put into contact with the community partner through referral from the service-learning coordinator at Texas Tech University. The primary contact was with the volunteer coordinator of the annual homeless count, a rotating position. The annual homeless count is a national effort occurring in the early part of each year and is a project of the National Alliance to End Homelessness (2009). Communities involved in the endeavor attempt to collect data on the actual number of homeless as well as to conduct a more in-depth survey with those who consent. The community partner was seeking help in conducting the actual count (data collection) as well as compiling the data from the surveys (data analysis). This project was developed to offer the community partner information and data it otherwise could not afford to obtain professionally.

The purpose of the social work research course is for students to be able to “understand the methodologies of scientific inquiry and be able to apply the principles of the scientific method to the process of professional knowledge building, program evaluation, and practice evaluation” (Texas Tech University, 2007/8). The students’ involvement in the service-learning project consisted of data collection and analysis and dissemination of results. They participated on the “count” day by looking for and interviewing the homeless population in the local area one afternoon and evening early in the semester. They created a database in SPSS, entered data, and obtained statistical data from the surveys. At the end of the semester, they presented their results in the form of a PowerPoint and written report to the community partner and social work faculty members.

All work on the project was conducted under the supervision of the instructor (first author). Apart from the actual data collection, the majority of the work with data was conducted during class sessions. While the data entry was done individually by students, creating the database and running analyses (obtaining frequencies, creating graphs/charts) was done in groups of two or three students. The instructor would introduce the material in the computer lab and provide instructions on what to do. Students would then complete their tasks as a small group. Next, the instructor would compile the results of the different groups for the class as a whole. Students also completed an individual research assignment using the data. For this project, they conducted a literature review and conducted some type of statistical analysis. Throughout the semester, students reflected on the service- learning experience through class discussion and individual journals.

This study examines the impact of this experience on the students. The governing ideology was to evaluate the process of learning from the perspective of the student who learned to conduct social work research by actually performing it.

Methods This study was approved by the Texas Tech University’s Institutional Review Board for research with human subjects. All requirements were followed throughout the course of the study. At the beginning of the semester, students gave written consent for the quantitative survey and were informed of their rights to refuse to participate without repercussion. A childhood address and a phone number were used as identifying data to match pre-tests to post-tests, avoiding use of student names. At the end of the semester, students were asked for consent to use the qualitative data sources, given the stipulation that the instructor would not have access to information about which students consented until after grades were posted. The second author, who was a graduate student in another discipline with no formal power over the participating students, held this data until that time. Students were given course credit for completing journal entries and for participation in the chat session, regardless of content or consent to the research.

Sample Twelve female students were enrolled in this undergraduate level course during one long semester of 2007. Ten students filled out both the pre- and post-survey questionnaires. Of these, seven students were social work majors, while the remaining three were minors. Seven students were white, while one was Latino/a, one African-American, and one indicated s/he was of mixed ethnic heritage. While the course only requires a statistics course as a prerequisite and is open to any student on campus who fulfills this requirement, social work majors typically take this course toward the end of their program, generally the semester before their field placement.

Quantitative Data Collection and Analysis The quantitative attitude survey data was collected from all the participating students at the beginning and end of the semester. The second author attended class, explained the research, and collected the consents and surveys.

Measures. The quantitative measures included two scales addressing students’ attitudes toward research. The scales were adapted from Szymanski, Whitney-Thomas, Marshall, & Sayger, 1994; Unrau & Grinnell, 2005; Holden, Barker, Meenaghan, & Rosenberg, 1999. The first scale (named Comfort) addressed students’ level of ease with research activities and the utility of social work research. Students were asked to indicate their level of agreement with statements such as “The thought of having to understand research articles makes me nervous” and “Many research findings are slanted in order to appeal to funding sources” on a six-point Likert scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. There were 19 total items and nine items were reverse-coded so that higher scores indicated more positive responses. Items were summed for a total score, with a possible range of 0-95. A reliability analysis of these items on the pre-test resulted in an alpha of .88 in our sample.

The second scale addressed students self- efficacy regarding research (Efficacy). Students were asked to rate their level of confidence on a 100-point scale in carrying out various research activities, such as “Design and implement the best measurement approach possible for your study of some aspect of practice.” A rating of 0 was anchored as “cannot do at all,” 50 as “moderately can do” and 100 “highly certain can do.” There were 16 items on the original scale. However, one item had a mistake on the questionnaire which resulted in four students skipping the item; therefore, it was excluded from further analysis. The mean of the 15 items was obtained for an overall scale score (Unrau & Grinnell, 2005). Holden et al. (1999) found the measure to have good internal consistency, construct validity, and sensitivity to change. In our sample, a reliability analysis of these items on the pre-test items resulted in an alpha of .92.

Data Analysis. SPSS 15.0 was used to create a database of the quantitative data and for all subsequent statistical analysis. A level of significance of .05 was used to interpret the results of statistical tests. Cohen’s d was used to estimate effect size using a guide of 0.2 for a small effect, 0.5 for a medium effect, and 0.8 for a large effect (Cohen, 1992).

Qualitative Data Collection and Analysis Two sources for qualitative data were used. Throughout the semester, about seven students made entries in individual journals kept online. Students responded to questions about the service-learning project and academic content posted on WebCT. For example, after setting up the database and entering the data, students were asked to reflect on this part of the process by responding to this entry by the instructor:

For this journal entry, comment on the lab exercises so far. (1) Do you understand how to set up the SPSS file? What did you find problematic about the survey or SPSS in regard to this part of the research process? (2) How about the data entry? Were the surveys easy to code or difficult? What was problematic? What would you do differently next time?

As previously noted, students were given course credit for making entries in their online journal; however entries were not graded for content.

Additionally, a chat session was conducted at the end of the semester through WebCT, an online learning support program, with the second author as moderator. The moderator posed a series of open-ended questions about the service-learning experience and gave students a chance to respond to the question as well as one another’s comments. Example questions include: “Do you think the experience contributed to your understanding of the course material?” and “If you were the instructor, would you use this kind of approach again?” The chat session was held during a regular course session, but students could participate through any computer with Internet access and the course instructor was not a participant or present. Again, students received course credit of attendance for the session (noted by the second author), but content was not considered for grading in the course. The data collected from these two sources were analyzed using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Independently, the two researchers read and re-read the text data before noting initial impressions. Then together we reviewed these initial impressions, discussed differences, and decided upon the emerging themes. Chunks of data were then grouped under similar codes and examined again for overarching themes.

Results Both quantitative and qualitative data was used to assess the impact of the service-learning experience in the course. Quantitative data consisted of the two scales, Comfort and Efficacy, while the qualitative data consisted of student journals and a transcript from an online chat session.

Paired-sample t-tests were used to test the quantitative research hypotheses. Results indicated that the students significantly improved (t(9)=- 2.34, p=.044) their level of comfort with research from pre (M=65.14, SD=11.9) to post (M=75.48, SD=9.44) testing. The effect size was fairly large (d=-.74). Similarly, students’ self-efficacy regarding research activities also showed significant positive change (t(9)=-4.09, p=.003) from pre (M=69.83, SD=15.05) to post (M=84.60, SD=10.54) testing. The effect size was large (d=-1.3), supporting the research hypothesis predicting change.

Student Journals The main purposes of the journals were to allow students to share their experiences and to make connections between the academic material and the project. Two major themes were identified in this data, including 1) feelings and attitudes and 2) learning and engagement. Both are best viewed through a time-wise analysis over the course of the project.

Feelings and Attitudes. Students expressed both feelings and attitudes about the service- learning project in their research journals. In the early entries, the most commonly occurring feelings were anxiety and anticipation. The majority of comments noting anxiety were made before the work had begun. For example, a few students felt some early discomfort in regard to the actual service-learning aspect of the course, for example: “When I first heard about the service- learning project and the subsequent research, I was wary. Working with made-up data seems slightly less intimidating than having to go out into the community to collect the data and then have the analysis of that data actually used by an agency.”

Others expressed apprehension because of the population to be researched. One student wrote, “I believe that my feelings are more of a scared type of feelings, mainly because I feel uncomfortable around this population … ,” while another expressed a similar feeling by saying, “I am a little nervous about the actual ‘homeless count’ just because it’s out of my comfort zone… .”

Perhaps related to this cause of anxiety, several students expressed apprehension about their own skills and how they would deal with the data collection process. One student noted, “I am really nervous about the survey. I feel that I am awkward a lot of times when I talk. I do not want to come off rude or mean to the people we are surveying,” while another recorded: “I am nervous about doing the count because I don’t know how I would react to answering questions of a personal nature during a time of stress like that. I don’t want to further stigmatize or hurt anyone … .” Finally, students also expressed anxiety about different steps in the research process, such as working with software and analysis techniques.

While students expressed quite a bit of anxiety, particularly early in the project, most also expressed excitement and anticipation. Some examples of this expressed feeling include: “I look forward to this experience. I think this project will be a challenge, because it is something I have never done before”; “I think this project will [give me] a new found excitement for research in our profession. [It will] give us a first-hand experience for conducting research in the future”; and, “Our learning is going to help a real organization and that’s pretty cool, too. I am excited about the contribution I will make to this year’s count.”

Also early in the semester, students struggled with their own thoughts about homelessness and their community. For example, one student stated that after a recent experience with one homeless man, she was “really saddened and disappointed with myself for feeling so impatient” and thought that she would not choose this area of social work for her professional practice. However, at the same time, “I want a better attitude … . It will be good for me to be involved in this project so I can work on seeing the other side of the coin.”

Another student also recognized her own misperceptions about the homeless noting: “I recognize that I do have stereotypes about the homeless because even when the representatives were speaking, a few of my stereotypes were broken. For example, I never thought of homelessness as affecting whole families, but instead assumed that it mainly affected individuals … .”

Students dealt with their own perceptions of the homeless as well as those in society. Once the data collection day was over, students commented on their interactions with the individuals they encountered: “The homeless people I did speak with were very nice and interested in talking to me. … I was a little surprised that I did not encounter as many mental disabilities as I expected. The individuals I spoke with were quite coherent and well spoken.”

After interviewing a man living behind the public library, another student said, “He was so easy to talk to. It seemed to me that he just wanted someone to listen to his story. It is hard to grow up in this society and not have a negative view of homeless people. They are seen as lazy, dirty, drunks, and many other horrible things, but those are not true … I think that one thing that I learned is that it could happen to anyone. It was an eye opener.”

As the experience progressed, evidence of new feelings emerged from the students’ comments. Students began to express some disappointment with the reality of the research experience, particularly with the data collection phase. For example, “My experience at the [homeless count] was not what I had expected. I imagined that there would have been much more people there and that we would have received more surveys that we did. I did not take any surveys because the individuals refused. I did not understand why they would not take the survey because it was made clear that this would benefit them in the future.”

As the students gained more experience with the research project, some began to express some confidence about their newly gained knowledge and abilities. For example one student, who had expressed concern with her interviewing skills, saw that she did better than she expected at the count: “Basically, I got comfortable with how I spoke to people — being respectful and natural. I was not as nervous as I expected.” Regarding the data entry phase, a student says, “Working with the SPSS files has been much easier than I had feared. Setting up the variables, though tedious, it not all that difficult. Data entry was easy as well once you get the coding down.”

Another student expresses a similar feeling about analysis: “Working with data was difficult at first because I was not exactly sure what I was doing. After [the instructor] helped us and walked through everything it made it much easier and understandable. The SPSS software is very intriguing. I did not realize how much the program could do. … I understand everything we have done so far.”

One student went so far as to say, “I helped a few of my class mates … . I feel really comfortable about all the things that we have done so far. This class has not been as hard as I thought it would be so far!”

In the end, a couple of students commented on their satisfaction with the end result. One said: “I think that our overall presentation went well. The final PowerPoint and report … made a great resource for those that attended. … I think that our group did really well in organizing our information. A lot of our information was over services and kind of blended together. We were able to organize it into common areas of interest in order for someone looking at the information to not feel so overwhelmed. After working with our information, our group felt very confident in what we were presenting.”

Learning and Engagement. The second overarching theme emerging from the online journals was learning and engagement with the research project. Students were asked to reflect on each stage of the research process. Since the planning had been conducted by the community partner, students began their experience with the data collection phase. They demonstrated their engagement with the material by commenting on various problems. For example, one student applied material from the text concerning errors in reasoning to her experience during the data collection: “One of the errors was overgeneralization. I think that this research will help us to see that each person was different. Talking to the few men that I did showed me that they were homeless for different reasons.”

Another reflected on how the data collection should have been done differently, again applying some information from the course text. She thought that “a lot more of the homeless people would have been willing to take the survey had they been able to take it themselves. … This seems to apply to what the book talks about in ‘direct measure’. As a form of gathering information, you are observing behaviors while giving the survey, but at the same time you are being intrusive … and therefore changing the behavior of the person you are interviewing.”

Another student recognized this same problem as an ethical issue: “Although the survey was ‘anonymous,’ the person administering the survey is looking you right in the face while you answer such questions. That is not anonymous in my book.” Another observed a communication issue noting that “there were not any translators at the Outreach Center to even question Spanish speaking individuals without seeming like extreme ‘outsiders’.”

Students also reported numerous issues with the survey itself. One student commented, “I think that the survey could use some improvement. It did not seem to proceed logically and sometimes questions seemed to repeat … .” Students continued to struggle with this issue about the quality of the survey instrument throughout the semester.

During the data entry phase, students continued to identify problems with the survey and the data collection, noting how difficulties arose in translating the surveys into a database and how some surveys were incorrectly completed. However, through their comments, we can also see beginning-level mastery of the process. For example, one student comments: “Setting up an SPSS file has been seemingly easy. I admit I was confused on the first day that we set up our file, but after working with the data and using the program more frequently, I better understand the dynamics of the program. Initially, our group had trouble developing codes for the survey and determining the type of coding system that would be used for each particular question. The data entry was relatively easy, except for questions that gave the respondent … a variety of answers to choose from.”

Another student highlighted this same difficulty, working with real world data, as well as the necessity of the step of data cleaning: “I thought it was a good plan to have the students double check the data entry. From inputting the first surveys to the last, problems were discovered and resolved. By double checking the data once it was set, the class made sure the results were uniform and accurate.”

Students continued to reveal their developing mastery (as well as their perception of such) in the data analysis phase. One student commented that after spending some time looking at the handouts and types of graphs the students learned to analyze with the program, “it became a little bit easier.” Another student thought that “once you run the analysis process a couple times it’s easier to get the hang of.” Another went so far as to express some delight about the experience stating, “I think I have learned more with the diagrams, charts, and lectures as an aide to my learning. The SPSS is very cool. I am impressed with the capabilities of this program.”

Another reflected about understanding a statistical technique but also some frustration with this particular project: “It was really hard to see real correlations in the data with such a small sample. There were not many tests that were run that came out as being statistically significant. The t-test was easy to run after you saw how it worked.”

Not surprisingly, students, like practitioners, feel that “significant” tests are more important or more interesting than those that are not. This concern was reflected in several other students’ entries.

Chat Session At the end of the semester, students participated in the online chat session. Two main themes appeared to emerge from this data including the service-learning experience and limitations in the research endeavor.

The service-learning experience. The main purpose of the chat session was to gather students’ ideas about the service-learning component. Students’ comments were overwhelmingly positive about working with the community partner. Students found the experience to be enjoyable, a worthwhile endeavor, and helpful in their learning process. Three student entries illustrated this idea: “I liked that we did actual research and helped an agency. It was more real life”; “I think it helped to make the information real and applicable, instead of just reading about it”; and, “I think that it was great that we were actually able to apply the information we were learning in class. … It helped us learn the concepts better, or at least better able to apply them.” Additionally, students responded that if they were the instructor, they would use service- learning again, while fine-tuning the process.

A couple of comments pointed the instructor toward some possible improvements. One student suggested that there should have been more contact with the community partner and another that she did not enjoy the computer lab work (data entry and analysis). Students also reflected on issues with the community partner. Of particular concern was the fact that the community partner provided very limited training on the data collection (true for both students and community volunteers). While the instructor brought members of the partner agency into the classroom to provide this training, the results were inadequate as evidenced by students’ comments regarding the count. The issue with the community partner is related to the second theme emerging from the chat session.

Limitations of the research endeavor. While not the intention, a good proportion of the comments during the chat session were about the challenges that the group faced in conducting the research. Even at the end of the semester, after completion of the service-learning component, students appeared to continue to struggle with the limitations they encountered during the research project.

One of the biggest limitations encountered was the small sample size. With only 25 completed surveys, many of the students felt frustrated. One student noted, “I think that we all wanted to help out as best as we could, but we expected more people to be involved (respondents) than we actually had.” Another student furthered this idea with, “I guess the low count made the whole project seem a little bit meaningless, like everything we were working on didn’t represent the population very well since our sample was so small.” During this part of the session, students continued to engage with the material, discussing ideas to increase the sample.

Despite their frustration, some students commented that this was also part of the learning experience: “I learned that research doesn’t always go the way you plan for it to”; “This was interesting — social work research takes many forms. It was important for us to learn how to work with a small sample”; “It showed us how research is not perfect and we really had to deal with the problems and be flexible with the situation so we could get things done.”

Community Partner As a final note, the community partner appeared to be satisfied with the results of the service-learning project. While a formal evaluation was not conducted with the group, members told the first author informally that the presentation and project report would be a benefit to them in their endeavors regarding the homeless. Also, they said that the information was presented in a format that was different and more useful than in past years.

Discussion Overall, the evaluation results appear to be positive. Students saw a great deal of value in participating in such a project as it effectively bridged the gap between classroom learning and “real world” application, linking research with practice as suggested by Dunlap (1993). Students enjoyed the experience, thought it was useful to their professional careers, and believed that it bolstered their learning. The quantitative data indicated that their attitudes toward research did improve over the course of the semester. Despite the differences in content presentation and the frustrations of working with real-world data, students finished the semester with positive attitudes toward research, as well as confidence in their ability to conduct research. Students applied concepts and skills they learned in class to the service-learning experience. Additionally, the students demonstrated a great deal of engagement with the material. Beyond assignments, they continued to express concerns about and debate options regarding the project.

While we were pleased to see that the students enjoyed the experience, it was also crucial that students began to see the usefulness of research and its place as a part of their professional lives. This evidence of engagement and movement toward comfort and self-efficacy as researchers seems particularly important as it may increase the likelihood that these students will participate in research efforts as professionals. Finally, though not related to research per se, data from the student journals suggest that the students struggled with their own feelings about the homeless and many, through this project, developed a greater understanding of the situations and circumstances leading to homelessness. These results lend support for King’s (2003) suggestion that servicelearning can be a vehicle for teaching social work values and ethics.

Limitations Serious research limitations in this study include the small sample size, the effects of social desirability, measurement, and the lack of a control/comparison group. With such a small number of students involved, our ability to generalize as well as the power of analysis were limited. With such a small group of students who are very familiar with their peers and with the instructor, social desirability is certainly a concern. Students may have responded in ways that they felt reflected well on themselves, their instructor, or their peers, rather than expressing their true feelings about the project. In addition, one of the quantitative measurement instruments was significantly modified from the literature and therefore did not have established reliability and validity.

Challenges Incorporating service-learning into this social work research course was a challenge for the instructor. The biggest obstacle encountered was limited class periods (time) with the students. Whenever we worked on the service-learning project, it never failed that we did not have enough time to complete the tasks set for the day. Just when the students started to figure out what to do, the 50-minute period was at an end. If repeated, the course would be restructured to address this issue by reducing frequency but increasing duration of class meetings. Also, adding service-learning resulted in a heavier workload for the instructor; but, as others have pointed out, it was worth it (Lemieux & Allen, 2007). Another challenge for the instructor was working with imperfect data. Like the students, she felt some frustration with the training provided by the community partner, the survey construction, and resulting problems with data entry and analysis. However, this can also be a useful experience for students. In truth, research projects rarely go very smoothly and researchers must come to terms with this issue, particularly when working with a community agency.

Conclusion Despite the challenges of working with real- world data, the limitation of this evaluation, and the difficulties of designing this type of experience for students, the results of our effort were positive. This evaluation contributes to the growing body of evidence that service-learning experiences in research courses enhance student learning, while improving connections between theory and practice. As Knee (2002) notes of her course, our involvement in the homeless count seemed to “make research less intimidating and more interesting, while making [research] more applicable to the real world” (p. 213). Through the project, students had a chance to conduct real research and contribute to a local agency. The data appear to show that this fact was meaningful to students and that they enjoyed the experience. These findings coincide with other instructors’ experiences with community projects in research courses for social work students. We would also agree with Kapp (2006) that service-learning “is an effective method for teaching research to undergraduate social work students” (p. 68). Additionally, this evaluation suggests that service-learning experiences do provide real-world applications of the social work profession’s mission and value base, a point emphasized in the literature (King, 2003; Williams, King, & Koob, 2002; Phillips, 2007). While the previous relationship between social work and service-learning may have been weak (Phillips, 2007), it seems increasingly obvious that this pedagogy has an important place in social work education. Service-learning also offers a way to usefully engage with the community,

Dunlap, K.M. (1993). A history of research in social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 29 (3), 293-301. Epstein, I. (1987). Pedagogy of the perturbed: Teaching research to the reluctants. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 1(1), 71-89. Forte, J.A. (1995). Teaching statistics without sadistic. Journal of Social Work Education, 31(2), 204-218. Green, R.G., Bretzin, A., Leininger, C., & Stauffer, R. (2001). Research learning attributes of graduate students in social work, psychology, and business. Journal of Social Work Education, 37(2), 333-341. Holden, G., Barker, K., Meenaghan, T., & Rosenberg, G. (1999). Research self-efficacy: a new possibility for educational outcomes assessment. Journal of Social Work Education, 35(3), 463-476. Hyde, C.A., & Meyer, M. (2004). A collaborative approach to service, learning, and scholarship: A community-based research course. Journal of Community Practice, Kapp, S.A. (2006). Bringing the agency to the classroom: Using service-learning to teach research to BSW students. The Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 12(1), 56-70 Knee, R.T. (2002). Can service-learning enhance student understanding of social work research? Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 22 (1/2), 213-225. Lazar, A. (1991). Faculty, practitioner, and student attitudes toward research. Journal of Social Work Education, 27 (1), 34-41. Lemieux, C.M. & Allen, P.D. (2007). Service- learning in social work education: The state of knowledge, pedagogical practicalities, and practice conundrums. Journal of Social Work Education, 43(2), 309-325. Montcalm, D.M. (1999). Applying Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy to the teaching of research. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 19 (1/2), 93-107. National Alliance to End Homelessness (2009)., retrieved August 10, 2009. Phillips, A. (2007). Service-learning and social work education: A natural but tenuous connection. In M. Nadel, V. Majewski & M. Sullivan-Cosetti (Eds.), Social Work and Service- learning: Partnerships for Social Justice (pp. 3-19). New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Royse, D. & Rompf, E.L. (1992). Math anxiety: A comparison of social work and non-social work students. Journal of Social Work Education, 28(3), 270-278. Sather, P., Carlson, P. & Weitz, B. (2007). Research: Infusing service-learning into research, social policy, and community-based practice. In M. Nadel, V. Majewski & M. Sullivan-Cosetti (Eds.), Social work and service-learning: Partnerships for social justice (pp. 93-105). New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Secret, M., Ford, J., & Rompf, E.L. (2003). Undergraduate research courses: A closer look reveals complex social work student attitudes. Journal of Social Work Education, 39 (3), 411-422. Szymanski, E.M., Whitney-Thomas, J., Marshall, L., & Sayger, T. (1994). The effect of graduate instruction in research methodology on research self-efficacy and perceived research utility. Rehabilitation Education 8 (4), 319-331. Texas Tech University. (2009). http://www. Unrau, Y.A. & Grinnell, R.M. (2005). The impact of social work research courses on research self-efficacy for social work students. Social Work Education 24 (6), 639-651. Wainstock, S.L. (1994). Swimming against the current: Teaching research methodology to reluctant social work students. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 9 (1/2), 3-16. Wells, M. (2006). Teaching Notes: Making statistics “real” for social work students. Journal of Social Work Education, 42 (2), 397-404.

About the Authors Laura A. Lowe is assistant professor of social work at Texas Tech University. She may be reached at Jeff Clark was a graduate student in political science at Texas Tech at the time of this publication.

RESEARCH FROM THE FIELD: A Case Study of a Sustainable Tourism Project in Southern Appalachia: Collaboration Is Key

Research From The Field
This section emphasizes manuscripts that help sustain and explain academic and community partnerships. These manuscripts are likely to be practice- or case-study oriented, with less emphasis on theory and extensive literature reviews. Manuscripts that share best practices, practice wisdom, and applied knowledge are especially appropriate for Research from the Field. Unique partnerships have the potential to make highly interesting pieces. Research methodologies of all types are appropriate for this section, and research projects with strong application and practice implications will be given favorable consideration. Research from the Field manuscripts should follow JCES submission guidelines, including APA 5th edition referencing style, and be in the range of 10–20 double-spaced pages. As with all manuscripts we accept, our reviewers are looking for context and clear language and the philosophical, historical, and theoretical principles underlying the work. Teams are especially encouraged to submit candid photographs, along with explanatory captions, that contribute to the research narrative.

Cynthia S. Deale

Introduction This case study describes a semester-long project completed by 46 undergraduate college students involved in courses in tourism planning and marketing, our community partner, and me the instructor. In spring 2008 our goal was to conceptualize, plan, and produce a day-long festival focused on sustainability to showcase local contemporary music and products to benefit a community and a proposed museum. Constructive, ongoing collaboration and nurturing the relationship between the project’s partners were essential for accomplishing mutual goals. Specifically, this case study was guided by inquiry regarding community engagement and product (an inaugural festival showcasing regional plants, food, and other items), process (reflective experiences of students as they moved through the planning process), and appearance (what does continuous community collaboration look like).

Background Brief introductions to the scholarship of engagement, elements of collaboration, and place-based education concepts and practices follow to provide the basic foundation necessary to understand how the intersection of many different elements provided the backdrop for the project.

The Scholarship of Engagement. Ernest Boyer (1990) initially proposed discovery, integration, application, and teaching as four types of interrelated scholarship. A few years later Boyer (1996) expanded his definition to include the scholarship of engagement, defined as service that requires the use of knowledge resulting from a person’s role as a faculty member in higher education. Boyer (1996) wrote that … “[T]he academy must become a more vigorous partner in the search for answers to our most pressing social, civic, economic, and moral problems, and must reaffirm its historic commitment to what I call the scholarship of engagement … .”(p. 11).

In a scholarship of engagement taxonomy, Barker (2004) identified community partnerships as one form and noted that “instead of seeing the public as a passive recipient of expert knowledge, engaged scholarship stresses the way in which the public can itself contribute to academic knowledge. In their undergraduate teaching, engaged scholars typically make a conscious effort to stress the pedagogical value of collaborating with publics instead of providing services to publics” (p. 126). In this manner, the community partner involved in this case study acted as a teacher and facilitator, not simply the recipient of service and therefore, an important component of the community engagement project described here was the act of collaboration.

Collaboration Conditions. As one author noted, “Collaborations between educational institutions and community agencies have become ubiquitous over the last decade,” (Bielke, 2005, p. 12) and as another noted, community engagement for universities is not new (Berberet, 2002). However, researchers investigating collaboration on projects have revealed several useful and interesting findings. One discovery, perhaps not very surprising, is that the closer collaboration gets to a community, the more difficult it becomes (Wiener, 1990). Another is that community collaboration tends to be either for achieving community betterment or for achieving community empowerment (Himmelman, 1992), and although successful community collaboration has a planned pace of development that matches a community’s readiness and the resources available to the stakeholders (Mulroy, 1997), this kind of collaboration is a learned process that is difficult to carry out successfully (Mulroy & Shay, 1998).

Leadership, goals, resources, power, structure, and personal traits emerged as common issues in many collaborative relationships in a review of the literature on collaboration (Robinson, 2005), and Ellerbusch, Gute, Desmarais, and Woodinin (2006) suggested that successful collaboration depends on a common vision in the community; a cohesive community; an opportunity for colearning; and a commitment among the parties for long-term engagement.

Collaboration is not just based on “soft skills”; it is built on a system that includes identifying the problem, involving all relevant stakeholders, forming the collaborative team, creating a collaborative plan, and designing and facilitating collaborative meetings (Conerly, Kelley, & Mitchell, 2008). Also, according to Giesen (2007), collaboration is not simply an extension of teamwork; it is an entire process that involves parity among parties, mutual goals, shared responsibility and decision making, accountability for outcomes, and mutual trust.

In addition, other authors note that the collaborative process involves three stages of implementation, which they called “visions,” “valleys,” and “victories” (Jones & Wells, 2007). Partners and researchers developing a shared vision of the goal is the “vision”; engaging in the collaborative work that may produce many challenges is the “valleys” stage; and “victory” means completion and celebration of the process. Throughout the process, leaders play an important role in helping people to keep sight of the goal, avoid conflict, and keep motivated (Jones & Wells, 2007). Additionally, frequent, clear, ongoing communication between all participants, inclusion of the outside partner in the entire project, shared expectations, and carefully defined goals are critical to successful university-community collaboration (Deale, 2007).

Place-Based Education. Related to situated learning, placed-based education was a theme permeating this case study, and involves learning content in context, in a community of learners (Stein, 2009), and through experience and not merely through the presentation of facts (Lave, 1997). John Dewey (1915) was perhaps an early believer in place-based education when he wrote, “Experience [outside the school] has its geographical aspect, its artistic and its literary, its scientific and its historical sides. All studies arise from aspects of the one earth and the one life lived upon it” (p. 91). Using a more recent definition, that from the website of the Rural School and Community Trust (2009), “Place- based education is learning that is rooted in what is local — the unique history, environment, culture, economy, literature, and art of a particular place. The community provides the context for learning, student work focuses on community needs and interests, and community members serve as resources and partners in every aspect of teaching and learning.”

A classic longstanding example of a placebased educational effort is the Foxfire (2008) project in north Georgia. It has engaged students in collecting and writing about the heritage and traditions of southern Appalachia and resulted in the purchase of property and the creation of a museum to showcase the culture of the area. Festivals that focus on local products and strive to attract local visitors can also be a driving force in place-based sustainable tourism (Quinn, 2006). The project described here represents a place- based, collaborative learning partnership that matched the needs of the community partner and was congruent with the students’ learning outcomes regarding sustainability.

Context of the Project The setting for this project was a small town in southern Appalachia with an economy based on tourism derived from sources such as the daily visitation of a train; numerous special events including a pottery festival; Christmas luminaries and an antiques fair (Town of Dillsboro, North Carolina, 2008); and a “green” energy park built to capture methane gas produced from an old landfill to operate the world’s only methane gas-driven blacksmith forge; and other environmentally sustainable businesses (Jackson County Green Energy Park, 2008). However, further opportunities to drive the local economy are needed. The town recently acquired an old farmstead that includes a three-story frame home built in 1907, several additional buildings, and 16 acres of land that belonged to two sisters, Edna and Edith Monteith. The Monteith Farmstead Restoration Committee, comprised of interested community members, hopes to turn the site into two entities, the Appalachian Women’s Museum and a park to include part of the county’s proposed greenway along a creek that runs through the property (Monteith Farm, 2008). The assistant clerk from the town was actively involved in all aspects of development for the community and called the author of this case late in the fall of 2007 to inquire about getting help from a hospitality and tourism class at the nearby university with a proposed project to put on a fundraising event for the proposed women’s museum. The clerk and the author met and decided to work together with other community members and the students to design, plan, and conduct a festival to benefit the Monteith Farmstead. The following paragraphs describe the process and products involved in completing the festival as a community engagement project.

Questions Answered by the Project Project outcomes will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

The Kick-Off. The first product was an opening reception that took place in early January 2008 two days before the beginning of the spring semester. Seventeen students and the instructor served as hosts for the premier exhibit of the proposed Appalachian Women’s Museum, featuring artifacts from the Monteith family, and because the women’s museum was not yet in operation, the event was held at the local county tourism center to develop interest in the proposed museum.

Through this event, the instructor and students learned details about the farmstead and its inhabitants and a student leader emerged who served as a liaison between the town partners and the students, receiving honors credit (a special designation reserved for students who are enrolled in the honors college and then engage in extra work, usually in the form of special projects in a course) for this role in addition to the typical three credit hours for the class. Another student developed an internship with the assistant town clerk to help write grants and public relations materials for the community that provided her with additional academic credit through the English department.

The kick-off event proved to be very important. Viewing the exhibit, talking with community members, and helping with the opening reception acted as catalysts for the semester-long effort and gave students a deeper introduction to the history of the farm and the town’s community development needs related to tourism. It provided students with an opportunity to talk with community members about the importance of the project and the house itself and offered community members a chance to meet the students and begin to develop relationships with them. This event also provided the group with its first “victory” celebration.

Conceptualizing the Festival. This process involved numerous sessions with community partners, in this case the assistant town clerk and a historian, to develop a concept for the festival that would be true to the spirit of the place, the farmstead, the community, sustainability, and in line with the students’ capabilities. Students listened to a lecture about the history of the town and the farmstead, visited the community, walked its streets, and toured the old farmstead to gain a further understanding of the place itself. The culmination of the festival design process was seen as the “vision” and actually the second “victory.”

Design and Selection of the Logo. The next activity students completed was the creation of a logo to be used to identify and promote the event. Nine groups of students designed logos for the event and then community partners selected one for use on all promotional materials including e-mails, fliers, posters, T-shirts, and tote bags. A simple logo utilizing clip-art line drawings of vegetables was selected for use and students learned that while creativity matters, the ability to reproduce an image easily and cheaply is also important in marketing. The selection of the logo was yet another “victory” along the way to the festival itself.

Festival Planning and Marketing Products. Even before the logo was selected, other planning and marketing efforts were under way, giving students an opportunity to engage in varied planning and marketing activities in addition to reading about them in textbooks and selected journal articles. Nine student groups became involved in the following: creation of forms, sign-up sheets, and pricing schedules for vendors; vendor selection and recruitment; festival site design and set-up; entertainment recruitment and selection; festival sponsorship and acquisition of raffle and silent auction items; volunteer coordination; design and development of marketing strategies and public relations opportunities; design and dissemination of flyers and other advertising opportunities; and design and compilation of an event planning guide for use by future festival planners. Each sponsor added to the festival gave rise to yet another “victory” along the festival journey.

The Festival. The event was a resounding success as a community engagement project. Originally the fair was planned for early April, but due to a slow start to the growing season it was postponed until the middle of April. This provided students with another learning opportunity because several vendors and entertainers were not able to change the date and therefore, students had to scramble to find other vendors and performers to participate in the fair. The change in the date provided one of the major “valleys” in the process. Another learning opportunity, involving a “valley,” occurred the day of the fair when everyone awoke to pouring rain. The fair was to go on rain-or-shine and therefore, at 7:30 a.m. the students set up for an event that they thought might be poorly attended due to miserable, wet weather. However, by mid-morning the rain stopped, the sun came out, and the fair went on as planned. Over 1,000 visitors came, a significant amount of money was raised for the farmstead, entertainers enjoyed performing for an audience, local growers and other vendors made a profit, and the

Post-Fair Products. The event itself was the most positive, tangible product of the project, but students also wrote final group reflection papers about their experiences with the festival and constructed and presented slide presentations to the instructor and the community partner as formal graded assignments related to the event. These products and an event planning guide provided to the community partners offered continuity to the project and represented yet another “victory” and fuel for a future “vision.”

Student Reflections on the Project. Students wrote reflections, before, during, and after the project as suggested by Eyler (2001), and the instructor used the reflections to grasp what students were learning and help determine the benefits of partnering with the town as a sort of living laboratory for tourism education. Forty- six students wrote three reflections a piece with instruction provided by the instructor. This resulted in 138 reflection papers. In the first student reflections their writing concentrated on their own roles in the project, while in the second reflection their focus broadened and incorporated more content; yet, in their last reflections they returned to a personal focus albeit a richer, more informed focus on their projects.

Key words (based on a word count of the reflections) running through the 138 student reflections were not surprising and included: communication (mentioned 257 times), community (mentioned 187 times), coordination (mentioned 141 times), cooperation (mentioned 126 times), collaboration (mentioned 77 times), contribute (mentioned 31 times), and complicated (mentioned 26 times). A word or theme that appeared more frequently in the first set of journal entries was detail or attention to detail (mentioned 98 times in the first set of entries), whereas in the last set of journals a prevalent term was flexible or flexibility (mentioned 74 times in the final set of journal entries).

Students also mentioned the need to brainstorm, select ideas, develop ideas, discard ideas, and start over again. They mentioned that they needed to have the time to pursue an idea and then have permission to omit it if it did not appear to be feasible or worthwhile. For example, students initially thought that they could have many food vendors on-site at the festival. However, in reality water and electricity were extremely limited and therefore, the number of vendors had to be reduced significantly. While the students may have initially felt that they needed to respond to the journals in a particular way due to social desirability bias (Crowne & Marlowe, 1960), observations by the instructor and the community partner indicated that as the project progressed, students expressed their views and concerns about the project more freely.

Collaboration Lessons. To understand the role of collaboration in the project, the instructor and the community partner documented their observations throughout the term, and continuous collaboration was encouraged and maintained through the following efforts that were made in the planning and administration of the project:

1. Community and student buy-in to the project was sought. The kick-off reception and a tour of the farmstead provided opportunities for the buy-in of both parties.
2. Open, flexible, ongoing communication between all participants — the community partner, the students, and the faculty member — was critical to the success of the project from beginning to end. The community partner and the instructor made their contact information readily available to the students and responded to questions and concerns of students within one or two days throughout the semester. Weekly meetings in class with the community partner and the entire class, and with each group individually, ensured that students were working on their parts and not leaving them to the last minute. Inter-group communication was critical.
3. An investment in nurturing the relationship between the instructor and the community partner led to a high level of commitment to the project and effective co-facilitation. The community partner and instructor spent time getting to know each other and learning from each other so that as a highly committed community partner-instructor team they coached students throughout the project.
4. Involving students as co-facilitators, liaisons, and leaders of the project was vital to keeping the project running smoothly. Student liaisons were formally chosen, highly valued, and utilized throughout the project.
5. Avoiding ambiguity in roles was a critical component of the project’s success. Time and effort were spent to collectively and clearly define the roles of the instructor, community partner, and students.
6. The project benefited from celebrating victories” (steps achieved along the way), confronting “valleys” (challenges that occurred along the way), and by keeping the “vision” steady. An important part of sustaining the project participants’ enthusiasm for the project included celebrating the small steps made such as the opening kick-off reception, the creative conceptualization of the event itself, the design of the logo, and acquiring interesting vendors and sponsorships. Rather than just sweeping past the obstacles or “valleys,” these were confronted and used as teaching and learning moments for students, the instructor, and the community partner. Many were out of the control of the festival planners, but all involved needed to be able to cope with the

Conclusion In summary, a group of inexperienced undergraduate students can plan, market, and conduct a successful festival in cooperation with an enthusiastic community partner and a motivated instructor. Instructors and community partners can lead by example to develop student interest and demonstrate a strong work ethic. Students can learn about marketing and planning concepts and practices through the acts of marketing and planning themselves and to do so, an instructor needs to act as a facilitator and coach throughout the project to ensure that students feel supported for their efforts and to reduce confusion. In fact, all those involved such as sponsors, vendors, and volunteers can benefit by being supported and thanked personally for their contributions of time, items, money, and other resources.

Opportunities for the scholarship of community engagement as an educational and service contribution are endless. Future work may involve investigating the learning constructs involved more carefully, evaluating the process and product more specifically (Holland, 2001), and exploring the process undertaken during successful community engagement projects in greater detail. However, a feeling of accomplishment among students because they worked on an authentic project with a real community partner to complete something genuine for a community of real people became very clear as a result of this project. As one student noted, “I feel so good. It beats an ‘A’ on a test any day.” After the fair was obviously a success another student shared: “I feel on top of the world. I feel so tired, but so happy and I feel this way because I helped out others with something that I did.”

Community engagement is all about helping others — it helps students, community partners, and instructors learn from and about each other and their world. Projects like this one require tremendous time and energy, but can provide people with a sense of connection to place and to action and pose opportunities to create meaningful, transformative, educational experiences for everyone. Journeying through the project’s “valleys” and “victories” to reach a “vision” was worth the effort. Planning and conducting an event such as the festival project described here is of value — as it leaves a lasting, memorable imprint on all those involved and can become a peak experience for the students, instructor, and community partner.

References Barker, D. (2004). The scholarship of engagement: A taxonomy of five emerging practices. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 9(2), 123-137. Beilke, J. (2005). Whose world is this? It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine. Multicultural Education, 2, 12-21. Berberet, J. (2002). Nurturing an ethos of community engagement. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, 90, 91-100. Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, New Jersey; Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Boyer, E.L. (1996). The scholarship of engagement. Journal of Public Service & Outreach, 1(1), 11-20. Conerly, R., Kelley, T., Mitchell, J. (2008). The collaborative organization. Collaborative Leaders, Inc. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from Crowne, D.P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24, 349-354. Deale, C.S. (2007). An example of collaboration on an authentic learning project in heritage tourism: The case of the Scots-Irish in North Carolina. Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 7(4), 55-69. Dewey, J. (1915). The school and society (Rev. Ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Ellerbusch, F., Gute, D.M., Desmarais, A.M., & Woodinin, M. (2006). Community engagement as a component of revitalization: Lessons learned from the technical outreach services to communities programme. Local Environment, 11(1), 515-535. Eyler, J. (2001). Creating your reflection map. Directions for Higher Education, 114 (3), 35-43. Foxfire. (2008). Retrieved May 13, 2008, from Giesen, G. (2007). Creating collaboration: A process that works. Articlesbase. Posted 7/24/2007. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from articles/creating-collaboration-a-process-that-works-186787.html. Himmelman, A. (1992). Communities working collaboratively for a change. Monograph. Minneapolis, MN: The Himmelman Consulting Group. Holland, B.A. (2001). A comprehensive model for assessing service-learning and community university partnerships. New Directions for Higher Education, 114(3), 51-60. Jackson County Green Energy Park, (2008). Retrieved May 16, 2008, from http://www.jcgep. org. Jones, L., & Wells, K. (2007). Commentaries: Strategies for academic and clinician engagement in community-participatory partnered research. Journal of the American Medical Association, (297), 4, 407. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from jama. ama- Lave, J. (1997). Learning, apprenticeship, social practice. Journal of Nordic Educational Research,17(3), 140–151. Monteith Farm (2008). Retrieved May 16, 2008, from monteith.html. Mulroy, E. (1997). Building a neighborhood network: Collaboration to prevent child abuse and neglect. Social Work, 42(3), 255-265. Mulroy, E., & Shay, S. (1998). Motivation and reward in nonprofit interorganizational collaboration in low-income neighborhoods. Administration in Social Work, 22(4),1-17. Quinn, B. (2006). Problematising “festival tourism”: Arts festivals and sustainable development in Ireland, Journal of Sustainable Tourism,14(3), 288-306. Robinson, M. (2005). The theory of tensegrity and school/college collaboration in music education, Arts Education Policy Review,(106)3, 9-17.Rural School and Community Trust (2009). Retrieved March 16, 2009, from http://portfolio. Smith, G.A. (2002). Place-based education: Learning to be where we are. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(8), 584-594. Stein, D. (2009). Situated learning in adult education. ERIC Digest. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from adult-education.html. Town of Dillsboro, North Carolina (2008). Retrieved May 11, 2008, from http://www. Wiener, M. (1990). Human services management: Analysis and applications. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Press.

About the Author Cynthia S. Deale is associate professor of hospitality management at East Carolina University. She may be reached at ohalloranc@

From the Editor: For Higher Ed, the Crucible Moment Has Arrived

Cassandra E. Simon, Ph.D.

In addressing the social, civic, ethical, and moral challenges of society, higher education has a long history of fluctuation in the United States. Many North American research universities originated with a goal of preparing students to possess a sense of civic responsibility and contribute to democratic society in a positive way. Most of us who work in the engaged scholarship arena are familiar with Ernest Boyer (1991, 1996), who is often credited with refocusing attention on higher ed’s civic engagement mission. Since this refocusing, there have been varying degrees of exploration, attention, and resources allocated to community engagement by institutions of higher education, as well as a focus on how those who work within this context should be rewarded by their institutions.

Recently, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education by the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement National Task Force Association of American Colleges and Universities (2012). This report has the potential to be another seminal piece in the engagement scholarship arena. Although a complete critique of the report is beyond the scope of this opinion piece, there are highlights worth sharing that might motivate readers who have not read the report to seek it out and engage in a critical and reflective analysis of it. The complete report may be accessed at http:// Referred to as a 21st century call to action for higher education to provide leaders with the knowledge, skills, motivation, and values needed to be active participants in shaping the world through the democratic process, the report addresses many of the obstacles to making education, especially higher education, relevant to current challenges. More than just a specialized presentation of the need for such an approach to education, the report provides evidence of the “anemic state of U.S. civic health” (p. 6). Another strength of the report is its provision of components of civic learning and democratic engagement in the areas of knowledge, skills, values, and collective action.

Of course, as would be expected, there are criticisms of the report. A primary criticism questions the role of government in implementation of this action approach in the higher education system (Finn, 2012). My experience is that many in the field of engagement scholarship and civic education have not read the report or are not aware of it. I encourage you to examine this report and share it with others interested in community engagement and higher education.

The current issue of JCES includes manuscripts that speak to many of the ideas and points raised in A Crucible Moment through various approaches. In this issue you will find manuscripts that speak to how university resources and partnerships can be used to assist rural communities in meeting their needs by bringing interdisciplinary groups together and building on their strengths to overcome the many challenges faced by these communities. Other manuscripts address diversity within the context of service-learning and how the process of deliberative polling can influence both individual and group attitudes. Our commitment to bring attention to the role of engagement scholarship within the reward system at institutions of higher learning is reflected in a manuscript that examines how publicly engaged scholarship varies within disciplines by intensity of activity and degree of engagement along various dimensions. In addition, another manuscript provides a useful checklist for evaluating service-learning as an instructional strategy. There are more articles that we could mention, but we will trust you to seek them out. We are pleased to include in this issue a piece by two students who worked with local communities in response to the devastating tornadoes that affected many of us directly tied to JCES on April 27, 2011.

Finally, we are excited about hosting NOSC 2012, September 30–October 3, with the theme of Partner. Inspire. Change. We encourage you to submit your proposals (, and look forward to providing you with a meaningful, enlightening, and educational conference experience. Texas Tech will host the conference in 2013 under the new conference name, Engagement Scholarship Consortium, (


Boyer, E.L. (1991). The scholarship of teaching from—Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. College Teaching, 39(1), 11.

Boyer, E.L. (1996). The scholarship of engagement. Journal of Public Service and Outreach, 1(1), 11-21.

Finn, C.R. (2012). Should schools turn children into activists? And should Uncle Sam help? Education Next. Retrieved February 22, 2012, from http://

National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. (2012). A crucible moment: College learning and democracy’s future. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

About the Editor 

Cassandra E. Simon is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at The University of Alabama.

University-Community Partnerships in Small-Town Idaho: Addressing Diverse Community Needs through Interdisciplinary Outreach and Engagement

Tamara Laninga, Gary Austin, and Wendy McClure


According to geographer William Travis (2007), growth in the Intermountain West is “an amenity gold rush” (p. 22). Between 1990 and 2000, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho were the five fastest-growing states in the nation, a trend likely to continue. However, as communities transition from resource extraction economies of the old West to post-industrial economies of the new West, they are confronted with a new palette of environmental issues related to population growth and consumptive land use patterns (Apel & Glenn, 2009). Mining, timber, and agricultural communities in the emerging new West often suffer from loss of economic vitality, aging housing stock, brownfield sites, decaying infrastructure, and poor aesthetic character. Many communities, located at the interface between fragile ecosystems, growing populations, and shifting economic realities, often lack the resources to adequately deal with land use planning and design challenges.

Beginning with a review of community-university partnerships, this paper presents three case studies and the interdisciplinary partnership model for outreach and engagement at the University of Idaho (U of I). More detailed sections explore partnership relationships, academic and service outcomes, and the prospect of exporting the community-university model to other institutions. We make the argument for an interdisciplinary outreach and engagement model that focuses on multiple partnerships both within and outside the university to comprehensively address communities’ design and planning needs. Addressing different stages in the planning process, from visioning to policy development, requires matching appropriate skill sets of academic programs with the needs and abilities of community partners. During our 20-year history of working with transitioning communities, we have found that they face a host of economic, environmental, infrastructure, social, and governmental problems. A long-term strategy is generally needed to prioritize and schedule partnership projects (Reardon, 1999; Sorensen & Lawson, 2011). For example, out-of-compliance wastewater treatment systems must be updated before new housing or tourism efforts are initiated. Since the professional expertise to be contributed by the university partner differs according to the development sector, a sequence of courses and faculty from multiple disciplines is often necessary. In addition, the community often needs months to debate alternative planning proposals, acquire permits, or revise ordinances before successive projects can be undertaken. The next section provides a general overview of community-university partnerships.

Community-University Partnerships 

Universities and communities have a long history of collaborative partnerships for economic, aesthetic, and infrastructure improvements (Barnes, Altimare, Farrell, Brown, Burnett III, Gamble, & Davis, 2009; Reardon, 1999; Sorensen & Lawson, 2011). These partnerships began a period of professional activism in planning and design disciplines during the 1960s in response to ill-conceived urban renewal and other significant infrastructure projects (e.g., interstate highways, flood protection). Milestone partnership projects include the University of Chicago’s Neighborhood Initiative (Wiewle & Lieber, 1998); the University of Maryland’s Urban Community Service Program (Baum, 2000); Howard University’s Community Association (Martin, Smith, & Philips, 2002); the University of Illinois’ comprehensive and long-term East St. Louis Action Research Project with residents of the city in 1987 (Reardon, 1999); and the rural, design-build program to assist impoverished communities throughout Alabama by the late Sam Mockbee of Auburn University (Oppenheimer Dean & Hursley, 2002).

American university presidents are embracing the idea that their universities “should be engaged in problem solving for the broader society and the state and local community” (Myers & Banerjee, 2005, p. 126), with an understanding that the partnership should be mutually beneficial (Baum, 2000). Outreach and engagement are integral to the mission of land-grant universities, which were created to “provide equal access to education and service to communities” (Kellogg Commission, 1999, p. 1). U of I’s mission explicitly states the institution’s role as “a land-grant institution committed to undergraduate and graduate-research education with Extension services responsive to Idaho and the region’s business and community needs” (University of Idaho, 2009).

However, the character of the community-university relationship in university mission statements is often vague. The dynamic between professional experts in universities and citizens in communities led to criticism that universities were too unaware, dated, and disorganized to address social problems in constructive ways (Kellogg Commission, 1999). For example, Bringle and Hatcher found that some university outreach programs treat “communities as pockets of needs, laboratories for experimentation, or passive recipients of expertise” (2002, pp. 503-504). This criticism is confirmed by surveys demonstrating that citizens have an increasing wariness of the motivations of professionals and their practices. Professions (e.g., law, engineering, architecture) have had a checkered history of public regard in the United States. Although professionals are licensed by the state or professional organizations to ensure that practitioners have achieved a level of technical competency and will offer their services for the betterment of society, research indicates that many citizens view the professions as self-serving monopolies of particular market sectors (Fischer, 2009). While university outreach activities are not profit motivated, citizens may be justifiably suspicious of career development, research, and service-learning initiatives by design, planning, engineering, and other professional degree programs.

Similarly, experts offering community services can be confused and frustrated when citizens question or reject their technical proposals. The expectation that expert knowledge confers some authority within the community decision-making process is a serious partnership shortcoming (Fischer, 2000). A balanced dialogue that places technological proposals within the context of ethics, economics, and political realities is a better model for community-university partnerships. The Danish consensus conference is one model where a layperson panel is presented with a technological proposal and recommends policies or actions to decision makers and other citizens (Grundahl, 1995; Danish Board of Technology, 2011).

The limited concept of the university as a technology transfer entity is far too narrow to satisfy the aspirations of community partners. Even the call for universities to embrace a two-way process of working in partnership with a focus on urban-oriented issues only addresses the shift from agriculturally dominated economies to diversified economies (Apel & Glenn, 2009; Overton & Brunkhardt, 1999), but not necessarily deliberative, democratic processes.

When university outreach capabilities match the needs expressed by community partners (Bringle & Hatcher, 2002), a balance between academic scholarship and the creation of planning and design products in communities is more easily met (Myers & Banerjee, 2005). The older partnership literature identifies successful partnerships as those built on overlapping goals and achievable outcomes that focus on improving community situations (Baum, 2000; Martin, Smith, & Philips, 2002), while newer paradigms include facilitation of community building and participatory democracy (Boyle & Silver, 2005; Fischer, 2009; Ostrander, 2004; Sorensen & Lawson, 2011).

The first step in encouraging a more democratic participatory process is expanding who participates. Second is interaction through a range of learning, communicating, and advocating opportunities. Third is meaningful impact through prioritization, criticism, advice, and evaluation (Fung, 2006; Barnes et al., 2009). Each of these aspects of deliberative democracy is discussed later in relation to the case studies.

Effective partnerships with small towns through university outreach and engagement programs face a number of challenges that are compounded by a range of service-learning goals. In this paper we address these challenges. The first is building an organizational structure and contributory expertise to respond to the diverse needs and capabilities of small towns (Fischer, 2009). In particular, we describe the U of I’s interdisciplinary model for outreach and engagement, making the argument that this model is critical in order to address the diversity of community design and planning needs and to maintain long-term commitments, sustain relationships, add value through new projects, and secure grant funding. The second challenge is establishing positive partnerships between university administrators, faculty, and students and elected officials, interest groups, and citizens. The third challenge is matching the academic outcomes to the expectations of the communities. We discuss the management of this challenge through the interdisciplinary organizational model, partnership relations, and student service-learning experiences.

In order to ground the theoretical and philosophical dimensions raised in this paper, our discussion is supported with examples from community-university partnerships in three Intermountain West communities. The case study communities are briefly described in the following section.

Case Study Communities

Between 2002 and 2009, U of I faculty partnered with three communities in Idaho: Sandpoint (Bonner County), Plummer (Benewah County), and Cascade (Valley County). Each community has experienced significant economic shifts from natural resource to recreation and service-based economies. Partnering with the university helped both students and citizens identify historic preservation and infill strategies for revitalizing historic districts and maximizing the sustainable use of natural assets. Table 1 lists characteristics of each community.

Sandpoint (Community-University Projects Fall 2002 and Fall 2006)

Sandpoint, touted by Outside Magazine (2004) as one of America’s top-10 small towns, is located on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho’s Panhandle (Figure 1), at a nexus of a transcontinental railroad and popular recreational opportunities.

Sandpoint sprouted along the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1893; however, flooding in 1894 forced relocation to higher ground nearby. Anticipating the arrival of the Great Northern Railway, L.D. Farmin, a station agent for the railway, purchased 160 acres on the west side of Sand Creek for a new town site. Farmin’s plat, an eight-block grid configuration, was planned as the commercial heart of town and continues to serve as Sandpoint’s downtown. Farmin’s “Main Street” was a wagon road that cut across the gridded street system at an angle connecting the heart of the emerging commercial district to the Great Northern Railway’s depot at the western edge of town. The wagon road evolved into a boulevard with a streetcar. Railroad infrastructure and vast forests enabled Sandpoint to develop into a thriving timber town. Throughout the 20th century natural resources propelled development of timber, mill, and tourist industries.

As a booming recreational amenity town and transportation crossroad, Sandpoint faces population growth and transportation challenges. During the past 10 years the city annexed new subdivisions in Bonner County, quadrupling its land area since 1972. The North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 has increased rail and truck traffic from Canada that passes directly through downtown Sandpoint, compromising community connectivity and local mobility. Traffic congestion threatens quality of life and undermines the ambience of First Avenue, the town’s historic main street. To help improve traffic flow, the Idaho Department of Transportation (IDOT) is constructing a bypass along the original Northern Pacific right-of-way. The bypass, under construction since 2002, creates a barrier between the town and the waterfront.

Plummer (Community-University Projects Fall 2007 to Spring 2008)

Plummer, located on the western edge of Benewah County in northern Idaho, is surrounded by rolling wheat fields and forested foothills.

Plummer’s one square mile town site, platted in 1909, was established at the junction of two railroads in the middle of the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation. The town was incorporated as the Village of Plummer in 1910. By 1912, 800 residents lived in the town. Plummer’s early economy was largely supported by timber harvesting and milling. After World War I, the town suffered from the economic downturn (Wetter, 1962). By the mid-1900s, the economy shifted toward agriculture, although the town still has a lumber mill. A fire in the early 1970s destroyed the majority of the buildings on its main street. Since the catastrophe, the town has struggled to define its central business district due in part to its main street being an east-running highway that is a primary transportation route for trucks bringing logs to the mill. The other possible main street is also a significant north-south highway. The town has had weak land use planning, adopting its first comprehensive plan and land use ordinances in 1995.

Cascade (Community-University Projects Fall 2008 to Summer 2009)

Cascade is located in central Idaho, 75 miles north of Boise. The town is nestled in the Long Valley between Cascade Lake reservoir and the north fork of the Payette River. Surrounding the broad, flat valley are steep, forested mountains.

The town of Cascade was originally a six-block plat created by W. Patterson in 1913 after the Oregon Short Line Railroad was constructed. Businesses and residents of nearby towns that were not served by the railroad moved to Cascade. Local businessmen raised funds and constructed a courthouse to secure the county seat for the town. The town’s first lumber mill was built in 1923 and the Bureau of Reclamation constructed the dam for Cascade Lake reservoir in 1946. During World War II, Cascade was a shipping hub for antimony and tungsten ore (City of Cascade, 2004).

The Long Valley once provided a wide range of agricultural products, largely supplanted today by seasonal cattle operations. However, the primary economic activity in the region was milling lumber. The Boise Cascade sawmill closed in May 2001, forcing the community to search for a new economic base. Federal and county government has always provided some financial and economic stability. Planning challenges in Cascade include a legally insufficient comprehensive plan, outdated zoning ordinances, new commercial development occurring outside of the core downtown district, and uncoordinated county planning.

The following section examines the U of I’s evolution from faculty-initiated service-learning projects to an interdisciplinary partnership model for outreach and engagement.

Faculty-Initiated Projects—An Expertise Model

The U of I has a track record of community-university partnerships beginning in the late 1980s, particularly through its design programs. Projects that provided architecture and landscape architecture students with service-learning opportunities were conducted in dozens of Intermountain West communities. The partnership between the U of I and Sandpoint is an example of a faculty-initiated relationship. In 2002, Sandpoint’s city planner, who knew the architecture faculty personally, engaged students and faculty to develop concepts for mitigating the impact of the impending IDOT bypass and to take advantage of new opportunities afforded by its construction. Student teams helped the town envision a new visitor’s center at the intersection of downtown and the bypass off-ramp, a new pedestrian bridge connecting the visitor’s center to the city beach park, enhancement of a boardwalk along Sand Creek, an expanded civic center, and a new master plan for the marina.

Between 2002 and 2006, Sandpoint continued gaining national exposure as a mountain amenity town. Publicity translated into spiraling growth rates and rapid inflation of real estate prices, threatening to displace long-time residents. In 2006, the city planning office and parks and recreation director invited an architecture professor to organize a second round of service-learning studio projects for architecture and landscape architecture students to support a comprehensive planning process. Planning and design concepts were developed in the following areas: parks and recreation, affordable housing, downtown revitalization, city beach and marina, city facilities and public space, and redevelopment of a former mill property.

Since 2006, several recommendations have been implemented and others are under way. While the Sandpoint example highlights the success of a faculty-initiated service-learning project, its impacts can be limited. It takes time to build relationships with community leaders and citizens, and once faculty and students move on to another community, new relationships must be built. Many faculty-initiated opportunities develop through individual faculty networking at regional conferences and professional associations. Without a structure to support them, faculty-initiated partnerships can atrophy since they are often dependent on the charisma, expertise, and networks of individual faculty. Furthermore, faculty-initiated projects have focused on design solutions, with limited ties to other programs or university Extension. To build on the design programs’ successful faculty-initiated projects, while addressing some of their limitations, the U of I made a strategic commitment to interdisciplinary outreach and engagement in the mid-2000s.

Institution-Initiated Projects—An Interdisciplinary Model

In 2007, the U of I reorganized and expanded its community outreach and engagement efforts by creating the Building Sustainable Communities Initiative (BSCI). The BSCI has three parts: an interdisciplinary master’s degree in planning and community design, a community engagement component, and a professional training program. Through the BSCI, an interdisciplinary partnership model was developed, which includes participation from eight colleges and U of I Extension (Figure 2). This university-wide platform added faculty expertise in planning, economic development, engineering, political science, health, hazards, and law to the traditional architecture, landscape architecture, and Extension outreach activities. Greater expertise expanded the number and types of communities that the university could partner with, but necessitated coordination at an institutional level. The interdisciplinary model builds on the faculty-initiated project model, while still providing room for those types of projects where applicable. Table 2 illustrates the wide-range of outreach capabilities available to communities through the interdisciplinary model due to the increase in contributory capacity. Key to the BSCI’s success is its direct link to U of I’s strategic plan.

Interdisciplinary Model Initiation

In 2006, the U of I adopted outreach and engagement as a goal in its 2005-2010 Strategic Plan. Shortly thereafter, the president formed a team to identify ways to meet the goals. The first BSCI director, a team co-chair, made the community engagement arm of the initiative a showcase for the university’s new commitment to community-university partnerships. A key aim of the initiative was to increase university engagement with communities through an interdisciplinary structure.

Before the university sought out community partners and projects, it focused on strengthening links within the institution. This relationship building started with the BSCI proposal. The co-chairs of the proposal brought together faculty with contributory expertise from across campus. Eight colleges made faculty line commitments to the initiative, and a Landscape Architecture Department faculty member was given an Extension specialist appointment, which provides an important link between campus and off-campus faculty.

Extension strengthened its community development focus throughout its system. Extension Community Development specialists address community challenges ranging from rapid population growth to economic and social change. The expanded community development focus coincided with an Extension program called Horizons Community Leadership to Reduce Poverty, funded by the Northwest Area Foundation, aimed at reducing poverty and achieving sustainable prosperity in small towns and reservation communities.

Figure 2. U of I’s Interdisciplinary Partnership Model for Outreach and Engagement

Interdisciplinary Model Structure 

The BSCI has a director, a program manager, and an administrative assistant, in addition to the Extension specialist (landscape architect), and an executive committee composed of faculty from participating colleges. By developing this structure, the BSCI made a strategic commitment to long-term partnerships with communities. This structure improves on efforts by individual faculty in developing relationships by 1) ensuring institutional commitments of time and resources, 2) coordinating efforts to build value through multiple projects, 3) sustaining relationships into the future, and 4) formalizing partnerships with memoranda of understanding (MOUs).

Forming Community-University Partnerships 

Crafting community-university partnerships takes dedication by all the partners. This section emphasizes how projects are identified and partnerships are formed. It also addresses the roles and relationships between various partners including citizens, faculty, and students.

Community-university partnerships are initiated in different ways. Ideas may come through Extension faculty who bring community needs to the landscape architecture Extension specialist, who then relays them to the on-campus faculty through the BSCI’s executive committee. If community needs align with the initiative’s goals, faculty expertise, and academic objectives, staff from the university visit the community, meet with local leaders, and form a partnership based on a set of criteria tightly linked to the university’s strategic plan (Table 3). Alternatively, long-term partnerships may also grow out of short-term, faculty-initiated projects in which the community has other needs that may engage different academic departments.

Once the community and executive committee decide to form a partnership, the program manager prepares a contract outlining the proposed projects and commitments from university participants (faculty, staff, and students) and community participants, who could be the mayor, city or county commissioners, and community group leaders. This contract outlines key roles, responsibilities, and university and community financial contributions.

Community Engagement

In the model the university partner shares responsibility with community leaders and other stakeholders in recruiting partner participants (Fung, 2006). Participants are self-selected with encouragement from newspaper, radio, and poster announcements. However, we seek additional participation that may yield a better representation of the public through surveys. We also engage in targeted recruitment of participants to establish representation from a range of age, income, and ethnic groups.

Citizens and their elected officials are not only the recipients of technical services; they also provide critical local knowledge for students and faculty. This is perhaps the most poorly understood dynamic of the engaged university and its service-learning programs. In some instances, university faculty assume they know the solutions to particular problems and that community participants should defer to their technical judgment. However, it is becoming more accepted that technical and social spheres coproduce knowledge (Fischer, 2009). In the case study examples, community knowledge was solicited, especially in the visioning, programming, progress review, and evaluation stages of project development. In fact, the faculty fosters deliberative public discourse, which in some of the communities was rare due to dysfunctional political entities, economic stresses, and lack of meaningful participatory opportunities. Democratic participatory opportunities are intangible but important outcomes of community-university partnerships. Our experience is that Extension faculty are in a strategic position to mediate between university expertise and community values and goals in a participatory setting given their location in the partner community.

Discrepancies between academic and community outcomes can be minimized when partnerships are initiated with a true understanding of partner benefits. Extension faculty in Cascade and Plummer worked for 18 months with Horizons participants in study circles, leadership training, visioning, and action team formation. In both communities, the Extension faculty served as a facilitator and mediator. The result was citizen groups with considerable practice in public discourse and decision-making. Especially for communities beginning a planning or design effort, the extended visioning activities established an effective venue for other units of the university outreach organization to build upon. In both communities, students took ideas that came from the visioning processes and crafted them into real-world solutions.

The city of Plummer, in conjunction with the Horizons team, completed an updated comprehensive plan in summer 2007. Main goals were to guide growth toward existing development while maintaining the town’s rural character and to create a distinct and bustling downtown core (City of Plummer, 2007). With a new comprehensive plan, the city needed to update its 1995 land use ordinances. The Extension faculty in the area contacted the U of I planning program to assist the town in developing a land use ordinance that would implement the goals of their comprehensive plan.

Goals identified by the Horizons action teams for Cascade were to create a regional riverside park at the former mill site, improve the city park, and revitalize the downtown core. Citizens in Cascade, through Extension, requested the University’s assistance for the development of a broad range of planning and design concepts. The multi-year engagement with Cascade resulted in many products and service-learning opportunities for students (Table 4). In both communities, due to the Horizons program, citizens were capable of judging planning and design proposals for consistency with their values and priorities. The program effectively enhanced the community-university partnerships in Plummer and Cascade.

Faculty Engagement

Both on-campus and Extension faculty are critical to the success of community-university partnerships. Extension faculty live in the communities and interact with residents and elected officials on a daily basis. They have a keen sense of community power dynamics and social capital, assisting campus faculty with relationship building. Furthermore, they communicate and disseminate project progress through the press and other outlets.

Prior to bringing in students, campus faculty meet with community leaders to determine the scope and focus of class projects. This step helps to determine the type and amount of community support and university resources needed to complete projects. The semesters or years of university involvement are estimated and a project sequence is outlined. The costs associated with field trips as well as the printing and binding of final products is written into the MOU.

Student Engagement

Students play a major role in the community-university partnerships, ranging from their solicitation of residents’ ideas and goals to the production of design concepts and draft planning documents. Before setting foot in a community, students prepare for their service-learning experiences. Faculty, who have undergone service-learning training, bring in speakers and assign readings about the community, from current affairs to historic accounts. In the case of Plummer, students read histories of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and heard presentations from Extension, Anthropology, and Education faculty who had worked with the tribe and town of Plummer.

Another method for orienting students is developing a regional atlas. The atlas is produced during the fall semester, prior to the intensive service-learning studio course in spring. The atlas project familiarizes students with the biophysical, cultural, historic, social, demographic, economic, and political aspects of the community/region. To produce the atlas, students conduct primary and secondary data collection, analysis, and synthesis. The primary data are collected during a field trip taken mid-semester, where students are paired with community members. In addition to writing their own sections, students share their work with the class and write a conclusion that outlines the major planning, design, and economic development challenges and opportunities facing the community/region. The atlas project provides students with a rich background prior to conducting design and planning projects in the community. In this way, students, when developing land use ordinances or master plans, are able to be socially, culturally, and environmentally sensitive to community and/or regional contexts.

To ensure that students conduct themselves in a professional manner, faculty review community engagement etiquette and professional associations’ codes of ethics and have students complete the National Institution of Health’s Protecting Human Research Participants certificate.

Student/Community Interactions

During the spring studio, students visit the community to gather citizen goals and criteria for projects, tour the community, and take photos. Based on the aspirations of the citizens, the students develop work plans. Both community contacts and faculty approve work plans before students begin their projects. The second visit takes place at mid-semester, when students give public presentations of draft work for feedback from the community. They incorporate this input into their final drafts. At the end of the semester, students may return a last time to give final presentations and deliver their reports or design concepts.

Working with the Plummer city clerk and City Council on new land use codes, students divided into three teams to work on traditional land use categories (residential, commercial, and industrial); the central business district to develop a form-based code that aligned with the city’s traditional western town aesthetics; and a series of environmental overlays focused on protecting undeveloped lands, public infrastructure, and water resources.

Midway through their work, student teams presented draft recommendations for the land use ordinances at a Plummer City Council meeting, where elected officials and the general public provided written and oral input on the draft ordinances. Students incorporated community comments into their final reports. The city clerk utilized much of the students’ work to develop a draft land use ordinance that was vetted through a public process. The city adopted the code in August 2009.

The Cascade case study is an example of an extensive community-university partnership, where the university made a multi-semester commitment to address a number of design and planning projects. In fall 2008, planning students developed an atlas, while architecture and landscape architecture students prepared master plans and design prototypes for buildings and landscapes within Cascade’s city limits.

Concepts from the fall courses provided citizens with images of how their town could be improved (Figure 3, for example). The atlas and design prototypes formed the basis for spring 2009 landscape architecture and planning studios, which focused on refining design concepts for a riverside park and updating the city’s comprehensive plan. For a full accounting of partnership projects in Cascade, see Table 4.

Student Reflection Opportunities

An integral component of service-learning is ensuring students the opportunity to reflect on their experiences. It is important for students to understand that not only are they engaging in professional practice and providing a service to a community; they are also increasing their critical problem-solving skills, abilities to adapt to changing situations, and learning to communicate with people of different backgrounds and experiences (Sletto, 2010). Through structured reflection, students are able to learn by thinking about what they are doing (Bonar, Buchanan, Fisher, & Wechsler, 1996).

After each field trip, students and faculty debriefed, discussing topics ranging from specific planning and design needs to small town politics. Students kept journals during the semester, chronicling their experiences. Reflecting on the Plummer project, one student said students appreciated the “challenging projects and the opportunity to apply methods and knowledge gained” from the Plummer studio and others classes. Another explained that students appreciated faculty allowing “students of various disciplines to solve ‘real-world’ problems.” Students appreciated the “organic nature of teamwork” and enjoyed working in communities where they were exposed to a “wide-variety of different people and perspectives” and where they got the opportunity to apply “architecture, landscape architecture, and planning disciplines to community projects.”

Service-learning, particularly for applied disciplines like planning and architecture, is important because professional practice “involves more than a conceptual understanding of the knowledge and skills; it also requires an operational understanding” (Roakes & Norris-Tirrell, 2000, p. 100). Through service-learning projects, students receive occupational competence that complements their conceptual knowledge and skills (Roakes & Norris-Tirrell, 2000). Group and individual reflection opportunities give students the ability to identify and examine the linkages between knowledge and application.

Exporting the U of I Model

For those interested in the U of I’s interdisciplinary partnership model for outreach and engagement, the following lessons learned may be of help.

Contributory Expertise 

Perhaps the easiest task, and one of the most important, is to invite faculty with a range of expertise to adopt the concept and methods of engaged service-learning. Adjusting position descriptions, making joint appointments to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, and rewarding faculty for outreach efforts on par with more traditional research productivity is likely more difficult and time consuming. For Extension faculty, it is important that their job descriptions include community development responsibilities to encourage partnership building. Effective partnerships require faculty to embrace participatory, democratic decision-making and understand that interdisciplinary work and its products will be subjected to the logic of public discourse and viewed through the lens of social and cultural knowledge.

Model Organization

A passionate faculty member can create and deliver useful products to the community and create transformative learning opportunities for students, but long-term and interdisciplinary programs need institutional support and funding (Barnes et al, 2009; Sorensen & Lawson, 2011). Outreach, service, and knowledge transfer are embedded in the mission of land-grant colleges, but other institutions of higher education may need to incorporate these values into the academic culture in order to foster the support and participation of the administrative and academic units. Managing partnerships in many communities simultaneously requires dedicated administrative and staff positions, although faculty should be directly involved in establishing partnerships and in curriculum development.

A robust outreach and engagement program based on a diverse set of contributing experts and their students also requires an organization that includes, among others, faculty, administrators, grant writers, and public relations staff. Our model emerged from two desires: to develop more effective ways to improve the quality of life in Idaho communities, and to provide students and faculty with transformative interdisciplinary engaged learning opportunities. University, college, department, and faculty structures emerged from these goals.

Effective Partnerships

Projects of the greatest value to the community and the students involve broad citizen participation and meaningful opportunities to communicate, interact, and contribute to decisions about the goals, criteria, and technology employed in addressing community planning and design needs. In our experience, the BSCI director and the Extension specialist have the most experience communicating the outreach and engagement values of the university and soliciting the initial goals and scope of community needs. Clarity of community aspirations and university objectives eliminates misunderstandings that are the source of citizen and student disappointments. The aspirations and objectives must be revisited often in long-term partnerships and communicated to each new faculty member, student team, and community group that joins the project.

As we discussed previously, there are multiple pathways for identification of potential partners and projects. Faculty-initiated projects arising from conference presentations, service organizations, and professional networks are a rich source. Local liaisons, such as Extension faculty and municipal or county economic development officers in remote communities, are another. In addition to being adept at matching community needs with service-learning projects, Extension faculty and economic development officers are important promoters and facilitators of positive community-university relationships.

Academic and Service-Learning Outcomes 

For students and faculty, participating effectively in an interdisciplinary community-university partnership effort is as important as developing and applying discipline-specific skills. Therefore, assisting students in resolving unexamined values associated with expert contributions, and the social and cultural systems in which they are embedded, is an important educational goal (Sletto, 2010). Furthermore, participatory and democratic public deliberation should be part of the service-learning experience (Sorensen & Lawson, 2011). Preparation for the experience and reflection on the meaning and value of engaged learning enriches student experiences (Bonar et al., 1996; Roakes & Norris-Tirrell, 2000). Acquisition of professional knowledge founded in history and theory is the counterpoint to service-learning. Faculty impart this information to students to ensure a well-rounded education as well as to maintain accreditation. These academic requirements must be explained to partners so that they understand the balance faculty must find between service projects and academic objectives.

Final Reflections 

In contrast to faculty-initiated partnerships such as Sandpoint, the Plummer and Cascade case studies illustrate that the capacity to partner with communities at various planning stages is dependent on a robust and flexible interdisciplinary model of outreach and engagement coordinated at the university level, where a long-term commitment by the community and university is made. This is not to imply that the U of I’s interdisciplinary model of outreach and engagement has been perfectly implemented. For example, communication sometimes breaks down and a mismatch between the academic outcomes and community needs and readiness occurs. In a recent assessment of the State University of New York’s partnerships with local communities, Doble and King (2011) highlight the pitfalls of complex partnerships including coordination and communication challenges and mission discrepancies. Additional difficulties and disappointments are described below.

First, a layer of bureaucracy may be established between faculty and community partners compromising capacity for direct communication in initial project development. The responsibilities of identifying communities, securing funding, and project definition that was once solely held by individual faculty is now managed by the director and executive committee in partnership arrangements. This reduces the capacity for satisfying personal engagement between faculty, citizens, and their leaders. However, this deficiency is largely offset through inclusive partnership building processes that engage all participants in shaping common project goals.

Second, it can be difficult for individual faculty to be aware of all the activities being undertaken by university units as well as all of the personnel and courses involved. In April 2011, the university created the Office of Outreach and Engagement. The office is developing a tool for tracking university projects and partnerships throughout the state. Coordination by this unit will increase everyone’s awareness and highlight the work the university is doing statewide.

Third, university and community schedules do not always correspond. For example, in Sandpoint public presentations in 2006 were not well attended due to conflicting university and community calendars. As a remedy, students gave the city planner digital presentations and a project book that allowed dissemination of ideas to citizens.

A final challenge is that the expanded outreach effort garners significant visibility in the communities, with university colleagues, and with state legislators. Therefore, the quality of the outreach products from service-learning courses must be fully professional. This adds daunting new responsibilities for the participating faculty since the final project, which contains much student work, must be fully professional. Increasing standards and student requirements only partially resolves the gap. Faculty time to revise, present, and publish student-produced outreach products is unsupported. Program administrators have recognized this shortfall and are now securing funding for post project production.

Our experience in working with communities in economic transition leaves us with the following conclusions: (1)The commitment by the participating higher education unit must be serious because the needs are so diverse; (2) the contributory expertise and organizational structure must be comprehensive and efficient; (3) the partnership must be long-term; and (4) the participatory, democratic process must be honored by all participants.

Our interdisciplinary outreach and engagement model benefits all participants. Students receive transformative service-learning experiences through the application of discipline-specific skills and interdisciplinary collaboration. Faculty gain through enriched teaching and scholarship opportunities. And local communities gain through participatory processes resulting in design and planning concepts that supports sustainable development.


Apel, M.B., & Glenn, E.C. (2009). The role of Extension in land use planning and sustainable development in the West. Rural Connections Brief, 1, 1-6. Retrieved June 1, 2009, from

Baum, H.S. (2000). Fantasies and realities in university-community partnerships. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 20, 234-246.

Barnes, J.V., Altimare, E.L., Farrell, P.A., Brown, R.E., Burnett III, C.R., Gamble, L., & Davis, J. (2009). Creating and sustaining authentic partnerships with community in a systemic model. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 13, 15-29.

Bonar, L., Buchanan, R., Fisher, I., & Wechsler, A. (1996). Service learning in the curriculum: A faculty guide to course development. Salt Lake City, UT: Lowell Bennion Community Service Center.

Boyer, M.E., & Silver, I. (2005). Poverty, partnerships, and privilege: Elite institutions and community empowerment. City and Community, 4, 233-53.

Bringle, R.G., & Hatcher, J.A. (2002). Campus-community partnerships: The terms of engagement. Journal of Social Issues, 58, 503-516.

City of Cascade. (2004). Cascade Comprehensive Plan. Cascade, Idaho.

City of Plummer. (2007). Plummer Comprehensive Plan. Plummer, Idaho.

Danish Board of Technology. (2011). The Consensus Conference. Retrieved May 15, 2011, from

Doble, C., & King, M. (2011). Plural planning at multiple scales. Landscape Journal, 30, 72-87.

Fischer, F. (2000). Citizens, experts, and the environment: The politics of local knowledge. Durham: Duke University Press.

Fischer, F. (2009). Democracy and expertise. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fung, A. (2006). Varieties of participation in complex governance. Public Administration Review, 66, 66-75.

Grundahl, J. (1995). The Danish consensus conference model. In Public participation in science: The role of consensus conferences in Europe. S. Joss, & J. Durant, Eds. London: Science Museum.

Kellogg Commission. (1999). Returning to our roots: The engaged institution. Washington, DC: National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. Retrieved June 15, 2009, from

Martin, L.L., Smith, H., & Phillips, W. (2002). Bridging ‘town and gown’ through innovative university-community partnerships. The Innovation Journal 10, 1-16.

Myers, D., & Banerjee, T. (2005). Toward greater heights for planning. Journal of the American Planning Association, 71, 121-129.

Oppenheimer Dean, A., & Hursley, T. (2002). Rural studio: Samuel Mockbee and an architecture of decency. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Ostrander, S.A. (2004). Democracy, civic participation, and the university: A comparative study of civic engagement on five campuses. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 33, 74-93.

Overton, B.J., & Brunkhardt, J. (1999). Drucker could be right, but …: New leadership models for institutional-community partnerships. Applied Developmental Science, 3, 217-227.

Reardon, K. (1999). A sustainable community-university partnership. Liberal Education, 85, 20-26.

Roakes, S., & Norris-Tirrell, D. (2000). Community service learning in planning education: A framework for course development. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 20, 100-110.

Sletto, B. (2010). Educating reflective practitioners: Learning to embrace the unexpected through service learning. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 29, 403-415.

Sorensen, J., & Lawson, L. (2011). Evolution in partnership: Lessons from the East St. Louis Action Research Project. Action Research, 1-20. Retrieved January 20, 2012, from content/early/2011/10/19/1476750311424944.full. pdf+html.

Travis, W.R. (2007). New geographies of the American West. Washington, DC: Island Press.

University of Idaho. (2009). Mission. Retrieved July 6, 2009, from mission/.

Wetter, K. (1962). Tales of early Plummer. Plummer: Plummer High School.

Wiewle, W., & Lieber, M. (1998). Goal achievement, relationship building, and incrementalism: The challenges of university-community partnerships. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 17, 291-301.


Special thanks go to Laura Laumatia, Extension Educator, Coeur d’Alene Reservation and Michele Vachon for their review and comments.

About the Authors 

Tamara Laninga is an assistant professor in the Bioregional Planning and Community Design Program; Gary Austin is an associate professor in Landscape Architecture; and Wendy McClure is a professor of Architecture—all at the University of Idaho.

RESEARCH FROM THE FIELD: Revitalization Through Collaboration: Purdue Students Work with West Lafayette Public Library

Nick Schenkel 

Their excitement was infectious. The four graduate students who worked with our community archives collections at the West Lafayette Public Library in fall semester 2008 tore into their work with a passion and a curiosity that amazed me and my staff — and prompted us to see our archival collections, our library, and our city with new eyes and with new interest.

For many reasons West Lafayette, Indiana, has been as much an abstraction as an actual city. For many in the community, West Lafayette’s reason to exist revolves around its immediate presence and interaction with Purdue University; so much so that it sometimes seems that West Lafayette is but an appendix to that great university. Also, the neighboring city of Lafayette with its vibrant downtown and its emphasis on manufacturing sometimes makes West Lafayette seem more of a suburb of the town across the Wabash River than a city in its own right.

So why bother with archiving West Lafayette history? Because the archival class’ work gives us a new lens through which to see and appreciate both the West Lafayette Public Library and the city of West Lafayette — from the early 1900s to the present day.

Studying the Moffitt family — whose members were major donors to the library in the late 1960s — brings the sense-of-city to light immediately. Two students’ efforts to learn more about library donor Bertha Moffitt and her family brought to life a family with significant cultural, political, and intellectual ties to West Lafayette, Purdue, and Lafayette.

The students’ work showed that Miss Moffitt’s father, Dr. William Moffitt, a physician, was a leader in the West Lafayette and Lafayette communities, serving with West Lafayette city government and on the board of one of our two local hospitals; yet his importance to the community had been lost to history. The achievements of Bertha Moffitt, who obtained an undergraduate and then master’s degree at Purdue, seem exceptional for an early 20th century woman. She also served as her father’s office manager, all the while continuing to be active in the West Lafayette/Lafayette community’s literary and arts pursuits and, finally, becoming a major donor of both funds and books to the West Lafayette Public Library. But to emphasize again, until the students’ work pulled together the disparate threads of her life and work, her work and

These early board minutes, all from the 1920s, show a library board composed of members deeply involved with Purdue and West Lafayette communities and concerned, too, with the state’s larger library concerns. The archival work shows that these early library board members were not amateurs at governing; from their first meetings the board members developed a respect for clearly differing viewpoints where one group deferred to the other’s leadership concerning certain topics at library board meetings; yet both groups had the respect of the other in setting policy for the community’s library. It is perhaps not surprising that this set a precedent that — with some lapses — continues to this day: West Lafayette library board members more often than not seek consensus in resolving their occasional disputes.

These early members of the board were important members of the West Lafayette community in other ways too (one was a Purdue dean, another a West Lafayette school board president, to name but two). Learning this, combined with the family history of Bertha Moffitt, begins to show a history of the library’s importance to the community and to leaders in the West Lafayette community. This importance

is further reflected in our library board members’ ongoing relationships with more recent city councils and mayors that have enabled us to build and remodel the equivalent of four increasingly larger and more sophisticated library buildings over the past 80 years.

In sum, this work has let us know much more about our library’s history and development and about our library’s involvement with and importance to the larger community.

We are beginning to learn that West Lafayette indeed does have a history of its own, often built around its proximity to Purdue University, yes, but also a city history that stands on its own as interesting and innovative. The early library board was composed of leading men and women of the community, a community interested enough in providing for lifelong learning for its own citizens of all ages to invest in a succession of library buildings deemed worthy of significant book donations. The Moffitt family donations helped our library build a rich public library book collection, but let us not overlook the art donations of talented members of the Hoosier art community such as Bill Cross, Bea Yerian, Robert Browning Reed, and Jacqueline Gerritsen.

Importantly, thanks to the library staff’s enthusiasm resulting from working with the students, our staff is investing real time and effort into our library’s archival and local history collections. We are initiating plans to significantly upgrade our early local history website to include many more local historical/biographical photos, continuing the work of the graduate students in preserving paper and photographic records that deteriorate as time takes its toll. In doing so we are making our local history more accessible to scholarly and popular audiences by cataloging our collections into the Online Computer Library Network, also known as WorldCat, an internationally accessible library computer network.

What began as an interesting excursion into the library’s often overlooked papers and art by graduate students from Purdue University has developed into a new appreciation for our library, our community, and our city and how collaboration can benefit all.

Participating in the project, in addition to myself, were Nancy Hartman, West Lafayette Public Library computer and reference librarian; Purdue University faculty members Susan Curtis and Kristina Bross, and their graduate students Mary Barford, Shivohn Garcia, Adam Hawkins, Deborah Leitner, and Pete Sinnott.

About the Author Nick Schenkel is director of the West Lafayette Public Library. Schenkel may be reached at nick@

Service Scholarship: The Underutilized Component in Meeting Social Needs

Tammy S. Smith

On Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, staggering New Orleans with a 22-foot storm surge. The levees broke and the city began to flood. When Katrina finally blew itself out in the Midwest, 1,836 people in eight states were dead and 705 were missing, making Katrina the fifth deadliest hurricane in U.S. history. Katrina’s damages (estimated at $110 billion) and evacuations (between 1 and 2 million) were the largest in U.S. history ( 200501z.pdf; see also, impact/index.html). 

Many academic institutions already embrace volunteerism as part of their institutional philosophy (Hinck & Brandell, 2000), either by requiring that students take a course in it or by incorporating it into the curriculum. Volunteer experience, however, is not the same as a carefully planned service program designed to support community stakeholder goals and educators’ learning objectives while expanding student knowledge, all with an evaluative component. Volunteering provides numerous benefits to both the volunteer and those served that can be incorporated into the curriculum. Service-learning fills a need that traditional courses cannot (Fong, 2005; Gronski & Pigg, 2000).

As college students prepare to enter a world where terrorism, catastrophic disasters, poverty, crime, and drug abuse are prevalent, service-learning in the curriculum can help develop a well-rounded student through civic research and participation in community-driven service projects that address community needs.

I was fortunate enough to participate in one such project, a Hurricane Katrina relief effort that changed both my perception of learning and how I apply knowledge. In the fall of 2005, I began the professional undergraduate social work program at The University of Alabama. Only days into the semester, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, destroying whole communities and causing unprecedented relocation of residents. Of all the statistics I have seen the most astounding was the number of houses lost, 275,000, more than 10 times that of any previous U.S. natural disaster (2005).

But even more alarming to many Americans than the statistics, grim as they were, was discovering that our federal and local governments and their agencies were unable to meet the needs of the stricken. (U.S. House of Representatives, 2006). What a traumatic introduction to my profession and what a shock to someone who had assumed that my country and my government were prepared for anything that came our way!

In my first social work practice course, our professor encouraged our group to help fill this gap by volunteering in the response effort. Our chance to contribute would come almost immediately when Volunteers of America requested that students from the University conduct needs assessments in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, a small fishing village (population 2,313) in Mobile County, most of whose residents are Asian immigrants, all of whom were ravaged by Katrina. You may not have visited the tiny town on Mobile Bay but chances are very good, no matter where you live, you have eaten shrimp, crabs, or oysters from Bayou La Batre.

The Asian population is attributable to a large influx of Vietnamese immigrants following the Vietnam War. Bayou la Batre was a popular destination for such immigrants because it fosters a shrimping industry similar to that of Vietnam.

After weeks of planning, several narrow escapes from cancellation due to logistics, and many hours of work by a number of people, 16 students from The University of Alabama and two from the University of Montevallo in nearby Shelby County arrived in Bayou La Batre on November 4, 2005, to assess the population’s needs after the storm.

The needs assessments involved home visits to complete questionnaires with residents about their immediate and long term needs as a result of the hurricane. The questionnaires focused on housing and medical needs, as well as a compilation of a long list of household and personal supplies. Volunteers of America used the 120 completed assessments to secure a $50,000 grant from the Wachovia Rebuilding South Alabama Fund to meet some of the community’s needs (N. Simms, personal communication, June 6, 2009).

The experience in Bayou La Batre provided my peers and me a new consciousness about human suffering and our mutual obligation to one another. Despite cultural sensitivity training and research on Vietnamese Americans and others of Asian descent that resulted in a cultural handbook for use by our group, many of us were shocked that our first thoughts of these hardworking, economically disadvantaged individuals were stereotypes. In the end, we felt sure of our cultural growth and understanding of our new friends.

In the field, however, much of that information seemed irrelevant. People looked me right in the eyes, with almost a hopeful plea, instead of the downward gaze expected based on our research. No one invited us into their homes, probably because their homes were in such poor condition, so we didn’t have to worry about the expectation of removing our shoes. We expected the men to represent their households by answering our questions, as this is what our readings and research informed us. However, most of the men were not present as they were out working or attempting to find work. I found it especially disturbing when the interpreter working with FEMA, himself an Asian immigrant, declared that the shrimping jobs were once again available, but no one wanted to work because they preferred instead to receive federal assistance. Our own observations were at odds with his assertion. In actuality, I wondered how many of these newly immigrated residents even knew of the available assistance, as the brochures we saw delivered to Bayou La Batre residents were in English (for an example of one such brochure, go to disaster_assistance.pdf).

We also noted a clear economic divide while in the community. Many of the immigrants we met continued to live in houses that were in poor, unsafe condition, some without electricity, and others without appliances or intact roofs. Despite these circumstances, the residents were dedicated to remaining in their homes and in the community. Less than a mile away, we saw upscale homes already repaired, debris removed from the yards, and life back to normal. This disparity in ability to recover had nothing to do with the poor residents’ desire to restore their homes and lives to normalcy. Rather, the disparity was grounded in their relative poverty.

Striking visual evidence of the storm damage was apparent in the wooded area near the inter-coastal waterway; shrimp boats were perched in the branches of trees. I had never seen a 40- foot ship sitting upright on dry land until the trip to Bayou La Batre. The boats belonged to the immigrants, many of whom didn’t have the insurance coverage to rescue, repair, or re- launch them. For simple lack of funds, the boats remained in the woods for months until a grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund paid for their removal (Barry, 2006; Gaillard, 2007). As 80 percent of Bayou La Batre’s economy is linked to the seafood industry, which also contributes millions to the area’s annual economy, the financial impact of these vessels being grounded was significant for the immigrant owners as well as the local and area economies (Gaillard, 2007).

One person who knows much about the poor residents in Bayou La Batre is Dr. Regina Benjamin, President Obama’s nominee for surgeon general. Benjamin has managed a healthcare clinic in Bayou La Batre for several years. There is no doubt that she has strong opinions about the treatment of this nation’s poor, as evidenced by comments in her nomination acceptance speech. Dr. Benjamin said that “for years I’ve worked to find resources to sustain a doctor’s office that treats patients without health insurance or the ability to pay out of their pockets” (The White House, 2009). She reportedly used a considerable amount of her own money to reconstruct a clinic that served poor Bayou La Batre residents after Katrina destroyed the original facility (Romero, 2009). Simply put, from this experience, I am now fully also aware of how poverty can take its toll without any fault on the part of those in its grips.

Probably one of the most valuable lessons I learned from this experience was that nobody knows the community better than the people who live there. I’ve heard this from a few professors since Bayou La Batre, but I really learned it from the brave residents of the small fishing community. Amid all the chaos, confusion, and destruction, there was still a sense of community that was evident during the time we worked in the Bayou. The needs assessment recognized the residents as the most knowledgeable about their own needs. I am proud to have been a part of the project.

While the community benefited to some extent from our efforts, the relationship was definitely mutually beneficial. Both the students and the professors gained invaluable insights into an impoverished community’s needs. In addition, most, if not all, of us considered the government assistance to the immigrants of Bayou La Batre to be inexcusably inadequate. Just as the reader is not necessarily able to appreciate the magnitude of Bayou La Batre’s situation after Katrina without having been there, students who simply read about impoverished neighborhoods, at risk individuals, or vulnerable populations cannot truly comprehend the human experience of poverty, vulnerability, confusion, fear, lack of knowledge, political tactics, and the sheer panic over uncertainty about the future. Here the old saying, “You had to be there,” takes on new significance.

References Barry, D. (2006, June 9). 100-ton symbols of a recovery still suspended. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from us/09highway.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print. Building Online, (2005). Retrieved August 1, 2009, from news/ Fong, R. (2005). The future of multicultural social work. Advances in Social Work, 6(1), 43-50. Gaillard, F. (2007). After the storms: Tradition and change in Bayou La Batre. Journal of American History, 94, 856-862. Gronski, R., & Pigg, K. (2000). University and community collaboration: Experiential learning in human services. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(5), 781-792. Hinck, S.S., & Brandell, M.E. (2000). The relationship between institutional support and campus acceptance of academic service-learning. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(5), 868-881. Romero, F. (2009). Regina Benjamin: Obama’s surgeon general pick. Retrieved July 18, 2009, from article/0,8599,1910205,00.html. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2009, July 13). Retrieved July 21, 2009, from press_office/Remarks-By-The-President-In- Announcement-Of-US-Surgeon-General/. U.S. House of Representatives. (2006). A failure of initiative: Final report of the select bipartisan committee to investigate the preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina (H. Rpt. 109-377). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Wachovia Rebuilding South Alabama Fund. (2006, Spring). Community Endowment, 5(2), 3.

About the Author Tammy S. Smith is a graduate student at Florida State University. She can be reached at

Beyond Activity, Place, and Partner: How Publicly Engaged Scholarship Varies by Intensity of Activity and Degree of Engagement

Diane M. Doberneck, Chris R. Glass, and John H. Schweitzer


Publicly engaged scholarship is often described by activity (e.g., service-learning; community-based, participatory research; public humanities), by place (e.g., rural communities, urban neighborhood), or by partner (e.g., non-governmental organization, school). These common descriptors—based on what faculty do, where they do it, and with whom they partner—fail to characterize how faculty members collaborate with community partners in engaged research, engaged teaching, and engaged service. This study explored whether two process-oriented constructs—level of activity and degree of engagement—were useful descriptors of how faculty members go about their scholarly collaborations with the public. Interpretive content analysis of 173 promotion and tenure forms revealed significant differences in intensity of activity and degree of engagement by gender, race, age, teaching assignment, joint departmental appointment, appointment length, Extension appointment, and discipline. These variations suggested new directions in professional development for community engagement and appointments/assignments supportive of faculty involvement in publicly engaged scholarship.


In response to public criticism concerning their contributions to the greater good of society, some institutional leaders and faculty at American research universities have led organizational change initiatives to make publicly engaged scholarship a central tenet of their institutional missions (Boyte, 2005; Kezar, Chambers, & Burkhardt, 2005; Matthews, 2006). Many leaders recognized the need for systemic change to sustain engaged scholarship on their campuses and have advocated for various reforms in institutional policy and practice (e.g., revised strategic plans, vision and mission statements, revised promotion and tenure policies, and new incentive and rewards programs) to integrate engagement on their campus (Checkoway, 2001; Ehrlich, 2000).

Consequently, publicly engaged scholarship has moved from the margins to the mainstream at many higher education institutions, with 115 campuses designated with the Carnegie Community Engagement Elective Classification in 2010 (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 2010; Driscoll & Sandmann, 2001). Some leaders in the engagement movement, however, are concerned that many of these institutional change efforts represent shifts in rhetoric only and not in the ways in which faculty collaborate with community members, diluting the ideal of reciprocal, mutually beneficial partnerships with communities. Specifically, they charge that lack of focus on the process dimensions of engagement may “leave some campuses and their leaders with the impression that they are ‘doing engagement,’ when in fact they are not” (American Association of State Colleges and Universities, 2002, p. 8).

While early institutional change efforts focused on organizational structures, policies, and practices, more contemporary ones emphasize the significantly different types of relationships faculty have with their community partners and advocate for crisper distinctions between types of faculty-community relationships (Saltmarsh, Hartley, & Clayton, 2009). However, beyond calls for a greater focus on understanding the process dimensions of community engagement, very little research has been conducted to differentiate ways in which faculty collaborate with their community partners empirically.

Research Purpose and Questions

The goal of this research was to contribute to the limited but growing research about publicly engaged scholarship, which includes research about levels (Colbeck & Wharton-Michael, 2006), integration (Bloomgarden & O’Meara, 2007; Colbeck & Weaver, 2008), pervasiveness (Colbeck & Weaver, 2008), and types (Doberneck, Glass, & Schweitzer, 2010; Glass, Doberneck, & Schweitzer, 2011). Specifically, this study was designed to explore whether two process-oriented constructs—intensity of activity and degree of engagement—were useful for characterizing differences in how faculty members collaborate with community partners in engaged research, engaged teaching, and engaged service (Glass & Fitzgerald, 2010). A second research goal was to determine whether analysis using these two process-oriented constructs would reveal significant demographic (gender, race, age, number of years at institution), appointment (assignments, joint college, joint departmental, Extension), or disciplinary differences in how faculty members approach their publicly engaged scholarship. The following research questions framed this study:

1. Are faculty demographic characteristics related to intensity of activity and degree of engagement in publicly engaged scholarship?

2. Are faculty appointment variables related to intensity of activity and degree of engagement in publicly engaged scholarship?

3. Is the faculty member’s area of study related to intensity of activity and degree of engagement in publicly engaged scholarship?

To be clear, we are not advocating that higher levels of intensity of activity or degrees of engagement are “better” than lower levels; our goal, instead, is to reveal the range of ways faculty members collaborate with the public, based on empirical evidence, and to examine whether there are demographic, appointment, or disciplinary patterns related to how faculty approach their scholarly collaborations with the public.

Conceptual Framework and Definitions 

For this study, we modified Colbeck & Wharton-Michael’s (2006) framework, “Individual and Organizational Influences on Faculty Member’s Motivation and Engagement in Public Scholarship,” and linked individual characteristics, academic characteristics, and areas of scholarship to intensity of activity and degree of engagement (see Figure 1).

We used Michigan State University’s definition of publicly engaged scholarship, which states that engagement “is a scholarly endeavor that cross-cuts instruction, research and creative activities, and service; fulfills unit and university missions; and is focused on collaboration with and benefits to communities external to the university” (Provost’s Committee on University Outreach, 1993). Because we wanted to move beyond descriptions of activity, place, and partner, we developed two process-oriented constructs to characterize the differences in how faculty members approached their scholarly collaborations with the public.

Intensity of activity was comprised of the frequency, duration, and complexity of faculty members’ interactions with community partners and was influenced by Enos & Morton’s (2003) framework for development of campus-community partnerships. Intensity of activity included types of engagement activities, number of different types of engagement activities, frequency and duration of the engagement activities, scholarly output related to the activities, and awards/recognitions received for publicly engaged scholarship.

Degree of engagement characterized the extent to which faculty members collaborated with their community partners in reciprocal, mutually beneficial ways, and was influenced by The Research University Civic Engagement Network’s degree of  collaborative processes in engaged research (Stanton, 2008), Imagining America’s continuum of scholarship (Ellison & Eatman, 2008), and distinctions between transactional and transformational partnerships (Saltmarsh, Hartley, & Clayton, 2009). Degree of engagement focused on depth of collaboration and included the direction or flow of information or knowledge; locus of control in decision making; extent of collaboration at different stages of the engagement process; and recognized sources of new knowledge or understanding associated with publicly engaged scholarship.

External audiences (often called the community or the public) were broadly defined in this study to include more than geographically bound communities (e.g., neighborhoods, cities, or regions defined by physical place). We also included communities of identity, affiliation or interest, circumstance, faith, kin, and profession or practice (Fraser, 2005; Ife, 2002; Marsh, 1999; Mattessich, Monsey, & Roy, 1999). Private consulting and individual volunteerism were excluded from the study because they fulfill individual goals, not unit or university missions. Faculty contributions to university, college, or departmental committees and to scholarly and professional associations were also excluded because those activities do not contribute directly to the public, but instead address campus or disciplinary needs or goals.

Research Design and Methods 

For this exploratory study, we conducted an interpretive content analysis of the faculty members’ portions of promotion and tenure forms, rich descriptions of faculty members’ scholarly activities in instruction, research and creative activities, and service. Interpretive content analysis was selected because it is particularly well-suited for determining the presence of identified concepts in large amounts of unstructured text and because it is a context-sensitive analytic technique, responsive enough to differentiate between nuanced meanings inherent in faculty descriptions of their scholarly activities (Krippendorff, 2004). For example, using interpretive content analysis, we were able to differentiate between how plant biologists and urban planners use the word “community” in descriptions of their scholarship.

Research Site and Participants 

Because this was an exploratory study, we purposefully limited data collection to one site (Creswell, 1998; Patton, 2001). Michigan State University was selected because it is a research-intensive, land-grant, Carnegie-engaged institution, where faculty members are expected to achieve scholarly excellence across all three traditional academic missions—research and creative activities, teaching, and service—and to pursue these activities in service to the public good. Michigan State University also revised its promotion and tenure forms in 2001 to encourage faculty members to report their publicly engaged scholarship. As such, institutional data about faculty members’ scholarly activities were reasonably expected to provide the rich, detailed examples required to determine whether the two process-oriented constructs—intensity of activity and degree of engagement—would reveal differences in how faculty members approach their scholarly collaborations with the public.

Researchers accessed promotion and tenure documents written by tenure line faculty who underwent tenure and promotion reviews between 2002 and 2006. Due to the unavailability of institutional data, the study did not include tenure line faculty who were unsuccessful in promotion and tenure review; were no longer employed at the university; and/ or no longer held tenure track appointments at the university. During the study period, 374 tenure-line faculty members met our eligibility criteria and were contacted by mail for their informed consent. Of the eligible faculty members, 46% (n=173) consented to have their promotion and tenure documents included in this institutional review board approved study.

The 173 participants included 69% male, 31% female, 80% White, 5% Black, 10% Asian/Pacific Islander, 2% Hispanic, and 3% American Indian/ Alaska Native. Participant ranks included 54% assistant professor and 37% associate professor. Participants held primary appointments in the following colleges: 27% agriculture and natural resources; 19% natural science; 14% social science; 12% arts and letters, including music; 6% education; 4% business; 4% engineering; 4% human medicine; 4% osteopathic medicine; 4% veterinary medicine; 2% communication arts and sciences; 2% nursing; and 1% other primary tenure home.

Using chi-square analysis, researchers determined that faculty members included in this study were not significantly different (by gender, ethnicity, primary college, and rank) from the full-time, tenure line faculty at Michigan State University during the 2002–2006 study period.

Sources of Data 

Researchers accessed the study data from two sources centrally collected and organized by the institution’s Office of Academic Human Resources: a university administrators’ database and promotion and tenure forms completed by faculty members. Data from the university administrators’ database included demographic information such as gender, race, and date of birth. Data from the promotion and tenure forms included: data about the faculty member’s appointment [college(s), department(s), and/or Extension]; assignment (percentage of time assigned to instruction, research and creative activities, service to the university, and/or service to the community); and descriptions of scholarship written by faculty on their promotion and tenure forms. Researchers also accessed and coded faculty members’ curriculum vitae and the personal or reflective statements that are part of their promotion and tenure dossiers.

Data Coding and Analysis 

Researchers assigned two different holistic scores— one for intensity of activity and one for degree of engagement—to characterize faculty members’ publicly engaged scholarship. Because this was an exploratory study, holistic scoring was used to describe each faculty member’s engaged scholarship in its entirety (instead of scoring specific instances of publicly engaged scholarship and aggregating the scores into an overall score). Researchers used the four-point coding scheme (none, low, medium, and high) developed by Colbeck and Wharton-Michael (2006) to characterize levels of faculty engagement. For intensity of activity, researchers coded a 0 for absolutely no publicly engaged scholarship reported by faculty; 1 for faculty whose publicly engaged scholarship could be characterized by mostly ad-hoc, short-term activities with no scholarly publications or awards associated with it; 2 for faculty whose work was characterized by a mixture of shorter and deeper intensity publicly engaged scholarship; and 3 for faculty whose work was characterized by multiple types; ongoing, regular relationships; or partnerships with community members which resulted in generation of scholarly publications and/or awards and recognitions.

For degree of engagement, researchers coded a 0 for absolutely no publicly engaged scholarship reported by faculty; 1 for faculty whose work was characterized as mostly unidirectional transfers of expert knowledge from university to community recipients; 2 for faculty whose work was characterized as a mixture of unidirectional and collaboratively, co-created activities; and 3 for faculty whose work was characterized as predominantly reciprocal, mutually determined flows of knowledge and resulting co-generated scholarship.

We coded the data by hand to ensure faculty members’ descriptions of their engaged scholarship were considered in their fullest context. We followed standard procedures for team-based coding, including frequent meetings to ensure coding consistency across team members, to discuss and resolve ambiguous cases, and to update coding rules and the codebook as needed (Mayring, 2000; MacQueen, McLellen, Kay, & Milstein, 1998).

Once the data were coded, we entered them into Statistical Package for Social Sciences 17.0. As is common practice in exploratory research and interpretive content analysis, we analyzed the key constructs using various statistical procedures to search for significant patterns in the data. We calculated means, standard deviations, and frequency distributions, and conducted t-tests, one-way analyses of variance, and chi-square statistics to examine differences within groups and between groups of faculty. Two-way analyses of variance were also used, when appropriate, to identify potential interactions between demographic variables. For this study, p < .05 level was considered to be the level of statistical significance; however, because this was an exploratory study, we occasionally noted patterns in the data that were interesting even if they failed to meet the threshold of statistical significance.


Q1: Are faculty demographic characteristics related to intensity of activity and degree of engagement in publicly engaged scholarship?

The demographic characteristics considered in this study included gender, race, age at time of review, and number of years at the institution at time of promotion/tenure review. Because the numbers of minority faculty members were small, we grouped them into a single category—non-White faculty—for the purposes of analysis. Mean levels of intensity and degree of engagement were compared using t-tests and one-way analyses of variance. Results and levels of statistical significance are presented in Table 1.

For intensity of activity, there were no statistically significant differences in publicly engaged scholarship by gender, race, and age, though intensity did vary by number of years at the university. Greater levels of intensity were found for faculty who had been at the institution for 11 to 15 years. For degree of engagement, there were no statistically significant differences by race and by number of years at the institution. Women reported statistically significant higher degrees of engagement than their male colleagues, and faculty members in their 50s reported higher degrees of engagement than their younger colleagues.

After testing for main effects, two-way analyses of variance were conducted to look for possible interaction effects between the demographic variables. For intensity of activity, there were no statistically significant findings. For degree of engagement, the interaction between gender and race was statistically significant. Mean levels by gender and race for degree of engagement are depicted in Figure 2.

The data in Figure 2 indicate that there is very little difference in the degree of engagement between White males (mean = 1.28), non-White males (mean = 1.30), and White females (mean = 1.40). Non-White females (mean = 2.18) reported a statistically significant higher degree of engagement than the other groups.

Q2: Are faculty appointment variables related to intensity of activity and degree of engagement in publicly engaged scholarship?

Faculty appointment variables in this study included rank and assignment (percentage of appointment in instruction, research and creative activities, and service; Extension appointment; patient care appointment; joint appointment; and length of appointment [academic 9 month or academic 12 month]).


At Michigan State, faculty members’ assignments typically consist of an assigned percentage of time in instruction, research and creative activities, service, and other categories, including Extension, international, urban affairs, and patient care. The instructional assignment is further divided into the following sub-categories: undergraduate teaching, graduate teaching, non-credit instruction, and academic advising. The service assignment is divided into three subcategories: academic (within scholarly and professional organizations); academic (within the broader university); and within the broader community.

Pearson’s correlations were conducted to determine whether assignments were related to intensity of activity and degree of engagement. Results are reported in Table 2, with a single asterisk indicating significance at p < .05 and a double asterisk indicating significance at p < .01.

The data in Table 2 revealed several statistically significant patterns related to assignment. First, there is an inverse relationship between assignment in instruction and degree of engagement. Faculty with higher percentage appointments in graduate instruction described higher degrees of engagement in their scholarship, while faculty with higher percentage appointments in undergraduate instruction described lower degrees of engagement in their scholarship. Second, faculty members’ percentage assigned to service to the university showed a negative relationship with intensity of activity. That is, faculty with higher assigned percentages to service to the university reported lower intensity of activity. As their assigned percentages of service to the university decreased, they reported higher levels of activity in publicly engaged scholarship. Faculty members’ assigned percentages to service to the profession did not vary greatly (between 4% and 6%) and were not related to faculty members’ reported intensity of activity. Finally, faculty members’ assigned percentages to service to the community showed a positive relationship with reported intensity of activity. As assigned percentage of service to community increased so did reported intensity of activity.

Joint Appointments 

In this study, the majority of faculty members (83%) held appointments in one department, with 15% appointed in two departments and 2% appointed in three departments. For the purposes of analysis, we compared faculty with a single department appointment to faculty with joint appointments. A t-test was conducted to determine whether an appointment in more than one department was related to the reported intensity of activity and degree of engagement. Faculty with joint appointments (mean = 2.39) were more likely than their colleagues with single appointments (mean = 1.94, p = 0.027) to report high intensity of activities. For degree of engagement, the analysis showed no statistically significant differences between faculty with single and joint appointments.

Length of Appointment 

Michigan State faculty hold either 9-month or 12-month appointments. T-tests were used to compare the different appointments and to determine whether length of appointment was related to intensity of activity and degree of engagement. For intensity of activity, no statistically significant differences were found. For degree of engagement, faculty members with 12-month appointments had statistically significant higher degrees of engagement than their colleagues with 9-month appointments.

This study included faculty members of two ranks—individuals going up for promotion/tenure to the associate professor level and those going up for promotion/tenure to the full professor level. T-tests were conducted to determine whether rank was related to reported intensity of activity and degree of engagement. We found that there were no statistically significant findings for intensity of activity or degree of engagement related to rank.

Q3. Is the faculty member’s area of scholarship or discipline related tow intensity of activity and degree of engagement in publicly engaged scholarship?

For the primary college appointments, we recoded Michigan State’s 15 colleges into 8 more commonly used college groupings for the purpose of analysis. Means and standard deviations for intensity of activity and degree of engagement by primary college appointments are reported in Table 3.

The data in Table 3 indicate, for both intensity of activity and degree of engagement, that faculty members with primary appointments in education, health and medical professions, and agriculture and natural resources reported higher levels, while faculty members with primary appointments in business, arts and humanities, and physical and biological sciences reported lower levels. Faculty members with appointments in engineering and social and behavioral sciences fell somewhere in the middle. These findings are consistent with other studies that examined how area of study relates to faculty participation in publicly engaged scholarship. For example, researchers examining commitment to community service found “the weakest supporters of community service [were]…faculty trained in the physical sciences, anthropology, and English” (Antonio, Astin, & Cress, 2000, p. 384). Similarly, faculty members in physical and biological sciences, the arts and mathematics, engineering, and computer sciences reported that service-learning (one type of publicly engaged scholarship) is “not relevant to their disciplines” (Abes, Jackson, & Jones, 2002, p. 12).

In Figure 3 it is clear that the college grouping shows a positive relationship between intensity of activity and degree of engagement, with faculty in some colleges reporting both low intensities of activity and low degrees of engagement while others reported both high intensities of activity and high levels of engagement.

Delimitations and Limitations 

Because this study was exploratory, data were collected from one research site. The results are not expected to be broadly generalizable, but instead should be considered as a starting point for additional research conducted at other institutions of higher education where faculty members conduct publicly engaged scholarship.

Promotion and tenure forms as a source of data have some limitations. Faculty descriptions of their own scholarship, especially for promotion and tenure, are complex expressions, negotiated between the (sometimes competing) epistemological, institutional, and disciplinary influences and faculty members’ perspective on both the value of their own work and the perception of “what counts” at their institution at the time of review (O’Meara, 2002). Faculty members may have selectively included information on their forms, emphasizing specific aspects of their scholarship while minimizing others in order to make the strongest case going forward for review. Junior or mid-career faculty, for example, may have chosen to underreport their publicly engaged scholarship (Ellison & Eatman, 2008). As a result, data from promotion and tenure forms may differ from faculty members’ more authentic, less strategically crafted descriptions of their publicly engaged scholarship. While the “unreactive” nature of documents gives them their stability as a data source, it also limits researchers to analysis of text without further explanation from faculty members (Whitt, 2001). In other words, the written documents may tell only part of the story. Despite these limitations, promotion and tenure documents are the institutional record of faculty scholarship and served as an accessible, stable, and rich source of data for this study.

Discussion and Future Directions For Research and Practice 

At Michigan State University, faculty members from a broad range of backgrounds, appointments, and disciplines described publicly engaged scholarship in their promotion and tenure materials, thereby providing researchers with a rich source of data about how faculty members collaborate with the public in engaged research, engaged teaching, and engaged service. Using interpretive content analysis, we were able to characterize faculty members’ engaged scholarship by intensity of activity and degree of engagement—two process-oriented constructs different from the usual activity, place, and partner descriptions of engagement. Analyses also revealed patterns—related to demographics, appointment, and discipline—in how faculty members describe their engaged research, engaged teaching, and engaged service. This study’s findings suggest several future direction for research and practice.

First, while previous research has shown female faculty and faculty of color are more likely then their male and majority colleagues to be committed to and motivated by community-based teaching and research (Antonio, 2002; Antonio, Astin, & Cress, 2000), this study revealed that their engaged scholarship is also more likely to be characterized by higher levels of intensity of activity and degree of engagement. This finding is consistent with other research that confirms higher levels of publicly engaged scholarship by female faculty of color in what Turner describes as the “manifestation of interlocking race and gender” (Antonio, Astin, & Cress, 2000; Turner, 2002, p. 79). Future researchers may wish to study the interaction effects of race and gender related to publicly engaged scholarship—specifically, looking for differences across racial/ethnic groups (e.g., disaggregating ‘faculty of color’). Institutional leaders in higher education would do well to recognize this trend and ensure that institutional supports for engaged research, engaged teaching, and engaged service are especially supportive of women faculty of color who are more likely to be committed to the most intensive forms of publicly engaged scholarship.

Second, this study showed that faculty members’ assignments (e.g., percentages assigned to instruction, research and creative activities, and service) are related to levels of intensity of activity and degree of engagement in publicly engaged scholarship. Faculty members with graduate teaching assignments described higher degrees of engagement than their colleagues with undergraduate teaching assignments. Faculty members with appointments in “service to the broader community,” even minimal percentages, described higher levels of activity than their colleagues with “service to the university” appointments. Faculty members with Extension appointments, appointments in more than one department, and 12-month appointments (versus 9-month) were also more likely to demonstrate higher levels of activity or degrees of engagement. Because very little previous research has examined assignment and its relationship to publicly engaged scholarship, we would suggest that future researchers build upon this exploratory study to examine whether trends at Michigan State are consistent across American colleges and universities. Institutional leaders responsible for leading organizational change efforts for community engagement would do well to consider how faculty assignments are made on their respective campuses and to make adjustments in faculty appointments to support their engaged faculty.

Third, this study provided additional evidence that the disciplines in which faculty are initially socialized and practice their scholarship influence how they approach their collaborative scholarship with the public. Disciplinary differences revealed by this study confirmed what other researchers have discovered; that is, faculty members in agriculture, education, and health sciences are more likely to be engaged with communities, while their colleagues in the physical sciences and arts and humanities are less likely to conduct their instruction, research and creative activities, and service in conjunction with community partners (Abes, Jackson, & Jones, 2002; Antonio, Astin, & Cress, 2000). Future research is needed to understand these disciplinary differences, to identify how the disciplines create the barriers or facilitators for faculty involvement in publicly engaged scholarship, and ultimately to understand what publicly engaged scholarship looks like across the spectrum of faculty disciplines. More thorough understandings of these differences will allow institutional leaders to support faculty success and to communicate faculty relevance to society at large. Institutional leaders charged with professional development for community engagement should consider these findings as they craft faculty development programs that provide more than a “one size fits all” approach. For example, faculty members in disciplines with lower levels of activity or degrees of engagement (e.g., business, arts and humanities, physical and biological sciences) likely need different types of incentives, connections, and support to establish more robust community collaborations than their colleagues in disciplines with higher levels of activity and degrees of engagement (e.g., education, agriculture, and health and medical professions). In addition, this study’s findings suggest that faculty members’ age and years at the institutional may also influence their levels of activity and degrees of engagement. Those charged with professional development for community engagement may also want to consider a lifespan approach to supporting engaged faculty (Ellison & Eatman, 2008).


This study demonstrated that two process-oriented constructs—intensity of activity and degree of engagement—provide a way of describing publicly engaged scholarship that goes beyond activity, place, or partner descriptions. These two constructs allow faculty, researchers, and institutional leaders to make distinctions between the many ways faculty members collaborate with the public in engaged research, engaged teaching, and engaged service. They allow differences in type of activity, number of types of activities, frequency and duration, scholarly outputs, flow of information and knowledge, locus of control of decision-making, extent of collaboration, and sources of new knowledge and understanding to come into relief or focus in ways that descriptions based on activity, place, or partner do not allow. We hope that the two constructs, along with other process-oriented constructs yet to be developed, will strengthen our understanding of variations in faculty members’ approaches to collaborative scholarship with the public. By making distinctions about the process dimensions of publicly engaged scholarship, we may respond to criticisms about changes in “rhetoric” with sound evidence about reciprocal, mutually beneficial, scholarly collaborations with the public.


Abes, E.S., Jackson, G., & Jones, S.R. (2002). Factors that motivate and deter faculty use of service learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 9(1), 5-17.

American Association of State Colleges and Universities. (2002). Stepping forward as stewards of place: A guide for leading public engagement at state colleges and universities. Washington, DC: Author.

Antonio, A.L. (2002). Faculty of color reconsidered: Reassessing contributions to scholarship. Journal of Higher Education, 73(5), 582- 602.

Antonio, A.L., Astin, H.S., & Cress, C.M. (2000). Community service in higher education: A look at the nation’s faculty. The Review of Higher Education, 23(4), 373-397.

Bloomgarden, A.H., & O’Meara, K.A. (2007). Faculty role integration and community engagement: Harmony or cacophony? Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 13(2), 5-18.

Boyte, H. (2005). Everyday politics: Reconnecting citizens and public life. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. (2010). 2010 Community Engagement classification. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from downloads/2010_classified_institutions.pdf.

Checkoway, B. (2001). Renewing the civic mission of the American research university. Journal of Higher Education, 72(2), 125-147.

Colbeck, C.L., & Weaver, L.D. (2008). Faculty engagement in public scholarship: A motivation systems theory perspective. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 12(2), 7-32.

Colbeck, C.L., & Wharton-Michael, P. (2006). Individual and organizational influences on faculty members’ engagement in public scholarship. In R.A. Eberly & J. Cohen (Eds.), New directions for teaching and learning: No. 105. A laboratory for public scholarship and democracy (pp. 17-26). San Francisco, CA: Jossey- Bass.

Creswell, J.W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Doberneck, D.M., Glass, C.R., & Schweitzer, J.H. (2010). From rhetoric to reality: A typology of publicly engaged scholarship. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 14(4), 5-35.

Driscoll, A., & Sandmann, L.R. (2001). From maverick to mainstream: The scholarship of engagement. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 6(2), 9-19.

Ehrlich, T. (Ed). (2000). Civic responsibility and higher education. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press.

Ellison, J., & Eatman, T.K. (2008). Scholarship in public: Knowledge creation and tenure policy in the engaged university. Syracuse, NY: Imagining America.

Enos, S., & Morton, K. (2003). Developing a theory and practice of campus-community partnerships. In B. Jacoby & Associates (Eds.), Building partnerships for service learning (pp. 20-41). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fraser, H. (2005). Four different approaches to community participation. Community Development Journal, 40(3), 286-300.

Glass, C.R., Doberneck, D.M., & Schweitzer, J.H. (2011). Unpacking faculty engagement: The types of activities faculty members report as publicly engaged scholarship during promotion and tenure. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 15(1), 7-30.

Glass, C.R., & Fitzgerald, H.E. (2010). Engaged scholarship: Historical roots, contemporary challenges. In H.E. Fitzgerald, C. Burack, & S.D. Seifer (Eds.), Handbook of engaged scholarship: Contemporary landscapes, future directions, vol. 1 (pp. 9-24). East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press.

Ife, J. (2002). Community development: Creating community alternatives—Vision, analysis, and practice. Melbourne, Australia: Longman.

Kezar, A.J., Chambers, T.C., & Burkhardt, J.C. (2005). Higher education for the public good: Emerging voices from a national movement. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

MacQueen, KM., McLellan, E., Kay, K., & Milstein, B. (1998). Codebook development for team-based qualitative analysis. Cultural Anthropology Methods, 10(2), 31-36.

Marsh, G. (1999). The community of circumstance—a tale of three cities: Community participation in Lewisham, St. Kilda, and Knox. In D.A. Chekki (Ed.), Research in Community Sociology: Vol. 9. Varieties of community sociology (pp. 65-86). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Mattessich, P., Monsey, B., & Roy, C. (1997). Community building: What makes it work—A review of factors influencing successful community building. St. Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.

Matthews, D. (2006). Reclaiming public education by reclaiming our democracy. Dayton, OH: Kettering Foundation Press.

Mayring, P. (2000). Qualitative content analysis. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 1(2). Retrieved April 8, 2009, from

O’Meara, K. (2002). Uncovering the values in faculty evaluation of service as scholarship. Review of Higher Education, 26(1), 57-80.

Patton, M.Q. (2001). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Provost’s Committee on University Outreach. (1993). University outreach at Michigan State University: Extending knowledge to serve society. East Lansing: Michigan State University.

Saltmarsh, J., Hartley, M., & Clayton, P.H. (2009). Democratic engagement white paper. Boston, MA: New England Resource Center for Higher Education.

Stanton, T.K. (2008). New times demand new scholarship: Opportunities and challenges for civic engagement at research universities. Education, Citizenship, and Social Justice, 3(1), 19-42.

Turner, C.S.V. (2002). Women of color in academe: Living with multiple marginality. The Journal of Higher Education 73(1), 74-93.

Whitt, E.J. (2001). Document analysis. In C.F. Conrad, J.G. Haworth, & L.R. Lattuca (Eds.), Qualitative research in higher education: Expanding perspectives (2nd ed.), pp. 447-454. Boston, MA: Pearson Custom Publishing.

About the Authors

Diane Doberneck, Ph.D., is a researcher in the National Collaborative for the Study of University Engagement in University Outreach and Engagement; Chris R. Glass is a Ph.D. candidate in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education; and John H. Schweitzer, Ph.D., is a professor in the Center for Community and Economic Development—all at Michigan State University.

Book Reviews

Heather Pleasants, Book Review Editor

Beverly Naidus. Arts for Change. Oakland, CA: New Village Press. 256 pp., $14.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Kelly Campbell-Busby The University of Alabama E-mail: Given the longstanding relationship between the arts and social change, one might approach Beverly Naidus’ Arts for Change with a wary eye. However, the book is a refreshing surprise and a welcome addition to the literature on socially engaged teaching practices. Naidus does an excellent job of drawing in all kinds of readers by weaving story and academic reflection together as opposing yet familiar textures. The overall effect is a powerful account in which theory develops through history, personal story, and the words of others, making Arts for Change an enlightening read.

Naidus first uses personal narrative to introduce the reader to her own story and set the stage for the pages that follow; she lays further groundwork for the book by providing the reader with a brief historical account of the arts – from cave paintings through FDR’s Works Progress Administration on to McCarthy era propaganda and into the Cold War Abstract Expressionism. Building on this history, within the first few chapters, Naidus illustrates how the arts have been used for and against humanity for eons, and have sometimes been successful in changing opinion and rallying people to fight for their beliefs. Her discussion of the artwork associated with these events places emphasis on the social, historical and cultural contexts that shape and are shaped by art, and illustrates that art is not just for the elite or those who have plenty of leisure time. This is key, given that a decontextualized reframing of these art objects’ meanings can make it difficult for students to understand why particular objects hold a significant status in world history.

Naidus moves from a broad historical perspective back to her own personal history in discussing how she has developed her pedagogy through life experiences and art training. The raw examination of her journey — from being an art major who at first did not understand the appeal of abstract expressionism, to achieving a satisfying balance between being an artist and a teacher — will be cathartic for many who have carved a similar path. Many who pursue the balance between art and teaching struggle with combining an artistic need to express, a socially responsible consciousness, and the desire to teach, and Naidus reveals how one teacher’s gift of Ben Shahn’s book The Shape of Content (1957) helped her realize that teaching was yet another extension of her creative self. The book, along with Naidus’ involvement in public art works and feminist theorizing, moved her out of the “art for art’s sake” mentality she had witnessed earlier in her career, while also showing her the uglier side of criticism and judgments made about art and the artists who create it.

Crafting a professional life as an artist is often quite difficult; Naidus’ reflections on being rejected from three graduate schools will resonate with many artists who have sought formal training, gotten rejected, and then have had to sit back and ask “why?” Readers may also relate to Naidus’ articulation of the tension between wanting to redefine art as she saw fit, and the realization that she had to discover a way to make her own way in the world. Naidus’ chronicle of her move to New York, where she worked odd jobs and created art in her cockroach-infested apartment, further reflects struggles that many artists have endured. Through these accounts a sense of shared camaraderie allows readers to empathize with the challenges of becoming a teacher of art while maintaining and developing one’s identity as an artist.

In discussing issues of pedagogy in Chapter 3, Naidus recalls the teacher we probably all experienced at some time, the one who thought mimeographed sheets of holiday images were to be considered “art.” Her hope for an art specialist trained as an “artist/teacher/activist/community member” is probably less likely to be found, but Naidus offers examples of promising sites for the development of such specialists that are on the horizon. Groups such as the Caucus for Social Theory in Art Education, Visual Culture, and Critical Theory are beginning to permeate schools of art and art education and are encouraging artists and art educators to be aware of art’s wider implications. Naidus suggests that this progressive school of thought may help others develop school curricula that are interdisciplinary, and she advocates for an approach to art that emphasizes creativity within civic engagement and the role of the arts in promoting an ethic of caring. Often, positive influences on Naidus’ pedagogy have taken shape through informal interactions and practices, such as late night debates with fellow artists, reflections on world politics, journaling, and personal reflections. Though these experiences take place outside of formal education, Naidus finds them integral to informing her identity as an artist and educator and to her development of transformative pedagogical practices.

Naidus devotes most of Chapter 4 to outlining her curriculum for the Arts in Community interdisciplinary program at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Through photographs and descriptions of activities and projects, Naidus presents vivid examples from her classes, where students create art in response to environmental issues, wartime concerns, body image questions, cultural identity, labor, and globalization. The chapter concludes with Naidus’ explanation of the challenges to developing this type of curriculum. Typical barriers such as grading, time limitations, dumbed down products of American schools, and the perrenial lack of funding are all hurdles countless art teachers face around the country; and Naidus skillfully articulates strategies she has used to surmount these obstacles.

In panoramic perspective, Chapter 5 presents sketches of the work and experiences of artists and educators working for social change across academic and community contexts. These sketches emerged from a series of one-hour interviews in which Naidus asked each individual to reflect on their practice and pedagogy and offer “stories of transformation.” Ironically, though Naidus frames the chapter as an opportunity for community building, learning, and dialogue, the sheer number of artist/educator profiles (each usually spanning about two pages) precludes a complete achievement of this goal. Rather, these brief glimpses into the work lives, challenges, and triumphs of this unique group of people often leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Given the book’s emphasis on transforming traditional arts teaching to socially engaging art and cultural production, this may very well have been one of Naidus’ objectives. Nevertheless, these short, but powerful representations of practice are inspirational narratives that begin to delineate the possibilities of socially engaged art instruction.

Naidus ends Arts for Change with an examination of her trips to Cuba and her observations about the artists who live and work there. She recognizes the contradiction of the art she saw there as expressionist, while still serving as a tool for what the government wanted people to know. From Cuba, Naidus moves on to consider conversations she had with a young college girl who expressed idealistic thoughts about the impact she could have on marketplace practices, her own observations about the monolithic American health-care profession, and finally a reflective examination of her own dream life. Naidus’ critique of the commercial marketplace and art’s role in it is present throughout the book, and it is within this last chapter that Naidus courageously looks inward as a way to figure out her small place in this very big picture.

Many artists claim to start life with a slightly different or quirky slant on things and Naidus is no exception. She recounts her life as “weird and different early on,” a life influenced by a scientifically grounded father, and by her recollections that she did not have the opportunity to experience indigenous cultures until later in her adulthood. After gaining this opportunity, another mentor persuaded her to paint her dreams and share them with others. The cultivation of her ability to look inward eventually led her to become part of a women’s dream group that uses dreams as a tool to strengthen their creative life. In the end, her metaphoric personal narratives woven throughout the book are finally revealed as part of this analysis-of-dreams process.

As Naidus looks to herself, society, and others through Arts for Change, she is reminded of how often the answer to life’s questions are located outside the frame, and that thinking outside the box and looking at things from a different perspective are metaphors for what she wants the reader to think about as they ponder their own creative battles, and look through the cracks for ways to serve the many rather than just a few. Through a multifaceted account that merges personal narrative, biography, history and the presentation of strong pedagogical practices, Arts for Change offers all of us an open invitation to become mindful of the unifying ability and eye-opening power of art.

Donoghue, E.M., and Sturtevant, V.E., Eds. Forest Community Connections: Implications for Research, Management, and Governance. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future Press, 2008. 280 pp. $32.95 (hardbound).

Reviewed by Joshua Gruver Doctoral Candidate Penn State University E-mail:

Within the last several decades, the management of the nation’s public forests has increasingly shifted from an industrial extraction model toward a focus on ecosystem functions, restoration, and forest health. This evolution in forest policy and management has created more opportunities for community involvement in resource management and governance. Forest Community Connections: Implications for Research, Management, and Governance seeks to elucidate the consequences of this shift and examine factors contributing to strong community-forest connections.

Nineteen authors contribute 14 essays to the book, which is organized within three broad categories, examining how social science is used to define and assess communities; how persistent and emerging forest management issues affect communities; and how forest and community connections develop into unique forms of forest governance. The book is well organized according to these three areas and each essay is relevant to the topic and contributes sensibly toward better understanding community-forest connections. Within the first chapter, the editors set the stage by exploring the evolution of forest policy and management from the Great Depression to the current struggle toward integrating communities and forests. Viewed in light of the sociocultural and biological history of our forested landscape, the current relationships between people and forests and forest policy are better understood. Subsequent essays examine issues such as the advantages of involving communities in collaborative research; the growing need to consider non-timber forest products in forest management; and the logic of creating community forests to avoid, among other ills, landscape parcelization.

Donoghue, Sturtevant, and their contributing authors submit that healthy communities and forests are dependent on flexible and dynamic community-forest connections. Socioeconomic, political, and institutional processes operate to either sustain or weaken forest communities. The recognition and the development of human capital within a community and the strengthening of internal and external communal ties are integral to its strength and resilience. Realizing this vision of resilient communities and healthy forests is not something that happens overnight. The path toward fostering strong community- forest connections requires citizen engagement over time and is fraught with several significant challenges. First, the nature of the community- forest connection is continually redefined through timber markets and technology, shifting sociodemographics and environmental values, and changing forest policy. Further, production of timber products in the U.S. has flat-lined while consumption has increased. Products such as furniture, the bread and butter of many communities, are being replaced by imports from China and elsewhere. Finally, the expanding urban fringe into forested areas and the increasing immigration of exurbanites presents new challenges to communities, forests, and forest managers. Finding ways to work with these challenges while taking meaningful steps toward the communal stewardship of our forests is at the heart of Donoghue and Sturtevant’s message.

The authors illuminate the consequences of the shift from single-interest-based forest management to collaborative stewardship and ecosystem management. Much of the book is devoted to defining and analyzing community forestry and grassroots community engagement. However, engaging communities and connecting them to their forests is not a new idea. Following the Earth Summit in 1992, work began on a set of common criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. Following this, the U.S. Forest Service began to partner with community groups to advance understanding of how national, regional, and local efforts to develop sustainability criteria and indicators could be linked. Since then there has been a groundswell of literature and research focused on the community-forest connection. Communities and Forests: Where People Meet the Land (Lee and Field, Eds. 2005) is a good example of work in this area though there is little mention of this prior publication in Forest Community Connections. Further, despite “Community” in the title, most contributors never really define the term. This is unfortunate, since a conversation about what community means to the authors would serve readers well.

To the authors’ credit, they offer honest criticism of community forestry and avoid the elementary notion that it is an elixir fit for every community. The work makes clear that forest communities need the opportunity to act cohesively and to participate in decisions that directly affect them. Helping people engage in restoring the forests to which they are connected involves attending to factors that determine the quality, durability, and meaningfulness of this connection. The book provides social scientists, forest managers, and community representatives with ways to potentially attend to these factors.

Even though this recent effort by Donoghue and Sturtevant and their contributing authors is largely a synthesis of past work, there is much to be gained from continuing and extending the conversation. Their work adds clarity to the complexities inherent in understanding forests and communities by focusing on the nature and quality of the actual connection between them. It will appeal to those interested in human/ nature relationships, particularly from a forestry perspective. I especially recommend this book to social scientists interested in exploring new ways to engage the study of communities and forests, as the work speaks well to those ends. Selected readings would also benefit advanced undergraduate and graduate students interested in the human dimensions of natural resources and should be required reading for those students who wish to work with trees and people.

If you would like to review a book relevant to the scholarship of engagement, call Heather Pleasants at 205-348-3282 or e-mail her at

The Undergraduate Community Service Experience: Changing Perceptions of Diversity

Kay Yoon, Donald Martin, and Alexandra Murphy



Previous research has documented many positive effects of community service on student learning. Although a few studies have discovered that community service increases student’s cultural awareness, little research has addressed concrete changes in students’ conceptualization of diversity. The current study investigates how community service participation changes the complexity of students’ attitudes toward and perceptions of diversity. One hundred and six students participated in community service as a requirement for classes in Small Group Communication. Both quantitative and qualitative analysis of pre and post-community service surveys revealed that (1) community service significantly increased students’ level of comfort in interacting with populations different from their own, and (2) community service facilitated a shift of students’ conceptualization of diversity from simple categorical divisions to both similarity and difference as dynamic principles of identity.

As the relevance of multiculturalism became increasingly critical at the university level, faculty began incorporating unique learning opportunities into their courses that allowed students to explore and reflect upon multicultural issues across multiple contexts (O’Brien, 1993). In recent years, community service-based pedagogy has gained much attention as one of those opportunities that could potentially bring positive impact on students’ learning about diversity.

Existing scholarship highlights the impact of community service on a variety of aspects of students’ learning, including their sense of social responsibility and personal efficacy, the development of important life skills, and an enhanced sense of political, social, and cultural awareness. While previous research findings provide strong evidence supporting the significance of community service-based learning, few studies have focused specifically on learning associated with diversity.

Several studies have shown that community service helped students raise cultural awareness (Jahoda, 1992; Jones & Hill, 2001; Osborne, Hammerich, & Hensley, 2006; Primavera, 1999; Simons & Cleary, 2006). However, their findings are still challenged in terms of their substantive integration and methodological rigor. Specifically, while the improvement of cultural awareness has been well documented, the content of “awareness” and how students’ conceptualizations of diversity develop over time as a function of community service experience are unknown. Methodologically, many studies have used either longitudinal observations pre- and post-community service activities (Giles & Eyler, 1994; Simons & Cleary, 2006), control groups (Eyler, Giles, & Braxton, 1997) and quantitative (Eyler, Giles, & Braxton, 1997; Osborne, Hammerich, & Hensley, 1998) or qualitative analyses (Jones & Hill, 2001). However, few studies integrated multiple methodologies to address the impact of community service on diversity in a more comprehensive manner.

This study investigates changes in the complexity of students’ conceptualizations of diversity in small group communication courses. We begin with a discussion of the historical and contemporary “crisis of community” that provides a context for current models for diversity, difference, and service-learning. Next, we discuss the impact of community service-learning models in higher education for increasing cultural awareness, social responsibility, and life skills. We also discuss the relevance for increasing these areas for the learning outcomes in small group communication courses. Next, we adopt integrative methodologies, using a quantitative methodology, to explore how short-term community service participation plays a role in changing student attitudes toward diversity, and a qualitative approach to examine how such change manifests itself in resultant conceptualizations of diversity. We end with a discussion of our findings that demonstrate a link between students experiencing a service-learning component in their small group communication courses and developing an increased sense of cultural awareness and social responsibility as evidenced through their evolved understanding of diversity.

A Crisis of Community: Diversity, Difference, and Service-Learning

Community service is an integral part of American life. According to Morton and Saltmarsh (1997) the emergence of contemporary models of community service and service-learning is the result of cultural responses to “individual and social dilemmas that emerged from the crisis of community at the turn of the last century” (p. 137). This early crisis of community is described as a fragmentation of a unified American culture by the combined forces of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, and by the increasing centralization of political and economic power in the hands of private, industrial elite. U.S. American culture has focused relentlessly on the idea that individuals are self-interest maximizers and that private accumulation and private pleasures are the only measurable public goods. Capitalism requires us to be consumers rather than citizens.

Putnam (2000) describes a more contemporary version of the crisis of community. While the earlier one was a result of urbanization and the industrial revolution, Putnam looks at the increased individualization and separation as a result of suburbanization caused by middle-class urban flight and facilitated by the mobility of the automobile and reinforced by increased usage of technology such as the internet. Given these cultural changes, he argues that models of civic engagement and social connectedness have substantially declined. Those groups that he claims have grown in membership, such as Sierra Club and NOW, are primarily tertiary associations, meaning that the members do not actually gather in groups and build any relationships among themselves. For Putnam, the current crisis of community reflects a loss in “social capital” or the “features of a social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit” (p. 2).

So, while community groups are increasingly more homogeneous and tertiary, we know from a number of different projections, our community and institutional associations are increasingly becoming more diverse. One study estimates that by the year 2030, Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities will account for one-third of the U.S. population (Allen, 2004). Also, there are increasing demands by social identity groups for equal rights and recognition. Therefore, issues of social justice involving race, class, language, socioeconomic status, cultural sensitivity, and privilege pervade most activities we associate with community service.

The historical and contemporary crises of community demonstrate the need to consider definitions and experiences of diversity and difference. As we know from theories of social construction and social identity, the individual self is forged through our interactions with others (Allen, 2004; Berger & Luckmann, 1966). Therefore, engaging in service to communities raises complex issues that go beyond the acts of teaching a child to read, feeding the homeless, or tutoring English to a newly arrived immigrant—it exposes students to experiences of difference. Allen (2004) describes the important distinction between diversity and difference. Diversity is the word most frequently used to describe set categories of race, class, socio-economic status, gender, sexuality, etc. Difference, on the other hand, “signifies how we tend to view identity (ours and others’)” (Allen, p. 4). While diversity tends to almost exclusively focus on the categorical divisions of others, difference focuses on both similarity and difference as dynamic principles of identity. Allen continues, “This perspective allows us to recognize that no two persons are either totally different or totally similar” (p. 4).

One clear way that students can experience difference is through service to others. In fact, Morton and Saltmarsh (1997) describe the shift in models from charity to service that form the basis of most service-learning models of engagement. This is more than a simple name change. Charity fundamentally requires an unequal social system; there must, by definition, exist a giver and a receiver; the donor and the needy.

A service model, on the other hand, is not about giving money or resources that might maintain a diversity gap; students learn about the similarities and the differences among themselves and others. In the next section, we turn to previous research that adopted this service model and review how service-learning methods influence students’ social responsibility, life skills, and cultural awareness.

Impact of Community Service Learning 

Stafford, Boyd and Lindner (2003) describe service learning as a method through which students learn by participating in meaningful, organized community activities.

Rooted in the educational pragmatism of John Dewey (1938), the structured community service experiences of undergraduate students that are often required and parallel classroom instruction, have been the focus of considerable scholarly attention. Much of the research indicates that service-learning contributes to increased awareness and understanding of the values, knowledge, skills, efficacy, and commitment that underlie effective citizenship (Bringle & Steinberg, 2010; Einfeld & Collins, 2008; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Mobley, 2007).

Students develop a heightened sense of social responsibility through their community service contributions. Giles and Eyler (1994) demonstrated that community service contributes to feelings of civic involvement, a sense of social obligation and a belief that service facilitates sustainable outcomes in community life—by sharing resources with other members in the society. Similarly, Scales and Blythe (1997) argue that student service contributions often stimulate a sense of citizenship on the part of student participants. Moely et al. (2002) and Wilson et al. (2008) found that service-learning correlates with increased plans for civic action and future community involvement.

In addition to social responsibility, scholars have substantiated the sense of efficacy students experience as a result of their community service. According to Pleasants, Stephans, and Selph (2004), community service not only stimulates interest in community involvement, but also provides students with opportunities to discover how they can make a difference in the community and subsequently leaves them believing that they can be that difference. Youniss and Yates (1997) provide an apt description of this quality, arguing that students do not become paralyzed by the challenges they encounter, but rather often experience a sense of agency and a feeling of responsibility to the forces for social change.

Scholars have also carefully documented a cross section of “life skills” students acquire via participation in community service activities. Primavera (1999) discovered that 65% of the students surveyed experienced feelings of increased competence, heightened self-esteem and personal growth. Similarly, Scales and Blythe (1997) reported that students experienced intellectual growth and heightened feelings of autonomy. Astin and Sax (1998) discovered increases in self confidence and a greater willingness to assume leadership roles. And in complementary research, Pleasants et al. (2004) argued that community service not only provides students with challenging opportunities to lead, but to do so while simultaneously building their self confidence and ability to work outside of their comfort zones.

Community service participation can also impact students’ political, social, and cultural awareness. Politically, community service can provide students with an opportunity to discover the relationship between civic responsibility, participation in the community, and the attainment of meaningful outcomes for multiple communities involved (Astin & Sax, 1998; Mobley, 2007; Moely et al., 2002). Community service participation provides often opportunities for students to observe first hand unequal opportunities, as well as inequitable distributions of resources between social groups – inequities that provide a rationale for both political action and civic involvement (Primavera, 1999).

Socially, students can gain insight into issues affecting the lives of other social groups in the society (Pleasants et al, 2004). Students become aware of both the extent and depth of social problems including poverty, discrimination and violence (Youniss & Yates, 1997). But perhaps most importantly, Giles and Eyler (1994) found that after participating in community service activities, students became more likely to make situational attributions than personal attributions when it comes to socioeconomic and political disparities across social classes. In other words, community involvement helped students identify the lack of equal opportunities to all groups and its impact on the disparity between groups.

Participation in community service also impacts upon the student’s cultural awareness. Research suggests that student attitudes toward diversity shift as a result of their participation. Jahoda (1992) as cited in Youniss and Yates (1997) argues that community service brings students into contact with people who are different and who the students might not have previously known about. Jahoda (1992) argues that such exposure contributes to a “discovery of the other” (p. 87), and a process whereby those previously known through stereotypes, become real to the student volunteers. Giles, Eyler, and Braxton (1997) argue that such exposure contributes to not only a reduction of stereotyping, but furthermore greater empathy toward others. Some students even acknowledge the inaccuracy and unfairness of stereotyping. This is consistent with Osbourne, Hammerich and Hensley’s (1998) findings about positive changes of cognitive complexity. Cognitive complexity refers to “the degree to which a person feels or she seeks out multiple explanations for the behavior of others” (p. 7). In their study, service learning participants showed significantly higher ratings on the cognitive complexity assessment than non-service learning participants. Primavera (1999) discovered that students displayed a greater appreciation for diversity and multiculturalism following their community service participation, and perhaps most interestingly a heightened awareness of similarities among people of different cultural backgrounds—a result also supported by the research of Simons and Cleary (2006).

Finally, service-learning influences the degree to which students learn about and experience cultures they assume to be unlike their own. In a qualitative investigation, Jones and Hill (2004) discovered that community service contributes to cultural learning, the negotiation of individuality and the crossing of boundaries between cultures. Through cultural learning students become familiar with the day to day lives of AIDS patients for example, and acquire a broader understanding of the disease. Through the negotiation of individuality, students discovered that those of different races, social classes, sexual orientation or even HIV status face and deal with some of the same day to day issues as the students themselves and their own family members. Additionally, by crossing boundaries, Jones and Hill (2004) argue that students actively work to circumvent the barriers that are imposed by community service itself and subsequently discover what life is like “on the other side (p. 210).”

Eyler and Giles (1999) reported a similar finding in saying that “students’ report that their service-learning contributes to a sense that the people they work with are ‘like me’ and demonstrate their growing appreciation for other cultures” (p. 54). Moely et al. (2002) and Hunt (2007) also found that students with more community service-learning experience demonstrated reduced stereotyping and a greater understanding of other cultures. Dunlap (1998) examined the reflection journals of undergraduate students involved in multicultural service sites. She used the students’ own voices to demonstrate the ways service-learning works to influence how students express, experience, and negotiate multicultural or race-related incidents. Other work has offered recommendations for how to teach and talk about issues of diversity and difference in a service-learning classroom. Green (2001), for example, writes about the critical importance of discussing race when engaging in service-learning. Dunlap, Scoggin, Green, and Davi (2007) provide a useful theoretical model for framing the ways white students experience issues of privilege and socioeconomic disparities through their service-learning courses.

As the literature suggests, researchers have discovered a positive relationship between community service and cultural awareness. Community service participation allowed a heightened sense of others, greater appreciation and awareness of diversity, and increased knowledge of multi-cultural groups that strengthen cross-cultural relationships with those they serve. What remains unclear is how, within the context of the increased awareness that other scholars have demonstrated, student sensitivity to diversity actually changes through community service participation and how such change manifests itself in subsequent conceptualizations of diversity. In attempting to explicate how student sensitivity to diversity actually changes, we anticipate that after completing a community based service learning experience students will first, have a better understanding of diversity, second, feel more comfortable interacting with people who are different from themselves, and third, feel more comfortable working with those representing different cultures. These potential changes will first be explored quantitatively and then qualitatively.

The Small Group Communication Course 

Communication is an excellent discipline in which to explore the relationship between service-learning and cultural and social diversity. While interdisciplinary in nature, much of communication studies focuses on the area of “praxis,” or the interrelationship between theory and practical experience. Applegate and Morreale (1999) claim, “There is a special relationship between the study of communication as the means for constructing social reality and service-learning as a pedagogy designed to enhance social life and communities” (p. xii).

More specifically, the learning goals associated with many small group communication courses are further enhanced with service-learning pedagogies. Most small group communication courses include a core curriculum, including the study of group dynamics such as teamwork, collaboration, conflict, and diversity, as well as group processes, such as decision making and problem solving. Most small group communication scholars agree that more can be learned by studying “real” groups in “real” situations (Putnam & Stohl, 1994). Similarly, students can learn more about small group dynamics and processes by experiencing “real” lived group experiences. In a study of service learning in a small group class, Foreman (1996) noted: “It is difficult for a student to understand small group communication and the role communication plays in making the experience a positive or negative one until he or she is actually involved in a small group experience” (p. 1).

Yelsma (1999) agrees that service-learning is a critical component to furthering the goals of small group communication courses. He states that small group classes typically have two fundamental goals: 1) to encourage students to learn about more effective ways of interacting with others in group settings, and 2) to reflect on their own values and attitudes when interacting with others (often those similar to themselves). Service-learning, however, allows an opportunity for students to “learn more about attitudes and values of people different from themselves” (Yelsma, p. 88; Hammond, 1994).

Yet, support for these claims is scant, as the majority of research on small group communication and service-learning has focused on the process of group problem solving, not understandings of cultural awareness and diversity.

Method Overview 

This study was conducted at DePaul University, chosen for the study for several important characteristics relating to service-learning and diversity. For six straight years, 2002–2008, U.S. News and World Report (DePaul University Newsroom, 2010) has recognized DePaul for its top-25 service-learning program, and the Princeton Review has recognized DePaul for its top-10 diverse student population (DePaul University Newsroom, 2010). For our investigation, we conducted surveys with students who were participating in a community-based service project as part of the requirements for the Small Group Communication class. We conducted surveys with them at two different points in time: one before they started the community service for the class and the other after the service. The surveys asked the participants to report their perceptions, attitudes, and knowledge about diversity and to define what constitutes diversity. These pre-and post-service reports in both Likert scale and open-ended formats allowed us to measure the impact of community service on student sensitivity to diversity.


Eighty-one undergraduate students enrolled in small group communication classes participated in the study. Although 81 participants participated, only 57 completed both surveys; hence the quantitative analysis is based on the responses of those 57 only.

Procedures and Context 

Students enrolled in three small group communication classes during the fall 2006, winter 2007, and spring 2007 terms were invited to participate in the study. The participation was voluntary, and no reward was offered. Each survey took approximately 15 minutes. These classes required community service in their course work. To fulfill their requirement, all students chose a specific service location and worked in the location as a group of 5-6 members for 5 weeks. Individually each worked a minimum of 15 hours. See Table 1 for a description of community service sites and student service responsibilities. Each site closely mirrored the diversity of its surrounding neighborhood in demographic composition— providing students with opportunities to work with adolescents, teenagers, and adults (including senior citizens), representing primarily African American, Hispanic, and Asian populations.

Upon completion of their community service, the students produced a group paper and presentation. The assignment required that students assess both the positive and negative consequences of community-service learning from the perspective of their field experiences and to draw upon course content in offering an assessment of the relative effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the communication processes operative at each site.

The first survey was conducted two weeks after the students were first divided into groups and before they started their community service. The second survey was conducted one week after they finished the community service. The participants indicated in the survey the extent of their agreement (1-5, 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree) with the following statements: (1) I can make difference in the community, (2) I have interacted with populations different from me extensively, (3) I feel comfortable interacting with populations different from my own, and (4) I’m very knowledgeable about diversity. The participants were also asked to define diversity in an open-ended format. The same set of questions was asked in the second survey.

Data Analysis 

Our data analysis involved both quantitative and qualitative methods. The quantitative method tested the statistical significance of the difference between pre- and post-test ratings related to participant perceptions and attitudes toward diversity. The qualitative analysis examined similarities and differences in terms of the participants’ conceptions of diversity over time by looking at how they defined diversity in narratives before and after they engaged in community service activities. Established qualitative procedures were used in analyzing student narrative responses (Berg, 1998; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Lindlof & Taylor, 2002; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The second author first conducted a line-by-line analysis of both pre- and post-test narratives. This analysis allowed the conceptual labeling of thematic contents that emerged from the data. Then, the second author grouped the responses in thematically discreet clusters that were identified from the line-by-line analysis. The third author then reviewed the clusters in order to ensure discreetness of content (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

Results: Quantitative Difference between Pre and Post Community Service 

The repeated measure of ANOVA was conducted with pre- and post-community service ratings as between-subject factors and various outcome measures as within-subject factors. The mean ratings of pre- and post-community service surveys are reported in Table 2.

As shown in the table, participants showed significant improvements over time in terms of their perceptions of their ability to make a difference in the community. The improvement in terms of the extent of interacting with different populations was not statistically significant, but was in the expected direction. These results indicate that students gained confidence in their ability to improve their communities, added to their knowledge about diversity, and felt more comfortable working with culturally diverse populations because of their community service.

Qualitative Differences Between Before and After Community Service 

When comparisons were made between pre- and post-test narrative responses, interesting thematic distinctions emerged. The distinctions may be grouped into three categories: (1) responses suggesting the positive acceptance of diversity; (2) responses suggesting the importance of interaction and convergence; and (3) responses suggesting the presence of similarity between the students themselves and the diverse populations with whom they interacted. In the pre-test responses 80% of the students consistently offered straightforward demographic reflections on what constitutes diversity. Consider an example; one student defined diversity in the following manner: “The differences people may have between them. These differences could include race, age, culture, religious views, etc.” Demographic descriptions of this sort were typical of most pre-test narrative responses. In the post-test responses, 30% of those surveyed provided the same demographic descriptions, but these denotative observations were followed by one of the three connotative descriptors referenced above– acceptance, interaction or similarity. Consider each thematic distinction and examples in Table 3.

Acceptance. In the first category, post-test definitions of diversity include not only a reflection on what constitutes diversity, but the suggestion that diversity creates a positive dynamic within a group context. In the sample responses, notice in particular the phrases “positive combination,” “positive atmosphere,” and “success as a whole.” Between the pre- and post-tests one can discern a shift from a definitional effort alone to making positive attribution within the context of each student’s perception of diversity.

Interaction. The second category of narrative responses allows us further insight into the development of student perceptions of diversity. Here the post-test responses, once again, went beyond the initial pre-test effort to define diversity, suggesting that the concept of diversity includes members of diverse groups interacting with one another. Notice in particular the phrases, “interacting with one another,” “interacting in one environment,” and “including and engaging.” Again, the denotative suggestion that diversity includes the behavioral dimension of interaction within the context of difference is meaningful.

Similarities. Finally, recall the arguments of Primavera (1999) and Simons and Cleary (2006) that community service facilitates perceived similarities between student volunteers and diverse community members. In our third category, student narrative responses clearly support earlier research efforts. Post-test definitions of diversity reference the presence of “similarity” in the midst of difference. Consider the phrases “having common similarity,” as well as “similarities and differences” present in student narrative responses. Narrative responses thus suggest a perceptual shift from definitions that stop at descriptions of difference alone, to definitions including the more proactive denotative themes of positive acceptance of, interaction among, and similarity or affiliation with members of diverse groups.

These themes reflect an important movement on the part of student definitions and understanding of diversity to difference. As noted earlier, while diversity tends to focus almost exclusively on the categorical divisions of others, difference focuses on both similarity and difference as dynamic principles of identity. The shift from conceptualizations of diversity to difference is an important one as students begin to recognize that no two persons are entirely different or entirely similar (Allen, 2004). These themes did not emerge in the narrative responses offered in the pre-test definitions.


Scholars have clearly demonstrated the relationship between community service participation and the increased cultural awareness that occurs among student participants in community service education. This investigation unpacks the notion of increased cultural awareness and allows further understanding pertaining to what increased sensitivity to diversity means from the point of view of a student volunteer.

One of the contributions of our study is a broader application of the concept of diversity to the literature of community-service learning. Previous research on diversity and community service-learning considered diversity primarily in terms of distinctions in racial, ethnic or socio-economic backgrounds (e.g., Jones & Hill, 2001). However, this investigation attempted to adopt a more comprehensive approach by conceptualizing diversity more broadly as “difference” (Allen, 2004). Our student participants were exposed to not only diverse ethnic groups in their service activities, but also different age groups (e.g., adolescents and seniors), physically challenged populations, and different residential environments. Given that our participants reported significant change in their attitude toward populations different from their own and more complex conceptualizations of diversity, the application of our results may be extended beyond racial or ethnic diversity.

Pre- and post-test survey responses suggested that participants experienced significant changes over time. Significant improvements occurred with regard to the volunteers’ perceived knowledge about diversity, their perceived capacity to make a difference in the community, and their increased level of comfort interacting with diverse populations.

While previous research demonstrates increased knowledge of diversity, and perceived similarities with diverse groups, the narrative responses in this investigation provide a heuristic complement to those conclusions–providing even further insight into what actually constitutes a change in terms of cultural sensitivity. The heightened knowledge of diversity reported by student volunteers could arguably influence the perceptions of similarity and positive acceptance of diversity reported in the narrative responses. But perhaps most importantly, by acknowledging that diversity includes the dynamic dimension of interaction and engagement within the context of their definitions, the narrative responses are also suggesting an interesting relationship between an attitudinal shift toward diversity and the potential for a behavioral shift as well.

Our study has a few limitations that need to be considered for generalizations of the results. First, student participants’ reports on their community service experiences were based on only 15 hours of their participation in one designated community service site. Although the logistical constraints are inevitable when the service-learning components are folded into course requirements, the short-term involvement in one specific service site certainly presents limitations in generalizing our findings to longer-term and more diverse service experiences. We speculate that a longer period of exposure to multiple communities may magnify the findings of the current study and may also reveal more nuanced or different types of conceptual changes about diversity besides “acceptance,” “interactions,” and “similarities” that we identified in this study.

Second, our study addressed only conceptual changes about diversity influenced by community involvement as part of a course requirement. Therefore, extending these findings to behavioral changes outside the classroom would be problematic. Conceptual changes about diversity would be more meaningful when they are directly linked to behavioral shifts in the future interactions with diverse populations. Future research needs to assess the impact of the conceptual shift on student willingness to participate in community service activities following required involvements in the classroom. Such research would provide not only further insights into what constitutes cultural sensitivity but also evidence to suggest the actual ways in which conceptual changes in cultural sensitivity are demonstrated by participants’ behavior in community service activities.

We are living in a contemporary “crisis of community” (Allen, 2004; Morton & Saltmarsh, 1997; Putnam, 2000). Service-learning affords the opportunity for experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together. More specifically, service-learning in contexts such as these small group communication courses can provide a context for students to shift their thinking about diversity and difference and to set the stage for building a stronger democracy through acceptance, interaction, and a focus on similarities beyond the classroom.

Service-learning and teaching are not the only academic functions that can benefit from civic engagement (Barker, 2004). There has been increased interdisciplinary attention paid, both in theory and practice, to the role of civic engagement as scholarship (Boyer, 1996; Barker, 2004; Van de Ven & Johnson, 2006). Engaged scholarship is often defined as a collaborative form of inquiry in which academics and community practitioners are said to “coproduce knowledge” to solve complex and compelling civic and community problems (Van de Ven & Johnson, 2006, p. 803). In doing so, engaged scholarship does not follow a standard, social scientific model for academic knowledge; it invites (and ultimately requires) a reciprocal relationship between civic practices and the production of knowledge. As Barker (2004) puts it, “the scholarship of engagement suggests a set of practices that cuts across all aspects of the traditional functions of higher education” (p. 126). Therefore, as engaged scholarship with a focus on service-learning and diversity, this work provides an important intersection among the often disparate academic areas of teaching and research with the practical and complex components of participating in a civic society.


Allen, B.J. (2004). Difference matters: Communicating social identity. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press

Applegate, J.L., & Morreale, S.P. (1999). Service-learning in communication: A natural partnership. In D. Droge and B.O. Murphy (Eds.), Voices of strong democracy: Concepts and models for service-learning in Communication Studies. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.

Astin, A., & Sax, L. (1998). How undergraduates are affected by service participation. Journal of College Student Development, 39, 251-263.

Barker, D. (2004). The scholarship of engagement: A taxonomy of five emerging practices. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 9, 123-137.

Berg, B.L. (1998). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences. Needham Heights, MA: Viacom.

Berger, P., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Boyer, E. (1996). The scholarship of engagement. Journal of Public Service and Outreach 1, 11–20.

Bringle, R.G., & Steinberg, K. (2010). Educating for informed community involvement. American Journal of Community Psychology, 46, 428-441.

DePaul University Newsroom (2010, August 19). DePaul University cited in numerous national higher education rankings. Retrieved February 22, 2012, from showNews.aspx?NID=2263.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Macmillan.

Dunlap, M. (1998). Voices of students in multicultural service-learning settings. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 5, 58-67.

Dunlap, M., Scoggin, J., Green, P., & Davi, A. (2007). White students’ experiences of privilege and socioeconomic disparities: Toward a theoretical model. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 13, 19-30.

Einfeld, A., & Collins, D. (2008). The relationships between service-learning, social justice, multicultural competence, and civic engagement. Journal of College Student Development, 49, 95-109.

Eyler, J., & Giles, D. E. (1999). Where is the learning in service learning?: Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Eyler, J., Giles, D.E., & Braxton, J. (1997). The impact of service-learning on college students. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 4, 5-15.

Foreman, C. (1996). Service-learning in the small group communication class. Paper presented at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association, San Diego, CA.

Giles, D., & Eyler, J. (1994). The impact of a college community service laboratory on students’ personal, social and cognitive outcomes. Journal of Adolescence, 17, 327-339.

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). Discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine.

Green, A.E. (2001). “But you aren’t white:” Racial perceptions and service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 8, 18-26

Hammond, C. (1994). Integrating service and academic study: Faculty motivation and satisfaction in Michigan higher education. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 1, 21-28.

Hunt, R. (2007). Service-learning: An eye-opening experience that provokes emotion and challenges stereotypes. Journal of Nursing Education, 46, 277-281.

Jahoda, G. (1992). Crossroads between culture and mind: continuities and change in theories of human nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Jones, S., & Hill, K. (2001). Crossing high street: Understanding diversity through community service learning. Journal of College Student Development, 42, 204-215.

Lindlof, T., & Taylor, B. (2002). Qualitative communication research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Mobley, C. (2007). Breaking ground: Engaging undergraduates in social change through service learning. Teaching Sociology, 35, 125-137.

Moely, B., McFarland, M., Miron, D., Mercer, S., & Ilustre, V. (2002). Changes in college students’ attitudes and intentions for civic involvement as a function of service-learning experiences. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 9, 18-26.

Morton, K., & Saltmarsh, J. (1997). Addams, Day, and Dewey: The emergence of community service in American culture. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 4, 137-149.

O’Brien, E. (1993). Outside the classroom: Students as employees, volunteers, and interns. Research Briefs. American Council on Education 4.

Osborne, R.E., Hammerich, S., & Hensley, C. (1998). Student effects of service-learning: tracking change across as semester. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 5, 5-13.

Pleasants, R., Stephens, K.R., & Selph, H. (2004). Incorporating service learning into leadership education: Duke TIP’s Leadership Institute. Gifted Child Today, 27, 16-21.

Primavera, J. (1999). The unintended consequences of volunteerism: positive outcomes for those who serve. Journal of Prevention and Intervention, 18, 125-140.

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Putnam, L.L., & Stohl, C. (1994). Bona fide groups: An alternative perspective for communication and small group decision making. In R. Y. Hirokawa and M. S. Poole (Eds.), Communication and group decision making (2nd edition, pp. 147-178). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Scales, P.C., & Blythe, D.A. (1997). Effects of service learning on youth: What we know and what we need to know. Generator, Winter.

Simons, L., & Cleary, B. (2006). The influence of service learning on students’ personal and social development. College Teaching, 54, 307-319.

Stafford, J., Boyd, B., & Lindner, J. (2003). The effects of service learning on leadership life skills of 4-H members. Journal of Agricultural Education, 44, 10- 21.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Wilson, A.E., Allen, J.W., Strahan, E.J., & Etheir, N. (2008). Getting involved: Testing the effectiveness of a volunteering intervention on young adolescents’ future intentions. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 18, 630-637.

Van de Ven, A.H., & Johnson, P.E. (2006). Knowledge for theory and practice. Academy of Management Review, 31, 802–821.

Yelsma, P. (1999). Small group problem solving as academic service-learning. In D. Droge and B.O. Murphy (Eds.), Voices of strong democracy: Concepts and models for service-learning in Communication Studies. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.

Youniss, J., & Yates, M. (1997). Community service and social responsibility in youth. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

About the Authors 

Kay Yoon is an assistant professor, Donald Martin is a professor, and Alexandra Murphy is an associate professor—all in the College of Communication at DePaul University.

A Community Deliberative Polling Event: The Economic Impact of Walmart

Christopher Latimer, Karen Hempson, and J. Richard Kendrick, Jr.



This article presents the results of a deliberative poll in which members from the local community and college students from SUNY Cortland discussed the economic impact of Walmart on a small town. We review the literature concerning deliberative polling and describe the process of the deliberative polling event. Our examination of the data focuses on net changes in the participants’ opinions and gross changes in the participants’ opinions. We discuss the trends and implications of the opinion shifts and outline future research. The results illustrate that the process of deliberation affects changes in attitude items at both the individual and group level.

Social and political apathy affects both students and the broader society. Putnam (1993) contends that this phenomenon is connected to a decline in social capital, which he defines as “the features of social organization such as networks, norms, and trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit”(p. 36). Putnam thinks that citizenship is affected by social capital. Moreover, involvement in civic life has been connected to lower absenteeism and reduced apathy. Social capital theory assumes that engagement on any level will enhance social trust and efficacy in citizenship, thereby strengthening democracy.

Since the 1980s, a number of methods for involving citizens and making their voices heard have been advanced. These include focus groups (Kreuger & Casey, 2000; Morris, 1999; Morrison, 2003); citizen juries (Coote & Lenhaglan, 1997; Smith & Wales, 2000; Niemeyer & Blamey, 2003); planning cells (Renn et al., 1984, 1993); citizen panels (Kathlene & Martin, 1991; Bowie et al., 1995), and consensus conferences (Einseidel, 2002; Andersen & Jaeger, 1999).

Another approach used for involving citizens by providing them a public forum for discussion is the deliberative poll. The deliberative poll is different from other methods because it allows for estimating informed opinion while retaining the possibility of generalization to the overall population through random sampling (Fishkin, 1991, 1995, 1997; Ackerman & Fishkin, 2002; Hough & Park, 2002; Hansen & Anderson, 2004; Luskin, Fishkin, & Jowell, 2002). This article presents the findings from a deliberative polling event at SUNY Cortland.

The deliberative polling method attempts to combine the depth of a qualitative analysis with the generalizability of a representative poll. Where decisions are being made without proper information, we might reasonably expect that these decisions may not entirely reflect an individual’s “true” interests. Some argue that the problem of an uninformed public and disengagement could be remedied through deliberation. As James Fishkin et al. (2000) contend:

While there is disagreement about how much lack of information and interest affects people’s views [and engagement], it is possible that preferences would be noticeably different if everyone was more knowledgeable about, attentive to, and reflexive about the issues involved. In deliberating, it is hoped that citizens will develop informed, or more reflective, preferences than would otherwise be the case (p. 657).

Those participating in a deliberative poll may shift from a position of ignorance and/or disengagement to a position of measured opinion and/or civic engagement. Fishkin argues that contemporary democracies fail to provide ordinary citizens with a means to have their voices heard. As a result, individuals believe that being informed and engaged have no utility for them. This is known as rational ignorance (Converse, Miller, & Stokes, 1960). Participation in a deliberative poll may reduce the impact of an individual’s rational ignorance by providing them with the incentive and opportunity to think about important policy issues and engage in a process that values their opinions.

The basic design of a deliberative poll includes contacting, inviting, and polling a representative sample to attend a one- or two-day deliberative polling event at a common location. Participants are then provided with carefully balanced briefing materials laying out the major arguments for and against a given set of policy proposals, policy related issues, or electoral alternatives. The participants engage in dialogue with experts and decision makers based on questions they develop in small groups with trained unbiased moderators. After the deliberations, the sample is once more provided the original questions. The consequential changes in opinion signify the conclusions the general public would reach if they had an opportunity to discuss an issue, engage with alternative points of view, and become more informed.

The goal of this project was to determine if deliberation would have any impact on participants’ opinions, regardless of whether they started from a positive or negative view of the selected issue. Increased deliberation affords a unique insight into what might be a better understanding of what people are actually thinking and feeling. The investigation of the polling event in Cortland, New York, reveals that the process of deliberation affects changes in knowledge and attitude items at both the individual and aggregate levels. This analysis includes a review of the deliberative polling literature, an explanation of our hypotheses and methodology, an examination of the data, including net changes in the participants’ opinions and gross changes in the participants’ opinions, and finally a discussion of the implications for engagement.

Literature Review 

There is a considerable body of research that attempts to assess the extent to which an individual’s opinion would differ if that person were given time to inquire about the subject matter and given information about the topic.

Deliberative Polls 

Through a number of deliberative polling events, Fishkin et al. (2000) have found that, following participation in such exercises, people are stimulated to learn more about politics and that opinion shifting is common. Luskin, Fishkin, and Jowell (2002) compiled a national probability sample of 301 British subjects who met for the world’s first deliberative poll. The deliberation focused on the root causes of crime, policing, punishment, and procedural rights, covering matters such as the rights of the accused, those of victims and the citizenry in general, as well as juvenile matters. By the conclusion of the event, participants increased their support for sending fewer criminals to prison, relaxing sentences for juvenile offenders, and alternative sentencing models for those deemed a lesser risk to society. The premise upon which such events are organized is that the resulting deliberated opinions will be more considered as a consequence of increased interest in the issues, increases in knowledge, the exposure to multiple arguments and points of view, and more careful reflection.

Hough and Park (2002) found that information and dialogue could generate important shifts in attitudes about the best ways of controlling crime. The changes they discovered were all in the identical direction, relating to a decrease in support for stronger measures such as imprisonment as a response to crime and greater support for rehabilitation. It is not unexpected that there was a quantifiable change in attitudes directly after the weekend seminar. For example, 35 percent of participants initially thought that “sending more offenders to prison” would be a very efficient way of lowering the crime rate. After the weekend, only 20 percent took this view. What is surprising is that opinion change seems to be long lasting. While 50 percent initially thought that “stiffer sentences generally” would be a very effective way of reducing crime, when followed up 10 months later only 36 percent thought the same. Support for community penalties was originally quite high and remained largely unchanged. Not all people adopted more liberal views after the event; some adopted tougher views. In general, people adopted less extreme views after the event, with a net shift in a liberal direction.

Hansen and Anderson (2004) studied the results from the Danish National deliberative poll on the single currency with a representative group of 364 Danish citizens. Between 7 and 28 percent of the participants changed their viewpoint on a number of issues related to the single currency. Before participating in the deliberative poll, 45 percent of the participants indicated that they would vote yes, 37 percent no, and 18 percent did not take a stand. At the conclusion of the poll, 51 percent revealed they would vote yes, 40 percent no, and just 9 percent had not made up their minds. The participants’ answers reveal a deliberative procedure dominated by considerable changes in opinion, an increase in knowledge, and an improved ability to form a reasoned opinion.


This analysis adds to the research concerning deliberative democracy and opinion formation. It is important to emphasize that only attitude change of some kind is predicted, rather than change in any specific direction. The theory is that the involvement of such an event will move participants from a position of ignorance and disengagement to a position of considered opinion and engagement.

H1: Participant opinions concerning the economic implications of Walmart on a small town will have a net change after deliberation on the issues.

H2: Participant opinions concerning the economic implications of Walmart on a small town will have a gross change after deliberation on the issues.


This study presents evidence from a deliberative polling event that took place at SUNY Cortland. The all-day event started at 8 a.m. and concluded at 4 p.m. Our limited budget prevented us from hosting the event for two days. The issue selected was the economic impact of a Walmart on a small town. This is particularly relevant for Cortland County as it is an economically depressed area.

Of the 76 student and community participants who attended the event, 44.7 percent were men and 55.3 percent were women; 36.8 percent were 25 years old or younger, 13.2 percent were between the ages of 26 and 40, 23.7 percent were between the ages of 41 and 55, and 26.3 percent were 56 or older. The racial makeup of participants was 96.1 percent Caucasian, 2.6 percent African-American, and 1.3 percent Native American. The income distribution for 76 participants revealed that 25 percent of participants make less than $10,000 per year, 18.4 percent make between $10,001 and $19,999, 23.6 percent make between $20,000 and $34,999, 17.1 percent make between $35,000 and $49,999, 11.8 percent make between $50,000 and $64,999, and 2.6 percent make more than $65,000 a year. The sample of participants closely reflects the demographic characteristics of Cortland.

Participants and Design 

The sampling process followed a two-stage probability design consisting of all individuals within Cortland County and all members of the SUNY Cortland student body. Volunteer students reading from a prepared script used a residential phone book covering Cortland County and called every eighth name listed. A separate college list including students was used with the understanding that this method would have the potential of selecting members of the college community who also lived locally twice. We chose every eighth name on this list as well.

One thousand forty-eight community members and students were contacted for the deliberative polling event. Of those, two hundred seven indicated that they were interested in attending. The pre-deliberation survey was given to those individuals prior to the event and they were required to bring the pre-surveys back to the event. We followed up the phone call with an additional letter and/or email reminding them of the date and time of the event. The morning of the event, the organizers received 22 phone calls from individuals informing them of their inability to attend. A total of 76 participants completed both the pre- and post-surveys for a response rate of approximately 36.7 percent (based on the number who had originally committed to attend). The lower than anticipated turnout was due, in part, to the weather. The day we held our deliberative polling event was an unusually warm and sunny early spring day in Central New York, an area noted for its long, cold, snowy winters.

Materials and Procedure 

The briefing materials provided to participants were drafted and reviewed by a panel of four faculty members from the university. The focus of the materials was information about the possible economic impacts of a Walmart store on a local economy as well as the public policies associated with this topic. The small group moderators were trained a week before the event and included faculty, staff, and members of the community. There was a six-member panel of experts, including three members of the faculty, town council members, local business people, and the mayor of Cortland.

On the day of the event, participants registered, signed the informed consent document, and then were randomly assigned to a small-group. Nine small groups contained 8-10 participants plus the moderator. The deliberations included a 60-minute small group session, a preliminary 30-minute opening session with welcome remarks by the President of the University and instructions for the day, and a 60-minute plenary session with the expert panels fielding questions, followed by a 60-minute lunch break, and another 60-minute plenary session with experts answering the remaining questions from the small groups. At the conclusion of the second plenary, the participants filled out the post survey.

The Data 

The survey instrument included 38 economic-based questions concerning Walmart. The breakdown of the questions was as follows: 11 questions concerning workers; 9 questions concerning prices; 10 questions concerning Walmart’s impact on other businesses and taxes; and 8 questions concerning economically related public policy questions and issues related to big box stores. We hoped that the number of total questions would provide a stronger incentive for participants to complete the survey. An incentives drawing was included as part of the event to increase participation. We had a number of items such as electronic equipment and items donated from the college store that were given away at the end of the event. The incentives giveaway did not begin until the moderators collected all of the surveys from each group.

A 5-point Likert scale was used to measure participants’ opinions. Likert scale items are most often used to investigate how respondents rate a series of statements by having them circle or otherwise mark numbered categories. Our scale was as follows: 1 (strongly agree), 2 (agree somewhat), 3 (don’t know), 4 (disagree somewhat), and 5 (strongly disagree). The inclusion of “don’t know” within a basic Likert scale makes an implicit acknowledgment that not all respondents will have a position or the knowledge to respond appropriately. It seemed appropriate to use don’t know for this project as we knew that not all of the participants would have formed opinions on some of the questions included in our survey.

We first analyzed our data to examine net changes in pre-survey and post-survey responses using a paired samples t-test to examine differences in mean scores. Our results are discussed below in the next section. In order to more finely differentiate types of change, we coded each pair of responses (pre-test and post-test) for each participant on each variable according to whether or not their responses indicated no change in position, a change in at least one level or degree, a change into or out of neutral (the “don’t know” category), or a change of side. For each recomputed variable, we ran a frequency distribution to analyze the percentage of respondents who exhibited no change, a change in at least one level, a change into or out of neutral, or a change in side. As a test of statistical significance, we used the chi-square test for frequency distributions.

Results: Net Change 

Following the analysis of Luskin et al. (2002), we evaluated change on two broad dimensions: net change and gross change. Net change is simply the difference between pre and post deliberation means, aggregated across individuals. These changes may be positive or negative; we were interested in magnitude of the absolute net change. By these criteria, the Walmart deliberative polling project seemed effective. The opportunity for discussion, reflection, and additional information had an impact on participants’ opinions. On nearly half of the survey items, opinions underwent statistically significant change. Table 1 presents the means, before and after participation, of the participants’ positions on every survey item, including the p-value from a paired comparison test of the significance of the differences in means. Of the 38 items, 16, or 42.1 percent, showed statistically significant change at the 0.05 level or above.

Results: Gross Change 

To get a more accurate picture of opinion change, we calculated the gross opinion change of the participants. Gross opinion change is computed in several ways. One measure of gross changes examines the percentage of the participants who changed position on the five-point scales. This measure includes any individual who moves either way on the 5-point Likert scale for a particular item to any degree at all (including moving even one position from strongly agree to agree, for example). The second measure of gross change examines the percentage of participants who change sides or who move from “neutral” to any level of agreement or disagreement with a particular item. The third measure of gross change is the percentage of participants who changed sides completely, and it does not include those who moved from neutral. Percentages of those who exhibit change on the first dimension of gross change will be higher than that of those who exhibit change on the second or third dimensions of gross change (Luskin et al, 2002). In other words, the measure of the third dimension for gross change—change in position, disregarding movement from neutral—is the most conservative measure. The measure of the first dimension, any change at all, is the most liberal. Table 2 presents several measures of gross change.


We hypothesized that participation in a deliberative polling event would be associated with a shift in attitudes and an increase in general knowledge about the subject. The observation of the net and gross attitude change of participants’ opinions would seem to support the theory of deliberative polling concerning the effect of more informed opinions. Our event was smaller than the national events that have taken place over the past twenty years. Yet, this more local focus allowed us to reduce our operational and economic costs, thereby, increasing the likelihood of a successful deliberative polling event.

The data illustrates significant opinion change by participants. In terms of net change, sixteen out of thirty-eight questions or 42.1 percent demonstrated statistically significant change at the 0.05 level or above. And while many of the changes in opinion may have cancelled each other out, we determined that overall 72.6 percent of the respondents changed position on at least one variable, that at least 63% of the respondents percent changed sides on at least one variable (including movement to and from the neutral category), and that 30.1% percent changed sides completely (excluding movement to and from the neutral category) on at least one variable.

Net Change 

The trends concerning the magnitude of net change in opinions about Walmart reflect a mixed bag with a slight majority of questions moving in a positive direction in support of Walmart. Of the 16 questions that demonstrated a statistically significant change, 10 were more negative toward Walmart and six were more positive. The questions dealing with impact on business and prices reflected a positive trend about Walmart, while the responses to the impact on workers and policy questions tended to be more negative. Why these particular changes in opinion? We can offer a few impressions, based on firsthand observations of the event.

Concerning the impact on businesses, three of the seven questions demonstrated statistically significant net change with two of the three questions shifting in favor of Walmart. With respect to whether Walmart “attracts new business to the area,” one of our experts, the Mayor of Cortland, discussed in great detail that Panera Bread, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Lowe’s had agreed to establish themselves in Cortland if the Walmart project was approved. The Mayor also mentioned a study that the town commissioned which supported the claim that Walmart “generates a larger customer base for business” because individuals from outside Cortland County would travel to Cortland if Walmart was approved. There was also a slight shift in a positive direction for the issue “promotes growth in non growth communities.” The one question which shifted negative was the “impact of bulk purchasing” on other businesses in the area. Participants thought that existing stores would be at a disadvantage, as they had not usually offered many products for bulk purchase to save consumers’ money.

Of the four statistically significant questions concerning prices, three moved in a positive direction in support of Walmart. They included “impacts competitor’s prices,” “prices allow me to buy products I usually can’t afford,” and “brings international goods to customers.” Responses to one question moved in a negative direction, “raises the cost of living for consumers.” Of the three statistically significant questions concerning impact on business, two tended toward the positive, “attracts new business to the area” and “generates a larger customer base for business.” It appears from the data that participants’ positive opinions concerning Walmart and prices were strengthened as a result of the event and they were not as concerned about businesses that were already in Cortland.

The most significant positive shift in opinions related to prices. There was a shift for participants toward Walmart having a positive impact on competitors’ pricing, which is related to the ability of individuals to afford products that they may not usually be able to afford. The ability to afford products that would usually be considered out of range may have also influenced the question concerning cost of living. On the other hand, we noted a shift in position on “Walmart raises the cost of living for consumers” toward neutral, consistent with the shift toward agree on “Pricing leads to less competition.” Perhaps respondents recognize an immediate effect of lower prices, but a longer-term effect of higher ones if competition is diminished.

The starting positive position concerning prices may be due in part to Walmart’s marketing campaign. The “Always Low Prices” slogan was used by Walmart for 19 years and their estimated marketing budget is approximately $570 million dollars a year (Helm, 2006). Walmart has a very powerful marketing campaign that seems to have influenced the participants to some extent. Certainly the small-group discussions as well as the expert responses played some part in the overall shift of opinions.

The impact on workers section demonstrated a negative shift of opinions including “provides an increase in jobs,” “supports unions,” and “contributes to the export of jobs.” Only two of the five statistically significant questions reflected a positive trend with “treats workers fairly” and “provides more jobs for people with disabilities.” Two of the experts addressed Walmart’s exclusion of unions in response to a small-group question. There was a brief discussion about outsourcing jobs due to the increase in trade with China. Even though the Mayor of Cortland explained that new businesses had already agreed to open in Cortland, an opposing expert explained that Walmart would diminish the capacity of local businesses to employ workers leading to a net decrease in jobs. The result of the conversation was that overall job creation would not offset job loss, leaving a typical town with a net loss of jobs.

A specific question developed by one of the small-groups dealt with unions. The experts responded that Walmart does not have a union but allows workers to buy into the company with shares of stock. One statistical hint of the impact of this discussion may be seen in Table 1 in the increased negativity of participants believing that jobs were more likely to be exported overseas again leading to an overall net loss for a town. This result was not surprising given the questions asked during the plenary session focused on job creation and whether Walmart salaries were comparable to other box stores in the area. The economic downturn and loss of jobs locally may also have impacted participants’ opinions concerning middle-class workers in general. Although they do not seem to believe that Walmart creates jobs overall, neither do they seem to believe that Walmart causes net economic harm for a particular community. This may be due to the belief that the impact of Walmart on the economy of their community as a whole is positive by bringing in new business and offering lower prices.

It is important that deliberative polling also impact participants’ policy preferences. This should be the result of most deliberative polling events or these results would be revealing no more than what ordinary polling provides. The four policy questions that demonstrated a statistically significant negative response toward Walmart included “department stores should be regulated,” “the number of department stores should be limited,” “the government should establish store design guidelines,” and “communities should be able to vote on whether Walmart should be allowed.” Even though there were more positive statistically significant changes overall, all four statistically significant policy questions were negative. We were surprised by this result and are not completely convinced that this is due to the plenary session discussion.

At the same time, the deliberative experience had very little impact on participants’ policy preferences concerning the minimum wage and providing health care. As there was little to no discussion of these questions, it would make sense that opinions did not shift on these issues. The lack of change on these questions, coupled with the statistically significant changes on questions related to Walmart is consistent with our hypothesis that deliberative polling accounts for shifts in opinion. And on the items directly related to workers, there was limited opinion change concerning the treatment of workers in relation to other box stores, providing jobs with career tracks, and paying workers a living wage. On the questions concerning prices, there was also not much movement about prices at Walmart being generally fair, participants shopping at Walmart due to their prices, and consumers benefiting from the stores’ retailing system. In terms of impact of a Walmart on taxes, there was limited change in response to the questions regarding increases in the tax base of a town and benefits to individual taxpayers. All things considered, however, the overall net changes were still relatively significant.

Gross Change 

As with net change, gross change included some noticeable variations. Proposals dealing with wages and health care see relatively little gross change. This result might be expected of issues that were not addressed by the deliberative polling discussion. Another question with a lower percentage of participants changing position was Walmart “provides products at a lower price.” This is not unexpected as there might be a psychological reason for the response to this question. Once a shopper enters Walmart and notices those lower price point items, they might form the opinion that everything in the store is the lowest price in the area. This perception is reinforced with a media campaign blitz that reemphasizes this point to the consumer. Taken together, it is not surprising that participants believe that Walmart provides consumers with products at a lower price. In contrast, questions relating to the impact on workers and impact on businesses show particularly widespread gross change. Perhaps these are two areas where pre-deliberation attitudes were not as solidified and participants’ attitudes were more subject to change.

The number of participants who changed their position is between 35 and 73 percent. The percentage changing sides runs in the 11-60 percent range. The percentage of those participants changing side completely was between 3 and 30 percent. As with net change, there are some noticeable variations across policy topics. Concerning those participants who changed side completely, five out of the ten lowest percentages were found in the public policy section. On the question asking whether the “government should increase the minimum wage,” only 2.7 percent changed their position completely. Regarding the question as to communities being able to vote on whether Walmart should be allowed, 4.1 percent changed sides completely on the scale provided. And concerning the question whether the “government should pass legislation for universal health care coverage,” 4.2 percent changed sides completely.

As Luskin et al. (2002) point out, when examining gross changes, particularly those involving changing sides completely, percentages that are in the “mid-to-high single digits are impressive … and those in the twenties are astonishing” (p. 472). Those questions on which more than 20 percent of the participants changed sides (whether from the agree to the disagree range or vice versa) included, “provides an increase in jobs,” “provides jobs with career tracks,” “I shop at Walmart because of the prices,” “generates a larger customer base for business,” “draws people to the community,” “negatively impacts small business,” and “department stores should be regulated.” Of those questions, respondents tended to move from the disagree to the agree range on the variables, “I shop at Walmart because of the prices,” “generates a larger customer base for business,” “draws people to the community,” “negatively impacts small business,” and “department stores should be regulated.” Respondents tended to move from agree to disagree on the variables, “provides an increase in jobs” and “provides jobs with career tracks.” Table 2 summarizes statistically significant net changes.

There were also a number of issues where the percentage of participants who changed sides completely was statistically significant. On an issue related to workers, “provides an increase in jobs,” 30.1 percent of participants changed sides completely. The opinion shift was moving in a negative direction on this issue, weakening support for Walmart. Slightly more than 24% of participants changed sides completely about whether Walmart negatively impacts small businesses. Overall, the participants were moving in a more positive direction in response to this issue, although the mean responses mask changes in sides that could have canceled each other out. And 26.4 percent of participants changed sides completely on whether department stores should be regulated. The shift in opinion for this issue was stronger in terms of allowing the government to regulate these types of box stores. Each of these issues represents a significant shift of opinions.


There is disagreement about the efficacy of the deliberative poll as a proper research tool. It is important to note that scholars question the ability of a deliberative poll to stimulate true deliberative dialogue (Hart & Jarvis, 1999; Tringali, 1996), while others in the field have questioned the basic premise that deliberation provides the optimal format to study social outcomes (Mendelberg, 2002; Sanders, 1997).

Denver et al. (1995) in their study of one type of deliberative opinion poll found no evidence that deliberation significantly affected the quality and nature of participants’ beliefs and understanding about the issues discussed. This limitation as applied to this study is addressed in more detail under future research. They also found that participants’ knowledge of certain political “facts” had actually decreased. While the knowledge effects of deliberation are an important aspect of the arguments offered for deliberative democracy, the evidence of knowledge gains is not yet conclusive and should continue to be analyzed.

There were a number of potential limitations with our study. First, one of the common criticisms of deliberative polling is the amount of time and money necessary to successfully organize such an event. Even though we were able to save money by using local resources for the event, cost was still an issue. For example, we had to rely on volunteers to make up the expert panels. Because this issue has been debated locally, we were able to utilize local faculty members and elected officials as experts and moderators. We did, however, have a cancellation without much notice and were scrambling to find a replacement to make sure both positions were represented.

Another possible limitation concerns the reliance on the use of experts to provide information for the deliberative dialogue for the participants. In our case, we used local experts—members of the faculty at SUNY Cortland, area business people, and local politicians knowledgeable about the issue. The philosophy of the deliberative polling process is that “experts” are defined in as neutral a way as possible and the information they deliver should be factually based to aid in rational decision-making. Yet, there are clearly problems with this process. First of all, the mere fact of labeling someone an “expert” (and someone else as “not expert”) shapes how that individual’s information is received by an audience. Calling someone an expert may turn them into someone perceived to be an expert, regardless of the quality of the information that they may be presenting. Second, the personalities of the experts had a tremendous range. We had several academics who were much more reserved than other presenters, and we had several politicians who were very outgoing. Even with a moderator and a platform that included an equal amount of time to respond, it is possible that the more extroverted experts could have a slightly greater impact due to their presentation style. In addition, those speaking favorably about Walmart were fairly well known public figures in the community. Those speaking on the other side of the issue were not as well known. It is difficult, if not impossible, to perfectly balance a panel in terms of knowledge of an issue and skill at presenting one’s arguments. At the same time, labeling someone as an expert gives weight to their testimony that may not be deserved. The audience is still left to sort out which “facts” they will believe and which ones they will ignore.

Finally, the format of the deliberative polling event has been characterized as a “quasi-experiment” because it lacks the full investigational control characteristic of a laboratory experiment and because it lacks a true randomly assigned control group. The first limitation is inevitable given the setting and time treatment period. The inability to exclude extraneous influences is largely shared by all field experiments, but the deliberative polling process includes a number of elements such as the unbiased moderator and balanced briefing materials which hopefully minimize this potential problem. As for the second limitation, our deliberative polling event had a small attrition rate from those individuals who agreed to participate during the initial interview to those individuals who decided to participate. This may be explained by the smaller scope of our event. The limitations of a deliberative poll should continue to be evaluated in light of the purpose of each project and weighed against the strengths and weaknesses and costs of the available research options for the purpose at hand.

Future Research 

There are a number of questions that this project does not address that should be examined for future research. One theoretical question concerns how much of the event’s impact stems from gains in information versus increased contemplation. The questions we have to ask ourselves: are new or changed viewpoints accounted for by simply providing greater attention to the particular policy or issue presented? Do opinions shift by the mere fact of offering time for individuals to think about them? Even without acquiring more information about the economic impacts of Walmart, some participants may view the alternatives through different eyes due to different standards or to think harder about them and thus to see more clearly through the same eyes.

Another question would be to determine whether changes in opinion were derived from the briefing materials, the discussion in their small groups, and/or the plenary session in which questions were answered by the experts. It would also be interesting to determine whether changes in opinion were based on participant’s demographic characteristics such as their political affiliation or gender. Future deliberative polling events might collect data which attempt to better understand these possible influences (and further analysis of our own data might shed light on these questions as well).

One final area for further research might concern the longevity of these changing opinions or whether participants revert back because of the re-introduction of friends and family. A deliberative polling event in the future might re-poll the participants six months to a year after the initial event to determine whether or not their opinions remained the same or reverted back to their initial positions. This could help us to better understand the participants who were more or less susceptible to change during the event.


The general insight provided by this project is that deliberative polling can be a successful device for increasing the awareness and understanding of the economic impacts of Walmart amid a somewhat diverse number of participants. Our experience has shown that universities are valuable forums for these types of events, as resources can be assembled cheaply and quickly with experts and moderators such as professors, local politicians and administrators. The process of deliberation allows participants to become more informed, to realize its aptitude to solve public problems, to become engaged, to make a decision based on the virtues of an issue rather than on media sound bytes.

This deliberative polling event demonstrated that exposure to information and allowing for open discussion concerning an issue led to opinion change. Citizens who were directly involved with the deliberation were stimulated by the both the small-group and plenary session discussions. Many expressed the fact that they operated under misconceptions about Walmart, and felt that they learned a lot. At the end of the last plenary session, there was an apparent connection made between the participants. They felt comfortable in their new role as citizens deliberating on a given topic, asking key questions, and formulating new opinions.


Ackerman, J., & Fishkin, J. (2004). Deliberation day. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Althaus, S. (2003). Collective preferences in Democratic politics: Opinion surveys and the will of the people. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Andersen, I. E., & Jaeger, B. (1999). Scenario workshops and consensus conferences: Toward more Democratic decision-making. Science and Public Policy, 26(5), 331-340.

Beck, K.H., & Bargman, C.J. (1993). Investigating Hispanic adolescent involvement with alcohol: A focus group interview approach. Health Education Research, 8(2), 151-158.

Bennett, S.E., Flickinger, R.S., & Rhine, S.L. (2000). Political talk over here, over there, over time. British Journal of Political Science, 30, 99-119.

Bowie, C., Richardson, A., & Sykes, W. (1995). Consulting the public about health service priorities. British Medical Journal, 311, 1155-1158.

Cooke, M. (2000). Five arguments for deliberative democracy. Political Studies, 48, 947-969.

Campbell, A., Converse, P., Miller, W., & Stokes, D. (1960). The American voter. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.

Crandall, C., Eshleman, A., & O’Brien, L. (2002). Social norms and the expression and suppression of prejudice: The struggle for internalization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 359-378.

Denver, D., Hands, G., & Jones, B. (1995). Fishkin and the deliberative opinion poll: Lessons from a study of the Granada 500 television programme. Political Communication, 12(2), 147-156.

Eveland, W.P. (2004). The effect of political discussion in producing informed citizens: The role of information, motivation, and elaboration. Political Communication, 21(2), 177-193.

Fishkin, J. (1991). Democracy and deliberation: New directions for democratic reform. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Fishkin, J. (1997). The voice of the people: Public opinion and democracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Fishkin, J, & Luskin, R.C. (1999). Bringing deliberation to the democratic dialogue. In M. McCombs & A. Reynolds (Eds.), The poll with a human face: The national issues convention experiment in political communication, pp. 59-84. Inglewood Cliffs, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Fishkin, J., Luskin, R.C., & Jowell, R. (2000). Deliberative polling and public consultation. Parliamentary Affairs, 53, 657-666.

Fishkin, J., Luskin, R., & Jowell, R. (2002). Considered opinions: Deliberative polling in Britain. British Journal of Political Science, 32, 455-487.

Gastil, J., & Dillard, J.P. (1999). Increasing political sophistication through public deliberation. Political Communication, 16(1), 3-23.

Gordon, S.B., & Segura, G.M. (1997). Cross-national variation in the political sophistication of individuals: Capability or choice?. Journal of Politics, 59(1), 126-147.

Gutmann, A., & Thompson, D. (1996). Democracy and disagreement. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Helm, B. (October 9, 2006). Wal-Mart, please don’t leave me. Business Week, p. 84.

Hansen, K.M., & Andersen, V.N. (2004). Deliberative democracy and the deliberative poll on the Euro. Scandinavian Political Studies, 27(3), 261-286.

Hart, R., & Jarvis, S. (1999). We the people: The contours of lay political discourse. In M. McCombs & A. Reynolds (Eds.), The poll with a human face: The national issues convention experiment in political communication, pp. 59-84. Inglewood Cliffs, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hough, M., & Park, A. (2002). How malleable are public attitudes to crime and punishment? In J. Roberts & M. Hough (Eds.), Changing attitudes to punishment: Public opinion crime and justice, pp. 163- 183. Collompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.’

King, C. S., Feltey, K.M., & Susel, B.O. (1998). The question of participation: Toward authentic public participation in public administration. Public Administration Review, 58(4), 317-326.

Krueger, R.A., & Casey, M.A. (2000). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Lyn, K., & Martin, J.A. (1991). Enhanced citizen participation: Panel designs, perspectives, and policy formation. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 10(1), 46-63.

Mendelberg, T. (2002). The deliberative citizen: Theory and evidence. In M. Delli Carpini, L. Huddy, & R.Y. Shapiro (Eds.), Research in micropolitics, (pp. 151-193). New York, NY: Elsevier Press.

Merkle, D.M. (1996). Review: The national issues convention deliberative poll. Public Opinion Quarterly, 60(4), 588-619.

Morris, D. (1999). Behind the Oval Office: Getting re-elected against all odds. Los Angeles CA: Renaissance Books.

Morrison, D.E. (2003). Good and bad practice in focus group research. In V. Nightingale & K. Ross (Eds.), Critical readings: Media and audiences, pp. 59- 84. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Mutz, D. (2002). Cross-cutting social networks: Testing democratic theory in practice. American Political Science Review, 96(2), 111-126.

Neijens, P.C. (1987). The choice questionnaire: Design and evaluation of an instrument for collecting informed opinions of a population. Amsterdam: Free University Press.

Neijens, P.C., De Ridder, J.A., & Saris, W.E. (1992). An instrument for collecting informed opinions. Quality and Quantity, 26, 245-258.

Price, V., & Neijens, P. (1998). Deliberative polls—Toward improved measures of informed public-opinion. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 10(2), 145-176.

Purnam, R. (1993). The prosperous community: Social capital and community life. The American Prospect, 13, 35-42. 

Renn, O., Webler, T., Rakel, H., Dienel, P., & Johnson, B. (1993). Public participation in decision-making: A three-step procedure. Policy Studies, 26, 189-214.

Smith, G. & Wales, C. (2000). Citizen juries and deliberative democracy. Political Studies, 48, 51-65.

About the Authors 

Christopher Latimer is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and associate director of the Institute of Civic Engagement; Karen Hempson is Lecturer II in the Childhood Education Department; and Richard Kendrick is a professor in the Sociology/Anthropology Department and founding director of the Institute for Civic Engagement—all at the State University of New York at Cortland.


Publisher Samory T. Pruitt Vice President for Community Affairs The University of Alabama
Editor Cassandra E. Simon The University of Alabama
Production Editor Edward Mullins The University of Alabama
Editorial Assistant Jessica Averitt Taylor The University of Alabama
Editorial Intern Brett Bralley The University of Alabama
Design Intern Antonio Rogers The University of Alabama

The Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship is published at The University of Alabama by the Office of Community Affairs for the advancement of engagement scholarship worldwide. To reach the editor e-mail or call 205-348- 7392. The NASA infrared image on the cover is of Hurricane Katrina as it approached the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Marsha H. Adams, The University of Alabama Jay Lamar, Auburn University
Andrea Adolph, Kent State University Stark Campus Hal A. Lawson, The University at Albany, State University of New York
Katrice A. Albert, Louisiana State University James Leeper, The University of Alabama
Theodore R. Alter, Penn State University Robert C. Liebman, Portland State University
Robert E. Bardon, North Carolina State University Marybeth Lima, Louisiana State University
Anna Sims Bartel, Bates College Hildy L. Miller, Portland State University
Delicia Carey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert L. Miller, Jr., The University at Albany, State University of New York
James D. Cashman, The University of Alabama Mary Ann Murphy, Pace University dt ogilvie, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Jeremy Cohen, Penn State University Jacob Oludoye Oluwoye, Alabama A&M University
Jan Cohen-Cruz, Syracuse University Michael E. Orok, Alabama A&M University
Richard L. Conville, The University of Southern Mississippi Ruth Paris, Boston University
Susan Curtis, Purdue University Clement Alesander Price, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Mary Elizabeth Curtner-Smith, The University of Alabama Josephine Pryce, The University of Alabama
David J. Edelman, University of Cincinnati A. Scott Reed, Oregon State University
Barbara Ferman, Temple University Michael J. Rich, Emory University
Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Michigan State University Howard B. Rosing, DePaul University
Philip A. Greasley, University of Kentucky Sunil Saigal, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Susan Scheriffius Jakes, North Carolina State University Nick Sanyal, University of Idaho
Phillip W. Johnson, The University of Alabama Amilcar Shabazz, University of Massachusetts
Lisa M. Hooper, The University of Alabama L. Steven Smutko, North Carolina State University
Rhoda E. Johnson, The University of Alabama Lee H. Staples, Boston University
Mary Jolley, Community Development, Tuscaloosa, Ala. John J. Stretch, Saint Louis University
Kimberly L. King-Jupiter, Lewis University Rahima Wade, National Educational Consultant
William S. Kisaalita, University of Georgia John R. Wheat, The University of Alabama
 J. Robert Krueger, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Kim L. Wilson, Purdue University
Diane F. Witmer, California State University

A Checklist for Implementing Service-Learning in Higher Education

Amelia Jenkins and Patricia Sheehey



Service-learning has been implemented successfully as an instructional method in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. Research indicates that service-learning helps students gain knowledge and skills and increase self-confidence and sense of caring. Service-learning projects in colleges and universities are beneficial to those in many disciplines, including education. This article provides a framework for including service-learning in education courses and introduces an innovative checklist to guide and evaluate service-learning as an instructional strategy. The checklist delineates the four-stage service-learning process: (a) preparation, (b) implementation, (c) assessment/reflection, and (d) demonstration/celebration.

Instructors in teacher education courses use an array of instructional strategies to facilitate preservice teachers’ acquisition of the theoretical knowledge of teaching and the application of the process of teaching children and young adults. Instructional strategies are implemented in the college or university classroom, online, or in school classrooms. Diverse instructional strategies to actively engage the university students in their own learning include role-playing activities, cooperative group projects, and service-learning (Sileo, Prater, Luckner, Rhine, & Rude, 1998). This article provides teacher educators with a foundation for using service-learning in their courses and a structure to guide and evaluate service-learning as an instructional strategy.

Service-learning has been implemented successfully as an instructional method in elementary and secondary schools, as well as community colleges and universities (Griffith, 2005; Yoder, Retish, & Wade, 1996). Service-learning allows students the opportunity to practice critical thinking skills and apply learning in real-world settings, while meeting authentic needs in communities. Service-learning presents students with real-world problems to confront, alternatives to consider, and solutions to find. Service-learning challenges students to work collegially, communicate successfully, and acquire and exercise new skills. Research indicates that service-learning, when well designed and managed, can contribute to student learning and growth (Astin & Sax, 1998; Billig, Root, & Jesse, 2005; Chang, 2002; Hamm & Houck, 1998). Grounded in John Dewey’s theory of learning through experience, service-learning increases self-esteem, knowledge and skills acquisition, personal and interpersonal skills development, and a sense of accomplishment (Chen, 2004; Conrad & Hedin, 1991; Dudderar & Tover, 2003; Ehrlich, 1996).


Service-Learning in Higher Education 

Research has indicated that service-learning is effective pedagogy on college and university campuses. Research has further indicated that service-learning has had a positive impact on academic, social, and cultural variables (Butin, 2006). It increases understanding and depth of course content, promotes knowledge and understanding of civic and social issues, and increases awareness and acceptance of diversity (Astin & Sax, 1998; Billig et al., 2005; Chang, 2002; Cress, Collier, Reitenauer, & Associates, 2005; Hamm & Houck, 1998). Service-learning may be included in college and university courses as a separate course with a focus on service-learning (Anderson, Swick, & Yff, 2001) or as strategy for teaching academic concepts in disciplines such as engineering (George & Shams, 2007; Mehta & Sukumaran, 2007; Zhang, Gartner, Gunes, & Ting, 2007), education (Chen, 2004; Swick & Rowls, 2000), and nursing (Romack, 2004).

Faculty resources and research on service-learning present a four-stage schema for service-learning planning (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). The stages are (1) preparation, (2) implementation, (3) assessment/reflection, and (4) demonstration with celebration (Fertman, 1994; Kaye, 2004).



Preparation involves a variety of activities, including identifying a community need, establishing a goal/objective for the service-learning project, establishing the knowledge and/or skills necessary for the project, and determining resources and activities necessary for the project (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Kaye, 2004). Course objectives should include and connect academic and civic/social learning (Berle, 2006; Zlotkowski, 1995). Service-learning should be carefully and thoroughly planned (Berle, 2006). Planning includes developing connections with community resources for the project (Kaye, 2004), determining the number of participants, establishing the type of project and whether students will have a choice in their type of project, the number of hours required for the project, and the expected outcomes or forms of assessment for evaluating project outcomes and student learning (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). Werner and McVaugh (2000) recommended several strategies for increasing the quality and interest of service-learning, including giving students a choice and control of their project. Choices and control over project assignment and project activities have resulted in a goodness-of-fit between tasks and students’ interests resulting in an increase in learning and competence and may result in the internalization of the value of service. Mabry (1998) found that service-learning seems to be more effective when students provide at least 15 to 20 hours of service per semester and are in frequent contact with the beneficiaries of their service project. Assessment for evaluating academic learning and the outcomes of service-learning include formative and summative reflections (George & Shams, 2007; Mabry, 1998); focus groups (Cooks & Scharrer, 2006); group discussions (George & Shams, 2007); journal writing (Cooks & Scharrer, 2006; George & Shams, 2007); observations including videotapes (Cooks & Scharrer, 2006); narrative assessments in the form of a midterm and take-home final (Strage, 2000) or essays (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996); and presentations (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996).



Implementation of service-learning should include frequent connections of the project to academic content (Cress et al., 2005). Astin, Vogelgesang, Ikeda, and Yee (2000) found that instructors who frequently connected the service-learning project to academic learning facilitated a learning relationship whereby the service experience enhanced academic understanding that in turn enhanced the service experience. Throughout the implementation of the service project, students should reflect on the project and academic learning to assess their learning. This ensures that participation in the service-learning project is impacting academic learning and enhancing social learning (Astin et al.) or understanding of diversity (Rhoads, 1997).



Much has been written regarding the assessment of service-learning and service-learning outcomes. Assessments often focus on evaluating the course and/or evaluating student academic and social or civic learning. Cooks and Scharrer (2006) presented several methods for assessing students’ social learning that included interviews, focus groups, journal assignment analysis, and analysis of videotaped interactions. Bringle and Hatcher (1996) suggested using purposeful reflections linked to course objectives that are analyzed using a rubric or a separate activity such as a poster presentation or essays. Student reflections as a data source seem to be the most frequently used form of assessment. Bringle and Hatcher suggested the use of purposeful reflection activities, analyzed using a rubric to rate learning, or a separate activity such as a poster presentation or essay. Ash, Clayton, and Atkinson (2005) used rubrics to evaluate students’ thinking as demonstrated in their written reflection. Strage (2000) used an analysis of students’ journals to determine that students had reflected thoughtfully on the connections between lecture information, readings, and hands-on experiences. Questionnaire surveys and Likert scales have been developed and used to evaluate course objectives and program outcomes that included service-learning projects (George & Shams, 2007; Zhang et al., 2007). However, George and Shams (2007) issued a caution regarding the use of Likert scales and surveys because assessment of learning based on self-report may be biased due to students providing desirable responses. Student surveys and semi-structured discussions at the end of the semester can also provide information regarding suggestions for program improvements (George & Shams, 2007). In addition to assessing the impact of the service-learning project on student learning, George and Shams contended that it is equally important to determine the success of the project from the perspective of the community partner. Although traditionally outside the realm of learning in higher education, obtaining community members’ perspective provides a more holistic assessment (George & Shams, 2007), which promotes service-learning as a mutual activity in which both parties benefit (Rhoads, 1997).



Kaye (2004) defines the final stage of demonstration as allowing students the opportunity to discuss and openly exhibit their work through different formats such as displays, performances, and presentations. Demonstration provides students an opportunity to validate what they have learned and how they learned it, as well as to share that learning with others. While celebration is sometimes included as the final stage of service-learning projects (Fertman, 1994), Kaye suggests that celebration be included in the demonstration stage, such as planning a festive occasion paired with the student demonstrations. Students, too, have reported the importance of being given the opportunity to share the results of their service-learning projects with others (Swick & Rowls, 2000).

Existing literature on service-learning provides a wealth of information for developing and implementing service-learning projects in higher education. The literature provides descriptions of instructors’ experiences in implementing service-learning, including details such as methods used and evaluation procedures (Allison, 2008; Curtis & Mahon, 2010; Larios-Sanz, Simmons, Bagnall, & Rosell, 2011; Ming, Lee, & Ka, 2009). Many colleges and universities have developed faculty resources including pamphlets, brochures, and practical guides to support faculty in developing a service-learning course or project (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Gilchrist, Mundy, Felton, & Shields, 2003). There is information on worksheets for planning, suggestions on how to assess, types of reflection activities/ questions, pre and post assessments for students, and numerous checklists. However, for an instructor inexperienced in service-learning and undertaking the development of a service-learning project in a course for the first time, accessing the depth and breadth of the literature could be overwhelming.

We attempted to streamline the existing literature into a manageable checklist to provide a simple method of planning and assessing an instructor’s experience with service-learning. The simple checklist provides a framework that reflects our experiences and the service-learning literature. Further, the checklist breaks down the four stages of service-learning into components somewhat finer than that which the literature recommends.

This article provides a description of our service-learning experiences and the resulting checklist we developed. The purpose of the checklist is to assist an instructor—in particular those new to service-learning—in developing, implementing, and evaluating the results of a service-learning project. This checklist provides instructors the opportunity to fine-tune their experience and continue to grow in their use of service-learning.


Service-Learning Project Description 

Our experiences in service-learning include planning, implementing, and assessing service-learning projects as required assignments in two graduate courses and one undergraduate course over an eight-year span. During that time we assessed and reflected on the assigned projects, making revisions to provide more detail in the planning, providing more feedback and linkages to academic and social learning, and refining the evaluation of student learning. We reviewed (a) the course syllabi; (b) the service-learning projects completed by students; (c) student course evaluation ratings and comments; (d) instructor notes; and (e) evaluation instruments completed by the instructors to revise and improve our service-learning projects.

In an attempt to design a workable schema to assess service-learning projects, we developed a guide for instructors to complete in reviewing the service-learning experiences. After the initial guide was developed, the instructors met and reviewed data collected from the courses. Discussion ensued on how to respond to each item on the guide, and revisions were made to provide greater clarity. Each instructor then individually completed the guide for an additional course each taught, and comparisons were made. Differences in perspectives were discussed until complete agreement was reached on elements to include on the guide. A study of our service-learning experiences was then completed (Jenkins & Sheehey, 2009).


The Checklist 

Our experience in developing a guide for evaluating service-learning in higher education courses, and a review of the literature on service-learning, led to our development of a simple checklist for planning, implementing, and evaluating service-learning. Elements on the checklist were grouped into the four stages widely accepted in the service-learning literature (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Fertman, 1994; Kaye, 2004), resulting in a 10-item checklist.

The checklist is presented with brief descriptions of suggestions for instructors to consider; individual items should be weighed for appropriateness against instructor’s prior knowledge and background, and the course into which a service-learning project (SLP) assignment is to be integrated. We included the data collection source, criteria utilized, and a brief discussion on each of the elements. The checklist can be found in Table 1.

Stage 1: Preparation 

1. Course description. Data Collection Source: Course syllabus. Criteria: Consider whether the goals and objectives of the course are aligned with the goals and objectives of service-learning. The course syllabus should include the course goals and objectives specific to service-learning and the nature or benefits of service-learning as related to the course content (Berle, 2006; Zlotkowski, 1995).

2. Integration of SLP into course content. Data collection source: Course syllabus, course agenda, individual class agendas, and supporting materials. Criteria: Prepare the course session agendas to integrate the SLP into the course. Schedule class sessions to devote to the teaching of service-learning, the monitoring of project implementation, and final presentations of projects (Kaye, 2004).

3. SLP description and requirements. Data Collection Source: Course syllabus and/or supporting course materials (e.g., service-learning guide, separate handouts with project description and directions). Criteria: The SLP assignment should be described in detail. Include a description of the components of the project and detailed written directions for submitting. Specify if the students are to submit a final written report of the SLP, the elements to include in the paper, and how it will be scored. Consider breaking the project assignment into parts to be submitted to the instructor on specific dates. The instructor can then provide written and/or verbal feedback to individual students to direct their completion of the SLP. The SLP directions should include specific details for the evaluation/reflection section (George & Shams, 2007; Mabry, 1998). Consider including specific questions to guide the students’ reflection regarding what they learned from the project and the impact of the project (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). The evaluation component should require students to reflect upon the learning in three aspects: (a) learning of course content, (b) their thoughts and feelings about the service-learning experience, and (c) the impact of and feedback from the community partner who participated in the service-learning project. Consider using a pre- and post-test method (questionnaire or survey) for evaluating the results of the SLP impact on students and community partners (Borges & Hartung, 2007; George & Shams, 2007).

3a. Time requirement. Data Collection Source: Course syllabus and/or supporting materials. Criteria: Details of time students should devote to the service-learning project should be specific enough to provide students the necessary guidance (Berle, 2006). Specify if the SLP should be a semester-long project, and specify the minimum (and maximum) number of hours students are required to devote to the project (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). Consider requiring students to submit a timeline or time log with an estimate of the time devoted to planning, implementing, evaluating, and writing the project final report.

3b. Grade value. Data Collection Source: Course syllabus and/or supporting materials. Criteria: The SLP should be given a point value and assigned a percentage of the course grade appropriate for the project assignment. In our experiences, the SLP accounted for 30% to 40% of the course grade. Individual project reports were evaluated on a 100 point scale, and included the presentation of the project to the whole class.

3c. Type of project. Data Collection Source: Course syllabus and/or supporting materials. Criteria: Specify the type of project required. Types of SLPs include direct, indirect, and advocacy or civic action. Fertman (1994) defined the three types as follows: Direct service is personal contact with those to whom the service is provided, such as cooking and serving food to the homeless; indirect service “involves channeling resources to solve a problem,” (p. 13) such as fundraising for the homeless; civic action involves “active participation in democratic citizenship” (p. 14), such as petitioning the local government to address housing needs of the homeless. Students should be informed if they are to choose their own project (unlimited choice), choose from a menu (limited choice), or be assigned a predetermined project. Werner & McVaugh (2000) found that providing a choice increased the quality and interest of the project and resulted in an increase in learning and internalization of the value of service. A study by Mayhew (2000) suggested that students learn whether given limited or unlimited choice. In our experiences, we allowed students to choose their type of project, according to specific criteria provided. Students predominantly chose direct service and implemented worthwhile projects that provided a needed service to others, within the guidelines of the project description and appropriate to the course. Instructors may want to complete a chart that summarizes the types of projects students implemented.

3d. Location. Data Collection Source: Course syllabus and/or supporting materials. Criteria: If the SLP is to be implemented in a specific location or with identified community partners, the instructor should develop community connections regarding the SLP location (Kaye, 2004). For example if a SLP is assigned in a reading methods course, the instructor should have made a connection with the administrator and teachers in a school to facilitate implementation of the SLP. The volunteer criteria/requirements of the school would then need to be identified and clearly articulated to the candidates. If the SLP is assigned in a course on working with families, the specific location may not be specified as long as the project participants include families. However, the instructor should have connections with family resource centers and include volunteer criteria for those centers, as applicable. We required students to submit to the instructor a proposal indicating the type of project and location—including documentation that they meet volunteer criteria for that organization or agency—and receive approval prior to implementing. Given sufficient location choices, meeting volunteer criteria should not be a hindrance.

3e. SLP Evaluation. Data collection source: Course syllabus and/or supporting materials. Criteria: Clearly specify how the project will be evaluated (Cooks & Scharrer, 2006; George & Shams, 2007). Align the method of evaluating the project with the project description. A rubric, for example, should be comprised of the identical components included on the written directions for the SLP, with criteria for levels of performance. Students should be provided the written evaluation document/rubric, including specific information for all components to be submitted to the instructor. Consider including details for evaluating (a) the content of the project final paper, (b) the quality of the written product, (c) the quality of the presentation, and (d) the appropriateness of the project to service-learning and to the course.

Stage Two: Implementation—Performing the Service 

4. Foundation for service-learning. Data collection source: Class agenda, instructional materials, instructor’s notes. Criteria: Provide sufficient information and instruction on service-learning. Prior to allowing students to begin the projects, provide a foundation for service-learning as a philosophy and as pedagogy. Introduce service-learning as a valuable instructional technique; provide the rationale and theoretical research base, the principles and practices of service-learning, and the benefits to teaching and learning. Assign readings or have students locate articles or stories of teachers who have implemented service-learning projects (Chen, 2004; Dudderar & Tover, 2003). Provide examples of completed projects as models for students to review.

5. Student support and feedback. Data Collection Source: class agenda, instructor notes. Criteria: Schedule class sessions to review specific requirements for the projects; include class time to answer questions regarding the assignments, and review students’ drafts of projects prior to completion. Periodically, instructors may hold individual and whole class sessions with students to clarify project requirements and give feedback. Class sessions also may include coverage of topics related to specific skills needed to complete the project. Include frequent connections of the project to academic content (Astin et al., 2000). Allow students to share ongoing progress and dialogue with others in class (Mayhew, 2000). Encourage students to reflect on the experience as it progresses and at the end, such as through reflective journals (Dudderar & Tover, 2003; George & Shams, 2007; Mabry, 1998). Answer questions and assist students in problem-solving as issues arise.

Stage Three: Assessment/Reflection 

6. Student learning and performance on SLP. Data Collection Source: Before and after surveys, student project reflections, community partner feedback, completed project and course grades. Criteria: Instructors should devote time to review data on student learning and performance. Instructors should utilize multiple measures in evaluating student performance on the SLP, including course grades, individual project grades, and other measures including community partner feedback. If a before and after survey or questionnaire was implemented, evaluate the data for indications of student learning (George & Sham, 2007; Zhang et al., 2007). Similarly, evaluate the questions to which students responded in the project reflection section (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). Items that address acquisition of course content and impact of service-learning project on the community partner should be analyzed.

7. Student satisfaction. Data collection source: Reflection section of SLP, student course evaluations. Criteria: Instructors should have gathered sufficient data to provide for a review of student satisfaction. Student satisfaction of the SLP can be determined from comments on the reflection section of the SLP and in the course evaluations completed by students at the end of the course. On the course evaluations, items pertaining to “course assignments,” “course projects,” and/or “overall course” should be analyzed. Mean responses to those items as well as student comments should be considered. Student satisfaction may indicate the degree of learning about the academic field and the impact of the project on the community partner. Research indicates that students report greater satisfaction in courses implementing service-learning (Moely et al., 2002).

8. Instructor satisfaction. Data Collection Source: Observation/instructor notes, review of completed projects, course evaluations. Criteria: This is a subjective evaluation to be determined by the instructors after reflecting upon the experience. Challenges that higher education faculty face in implementing service-learning, such as an already over-crowded curriculum, lack of time to plan, and the mission and goals of the program or course not aligned with service-learning (Anderson et al., 2001) are important issues to weigh against the benefits of service-learning. Instructors should consider keeping notes during implementation and to reflect upon them following the experience. Instructors should summarize “what I learned as an instructor,” noting what worked, what didn’t, and what next. Further, note any changes made to the project from a prior experience, if appropriate, and the result.

Overall, both instructors were pleased with the results of the SLP assignments and students’ performances. We integrated the SLPs into the course as required assignments, in courses that typically required semester long projects; therefore there was no issue of an “already over-crowded curriculum.” We devoted more time in planning the projects in the first experiences, but time lessened with experience. The conceptual framework of our college, “preparing educators for a just and democratic society,” is closely aligned with the outcomes of service-learning, and therefore supports its use. Both instructors felt we learned much from the experience, but both still consider we have room to grow. Instructor satisfaction was highest in the final experiences.

Stage Four: Demonstration & Celebration 

9. Student and partner celebration. Data Collection Source: Student and partner presentations. Criteria: Instructors should provide opportunities for students and community partners, if possible, to present their final project results to others (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Swick & Rowls, 2000). Class time can be devoted to allow students and partners to present individually or in a poster session format. An alternative is to schedule a Mini Conference during which students and partners will present their project results. Encourage students and partners to submit proposals to local, state, or national conferences to present their results. In our experience, students enjoyed the opportunity to present their findings to the class; some community partners participated in the presentations or were invited guests at the celebration. Presentations included poster sessions and individual power point presentations. We found the presentations well prepared and engaging overall.

10. Instructor celebration. Data source: Instructor presentations. Criteria: Instructors should share their experience with colleagues through informal or formal opportunities. At the local level, instructors can share their results with colleagues at department and/or college wide meetings or forums. Share your experience with graduate students and encourage their research with service-learning. Instructors may prepare a manuscript for publication to share the results of the experience. Finally, instructors may consider submitting a proposal to local, state, or national conferences to present their results. Community partners might also be invited to co-present their perspectives on the projects.



Although the literature provides descriptive guidance for planning, implementing, and evaluating service-learning in higher education courses, we developed a checklist for planning and assessing service-learning projects in our courses. We included information from the literature as well as our own experiences in developing our schema. We divided our checklist into the four stages of preparation, implementation, assessment/reflection, and demonstration/celebration as presented in the literature, broken into smaller components. We found that it is essential that all aspects of the service-learning project be thoroughly planned and linked to course academic learning and social learning goals and objectives. As recommended by Werner & McVaugh (2000), we determined that offering selective choices regarding projects should be included in service-learning assignments. As Mabry (1998) suggested, we determined a specific number of hours during the semester for the project implementation and developed connections with the community regarding possible projects. We included feedback and review of course academic concepts to enhance learning and support of the project throughout implementation as suggested by Astin et al. (2000). We also recommended that requirements for the project be reviewed throughout the semester to provide support and clarification. We suggested evaluations be conducted prior to the project, throughout implementation of the project, and after the project. The use of formative and summative evaluations provides the instructor with feedback regarding student learning through the duration of the project (George & Shams, 2007; Mabry, 1998). As Bringle and Hatcher (1996) suggested, we recommend the use of reflections, surveys using a Likert scale (George & Sham, 2007; Zhang et al., 2007), presentations (Bringle & Hatcher), etc. as instruments for evaluating student-learning. We also included specific questions on course evaluations and project grades to determine student and community partner satisfaction and student learning outcomes. Similar to the celebration as the last component of a service-learning project, we suggest instructors of courses in higher education who have included a service-learning activity in their course celebrate by sharing their results with colleagues in their departments, colleges, and universities through formal or informal meetings or forums. In addition, celebration might include publishing research on service-learning outcomes for specific disciplines and presenting findings at local and national conferences.



From our review of the service-learning literature and our experiences, we gleaned the critical elements to consider in planning, implementing, and evaluating service-learning in higher education. We then condensed that information into a usable checklist. With the use of the checklist, we analyzed specific components of our service-learning experiences. We determined that the checklist provided a valuable structure to assist us in identifying our strengths and weaknesses, and in determining areas needing improvement. We offer this instrument as a means of providing suggestions to those interested in implementing service-learning. We suggest that others use the checklist to assist in determining the specific elements that worked and what is in need of further improvement.



Allison, A.W. (2008). A best practices service learning framework for the Public Relations Campaigns course. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8(3), 50-60.

Anderson, J.B., Swick, K.J., & Yff, J. (Eds.) (2001). Service-learning in teacher education: Enhancing the growth of new teachers, their students, and communities. Corporation for National Service, Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

Ash, S.L., Clayton, P.H., & Atkinson, M.P. (2005). Integrating reflection and assessment to capture and improve student learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 11(2), 49-60.

Astin, A.W., & Sax, L. (1998). How undergraduates are affected by service-participation. Journal of College Student Development, 39(3), 251-263.

Astin, A.W., Vogelgesang, L.S., Ikeda, E.K., & Yee, J.A. (2000). How service learning affects students. Los Angeles, CA: Higher Education Research Institute.

Berle, D. (2006). Incremental integration: A successful service-learning strategy. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 18(1), 43-48.

Billig, S., Root, S., & Jesse, D. (2005, May). The impact of participation in service-learning on high school students’ civic engagement. (Circle Working Paper 33). College Park, MD: Center for Information and Research on Civic Engagement and Learning.

Borges, N.J., & Hartung, P.J. (2007). Service learning in medical education: Project description and evaluation. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 19(1), 1-7.

Bringle, R.G., & Hatcher, J.A. (1996). Implementing service learning in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 67(2), 221-239.

Butin, D.W. (2006). Special issue: Introduction future direction for service learning in higher education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 18(1), 1-4.

Chang, M.J. (2002). The impact of an undergraduate diversity course requirement on students’ racial views and attitudes. Journal of General Education, 51(1), 21-42.

Chen, D.W. (2004). The multiple benefits of service learning projects in pre-service teacher education. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 70(2), 31-36.

Conrad, D., & Hedin, D. (1991). School-based community service: What we know from research and theory. Phi Delta Kappan, 72(10), 743-749.

Cooks, L., & Scharrer, E. (2006). Assessing learning in community service learning: A social approach. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 13(1), 44-55.

Cress, C.M., Collier, P.J., Reitenauer, V.L., & Associates. (2005). Learning through service. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Curtis, K., & Mahon, J. (2010). Using extension fieldwork to incorporate experiential learning into university coursework. Journal of Extension, 48(2), 1-8.

Dudderar, D., & Tover, L.T. (2003) Putting Service Learning Experiences at the heart of a teacher education curriculum. Educational Research Quarterly, 27(2), 18-32.

Ehrlich, T. (1996). Foreword in Barbara Jacoby and Associates, Service-learning in higher education: Concepts and practices. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fertman, C. (1994). Service learning for all students. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation. (ED375249).

George, C., & Shams, A. (2007). The challenge of including customer satisfaction into the assessment criteria of overseas service learning projects. International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, 2(2), 64-75.

Gilchrist, L.Z., Mundy, M.E., Felten, P., & Shields, S.L. (2003). Course transitions, midsemester assessment, and program design characteristics: A case study. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 10(1).

Griffith, A. (2005). Service learning: Packing parachutes for the jump into education. Teacher Education and Practice, 18(3), 282-296.

Hamm, D., Dowell, D., & Houck, J. (1998). Service learning as a strategy to prepare teacher candidates for contemporary diverse classrooms. Education, 119(2), 196-204.

Jenkins, A. & Sheehey, P. (2009). Implementing service learning in special education coursework: What we learned. Education, 129(4), 668-682.

Kaye, C.B. (2004). The complete guide to service learning: Proven, practical ways to engage students in civic responsibility, academic curriculum, and social action. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing Inc.

Larios-Sanz, M., Simmons, A.D., Bagnnall, R.A., & Rosell, R.C. (2011). Implementation of service-learning module in medical microbiology and cell biology classes at an undergraduate liberal arts university. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, 12(1), 29-37.

Mabry, J.B. (1998). Pedagogical variations in service-learning and student outcomes: How time, contact and reflection matter. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 5, 32-47.

Mayhew, J. (2000). Service-learning in preservice special education: A comparison of two approaches. In Capitalizing on leadership in rural special education: Making a difference for children and families. Conference proceedings of the Rural Education and Small Schools. Alexandria, VA.

Mehta, Y., & Sukumaran, B. (2007). Integrating service learning in engineering clinics. International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, 2(1), 32-43.

Ming, A.C.C., Lee, W.K.M., & Ka, C.M.H. (2009). Service-learning model at Lingnan University: Development strategies and outcome assessment. New Horizons in Education, 57(3), 57-73.

Moely, B.E., McFarland, M., Miron, D., Mercer, S.H., & Ilustre, V. (2002). Changes in college students’ attitudes and intentions for civic involvement as a function of service-learning experiences. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 9, 18-26.

Rhoads, R.A. (1997). Community service and higher learning: Explorations of the caring self. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Romack, J.L. (2004). Increasing physical activity in nursing home residents using student power, not dollars. Educational Gerontology, 30(1), 21-38.

Sileo, T.W., Prater, M.A., Luckner, J.L., Rhine, B., & Rude, H.A. (1998). Strategies to facilitate preservice teachers’ active involvement in learning. Teacher Education and Special Education, 12(3), 187-204.

Strage, A.A. (2000). Service-learning: Enhancing student learning outcomes in a college-level lecture course. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 7,5-13.

Swick, K.J. (1999). Service Learning in Early Childhood Teacher Education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 27(2), 129-137.

Swick, K.J., & Rowls, M. (2000). The “Voices” of preservice teachers on the meaning and value of their service-learning, Education, 120(3), 461-469.

Werner, C.M., & McVaugh, N. (2000). Service-learning rules that encourage or discourage long-term service: Implications for practice and research. Michigan Journal for Community Service Learning, 7, 117-125.

Yoder, D., Retish, E., & Wade, R. (1996). Service learning: Meeting student and community needs. Teaching Exceptional Children, Summer, 14-18.

Zhang, X., Gartner, N., Gunes, O., & Ting, J.M. (2007). Integrating service-learning projects into civil engineering courses. International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, 2(1), 44-63.

Zlotkowski, E. (1995). Pedagogy and engagement. In R.G. Bringle, R. Games, & E.A. Malloy (Eds.), Colleges and universities as citizens (pp. 96-120). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.


About the Authors 

Amelia Jenkins is a full professor, and Patricia Sheehey an associate professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Hawaii Manoa.

Mini-Med School: Developing Partnerships with the Community and Between Health Professions and Students

Annette I. Peery and Kathryn M. Kolasa


Often in the high-tech, fast paced arena of health professions education, community engagement may be ignored. One rural, Southern university with a large health sciences division did not allow this to occur and has provided an opportunity for engagement and scholarship through a Mini-Med School. This multi-session education experience introduces members of the general public to academic and professional experiences of a medical education, and includes an interactive health fair session. The health fair session relies on the collaboration of multiple health professions – medicine, nursing and dietetics, thus promoting faculty and students from these health professions to engage in dialogue, training and interaction with each other and the community participants. This activity has been deemed extremely successful in promoting engagement of individuals and groups on multiple levels and thus provides an exemplar for others to follow.

Introduction and Background 

Since the early 1990’s, scientists and interested lay people have met in the Mini-Med Schools experiences throughout the U.S. Mini-Med school, in some locations, is an open lecture series. In others, like the one offered at the [University] from 1998- 2002 and again in 2007, is a multi-session education experience exposing members of the general public to the academic and professional experiences of a medical education. The Mini-Med school is designed to foster a better understanding of the role medical school and related programs such as Nursing and Allied Health, plays in its community. There have been few papers describing this program, although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Science Education published a planning guide (2006). This paper, then, is meant to describe how one southeastern university medical school conducted a Mini-Med school, the partnerships developed between the school and the community as well as between health professionals and students engaged in this effort. We also report on the results of the “Doctoring Experience”, one of the experiential learning activities for participating community members.

Mini-Med School 

The concept was brought to the School of Medicine by a representative from the [company] that provided a small unrestricted grant for the first three years and the program was offered subsequently for five consecutive years. It was offered with internal funding for an additional two years. The program included a variety of presentations offered over a 6 week period.. These dealt with cutting edge developments in medicine and provided hands on learning with new technology as well as question-and-answer sessions among faculty and participants. . The sessions, attended by more than 500 individuals were taught by physicians and researchers in their fields who were chosen for their ability to make the technical language of medicine understandable to the non-medical public and who volunteered their time.

The objectives of the program were to assist participants to develop understanding of the following: 1) The primary care mission of the University; 2) the disease and health conditions especially prevalent in the region; 3) the growing emphasis in medicine on health improvement and disease prevention; and, 4) the importance of research in improving health care.


The program highlighted health concerns of the region and included heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Special areas of training received by some health professional disciplines were included, such as biomedical research, medical humanities and ethics, medical communication and patient education, and the use of evidence based medicine. The program also demonstrated some of its treatments and telemedicine, along with lower technology training of students using standardized patients.

Integral to the programming was an interactive activity during each session. The goal was for each participant to leave the session with a new skill from calculating their own Body Mass Index and assessing the heart healthfulness of their personal diet to identifying quality web sites to using the tools of Evidence Based Medicine to answer their personal clinical questions. Mini-Med school was a

popular program based on its high attendance rates, waiting lists for the next offerings and comments made on evaluations completed after each session rating the quality of the presentations and interactive activities. We wanted, however, to have a more objective measure of the impact of Mini-Med School and chose to evaluate the impact of the “Doctoring” experience which gave participants information about their own health status.

In 2003, The Institute of Medicine called for educating all health professionals to deliver collaborative patient-centered care via interprofessional practice (Greiner & Knebel, 2003). Our 2007 Mini-Med school provided student volunteers an excellent opportunity to experience interprofessional practice. Thirty-six students from dietetics, nursing, and medicine along with primary care resident physicians, interacted with each other and Mini-Med school participants in a “Doctoring” experience. . All students, within their own professional school, completed the University and School of Medicine confidentiality module. The students of the various disciplines were trained together, by health professions faculty, to manage stations where each participant had their diet analyzed, body composition measured, lifestyle screened for diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Most of the students had no direct experience or training with these measurements. An Interprofessional Training Session was held the week prior to the “Doctoring” experience which included a review of confidentiality concepts and practicing the measurements on themselves and each other. In the earlier Mini-Med schools faculty managed these stations but only provided oversight during the 2007 event.

The students experienced “Doctoring” from a patient’s viewpoint, increasing their sensitivity to patient concerns. They had the opportunity to informally interact with the general public about their desires to serve their community in a health profession. Students learned psychomotor skills such as finger stick blood sugars, insulin injections, taking a blood pressure, and measuring ankle-brachial index and learned the value of screenings to educate and empower healthcare consumers to promote change in health behaviors. Students also had the opportunity during the “Doctoring” experience to improve their communication skills with consumers.

Community Participants (Sample)

Participants to the Mini Med School were recruited through a mailing to community leaders as well as paid newspaper advertisements. The promotional literature promised the participants that the program would enlighten, entertain, and familiarize participants with medical terminology and to provide insight into biomedical research and patient care.

Adult men and women from a wide variety of occupations, and who had a strong desire to learn more about medicine and medical education and were willing to commit 18 hours over a period of six weeks to fulfill this wish enrolled in the sessions. The class size was typically limited to 90 people on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Prior to the 2007 Mini-Med School, IRB approval was obtained from the University and Medical Center Institutional Review Board of [University] to collect survey data concerning the participants. Additionally, participants signed a consent form on the first night of the Mini-Med School after attending a presentation on the process of Human Subject Research Review. Participants were able to refuse to participate in any component of the program and their consent to participate in the results reported in this paper was based upon them voluntarily turning in a copy of the form at the end of the session.

Data Collection

During the “Doctoring Experience,” participants were divided into small groups and had the opportunity to rotate through eleven interactive stations where they learned to use the same screening tools medical students employ to help adult and pediatric patients understand how their lifestyle contributes to obesity and chronic disease (previously discussed). Each participant received a “Doctoring Experience Report Card” on which the results of their screenings, as well as their answers to some health history questions, could be recorded. The participants retained a copy and a copy was turned in for a door prize drawing, if the participant desired to do so. All participation was completely voluntary and participants completed only the questions and activities they desired.


Participants had the opportunity to complete a variety of screening and assessment instruments at the various stations during the “Doctoring Experience,” and were able to record their results on the “Doctoring Experience Report Card.” The “Doctoring Experience Report Card” allowed participants to enter results of the previous instruments, results of blood pressure and blood glucose readings, and to answer questions regarding their health and health-related behaviors. Other

instruments included a Calcium IQ Quiz, Rate Your Plate (non-DASH version) dietary assessment, and Diabetes Risk Test. “Rate Your Plate” and the “Calcium IQ Quiz” provide quick assessments and have been developed or revised and evaluated by dietitians in the [University] Department of Family Medicine.

The “Calcium IQ Quiz” has participants answer calcium intake related questions based on their previous day’s dietary intake. Based upon that intake, 1 to 3 points are given for various calcium containing foods/beverages and the total points then multiplied by 100 resulting in the approximate milligrams (mg) of calcium consumed in the previous day. Participants can then compare this amount to the recommended daily allowance for their age and gender. (ECU Family Practice Center, 1999)

The “Rate Your Plate” instrument assesses how individuals are doing in making healthy choices related to their eating patterns based upon their typical, or usual, intake of various foods. The “Rate Your Plate” scores are interpreted as follows: 18 to 28 points = there are MANY ways to make your eating patterns healthier; 28 to 41 points = there are SOME ways to make your eating patterns healthier; and, 42 to 54 points = you are making MANY healthy choices. (ECU Family Practice Center, 1998).

The “Diabetes Risk Test” (National Diabetes Education Program, 2011) helps determine one’s risk of developing pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. The guides one through a brief series of “yes/no” questions with points assigned to each. A score of 10 or greater represents that an individual has an increased risk of developing pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes if they continue with their current lifestyle.


Sixty-four (91%) of the 70 participants completed the evaluation. Of these 70% reported that they participated in most of the interactive stations.

Participants were asked whether they found the interaction with the students to be a positive experience and all responded that their interactions were very positive. Following is a summary from the 2007 Mini-Med School of the demographics of the participants as well as an overview of their “Doctoring Experience” results indicating their own health status.


Data were collected from 64 participants, representing 91% of the entire group. The mean age of the sixty-four respondents was 47 years, with an age range of 19 to 86 years. The majority were female (63%) and Caucasian (83%). Forty-seven percent held a graduate degree while only 4% held a high school diploma as their highest degree earned. In terms of internet use, 12% reported that the never or infrequently used the internet and 47% reported using the internet often. Additionally, 71% of respondents reported that they had taken information they found on the web with them to discuss with their physician, indicating that consumers do seek health information on their own.

Weight and Body Composition 

Participants had the opportunity to determine their height, weight, waist to hip ratio, body mass index (BMI) and answer questions related to their weight as a child as well as the weight of their own children. In this sample, 18 (28%) had a BMI of between 25 and 30 kg/m2 while another 18 (28%) had a BMI greater than 30. Of those with a BMI equal to or greater than 30, only 8 (13%) reported being overweight as a child and most reported (10, or 56%) becoming overweight after the age of 20. Of those with a BMI > 25, only 15 (23%) reported that a physician broached the subject of weight with them, and 19 (83%) of those reported that they had attempted at some point to lose weight after their physician mentioned it.

Healthy Eating and Physical Activity 

Forty-seven participants reported their score on the “Rate Your Plate” instrument, which assesses whether or to what extent individuals are making healthy choices related to their eating patterns based upon their typical intake of various foods. Of these participants, 36 (76.6%) had a score of 42 or higher, indicating that the majority of the respondents were already making healthy choices in regards to their eating patterns.

Forty-nine participants reported their score on the “Calcium IQ Quiz.” It is recommended that individuals age 19 to 50 years have a daily calcium intake of 1,000 mg and those over 50 years 1, 200 mg (NIH, 2011). Of the respondents, only 13 (26.4%) reported a calcium intake of 1,000 mg or more over the past 24 hours.

Participants were also asked if their physician had ever encouraged them to walk, be active for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week and/or do strength training at least two days a week. Although 20 (62.5%) or the 64 participants reported that they followed their physician’s recommendations for physical activity most of the time, only 8 (11.4%) respondents reported that their physician had encouraged them to walk, 11 (15.7%) were told by

their physician to be active for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week, and only 7 (10%) were encouraged to engage in strength training at least two times per week.


In this sample (N=64), 7.8% reported having been diagnosed with diabetes and all were taking either oral medication and/or insulin. While only 5 (7.8%) reported a diagnosis of diabetes, only 6 (9.4%) had been told by their physician at some time that their blood glucose level was high.

Participants had the opportunity to have their blood glucose levels checked via a finger stick. These were considered random blood glucose readings as they were taken without regard to when the individual last ate food. A blood glucose reading is one of the assessments used to assist in diagnosing diabetes. The American Diabetes Association 2008 Clinical Practice Guidelines state that a random blood glucose level of 140 to 199 mg/dL may be diagnostic of pre-diabetes, while a random level of 200 mg/dL or higher may be diagnostic of diabetes (American Diabetes Association, 2008). Of the participants who completed this screening (N=60), fifty-four (90% ) had a random blood glucose level between 71 and 129 mg/dL, 4 (6.7%) between 142 and 160 mg/dL (pre-diabetes range), and 2 (3.3%) of 200 mg/dL or greater (diabetes range). Participants also had the opportunity to complete the American Diabetes Association Diabetes Risk Test. A score of 10 or greater represents that an individual has an increased risk of developing diabetes if they continue with their current lifestyle. Of the 36 participants who reported their score on this risk test, 11 (30.6%) reported a score of 10 or greater, indicating an increased risk of developing pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Cardiovascular Disease

In this sample, 6 (9.4%) of respondents reported they had been diagnosed with hypertension (systolic BP > 140 or diastolic > 90, for those without diabetes (NIH NHLBI, 2008). Medications for hypertension were used by 5 (7.8%) and 6 (9.4%) had been encouraged to eat less salt to assist in managing their hypertension. Thirty-one of the participants had their blood pressure taken and recorded. The actual blood pressure results of participants that were normal or hypertensive were as follows:

Normal systolic pressure — 13 (41.9%)

Normal diastolic pressure — 20 (74.1%)

Hypertensive systolic — 2 (6.5%)

Hypertensive diastolic — 1 (3.7%)

Information related to cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels was self-reported. In this sample, 14 (87.5%) reported having their cholesterol tested within the past two years and only 5 (7%) of participants reported the values for their LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels (the majority of which were within the desirable range). Of the respondents, 16 (38%) reported that they had been told that their cholesterol was too high and 12 (30.8%) had been encouraged to change their diet due to this, but only 7 (10%) reported actually making dietary changes and 8 (18.6%) stated they take medication for their high cholesterol levels.

Motivation to Change 

Participants in “The Doctoring Experience” were asked, “Based on what I learned today, I am motivated to change personal behavior.” Of the respondents, 56 (86.2%) replied “yes”.

Satisfaction of the Interdisciplinary Teams

Students participating in the interdisciplinary teams responded to an open-ended survey concerning the experiences. The student volunteers from all disciplines were extremely positive as they reflected on the experience, with 100% reported satisfaction with the experience.

They were asked “in what capacity did you interact with students from disciplines other than your own?” One student responded: “ The training session was very informative and taught me skills I would not have learned if I chose not to participate. . . . I liked the interaction of the program with (other) students . . .The idea of the entire program combining the disciplines and working together was great! We should be working together, our studies overlap and join in so many ways!”

When asked “what was the most beneficial aspect of this experience for you?” the responses included:

–“I had the incredible opportunity to learn new skills that I would have probably never had the chance to learn. … they really help to put things in (perspective) for me from the eyes of a patient.”

–“Interacting with the community.”

–“The most beneficial aspect of this program was definitely the training session. I also enjoyed the one-on-one time with the individuals coming through. The random questions some individuals came up with were fascinating, and it was also interesting how much information they expected me to know.”


For these respondents, the rates of overweight and obesity were slightly lower than the national average. In the United States, about two-thirds (66%) of adults age 20 and older are overweight or obese as indicated by a BMI of > 25. Of these nearly one-third (31.4%) are considered obese, with a BMI > 30 (NIH NIDDK, 2007). In this group the comparable percentage was 56%. It may be that this group was more highly educated and therefore more aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. It is also interesting to note that this group scored highly on the “rate your plate” exercise indicating that as a whole they are making healthy food choices. Yet the majority are still in the overweight or obese category.

The majority of respondents, 62.5%, reported that they followed their physician’s recommendations for physical activity most of the time. This number seems quite impressive as only 26% of adults in the U.S. engage in vigorous leisure-time physical activity three or more times per week and 59% do no vigorous physical activity at all in their leisure time (NIH NIDDK, 2007). We note, however, that less than 25% reported that their physicians discussed their weight or exercise regimen with them. This is consistent with other reports in the literature reporting that physicians and nurse practitioners do not readily discuss weight control issues (Pollack et al, 2010).

In the United States, as the prevalence of obesity has increased, so has the prevalence of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes. In 2007, the prevalence of diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes in the U.S. for all ages was estimated to be 7.8% of the population. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). In this group 8.1% reported having been diagnosed with diabetes, thus they were comparable in this aspect to national norms.

Changing one’s lifestyle and health behaviors may be met with multiple starts, relapses, re-evaluations and restarts. Prochaska and DiClemente describe this cycle in their change theory, which includes six stages:

1) Pre-contemplation (resisting change)

2) Contemplation (thinking about change, but not considering it within the next month)

3) Preparation (getting ready to change; plan to act within one month)

4) Action (practicing new behavior; 3 to 6 months)

5) Maintenance (continued commitment to sustain new behavior)

6) Termination (if no relapse, new behavior is habit) OR Relapse (resume old behaviors) (Kritsonis, 2004; Littell & Girvin, 2002)

The participants in this program would most likely be in the second or third stage of change. One might assume that some resistance has been overcome through the program participation. The positive response to the item asking about plans to change would suggest that change is under consideration or that the individual might be actively planning how to bring about the change.

Engagement on Multiple Levels

Mini-Med School in this University has united the University and Health Sciences Division and the community at-large and has been successful at integrating teaching, research, service and community engagement. Community members engaged in this experience were able to see and experience first-hand what the major University in their area has to offer the region in terms of health care and in education of health professionals to serve this region. They had opportunities to learn about current, cutting-edge topics and research in healthcare and how it might relate to them. Additionally, they had the opportunity to learn more about their own health, through the “Doctoring Experience”, and how to promote a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their families.

In conclusion, interprofessional work with multiple disciplines can lead to extremely successful interactions, events and engagement. The Mini-Med School program was an example of such a successful interaction. All groups involved in this project interacted with one other and found that a positive activity. Future evaluation should focus on determining the degree of impact the program has had in bringing about healthier behaviors in the participants and also the effect of interprofessional education activities on each professional group.


American Diabetes Association. (2008). Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care, 31, S55-S60.

ECU Department of Family Medicine. (1998). Rate your plate (non-DASH version). Retrieved March 14, 2011, from

ECU Department of Family Medicine. (1999).

Calcium IQ quiz. Retrieved March 14, 2011, from

Greiner, A.C., & Knebel, E. (Eds.). (2003). Health professions education: A bridge to quality. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Kritsonis, A. (2004-2005). Comparison of change theories. International Journal of Scholarly Academic Intellectual Diversity, 8(1), 1–7.

Littell, J.H., & Girvin, H. (2002). Stages of change: A critique. Behavior Modification, 26, 223-273.

National Diabetes Education Program. (2011). Diabetes, You Could Be At Risk. Retrieved June 30, 2008, from .

National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2008, April). High blood pressure. Retrieved June 30, 2008, from

National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2007, June). Statistics related to overweight and obesity. Retrieved June 30, 2008, from

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. (2011). Dietary supplement fact sheet: Calcium. Retrieved March 14, 2011, from

National Institutes of Health, Office of Science Education. (2006). Mini med school planning guide. Retrieved June 30, 2008, from

Pollak, K.I., Alexander, S.C., Coffman, C.J., Tulsky, J.A., Lyna, P., Dolor, R.J., James, I.E., Brouwer, R.J.N., Manusov, J.R.E. & Ostbye, T. (2010). Physician Communication Techniques and Weight Loss in Adults: Project CHAT. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 39 (4), 321-328.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). National diabetes statistics, 2007 (NIH Publication No. 08-3892). Washington, DC: National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.

About the Authors

Annette I. Peery is an assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Kathryn M. Kolasa is professor and section head of Nutrition Services and Patient Education, Family Medicine and Pediatrics, in the Brody School of Medicine—both at East Carolina University.

Developing a Community-Based Research Network for Interdisciplinary Science: The Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network

Annette Jones Watters, Paavo Haninen, and J. Michael Hardin



The Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network (AERN) is a program originated to encourage entrepreneurship in rural areas of economic distress. In addition to promoting prosperity in low-income areas, the program now also serves as an opportunistic research network for interdisciplinary science investigations. Through AERN, potential and existing entrepreneurs in rural areas of Alabama have access to extensive university resources and personnel to advance their ideas for improving their local economies. The network provides materials, training, counseling, and business research services. AERN now includes 15 partners located over a large geographic area. This network has been sustained for over 10 years at a non-land grant state university. This paper describes the AERN program and suggests that an extensive university bureaucracy devoted to community relationships (such as the very successful and admirable Extension System) is not always necessary for long-lasting, effective engaged scholarship. The University of Alabama (UA) team has benefited as surely as the rural partners and local entrepreneurs. We have gained skill in community-based engagement scholarship and research; journal articles have been written; cross-university collaborations have been forged; students have been involved in real-life problem solving. We see this endeavor as a positive example of how to form a sustainable university-community relationship.



Entrepreneurs worldwide find it harder to access capital and technology in rural areas. Even with a good idea and a strong will, potential rural entrepreneurs often lack the technical or managerial know-how necessary to create successful businesses. Rural areas are also often areas of economic distress. (Snyder et al., 2011.) Our aim has been to establish a robust community-partners network within the business community in rural, low income areas. The network serves as a vehicle to increase prosperity, but it is also a resource for community-based research for interdisciplinary science. Business and economic research might come first to mind, but we have discovered with experience that a community-partners network of entrepreneurs is also an important resource for research in other academic fields.

An original aim of the community-partners network was to make resources from The University of Alabama available to local communities in creating jobs and for increasing locally available goods and services. From that original aim, a network with more sophisticated goals has evolved. The original goal of interaction with rural communities has never changed, but along the way we have developed interdisciplinary coalitions and research opportunities. This paper chronicles that process and encourages others to be open to this kind of academic endeavor.

Our rural partners perceive a positive relationship between physical, environmental, and cultural amenities and economic growth; nevertheless, they know that they are not freestanding economies. Their economic well-being depends on other, surrounding rural counties and on nearby metropolitan areas. Having a formal, long lasting link to business research with a major university has given each partner the chance to develop its own unique strategy for using the university-community resources to improve its local economy.

Despite rural socioeconomic difficulties, our study region has a rich cultural history, and its citizens are optimistic about the future. The area has produced artists, musicians, writers, civil rights activists, and national political figures. In celebration of these assets, different organizations within the various counties organize annual festivals devoted to culture, crafts, cuisine, local flora, music, and in one case, to that great economic powerhouse of earlier times, the mule. (Mule Day is held every June in Gordo, in Pickens County.) Our community partners are constantly pursuing new ways to improve the economic and social conditions in this most impoverished part of Alabama.

By putting resources directly into the hands of people who need them, AERN, the university community network we have established, enables the targeted communities to build local economic successes and simultaneously contribute to original research. Building a sustainable, cohesive, committed network of community partners and university researchers is hard, but doable. The process we describe here is proving valuable for the advancement of research and for the economic benefit of the partner communities.


Literature Review

Community-university collaborations are not new (Austin, 2004). Many units and disciplines across academia have engaged in a wide range of community-based relationships for generations. Because community problems offer opportunities for all three legs of the university’s mission—research, teaching, and service—the experiential learning for students, fresh data sources for faculty, and publicly recognized service outreach, make the community-based research model attractive (Brooks & Schramm, 2007).

The literature regarding community-based research collaborations points to the value of trust and mutual understanding among all partners to a project. At the earliest possible point in the research process, the community partners should be involved and all participants should be mutually defining the goals and objectives of the project. The community partners should have legitimate input regarding the direction of the project, the gathering of the research data, and the analysis of the project results. It is through this level of shared processes that another key element of true community collaboration can be attained: research that has a real and impactful result in the partner communities. A goal of any community-based collaboration should be for the partnership to survive beyond the life of the project currently being undertaken (University of Washington, School of Public Health, 2010).

The ongoing challenge to effect change in rural, low income communities often is that community engagement varies across different socioeconomic groups. For example, less affluent groups participate at a lower rate in community activities than other individuals (Williams, 2004). In any effort to overcome long-standing socioeconomic and cultural hurdles and to ensure broad participation in network activities, communication among local government workers, local politicians, and entrepreneurs is important. While entrepreneurs can tap informally into social capital networks—i.e. personal contacts with important players in the community—the structural dimensions of social capital can also provide a framework regarding the three ingredients important to the individual entrepreneur: access (to scarce resources), timing, and referral (Berggren, 2009).

Community-based development and research continue to gain momentum, particularly in health-related disciplines. There is an ongoing hope that local citizens will take ownership and responsibility and undertake action to achieve sustainability within their own communities for medical translational research efforts (Prinsloo, 2008). “Translational” research moves an idea from theory into practice, and experience shows that sustained university-community research networks like AERN are an excellent vehicle for this to happen.

Building capacity and sustainable economic development activity in “marginalized” communities (Austin, 2004) is the foundation upon which our model rests. Millio (1995) has noted that institutions such as those acting in partnership often serve as important intermediaries between individuals within low performing, rural communities and larger structural partners outside the community. As suggested by the literature, nurturing the community-based groups, and creating and sustaining bridges between individuals and the institutions that support them, are nearly synonymous with rebuilding community capacity (Anheier & Salamon, 2001; Dekker & Van Den Broek, 1998; Merrett, 2001; Perotin, 2001; Salamon, 2001; Stoll, 2001; Williams, 2004).

The bridging of individuals and institutions and larger outside structures takes place through a series of progressive stages that, over time, will increase the likelihood that collaborative, mutual democratic interactions occur that enhance the long-term success of the partnership and the specific project. The shared growth and building of the collaboration, with the preferred goal of full participation by the community partners, also allows for the development of local, engaged democratic interactions that will lead to behavioral changes and local advocacy for future and ongoing collaborative actions among all parties (Terlecki, Dunbar, et al., 2010).

Any approach to sustained community and entrepreneurial capacity building should begin with a common understanding of the individuals and communities involved. First, at its most basic level, “…the ideas for a new venture seem very much rooted in single entrepreneurs.” These entrepreneurs have knowledge and experience harvested over their lifetimes and are searching for “relevant resources to exploit the idea.” (Borch, Forde, Ronning, Vestrum, & Alsos, 2008). Second, at the community level, the local players are looking for tangible action and results, rather than further analysis of the underlying structural social, economic, cultural, or demographic factors that undergird the community or targeted project population. In other words, community partners expect the research and collaboration to directly benefit the community, enhance community assets, and provide some understanding of the community’s place in relationship to the larger structures beyond the local environment. In practical terms, regular meetings, specific actions, focused attention on new members to the collaboration or partnership, and other tangible work products all contribute to creating sustainability and build a common sense of purpose that can ultimately lead to true social change and increased local capacity (Austin, 2004).

The fundamental challenge facing community-based development and collaborative research efforts remains “…to adapt and develop support tools that work well in the specific local context.” Any community-based network must manifest flexibility in the deployment and adaptation of the support tools used in its collaborative efforts—particularly in rural communities (Borch et al., 2008). Over time, the partnership model has the opportunity to transcend traditional project-based collaborations due to its ability to deal with both high levels of complexity and a lack of capacity by any one organization. Long-term efforts to build trust among partners should be predicated on shared decision making, flexibility, mutual implementation of the project, and transparent conversations among all partners. By focusing on the partnership, the likelihood for greater long-term impact and sustainability for both the partners and the partnership will be enhanced (Terlecki, Dunbar, et al., 2010; Austin, 2004).


The AERN Model

This paper describes a community-based model (Figure 1) that meets the community expectations outlined above by Austin and the research expectations outlined by Terlecki and Dunbar. The community-based research model described in this paper has a 10-year history with a strong base of service and a more recent history with successful academic research endeavors.

Our network is deliberately only in rural areas. The commonalities of history and culture that our rural counties share contribute to our successful AERN community partnerships today. Nevertheless, university researchers who might begin work in a rural area in which they did not grow up should not assume that all nearby rural counties with similar statistical profiles are all basically alike. Advice from this project is that university researchers must be carefully attuned to local sensibilities, expectations, and leadership. “They all look alike to me” is never a good way to begin any research endeavor—ever. Even though AERN counties are some of the poorest counties in Alabama with poorly developed physical and social infrastructure and minimal resources, they have leaders who want to see improvement and progress.

Our area’s common history includes chronic poverty and lack of access to high quality public education, factors that introduce impediments to increasing rural prosperity in the area. Chronic poverty restricts access to capital for business startups. Local public schools don’t always offer a solid early childhood or elementary education; nor do the public secondary schools always ensure that students have strong basic skills to support further, postsecondary education. Business owners sometimes wish for a better collaboration between educators and employers to ensure that curricula are aligned with workforce needs.

Seven of the 17 counties in our network had a majority African-American population (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 2010); every county had double-digit unemployment rates (Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, 2010); poverty rates ranged from 18 to 35 percent of the total population in the 2005–2009 time period (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates Program, 2009); up to 30 percent of the adults in these counties have not completed high school and the median family income in several counties is approximately half the national average, while none of the counties has a 2010 median family income as high as the Alabama state average, which is only 85 percent of the national average (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 2005-2009). Our AERN counties generally lack a strong tradition of entrepreneurship among the African-American population.

The socioeconomic situation described above for our research area seems dire, but local response to the AERN initiative has been good and the program has met with success. Local business leaders in all AERN counties, regardless of location, have shown interest and enthusiasm for participation in AERN activities and for participation in community-partnership research activities.



The University of Alabama launched AERN to enhance rural entrepreneurship with the long- term objective of reducing some of the economic distress in these communities. Plant closings and layoffs have resulted in extensive lost jobs in the AERN service area. Textile/apparel, lumber, food, and paper are industries in the AERN area that have shed a considerable number of jobs in the recent past. This industrial downsizing has, of course, resulted in other layoffs from locally owned businesses forced to downsize after the local economy began to shrink. The original program 10 years ago had no academic research objective. The purpose then was to get business research tools into the grasp of rural entrepreneurs, train them in effectively using the research materials, and stay in touch. It was a good idea; it worked; its success has given us opportunities beyond the original intent. Our advice to others is that evolving goals and objectives are not bad. Stay true to your cause, but certainly add different ingredients from time to time to make the recipe tastier. This idea is expanded later in the paper.


Equipment and Materials

From the beginning (Figure 2), AERN has been a program with three components. One is to make available computers and peripheral equipment, business software, reference books, and other business research resources to chambers of commerce, industrial development agencies, or other nonprofit organizations whose mission includes business development in very rural, low income areas of Alabama. These organizations put the AERN resources in a secure location accessible to the public. The computers and other research materials are used to encourage potential entrepreneurs to start or expand a local business, or for other economic development work in the target area. The second component is a strong training emphasis. The staffs of the partner agencies receive training in how to use the materials and the public is offered seminars and workshops. The third component is AERN’s website. Many online resources are accessible there and the site is designed for ease of use by the lay public.

The program that was piloted in several West Alabama counties has subsequently been expanded fourfold. The small towns in our rural service area do not have a budget to purchase the business research tools provided through AERN; nor have they had the experience and expertise to use business software and printed business reference books effectively. Yet experience shows that when these tools are available, potential entrepreneurs are willing and able to access them for many uses.

The system works because it is a community-university partnership. The University of Alabama provides the service delivery components of the program. The UA-selected business reference materials (printed materials and software) are housed in the offices of partner agencies, but remain on the UA inventory. UA technical staff set up computers, peripheral hardware, and basic software in the offices of the partner agencies. The local partner agencies provide consumable materials (printer cartridges, paper, etc.), office furniture, physical access to the materials, and staff to help people use them.

AERN centers are located within agencies whose mission is economic advancement—chambers of commerce, industrial development authorities, community development agencies, and the like. AERN provides a flexible toolkit for locals who want to bring businesses and opportunities to their areas. AERN creates a decentralized network to bring cutting edge entrepreneurial computing tools and training directly to underserved, rural communities in Alabama affected by economic conditions of downturn and long-term decline. The system has proved remarkably replicable. The project began as part of a strategy to bring prosperity to rural, economically distressed areas and is beginning to produce solid community results. Following are two examples.


Traveling Workshops, Train-the-Trainer Programs.

Training local entrepreneurs to use computers and software for the purposes of adding new jobs and income to the area is done primarily by on-site seminars and workshops, but also through the AERN website. Training topics include researching markets, accessing expert advice, writing business plans, communicating with the public and current and prospective clients, and using technology in business applications.

The staff of the partnering agencies receive training so they can be local resources when UA personnel are not available on-site. Agency staffers learn to use the business software and electronic media. As funds permit, UA upgrades and enhances the resources available to its partners. Our partners have proven to be very entrepreneurial in their own right. They have used the AERN resources not only for helping individual entrepreneurs, but also for industrial recruitment, as a catalyst/leverage for grant proposals, and as a resource for other business development.


Recovering from economic downturn has several possible paths.

In one county, a man whose job had been eliminated at his long-time employer decided he wanted to open a restaurant on the downtown square. His father was willing to give him financial backing. He and his father came to the local chamber of commerce multiple times over the course of several weeks as they worked on a rigorous business plan. Starting a restaurant is risky. In fact, this entrepreneur was moving into a location where a previous restaurant had failed. A year later, he has met all his sales targets and is now open for lunch in addition to his original evening hours. He and his father give much of the credit to the AERN resources for the informed decisions they made, and they are grateful to our AERN partner for helping them through the process.

This story can be repeated again and again in different counties, for a consumer electronics store, an office supply store, an industrial paint contractor and others.

Several of our partner agencies use the AERN resources for local industrial recruitment. This is a use of the system that we never envisioned at the beginning. One county has been able to attract a pipeline company; another has used the socioeconomic statistics available through AERN to document need and write a successful grant for an airport upgrade. Others have used AERN to research an industry group (poultry processing, pulp and paper) before making an industrial recruitment effort.


Web-Based Client Delivery Services.

AERN has a website housed at the University. This website has current program information and news, connects the AERN partners to a variety of UA resources they would otherwise not have, and provides a central point of contact for persons outside AERN to access the program. We post a regular short newsfeed with tips about information resources for entrepreneurs (e.g., highlighting a special feature of one of the AERN reference works or a particularly helpful free website). We deliver this information via RSS or an email list on a monthly basis. We archive the feed on the AERN website. We created Flash (audio/animation) demos showing how to use the various resources located at the centers. (See; especially note the “Ask a Business Librarian,” which gives website users the professional services of University faculty librarians to help research a business problem.

In 2009, we created a DVD that contains the digital tools listed above. The DVD was designed to deliver the tools to the user’s desktop without need for Internet access. Copies of the DVD were made available for distribution from the AERN partner centers because, when the AERN began, access to the Internet was problematic for some of our target audience. To our delight, the DVDs have not been popular. The digital divide is closing. Our rural clients generally have regular, reliable access to the Internet and are getting more and more comfortable about using it.

AERN investments are a catalyst for our partners to build further capabilities. AERN is a “tool kit” for do-it-yourself business building. UA faculty, staff, and researchers will not do any of the “hammering and sawing” for a person who wants to create his or her own business. Instead, the UA team will guide and direct that person in the use of business research tools so that he or she can make good business decisions. The project leaders of AERN are committed to providing ongoing training and upgrading the technology in the local sites, as resources allow. The local partner agencies are the key to the success of the program. Where an agency has recognized the potential of AERN’s resources and made proactive use of them, there has been notable success.


Factors Necessary for Success

Local Partners. In counties where a local partner has not been interested or creative, the program has languished. Where an agency has recognized the potential of AERN’s resources and made proactive use of them, there has been success. Our experience confirms what other engaged community scholars have noted—for a partnership to be successful, it must have buy-in from both the agency’s administrative level and the contact person with whom we work every day. In one county, our contact person was a charming, cheerful woman with an accounting background. She organized AERN workshops; she worked one-on-one with a local black-owned business that expanded to a second location; and she seemed to enjoy this aspect of her job. She and her board didn’t agree and they asked her to discontinue spending time on AERN activities. When we went back to that county to retrieve the resources, everyone in the room was sad. On a different occasion we had a contact person who was also charming, eloquent, and friendly, but not at all interested in AERN. We met with her board members to clarify why the program wasn’t working well. When they discovered the problem, they solved it by reallocating some of the AERN responsibilities to another person who was delighted to have this project to work with. Our original contact person is still a team member, and we appreciate the board’s creative solution.

Money and Staffing. AERN began, as an idea only, in the fall of 2000 with a grant from the state legislature. It became operational in the spring and summer of 2001. So, we have about 10 years of experience. AERN began with no permanent staff, no identifiable home base, and no budget guaranteed beyond the end of the initial fiscal year. The co-directors had other, full-time jobs within the University. Nevertheless, AERN has grown geographically because it was a good idea that was developed in partnership with community-based leaders, and it has grown academically because it is nourished by a research-minded administration.

For the first several years, AERN’s funding base came from a grant that the state legislature gave to The University for the purpose of economic development. The University’s administration was not required to allocate those funds to AERN, and certainly there were competing projects by others within the university. The administration continued to allocate these earmarked dollars to AERN because it was a program with a successful track record and a vocal set of community partners. In the past decade’s lean years of funding for higher education, the University’s administration has continued to support the program because it has become interdisciplinary and research-oriented, as well as being popular with rural constituents.

In the mid-2000s we won a competitive award for economic development activities from a federal agency. We have applied for, and won, several others since then, from a variety of federal departments and agencies. Additionally, the university’s administration has continued to show monetary support, even when the earmarked funds from the state legislature were no longer available. A state consortium devoted to economic development has twice given a grant to AERN. We continue to seek funding from the public and private sectors. There is no line-item funding for this program in anybody’s budget—federal, state, local, public, or private. We have been proactive in asking, and over about 10 years we have been allocated, from one source or another, about $1,045,000.

Documenting the Process. The co-directors try to substantiate the economic differences AERN has had in its counties, not an easy task. Entrepreneurs sometimes let an idea “percolate” for quite a while before acting on it. When they do make a business decision, there’s no legal or even ethical requirement for them to report the results to us. Although attributing a dollar value to AERN’s efforts in rural Alabama is difficult, evaluation has been a strong component of the AERN from the beginning. Partners give regular feedback in the form of formal, quarterly conversations with one of AERN’s co-directors. Additionally, partners fill out an annual report form that asks for numerical information regarding usage of the materials and the results of that usage. We specifically ask our partners to monitor to their best ability the jobs created and jobs saved that can be attributable to the use of AERN resources. We have a continuing sense of the business opportunities that have been made possible by this program and we can describe particular examples.


Lessons Learned

Some initial technology choices for program partners were not popular, specifically training videos, reference books on DVD instead of paper, and scanners for the computers. We bought small televisions and VCR tapes for the very earliest partner agencies. The VCR tapes were commercially produced tapes about small business topics such as financing, management, and the importance of good accounting. We envisioned our partners hosting small groups to watch the videos and discuss them afterward. Or perhaps individuals who came into the centers would want to watch the videos privately. That never happened, anywhere. People were interested in researching their particular small business needs; they were not interested in spending time on general-interest small business topics.

When we began the program we bought one very expensive reference book on DVD instead of in paper. Only one partner agency ever used the DVD. Many lost that expensive disk. Initially, our rural areas had strong preferences for doing business research with books. We have seen a dramatic difference in the decade we have been operating the program. While DVDs are still not popular, finding information on the Internet is. In a very short time, middle-aged residents of rural Alabama have become remarkably more adept at using the Internet. When we began this project, Internet service was not available in all of Alabama’s rural areas. “Last mile” digital divide issues were an early problem that has gotten better as the 21st century progresses.

Even with better Internet access and less Internet anxiety, the basic reference collection of books continues to be important. Reading and taking notes from a book is preferable many times to reading on a screen about a subject. Yet, the information in books ages as time passes. People are tempted to take a book home, and some don’t return it. The AERN reference books are not intended to circulate, but keeping the collection complete and up-to-date is challenging.


Factors Contributing to Successful University-Community Partnerships.

As mentioned earlier, one of the most important lessons we have learned is that buy-in from the local agency is crucial. Our partners must spend time and energy on the ground promoting the program and training its users. Not all partners are equally good at this or willing to spend time on it. Many of our partner agencies have part-time staffs and staffers in all agencies have other pressing job assignments. AERN is most effective in counties where AERN’s goals and the staff person’s job responsibilities are very congruent.

Another lesson not to be overlooked is that a successful program requires time and attention from the administering university. Neglected partners will become disinterested and nonfunctional. It is the job of the administering partner to find ways that the program can be beneficial in both directions; finding those ways is not the job of the community partner. Motivating the community partners is another important function of a successful administrative style. It would be easy for the partners to be passive recipients of university teaching and expertise. Experience has taught them that this is the model most universities prefer. This program aims for a partnership that runs in both directions—both from the university and back to the university (Figure 3).


Successful Engaged Scholarhip Benefits the Partnering University

The benefits to a university that seeks to build a long-term community relationship accrue in several areas—political, public relations, student recruitment, academic research, and interdepartmental cooperation are easy, obvious examples. Other university-related benefits are more subtle. The University of Alabama is not a rural institution and has always had strong attachments to the urban parts of the state. An enhanced UA presence in rural Alabama educates both the UA team members and the rural partners. Sophisticated, well-educated, highly paid, urban academics can be mightily out of touch with rural realities. (One eye-opener is learning about sophisticated, well-educated, highly paid, rural dwellers—whose point of view about nearly everything can be different from the urban scholar’s.)

Developing a successful, sustainable community outreach network in rural areas based on economic development has positive public relations and political benefits to the local partners as well. Local governmental leaders are intensely interested in the health of their local economies and are generally interested in and appreciative of partnerships that foster that growth. Local leaders are also quick to notice a relationship that is not a partnership. A community outreach effort marked by university employees’ insincerity, inconsistency, and short- term commitment is not good for the initiating university’s reputation, the cooperating community, or the careers of anyone on either side.

Building a network that can be used for research and engagement scholarship, as well as for entrepreneurship training, has created intracampus connections and cooperations that are leading to other, more, and different ways to strengthen translational scholarship. In the case of AERN, this program at various times has been engaged with the UA Libraries, the School of Medicine, the College of Human Environmental Sciences, and faculty within AERN’s own home, the College of Commerce and Business Administration, as well as from several other disciplines. Undergraduate and graduate students from many disciplines have worked with our rural partners. Students and community members have like one another and value what each brings to the process.


Successes—and Some Failures

There are several ways to measure success for an entrepreneurial research network. One is a positive impact on the local economy. The formation of new small businesses contributes to the well-being of their local communities, and the ability to attract a new, outside industry provides jobs and additional income. AERN has had a number of those successes and we highlight them in our program’s quarterly newsletter, on our website, and in our annual report.

Another way to measure our success is that the program has continued for a decade and is thriving. University administrators have supported it; so have funding agencies. With no permanent, line-item source of funding and no full-time staff until a few months ago, the program has grown in number of partner counties, expanded in scope, and achieved some degree of recognition.

The ability to bring people together to work toward a common goal is another measure of success. AERN has several examples of this. The partners in our network have frequently met together to discuss, or to engage in, regional cooperation for economic growth. In the past, none of these agencies would have been in touch with each other or would have the possibility of cooperating for the common good. Another well-known benefit of engaged scholarship is moving academic experiences and expertise to the real workplace, and conversely moving everyday realities of community life back to university researchers’ work. AERN continues to bring rural partners together with urban scholars.

Another success AERN has achieved is in building a network of partners in rural counties who are interested in and willing to participate in university academic research studies. What is the attitude of rural residents about the relationship between the business enterprises in a local economy and the local availability of health care? What do new small business owners in Alabama have in common with new small business owners in a different country? What role does the existing business community have in expanding health care options in a rural area? Is there money to be made in that effort, while at the same time improving the general level of health to the community? These are academic research questions that AERN has already been working on in Alabama, in partnership with faculty members from various disciplines within the university. The network of partners AERN has established has begun to make a difference in engagement scholarship and translational science in Alabama.

There have been failures over the years. Our partnerships in two counties have formally dissolved. The organizational infrastructure in those counties was too fragile to sustain the partnership. The agencies in those counties could not continue to provide a place to keep the AERN materials, a contact person, and the support of the governing board. Some of the small businesses that have started have failed. Despite the background research and consultation that preceded the business start-up, some entrepreneurs found the rigors of small business ownership were too difficult and closed voluntarily. Others found they could not sustain their businesses during the economic downturn. No venture is one hundred percent successful. We regret the businesses and relationships that were not long-lasting, but we are able to document a long-term, overall positive effect in rural Alabama because of the program.

We believe this is a portable, easily replicable business development model for other counties within Alabama and certainly in other states or countries with low income, rural, isolated communities affected by economic downturn. Easily demonstrable benefits accrue to local communities, the university at large, and the academic community. Benefits to local entrepreneurs include researching markets; accessing expert advice; writing business plans; and networking with other rural areas in Alabama. Our community partners have training sessions on the UA campus; small group workshops for potential entrepreneurs led by business librarians and small business experts; one-on-one training for staff personnel of partner agencies; and “Ask a Librarian” and other targeted information on the AERN website. Our partners have equally been proactive in the program by hosting, and frequently leading, local seminars using AERN materials.

The University of Alabama has just as surely benefited from its community-based engagement with AERN partners. Students have had experiences they would never otherwise have had; faculty have interacted with community leaders and entrepreneurs they never would have otherwise known; and researchers have learned things they would not have discovered without the AERN network.

The “soft” benefits of AERN are not to be taken lightly—increased visibility; enhanced ability to provide service; encouragement of regionalism; collaborative, community-based academic research. But the “hard” benefits also speak loudly in a low-income, low population density region. Despite some failures, there is solid evidence that AERN has helped create or save jobs in rural Alabama (Table 1).


What’s Next?

At this writing, AERN’s future looks promising. There is both university institutional support and community support and interest. What began as a good idea for providing services, with the potential for increasing prosperity in rural Alabama, is now poised as a model for university/community research. The model is so strong that it could be implemented in all counties, not only rural counties. Funding for that is not in place, but if the money were available, the mechanism would work.

The program partnerships that have been forged lend themselves to cooperative community-based research in areas other than small business formation and traditional economic development. We have made beginnings in these directions. In 2008 and 2009 AERN network partners and university researchers cooperated in a survey research project that looked at the relationship between health care in our AERN communities and economic development. Without question, health care has improved over time in Alabama, but not equally in all areas. The Black Belt (Scholars include 12–23 counties in Alabama’s Black Belt, named for its dark, rich soils in the central part of the state. The area roughly tracks the state’s former plantation region. Counties that make up the region tend to be predominantly African-American) has been an area that has attracted the attention of medical researchers because of its incidences of certain diseases, cancer and diabetes for example, and for health care disparity in the region. The economic and health care service problems of the AERN service area are well known. What is not so well known is the dynamics of the two together. This initial small study gave some insights, but further study is needed, for example to assess the immediate and long-term impact on a community of the opening of a new doctor’s office, hospital, or multi-employee business or industry.

AERN is partnering with the university’s College of Community Health Sciences (CCHS) to seek grant and research opportunities to introduce the latest health innovations into these rural areas. By combining health and business opportunities, AERN and CCHS expect to both enhance the health of the communities and chart the economic benefits of healthcare activities. This intracampus coordination benefits both the university and the AERN partner communities. The cohesive network of AERN partners benefits university researchers who seek to work in the Alabama Black Belt and the Black Belt citizens benefit from the university’s long-term, collaborative relationship with them.

An unexpected benefit has accrued to the University’s Business Library faculty, who report real enjoyment from working with actual entrepreneurs. Ordinarily, their time is spent helping students with their assignments or faculty with their academic needs. Working with business people located in a rural setting has been completely different and very satisfying for the librarians, and now they have taken their work to the next important sustainability level: They published the results of their experience in a refereed library journal (Pike, Chapman, Brothers, & Hines, 2010).

What was initially conceived as a service project is easily moving into the realm of solid community-based academic research, producing publishable results. The service component of AERN has not lessened and will never be replaced by academia’s research and publishing requirements. Continuing our community-based network of local business communities partnered with the university is our main goal. At the same time, that network is potentially interesting to health researchers, social work researchers, undergraduate student service-learning projects, and the academic arts community, as we have seen thus far. Other research opportunities no doubt will reveal themselves.



AERN is a 10-year-old program originally designed to encourage entrepreneurship and build local capacity in rural areas of economic distress. The network now includes 15 partners spread over a large geographic area of the state and provides training, counseling, and business research services through its local community partners. The local partners consist of local economic development agencies, chambers of commerce, and other stable nonprofit entities in the local infrastructure. In addition to promoting prosperity in low-income areas, the program now serves as an opportunistic research network for social science investigations.

Why does The University of Alabama participate in this activity? Building mutually committed community relationships advances the teaching, research, and service missions of the university. Sustaining these kinds of partnerships for the long term has historically been a challenge within many research settings. The partners and the researchers must both perceive inter-related needs that are worthy of time spent working together. The concept of engagement scholarship, as codified by the National Association of State University and Land-Grant Colleges (2004) (Today, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities), implies reciprocity, whereby both the institution and partners in the community benefit and contribute.

Engagement blends scientific knowledge from the university with real-world knowledge within the community to establish an environment of co-learning. Engagement involves shared decision making. Successful community-based research involves a series of steps that are intended to lead to cohesion among all participants while also sustaining the network. Ideally, the lessons learned from the process will be written up, submitted, reviewed, and published in a journal article, thereby elucidating the successes and failures of a given project upon which future scholarship may be built.

The best community-based research requires that the professional researchers adopt an attitude of humility when entering the community. If researchers seek information from community partners, they need to be honest with the community about their intentions and motives. They must be willing to accept moments of disagreements and resistance. Likewise, the community participants must be willing to be honest and to follow through on activities for which they have agreed to participate. Relationships between communities and the academy should be measured by impact and outcomes on the communities and individuals served, not only by the academic outcomes achieved.

Finding that balance is difficult. The model we suggest here is that a service-based community network with leadership committed to its future is the kind of engagement that enables faculty to be better scholars and provides positive outcomes that are appreciated within the community. Additionally, a long-term, sustainable community network for research projects enhances the learning experience for students and multiplies the institution’s impact on external constituencies. The scholarship of engagement is tied to public accountability. In coming decades all universities will face a redefinition of how they conduct teaching, research, and service in community relationships. As Dr. Heather Pleasants at The University of Alabama put it: “We have arrived at a moment in time when colleges and universities are increasingly engaging in research with communities, rather than research on communities” (Hollander, 2010).

The Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network is an example of how to form a community relationship that works on several levels. It enables participating community members to seek new paths to prosperity, while allowing university researchers to seek new paths for translational research—research that translates ideas from the ivory tower to the market square, and also in the other direction. Community members are willing to give time and effort to the network because they see ongoing, positive benefits to themselves and their communities. Scholars in many forms of action/engagement research in several disciplines see professional benefits to their fields and their careers. Students have gotten “real world” experience along with academic credit for their projects and service in rural Alabama. People at each of these entry points into the network have learned to appreciate the point of view of the others.



Alabama Department of Industrial Relations. (2010). Retrieved from

Anheier, H.K., & Salamon, L.M. (2001). Volunteering in cross-national perspective. London: Centre for Civil Society, Department of Social Policy, London School for Economics and Political Science.

Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. (2004). Retrieved from

Austin, D.E. (Winter 2004). Partnerships, not projects! Improving the environment through collaborative research and action. Human Organization, 63(4), 419-430.

Berggren, B. & Silver, L. (2009). The effect of bridging networks on entrepreneurial activity; The rationl-legal framework and embeddedness in local social capital networks. Journal of Enterprising Communities, 3(2), 125-137.

Borch, O.J, Forde, A., Ronning, L. Vestrum, I.K., & Alsos, G.A. (2008). Resource configuration and creative practices of community entrepreneurs. Journal of Enterprising Communities, 2(2), 100-123.

Brooks, N. & Schramm, R. (2007). Integrating economics research, education, and service. Journal of Economic Education, 38(1), 36-43.

Dekker, P., & Van Den Broek, A. (1998). Civil Society in comparative perspective: Involvement in voluntary associations in North America and Western Europe. Voluntas, 9(1), 11-38.

Hollander, D. (2010), Pleasants sees growth in engagement scholarship, PARTNERS, 3(1), 7, retrieved from

Merrett, V. (2001). Declining social capital and nonprofit organizations: Consequences for small towns after welfare reform. Urban Geography, 22(5), 407-423.

Milio, N. (1995). Creating community information networks for healthy communities. Frontiers of Health Services Management, 12(1), 53-59.

Perotin, V. (2001). The voluntary sector, job creation and social policy: Illusions and opportunities. International Labour Review, 140(3), 327-362.

Pike, L., Chapman, K., Brothers, P., & Hines, T. (2010). Library outreach to the Alabama Black Belt: The Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 15(3/4), 197-207.

Prinsloo, Melani. (2008). Community-based participatory research: A case study from South Africa. International Journal of Market Research, 50(3), 339-354.

Salamon, L.M. (2001). The nonprofit sector at a crossroads: The case of America. Voluntas, 10(1), 5-23.

Stoll, M.A. (2001). Race, neighbourhood poverty and participation in voluntary associations. Sociological Forum, 16(3), 529-562.

Snyder, J.D., LaMore, R., Miller, S., Griffore, R., Schweitzer, J., Holland, P., & Melcher, J. (2011). Understanding small business needs and capital access barriers in Northern Lower Michigan. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University, Center for Community and Economic Development, University Outreach and Engagement.

Terlecki, M., Dunbar, D., Nielson, C., McGauley, C., Ratmansky, L., Watterson, N.L., Hannum, J., Seidler, K., Bongiorna, E., Owen, O., Goodman, P., Marshall, C., Gill, S., Travers, K., & Jackson, J. (Spring 2010). The Crabby Creek initiative: Building and sustaining an interdisciplinary community partnership. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 3(1), 40-50.

University of Washington, School of Public Health. Community-Based Research Principles (2011). Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. American Community Survey, 2005-2009. (2010). Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Census of Population. (2010). Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates Program, Internet release date. (2009). Retrieved from

Williams, C.C. (2004). Community capacity building: A critical evaluation of the third sector approach. The Review of Policy Research, 21(5), 729-739.


About the Authors

Annette Jones Watters is the associate director for the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute; Paavo Hanninen is the program coordinator of the Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network; and Mike Hardin is the Dean—all in the Culverhouse College Commerce and Business Administration at The University of Alabama.

Call for Manuscripts for a Special Issue of JCES

January 26, 2012

The Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship (JCES) invites presenters and others to submit manuscripts related to the NOSC 2012 general theme PARTNER. INSPIRE. CHANGE. and any of these three tracks: Voice of the Student/Young Scholar, Voice of the Community-Partner Scholar, and Voice of the Senior Engaged Scholar.

NOSC 2012 will be held on the campus of The University of Alabama September 30–October 3.

Manuscripts should be either research articles on studies of impact, innovations, and practice stories from the field, or reflective essays on current and emerging trends, perspectives, issues, and challenges that fall under the general theme or specific tracks of the conference.

The deadline for submission is March 1, 2013. Submit your manuscripts as a a Microsoft Word attachment, following the formatting and style requirements of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, to

JCES is one of two research journals supported by the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, which is the new name of the National Outreach Scholarship Conference (see It is a peer-reviewed international journal through which faculty, staff, students, and community partners disseminate scholarly works. JCES integrates teaching, research, and community engagement in all disciplines, addressing critical problems identified through a community-participatory process.


August 5, 2011

Praise for Vol. 4, No. 1
“The best issue to date. Congratulations.” Dr. Robert Witt, president, The University of Alabama

“I just received my Spring 2011 issue of JCES. The look is great and the content is substantive. Thanks to you and your staff for great leadership and hard work in making JCES a strong, viable source and voice for engaged scholarship and practice. I am pleased to serve on the JCES Editorial Board.” Theodore Alter, Ph.D. co-director, Center for Economic and Community Development, Penn State University

Praise for Vol. 3, No. 2
“Congratulations to you and your staff on the absolutely first-rate issue of JCES. A nice standard to live up to.” Dr. Hiram E. (Hi) Fitzgerald, president, National Outreach Scholarship Conference; associate provost, Outreach and Engagement, Michigan State University

“Impressed with the appearance and substance of the journal. [JCES is] invaluable to practitioners and includes interesting and insightful contributions.” Theodore Alter, Ph.D. co-director, Center for Economic and Community Development, Penn State University

“I enjoy the journal and ‘kudos to the team.’ I am impressed with the cover and graphics, which are always quite appropriate to the topics therein.” Delicia Carey, Ph.D., mathematical statistician, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta

“The low rejection rates are impressive in that they indicate a commitment to authors success through a constructive review and revision process.” Susan Scherffius Jakes, Ph.D., extension assistant professor and extension specialist, Family and Community Development, North Carolina State University

Praise for Vol. 2, No. 1
“I have enjoyed the process as JCES has grown and matured. The journal fills an important niche and motivates students.” Nick Sanyal, Ph.D., associate professor, College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho.

Praise for Vol. 1, No. 1
“How exciting to get the inaugural copy of JCES! … It was fun to see some of my favorite colleagues on the editorial board and as authors. The format is a nice break away from the usual … refreshing to read. Nancy K. Franz, Ph.D., Virginia Tech University

“It is impressive! Job well done.” Dr. David Mathews, president Kettering Foundation, Dayton, Ohio

“The journal looks wonderful.” Jay Lamar, Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities, Auburn University “Congratulations on the publication of the new Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship. This journal will provide an excellent opportunity for colleagues in the natural resources education and outreach field to publish their work.” Dr. Susan Donaldson, water quality education specialist; president, Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals.

“After reading your new journal, I now understand what engagement scholarship is about.” George McMillan, community volunteer, former lieutenant governor of Alabama.