Return to Provost Office



102 Osborne Admin Building University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208
Phone: (803) 777-2808
Fax: (803) 777-9502

| Assessment | CTE | Faculty Manual | Outlook | University Policies
Community Engagement & Service

COCES Leadership Council

Recognizing and Rewarding Faculty for Community-Engaged Scholarship

[Download a PDF version]

Members of the COCES Leadership Council have submitted a second concept paper that describes issues, concerns, and recommendations regarding how facultyís community-engaged scholarship can be recognized and rewarded. That paper was authored by the following Council members:

  • Dr. Bruce Field, Executive Director, Office of School-University Partnerships and Clinical Experiences, USC College of Education
  • Dr. Darcy Freedman, Assistant Professor, USC College of Social Work
  • Dr. Cathy Gustafson, Associate Professor, School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management, USC College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management
  • Dr. Karen Heid, Associate Professor, Department of Art, USC College of Arts and Sciences
  • Dr. Chris Plyler, Vice Provost for System Affairs and Dean of Extended University


Introduction and Historical Perspective

University and college faculty have traditionally been recognized and rewarded for their work in three primary areas of responsibility: scholarship/creative activities, teaching, and service. In recent years, as colleges and universities have recognized the important role they can and should play in addressing community needs, academic institutions across the Nation have begun to examine ways to recognize and reward faculty engagement in community activities as part of the civic mission of higher education. While the movement was initiated by community and small liberal arts colleges, research universities have quickly joined the discussion.

In the Fall of 2005, Campus Compact, a national coalition of college and university presidents, took the lead in the community engagement and service initiative by joining with Tufts University in bringing together representatives from 13 research universities to share the  community engagement experiences at their respective institutions. The two-day conversation resulted in a case statement entitled “New Times Demand New Scholarship: Research Universities and Civic Engagement - A Leadership Agenda.”  The statement included a set of recommendations for how research universities could promote engaged scholarship both at their own institutions and throughout higher education. Included among the fifteen recommendations were two that specifically addressed tenure and promotion: 1) “ensure that engaged scholarship is valued in tenure and promotion decisions, grant awards, and public recognition, regardless of discipline” and 2) “develop and agree on a set of standards for what constitutes high-quality ‘engaged scholarship’ – and then work collaboratively to ensure that these are used by institutions as the basis for tenure and promotion decisions and grant awards.”

As a continuation of the Fall 2005 dialogue, a larger group of 23 research university scholars met at UCLA in February 2007 for another two-day conversation that produced a second report entitled “New Times Demand New Scholarship II: Research Universities and Civic Engagement – Opportunities and Challenges.” This report optimistically noted that, “the extent of civic engagement scholarship and education at research universities has grown substantially in the recent past,” but also argued that “there is much more that research universities can and should do,” including “encourag[ing] and reward[ing] faculty members’ engaged research, community-focused instruction, including service-learning, professional service, and public work in institutional recognition, reward, and promotion systems.” This group convened again in 2008 at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, and agreed to formalize its existence as The Research University Civic Engagement Network or TRUCEN and formally invited other research institutions to join in its work.
The community engagement initiative was further enhanced when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching created a voluntary community engagement classification to recognize “collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.” The classification has been earned by a total of 311 institutions since its inception in 2006, and Carnegie President Anthony Bryk noted that, “Through a classification that acknowledges significant commitment to and demonstration of community engagement, the Foundation encourages colleges and universities to become more deeply engaged, to improve teaching and learning and to generate socially responsive knowledge to benefit communities. We are very pleased with the movement we are seeing in this direction.”

Another organization that has played a prominent role in advancing the community engagement initiative is the Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC), a collaboration among seventeen colleges and universities led by Michigan State University, widely hailed as the leading institution in the civic engagement initiative and also home to the National Collaborative for the Study of University Engagement. Created as a follow-up to the 1999 National Outreach Scholarship Conference hosted by Pennsylvania State University, ESC’s agenda includes “encouraging the realization that the scholarship of engagement is a critical aspect of university responsibility.”
Public service as a faculty responsibility has also been addressed by the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE), particularly in terms of whether universities genuinely value public service in recognizing, promoting, and rewarding faculty.  A 1997 NERCHE study suggested that only a small percentage of faculty at four-year public institutions believed that public service was seriously considered in tenure and promotion decisions, claiming that “it is rated nowhere nearly as important as research and publication . . . or the quality of teaching.” These sentiments echo the challenges identified in the 2005 “New Times Demand New Scholarship” case statement, which noted “a reluctance among some administrators and faculty . . . to incorporate, support, and reward” engaged scholarship and a tendency “to view engaged scholarship as somewhat suspect and less valid than traditional research.” Such barriers to the promotion of engaged scholarship have not slowed discussions of its importance or initiatives by research universities to change the culture of their institutions by following through on the goals begun by TRUCEN and expanded upon by the Engagement Scholarship Consortium.


Responding to the Impetus

As the initiatives mentioned above have moved forward, there has been a shift in focus among research universities in how scholarship is defined. This shift was influenced, in part, by Ernest Boyer’s 1990 book entitled Scholarship Reconsidered. Many institutions of higher education are now encouraging, and sometimes demanding, faculty members to utilize their expertise in innovative and creative ways to generate knowledge that is beneficial to communities in addition to more traditional forms of knowledge production.
In terms of application to specific tenure and promotion processes and guidelines, universities are beginning to develop tenure and promotion criteria that value the range of outputs emerging from community engaged scholarship, some of which are different than scholarly outputs emerging from traditional scholarly endeavors. These new criteria complement existing tenure and promotion guidelines. In 2005, TRUCEN developed a toolkit on community engaged scholarship to provide guidance for universities as they expanded notions of scholarship. The toolkit was informed by in-depth interviews with health professions faculty and by a review of recent literature on scholarship, faculty development, and community/academic partnerships. While the toolkit was developed for faculty in health-related fields, its applicability to other disciplines seems more than appropriate. The toolkit includes a list of scholarly outputs related to community engaged scholarship that could be included in tenure and promotion dossiers as well as guidelines for external reviewers to evaluate community-engaged scholarship.   In regards to potential scholarship artifacts that might be considered in tenure and promotion deliberations, the following are offered as potential evidence of community-engaged scholarship in the realm of research:

  • organizing community forums
  • developing or contributing to websites
  • making policy-level presentations or reports at the community, state, or national level
  • writing or contributing to technical assistance reports for community, state, national, or international organizations
  • developing innovative intervention materials at the community, state, or national levels
  • developing training manuals, brochures, or other educational materials
  • securing grant funding to lead community-based research projects
  • leading community seminars
  • involving students in research to meet unmet community needs

Materials which might be considered as evidence of community-engaged scholarship in the realm of teaching could include

  • developing classes that involve a community component
  • providing excerpts from student journals that detail what they have learned through service learning opportunities
  • letters from community partners describing how a particular project impacted the community
  • taking on leadership roles related to community engaged teaching

These forms of non-traditional artifacts expand definitions of scholarship. Within the academy, it is likely that they could not stand alone as evidence of scholarship without being assessed with criteria associated with more traditional forms of scholarship, including peer review, possibilities for replication, and established measurement of impact.  However, if these outcomes or artifacts are presented while still effectively addressing the criteria associated with more traditional forms of scholarship, the “acceptance” of these as worthy of tenure and promotion consideration addresses the unique contributions of community-engaged scholarship provided by faculty members engaged in this type of research.
The inclusion of these artifacts, however, is not intended to take away from or devalue other forms of scholarship. It is just as important to highlight, however, that the inclusion of community-engaged forms of scholarship in tenure and promotion review processes should not result in tiered criteria with traditional forms of scholarly evidence considered more rigorous or scholarly than community-engaged evidence. In other words, while community-engaged scholarly outputs may be different than traditional forms of scholarship, the expectation is that they should be equally rigorous.


Current State of Affairs: Other Research Universities

Many research universities are currently engaged in addressing the questions raised by Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered and by the work done by Campus Compact, TRUCEN, and other organizations in the area of community engagement.  Many of them have prominently expressed the importance of community engagement and scholarship by emphasizing those efforts in their respective visions and mission statements as well on their university/college home pages.  In regards to a focus on establishing tenure and promotion guidelines that are specific to community engaged scholarship, a number of institutions have advanced and implemented the concept.  For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill underwent an extensive review of its criteria and language used in faculty evaluation purposes. In November 2008 a steering committee and five subcommittees were formed, creating the UNC-CH Task Force on Future Promotion and Tenure Policies and Practices. This Task Force was also charged with defining engaged scholarship. Their result defines engaged scholarship as “scholarly efforts to expand multifaceted intellectual endeavor with a commitment to public practices and public consequences.” The Task Force also stipulated further details regarding rigor and inquiry and that the highest academic standards were to be met. The UNC-CH Task Force on Future Promotion and Tenure Policies and Practices submitted a detailed Final Report in May 2009. The report noted that three current trends in the mission and role of the public university (calls for increased engagement with the public, new forms of scholarly work, and increased scholarly activity across disciplinary lines) were the driving force behind the Task Force’s recommendations. Those recommendations included:

  • Faculty engagementwith the public outside the traditional scholarly community should be valued and evaluated during the tenure and promotion process. Faculty “engagement” refers to scholarly, creative, or pedagogical activities for the public good, directed toward persons and groups outside UNC-CH.
  • New forms of scholarly work and communicationmade possible primarily by digital technology should be included in evaluations of scholarship.
  • Work across disciplinary linesshould be supported. Expectations of all involved parties should be articulated at the outset and referred to as tenure and promotion decisions are made.
  • The expectations and proceduresof the tenure and promotion process should be as clear as possible and tenure and promotion policies and procedures reviewed and revised at the unit level now and in the future whenever the unit is externally reviewed (at least every 10 years).
  • Mentoring of faculty should be seen as an important responsibility of chairs and senior faculty.

A second example is at the University of Georgia which has been engaged in its communities for over 80 years, reaching out through an extensive network of centers, programs, and initiatives. All community and service programs are grouped together at UGA as Outreach. The Office of Service Learning is one of UGA’s Public Service and Outreach (PSO) units. It  highlights UGA faculty-published research that involves service-learning work and promotes UGA’s own Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement as a dissemination vehicle in which faculty might publish. Additionally an extensive list of other journals that focus on engaged research is located on their website as a faculty resource. Service-learning research is well established at UGA and community-engaged research is beginning to emerge, with plans in place to make community-engaged research a focal point in the university’s new strategic plan.
UGA’s 2010 Guidelines for Appointment, Promotion and Tenure include direct and indirect references to community engaged scholarship. Under both ‘Research’ and ‘Service’ promotion and tenure criteria, acceptable options exist related to community engaged research. The Guidelines’ “Evidence of research, scholarship or other creative activities” section includes:

  • Description of new courses and/or programs developed, including service-learning and outreach courses at home or abroad, where research and new knowledge are integrated.
  • Application of research scholarship in the field, including new applications developed and tested; new or enhanced systems and procedures demonstrated or evaluated for government agencies, professional and industrial associations, or educational institutions.
  • Other evidence of impact on society of research scholarship and creative accomplishment.

Within ‘Service’ there are more options for candidates to utilize as exemplars of community engaged research when they are being considered for tenure and/or promotion.. The Guidelines state that, “Service to society refers to the function of applying academic expertise to the direct benefit of external audiences in support of unit and university missions. It can include applied research, service-based instruction, program and project management and technical assistance. A faculty endeavor may be regarded as service to society for purposes of promotion and tenure if the following conditions are met:

  • There is utilization of the faculty member’s academic and professional expertise.
  • There is a direct application of knowledge to, and a substantive link with, significant human needs and societal problems, issues or concerns.
  • The ultimate purpose is for the public or common good.
  • New knowledge is generated for the discipline and/or the audience or clientele.
  • There is a clear relationship between the program/activities and an appropriate academic unit’s mission.

A final institutional example is at The University of Connecticut which has established an Office of Public Engagement and created the position of Vice Provost for Public Engagement. In 2011, that office helped draft a three-year Strategic Plan on Public Engagement that included “engaged scholarship” as one of its three major sections. Defining “engaged scholarship as “scholarship that involves the faculty member in a mutually beneficial partnership with the community,” the three-year plan calls on the university to “encourage this kind of practical scholarship by ensuring that it is appropriately recognized in salary, tenure, and promotion decisions.”  Beginning in 2003, the University of Connecticut also created a Public Engagement Forum, which in March 2012 focused on “Recognizing Engaged Scholarship through the Promotion, Tenure, and Review Process.”


Current State of Affairs: University of South Carolina

With regard to community engaged scholarship being considered for tenure and promotion purposes, current university policies indicate that it is totally dependent on the Unit’s Criteria for Tenure and Promotion. Consistently both the Faculty Manual and the Tenure and Promotion Guidelines state specific criteria used in the evaluation of a faculty member’s file will be determined at the unit level. The 2011 USC Faculty Manual addresses criteria for promotion and tenure by stating “the faculty profile of the university and of any academic unit should reflect performance consistent with that of other major research universities.”
Focus Carolina Strategic Plan (2011) consistently reflects the university’s commitment to its communities. Within “Our Vision,” two of the four vision statements include community engagement specifically, while a third statement includes it less directly. “Our Purpose” as stated in the strategic plan begins with, “As a system, we educate, enrich and improve the quality of life of the state’s diverse citizenry through teaching, research, creative activity, and service.” “Our Initiatives” reflect the action statements developed by committees during the Advance Carolina stage, where committees examined the five critical areas of the strategic plan. Three major initiatives, or action statements, were developed for the critical component of “service excellence”. Two of the three major initiatives directly involve community engagement and include the following language:

  • We should establish a Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement to coordinate service learning and community. Among other things, a center would facilitate research associated with service learning and community service.
  • University leadership should send a clear message to academic units that service excellence is valued in tenure and promotion. We should create ways for faculty to integrate service activities with research, publication, and other scholarly activity.

Focus Carolina wraps up by exploring seven areas of “Our Focus.” One of the seven clearly communicates USC’s commitment as it states our “Focus on Community Engagement” and outlines numerous opportunities for service. The Carnegie certification earned by USC in 2008 is referenced as a milestone achievement in the Focus Carolina Digest, noting that “the Carnegie Community Engagement designation recognizes USC’s deep commitment to outreach activities that connect the university to its various communities and expands the educational and knowledge extension opportunities between the university and those communities throughout the state.”


Where Do We Go From Here?

The COCES Leadership Council Team recommends that the University of South Carolina continue to take steps in the area of community engagement that garnered the institution the Carnegie designation in 2008. In particular, we recommend that:

  • The university’s leadership team charge academic units with the task of examining ways that community-engaged scholarship is relevant to their specific disciplines and encourage those units that find such scholarship relevant to their work to design systems for building community-engaged scholarship into their promotion and tenure policies and procedures.
  • The Provost’s Office include community-engaged scholarship as part of its Visiting Scholars initiative by inviting experts in the field for several multi-week sessions during the 2012-2013 academic year.
  • Community engaged scholarship be included as part of the agenda for the Spring, 2013 Provost Office retreat and at a subsequent Deans’ and Department Chairs’ Retreat.
  • The University become a member of noteworthy national organizations that are focusing on issues surrounding community engaged scholarship in research extensive universities such as the University of South Carolina.
  • The University support selected attendance of faculty members engaged in community-based scholarship at national association meetings focusing on community-engaged scholarship with the understanding that those faculty members assume responsibility for informing the general faculty through the COCES of issues and trends presented at those meetings. 


Return to COCES Home