Faculty Affairs OKs outline linking community-engaged scholarship to promotion, tenure


The Faculty Affairs committee agreed at its April 28 meeting to advance a newly formulated memo outlining how to implement community-engaged scholarship in promotion and tenure decisions.

The document, which allows for individual schools to implement according to their individual needs and standards, will move through the shared governance process on its way to the Faculty Assembly meeting on May 11.

The document defines community-engaged scholarship (CES) as activities that “collaboratively generate, exchange or apply academic and community knowledge and practices through reciprocal partnerships among members of the university” and the broader public.

Approaches include community-based participatory research, engaged-action research and research-practice partnerships that, the document says, result in sharing knowledge through academic publications, policy recommendations, technical reports, exhibitions and joint projects that “benefit the community and the university.”

John Wallace, vice provost for faculty diversity and development, said because Pitts current tenure promotion policies often fail to acknowledge the scholarship aspect of this work, the provost-prompted and subcommittee-formulated memo provides guidelines and encouragement to the various academic units to recognize the work as scholarship.

We have a lot of faculty increasingly who do that kind of work,” Wallace said of CES. “And the challenge is often (that its) not recognized as scholarship (and) often ends up in a service box, when in fact is legitimate scholarship, including my own work, which has been federally funded by the (National Institutes of Health).”

Provost Ann Cudd will review and advance the memo to the Council of Deans, allowing each school to determine what guidelines work best within their departmental and scholarship parameters.

As defined in by the provost’s advisory subcommittee, CES:

  • Requires meaningful, trusting and sustained partnerships, which take time and capacity to develop.

  • Must be mutual and reciprocal in benefits and responsibilities. The effort that community-engaged scholars make to ensure that benefits are equitably distributed among community partners and academics takes time and skill and leads to products useful to the community partner and community.

  • Requires holistic perspective and review. Community engaged scholarship most often occurs in the context of a project that may have multiple processes, partnerships, products, and impacts.

  • Has impact within and beyond the academy, with community impacts that are tangible, applied and can occur at a variety of scales: neighborhood, locality, region, nation, global, community of interest or shared identity or experience.

  • Stands on its own as a form of rigorous scholarship and takes many forms. CES looks different in different disciplines and spaces and involves diverse knowledge, traditions, partners, sources of accountability, funding, and forms of dissemination.

Calling community engaged scholarship an important part of the mission of the University,” Wallace said the committee’s efforts ultimately result “in the provost memo with the aspiration (that) individual schools and departments will use this to inform their own processes.”

What Wallace called a pretty broad” faculty-based committee — including those who engage CES — searched existing policies across the U.S. as well as some international colleges and universities to identify how those schools incorporate this scholarship into tenure and promotion policies. The document the Faculty Affairs committee approved Thursday is the result of a provost’s subcommittees work throughout the past few months.

I think that we came out with a really good document,” said Senate President Robin Kear, asking her committee peers to look at this from two perspectives … of someone who might be reviewing this kind of work, what they would need to know.

But we also tried to write it so that people doing the work understand what would be valued, or understand what could potentially be valued,” Kear added. And also to think about these documents as academic recommendations in the realm of peer review, that are going to our shared governance, and then will go through as recommendations.”

The document requires academic units to develop policies for incorporating CES into tenure and promotion with the following actions:

  • Revise promotion and tenure guidelines to demonstrate that CES is valued commensurately to other forms of scholarship at Pitt.

  • Revise promotion and tenure guidelines to account for the fact that it takes time and resources to appropriately build partnerships and conduct impactful community engaged scholarship.

  • Develop guidelines to specify that the rigor and quality of CES is dependent upon mutual benefit, sustainability  and impact within and beyond the academy.

  • Create a system of holistic review for CES projects so the diverse processes and products that a project yields can be understood in relationship to each other and the projects overall social and academic impacts.

  • Ensure that at least some external letter-writers or external reviewers for faculty who do CES are community engaged scholars themselves.

Shannon Wells is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at shannonw@pitt.edu.


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