Civic engagement across the career stages of faculty life

A proposal for a new line of inquiry

Scott J. Peters, Theodore R. Alter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

In a piece she wrote on the "engaged academy" that was published in 2000, Carol Schneider noted the discussion that scholars and others were having about the roles mediating institutions play in addressing public issues and problems in American society, including the problem of civic disengagement. In this discussion, she observed, "there has been surprisingly little attention to the role that higher education institutions in particular might play in the renewal of civic engagement." She went on to say that there is a "crucial need for exploration of potential connections between the core missions of colleges and universities as educational institutions and the quality of our civic life" (Schneider, 2000, pp. 99, 100). The topic Schneider pointed to in her piece is vast and enormously complex. There are all kinds of roles that higher education institutions might play in the renewal of civic engagement, and all kinds of potential connections that could be made between core missions of colleges and universities and the quality of our civic life. In the American higher education studies literature, the conversation about such roles and connections often focuses on preparing undergraduate students for citizenship (e.g., Colby, Beaumont, Ehrlich, & Corngold, 2007; Colby, Ehrlich, Beaumont, & Stephens, 2003). This is important work, and it deserves our attention. But if we wish to both understand and improve higher education's roles in renewing civic engagement and enhancing the quality of our civic life, we also need to attend to the broader topic of the work of faculty members (and other academic professionals) as active participants in and contributors to civic life. The issues to be explored in relation to this topic are not only the roles faculty might play in civic renewal, and the potential connections they might make between core academic missions and the task of improving the quality of our civic life. They are also the roles and connections they already have and are playing and making as they step off their campuses and become engaged in civic life. Of course, the work of preparing students for citizenship through community service-learning pedagogies and courses can and often does engage faculty members as active participants in civic life (Jacoby & Associates, 2003). But faculty members have been and are engaged in civic life in many other ways, and for many other reasons. Here, we come to the problem we take up in this chapter. Beyond service-learning as a means of preparing undergraduates for citizenship, much if not most of the civic engagement work and roles of faculty members has been overlooked as a topic of inquiry, assessment, and discussion, both in the organizational and administrative workings of academic institutions and in the American higher education studies literature. (By "the American higher education studies literature," we are referring only to books and articles published by scholars working in the official academic field of higher education studies. We are well aware of the fact that there are many books and articles written by scholars in other academic fields [e.g., sociology, political theory, history, cultural studies, and philosophy] that address the issue of the political roles and work of academic professionals.) Jane Wellman made this point in 2000, in the same book in which Schneider's piece appeared. Despite all the attention to assessment and accountability in American higher education, Wellman (2000, p. 323) observed, "the civic educational and service roles of higher education remain invisible, unreported, and largely undefined." We want to sharpen her observation by noting that the political roles and work of academic professionals and institutions in civic life remain invisible, unreported, undefined, and largely unexplored. Our purpose in this chapter is to propose a new line of inquiry in the field of higher education studies that attends to this largely unexplored topic. The line of inquiry we propose is not designed to pursue the goal of establishing causal, statistically significant relationships between factors or variables in order to inform attempts by administrators, policy makers, or others to predict, control, and/or intervene for some specific end. Rather, it is designed to stimulate and contribute to conversations within and beyond the academy about the nature, meaning, significance, and value of civic engagement across the career stages of faculty life. Utilizing knowledge, methodological approaches, and theoretical frameworks and tools from several fields and sources, it is designed to catalyze and inform processes of institutional change and faculty and organizational development that contribute to the project of strengthening and deepening higher education's roles in renewing civic engagement and enhancing the quality of our civic life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Engaged Scholarship
PublisherMichigan State University Press
Pages251-269
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9780870139741
StatePublished - 2010

Fingerprint

career
education
citizenship
academy
conversation
organizational development
university
disengagement
community service
political theory
institutional change
cultural studies
educational institution
learning
sociology
student
responsibility
history
literature
Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this

Peters, S. J., & Alter, T. R. (2010). Civic engagement across the career stages of faculty life: A proposal for a new line of inquiry. In Handbook of Engaged Scholarship (pp. 251-269). Michigan State University Press.

Civic engagement across the career stages of faculty life : A proposal for a new line of inquiry. / Peters, Scott J.; Alter, Theodore R.

Handbook of Engaged Scholarship. Michigan State University Press, 2010. p. 251-269.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Peters, SJ & Alter, TR 2010, Civic engagement across the career stages of faculty life: A proposal for a new line of inquiry. in Handbook of Engaged Scholarship. Michigan State University Press, pp. 251-269.
Peters SJ, Alter TR. Civic engagement across the career stages of faculty life: A proposal for a new line of inquiry. In Handbook of Engaged Scholarship. Michigan State University Press. 2010. p. 251-269
Peters, Scott J. ; Alter, Theodore R. / Civic engagement across the career stages of faculty life : A proposal for a new line of inquiry. Handbook of Engaged Scholarship. Michigan State University Press, 2010. pp. 251-269
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