Real rewards: Publicly engaged scholarship, faculty agency, and institutional aspirations

Timothy K. Eatman, Nancy Cantor, Peter T. Englot

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

4 Scopus citations


The current landscape of American higher education requires that postsecondary institutions astutely and vigorously engage issues of social relevance and the “public good” defined in a range of ways. While dominant ideologies and narratives about the role that higher education institutions, especially the most well established and selective (Justia & Amar, 2015), play in our society continue to promote exclusivity and strengthen the status quo, powerful social forces including demographic and socioeconomic realities, as well as the inexorable drive to become a more just and inclusive society – the arc of the moral universe – create pressure for change. The movement for publicly engaged scholarship is a defining element of this landscape (Cantor & Englot, 2015; Post, Ward, Longo, & Saltmarsh, 2016). Efforts to strengthen the public dimensions of scholarly work are not new within academe. In fact, they resonate strongly with a long tradition of action research in the social and behavioral sciences (Brydon-Miller, Greenwood, & Maguire, 2003), even as that tradition sometimes gets sidelined as “applied” and not “fundamental” scholarship. Today, however, it is difficult to ignore the growing community of scholars across the disciplines who view their work as publicly engaged. They are perhaps most easily identified by the innovative ways in which they shape their research and scholarly activity around pressing public issues, often in collaborations beyond the academy. As this phenomenon registers, questions about faculty rewards systems, which are at the same time both opaque and deeply revealing about the visions, values, and directions of institutional culture and character, loom large (Chait, 2002; O'Meara & Rice, 2005; O'Meara, Eatman, & Petersen, 2015; Saltmarsh, Giles, et al., 2009a; Saltmarsh, Giles, Ward, & Buglione, 2009b; Trower, 2004). Publicly engaged academic work, while characterized by a variety of labels, definitions, and forms, is at its core a fresh and evolving expression of knowledge making that integrates the best and most rigorous modes of so-called traditional scholarly work with substantive engagement among academic and nonacademic or “community” partners, coalescing around the shared challenge of tackling complex, often formidable, public problems. As Harry Boyte suggests, there is growing endorsement of the rigor and importance of scholarly work “by publics, for public purposes, in public” (Boyte, 2015, p. 4).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Service Learning and Community Engagement
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781316650011
ISBN (Print)9781107153783
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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