The annual Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty recognizes a full-time, early-career faculty member who connects their teaching, research and service to community engagement.

The Lynton Award emphasizes community-engaged scholarly work across faculty roles. The scholarship of engagement represents an integrated view of faculty roles in which teaching, research, creative activity, and service overlap and are mutually reinforcing. It is characterized by scholarly work that benefits the external community, is visible and shared with community stakeholders, and reflects the mission of the institution.

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Defining engaged scholarship

Engaged scholarship is the co-creation of knowledge that shifts the position of students and community groups from knowledge consumers to knowledge producers and partners in problem-solving. Engaged scholarship is the generation of new knowledge through the combining of academic knowledge and community-based knowledge, eliminating a hierarchy of knowledge and a one-way flow of knowledge outward from the college or university.


The norms of engaged scholarship include:

  • Participatory epistemology: the co-creation of knowledge that shifts the position of students from knowledge consumers to knowledge producers and shifts community groups from being subjects or spectators of the research process to collaborators in knowledge generation and problem solving.
  • Collaborative research: recognizing an ecosystem of knowledge and acknowledging that the generation of new knowledge requires that academic knowledge be combined with community-based knowledge, eliminating a hierarchy of knowledge and a one-way flow of knowledge outward from the college or university.
  • Scholarly artifacts as publications: expanding the understanding and valuing of scholarly products beyond publication in highly specialized disciplinary journals.
  • Knowledge experts from outside the academy (peers): along with a valuing of the knowledge and experience that both academics and non-academics bring to the processes of education and knowledge production comes the reframing of who is a peer in the peer review process and the recognition that in certain circumstances the expert will be a non-credentialed, nonacademic collaborator.
  • Trans-disciplinarity: recognizing that interdisciplinary inquiry remains bounded by academic disciplines and that trans-disciplinarity is fundamentally different in that it combines multiple disciplinary knowledge within the college or university with knowledge that exists and is generated outside the college or university.
  • Impact: academic impact is conceived as “the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to achievement of societally relevant outcomes” (NSF) and is shaped by examining the nature of the system within which knowledge is transformed into public policy or social action and how scholars engage others to transform research into actionable and useful knowledge.

These definitional characteristics distinguish community engaged scholarship from other forms of community and public scholarship:

  • Community-engaged scholarship and community-based scholarship: while scholarly work, whether through teaching or research, may be based in a community, locating the work in a community often means student/research placements, and transactional relationships rather than collaborative, reciprocal partnerships essential to community engagement.
  • Public scholarship and publicly engaged scholarship: Public scholarship typically refers moving beyond the walls of the academy to share knowledge generated in the academy with the public. Publicly engaged scholarship refers to moving beyond the walls of the academy to collaborate with community partners to generate knowledge.
  • While publicly engaged scholarship may be considered public scholarship, public scholarship is not necessarily publicly engaged scholarship.
  • While both community-based scholarship and public scholarship are important activities and should be valued by institutions of higher education, they are not fully representative of the kinds of activities recognized by the Lynton Award.

Additionally, the Lynton Award conceptualizes scholarly engagement as grounded in a set of assumptions about knowledge and social change, explicitly advancing social justice in a diverse democracy. Community engagement addresses questions of power, privilege, politics, positionality, identity, and implication and assumes that:

  1. The public purposes of higher education are knowledge creation and dissemination, AND cultivation of democratic values, skills and habits – democratic practice
  2. The norms of democratic practice reflect the workings of privilege and power in time and place, and often lead to injustice at the individual, institutional and societal level.
  3. All scholarship examines, or reifies by non-examination, the workings of power and privilege as context and constituent of knowledge creation and dissemination and therefore has a political agenda.

Thus, engaged scholarly work must critically examine (historical, racial, economic, gender, social, etc.) contexts of knowledge production—past, present, and future—as part of every scholarly project.

Nominations & Recipients

Nomination & selection

Learn about nominations & the criteria used to select a winner

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Learn about Lytnon Award recipients since its inception in 1997.

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ernest lynton

Lynton Award History

Dr. Ernest A. Lynton framed faculty scholarly activity as inclusive, collaborative, and problem-oriented work in which academics share knowledge-generating tasks with the public and involve community partners in public problem-solving.

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Full history

Dr. Ernest A. Lynton framed faculty scholarly activity as inclusive, collaborative and problem-oriented work in which academics share knowledge-generating tasks with the public and involve community partners as participants in public problem solving. The core value of reciprocity involves “true partnership, based on both sides bringing their own experience and expertise to the project.” Reciprocity values rationality that is relational, localized and contextual, and favors mutual deference between laypersons and academics. Knowledge generation is a process of co-creation, breaking down the distinctions between knowledge producers and knowledge consumers. It further implies scholarly work that is conducted with shared authority and power with those in the community at all stages of the research process – from defining the research problem, choosing theoretical and methodological approaches, conducting the research, developing the final products and participating in peer evaluation. Reciprocity operates to facilitate the involvement of individuals in the community not just as consumers of knowledge and services but as participants in the larger public culture of democracy. What Lynton identified as a “kind of collaboration [that] requires a substantial change in the prevalent culture of academic institutions” such that they would be “highly interactive with their surroundings,” maintaining “a close relationship with their communities.”

The Ernest A. Lynton Award was started in 1996 to recognize faculty members who connect their expertise and scholarship to community outreach. Award recipients demonstrated excellence in each of the four criteria for the award:

  • Sustained effort in community outreach and professional service;
  • Use of innovative and imaginative approaches;
  • Institutional impact through teaching, program development and student/faculty participation; and
  • External success through scholarly output, community impact and student learning.

Since 1996, there have been over 1,000 nominations of exemplary faculty members whose work has had a significant impact on scholarship, teaching, and societal problems. Award recipients represent disciplines as varied as sociology, philosophy, medicine, library science, anthropology, chemistry, English, engineering, education and American studies. They teach at universities, both public and private; liberal arts colleges; and community colleges. They have inspired students to consider using their education to make a socially meaningful imprint on an increasingly complex world. They are role models, not only for students, but also for their colleagues and their institutions seeking to find ways to connect the rich resources of the academy with the local and global community. They are institutional change agents transforming American higher education toward a more democratic and socially just purpose.

The Lynton Award pays tribute to the memory of Ernest Lynton, who raised the profile and status of faculty professional service both nationally and internationally. Lynton championed a vision of service that embraced collective responsibility and an understanding of colleges and universities as catalyst not only in the discovery of new knowledge but also in its use in addressing social issues.

In 2007, the Lynton Award was renamed the Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement. The change in language represents a shift from a more unilateral, expert-driven approach to outreach that prevailed in the 80s and early 90s to one that O’Meara and Rice describe as “going beyond the expert model that often gets in the way of constructive university-community collaboration, … calls on faculty to move beyond ‘outreach,’… asks scholars to go beyond ‘service,’ with its overtones of noblesse oblige. What it emphasizes is genuine collaboration: that the learning and teaching be multidirectional and the expertise shared. It represents a basic re-conceptualization of faculty involvement in community-based work” (Faculty Priorities Reconsidered, 2005).

In 2009, the Lynton Award was designated as an award for early career faculty (pre-tenure at tenure-granting campuses and early career – within the first six years – at campuses with long-term contracts).

swearer center at brown university

Faculty Award Partner

Campus Compact is proud to partner with the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University for the administration of the Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award and the Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement.

About the Swearer Center