Assessing Current Activities
Every institution does have some level of existing activity already going on, but institutional leaders are often puzzled as to how to find out what’s already happening. A survey of all faculty must be carefully designed so as to be clear in the data it seeks to collect. Especially problematic is the use of language. Different individuals and disciplines may think differently about terms such as service, applied research, community partnerships, public service, volunteerism, service learning, civic engagement, and so on.
Leaders have a big impact on campus attitudes toward civic engagement when they seek to learn more about current activities. After all, the questions you may ask tend to send messages and direct people’s attention. The very act of collecting information will inspire campus discussion and raise the visibility of engagement as a campus role.
Before collecting information about engagement activities, think through what you really want to know, what the impact of the collection may be, and how it will be used. It’s one thing to collect a lot of information, but it’s another thing to use it as a tool to promote progress. There are many ways to collect evidence, and suggestions are given below. However, you need to be prepared to analyze the information and use to answer critical questions such as:
• What is our overall strategy for civic engagement?
• What organizational changes need to be made to fulfill our engagement mission?
• What is the alignment among our academic strengths, community needs/assets, and engagement activities?
STRATEGIES FOR LEARNING ABOUT CURRENT ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITY
Suggestions for Campus Assessment Activities and Data Sources
• Support campus discussion to understand and define terms and create a common language of engagement
• Look at web pages for examples of engagement activity
• Analyze internal grant applications and sabbatical reports
• Analyze external grant proposal activity and funding streams – convene faculty who have engagement projects and support them as early adopters
• Add relevant questions to student or faculty surveys
• Review campus publications, reports, self-studies for examples
• Hold focus groups across academic units
• If your institution is small enough, convene the campus as a whole and discuss current engagement activities; or hold a community day that showcases projects
• If your faculty complete annual activity reports, analyze them for evidence of engagement
• Scan the course catalog for examples of service or community-based learning
• Review course syllabi for examples of service learning
• Inventory the partners and the projects of institutes and centers
• Establish a recognition award for engagement – track the nominations
• Hold town meetings that bring faculty and community together
Ask Campus Compact or other campuses with engagement experience to visit your campus and conduct an assessment