Community engagement and boundary- spanning roles at research universities

May 1, 2015

From the Carnegie Foundation classification system for university commitment to community engagement, to the establishment of professional networks focusing on engagement, progress has been made in recognizing the value of engaged scholarship. However, there has been an uneven adoption of engaged scholarship work by research universities in comparison to non-research institutions. This study uses boundary-spanning theory to determine ways that research universities build bridges with community partners, and therefore increase institutional capacity for engagement. The research questions guiding this study include: (a) How are boundary-spanning roles understood and defined across research institutions in the context of university-community engagement?(b) Who are the primary university-community boundary-spanning agents at research institutions, and what are their roles? and (c) To what extent do these boundary- spanning practices facilitate or inhibit university-community engagement? This paper provides a literature review of relevant works and cites the work of Friedman and Podolny (1992) to explain the conceptual components of boundary spanning and the methods used. By understanding the roles of boundary spanners and their activities, research institutions will be able to improve their methods of engagement with communities.

Weerts, D. J. & Sandmann, L. R. (2010). Community engagement and boundary- spanning roles at research universities. The Journal of Higher Education, 81(6), 632-657.

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