Campus Compact's celebration of its 20th anniversary provides an opportunity to envision ways to embed engagement across institutions. This ambitious charge will facilitate institutionalization of service-learning and other forms of civic engagement while enhancing students' educational experience to prepare them to be good citizens as well as competent professionals in a career. I would like suggest that there is an important concomitant step. This time for celebration also affords us a chance to pause and reflect on the important role of individual faculty members in the process institutionalizing service-learning and civic engagement. Specifically, this is a time to explore why faculty members choose to take the path of service-learning. There have been comprehensive empirical studies to identify demographic factors that might predict faculty predisposition to teaching service-learning. One study by Meaghan Mundy (2004) identified a single factor—faculty's positive perception of service-learning. So, what constitutes these "positive perceptions"? The scientific exploration of faculty motivation is extremely important and merits continuation. At the same time, the Campus Compact celebration also affords an opportunity to reflect with a less empirical lens at a deeper, personal level.
I had the opportunity and pleasure of facilitating this type of a personal reflection process with about 90 faculty members from various institutions of higher education during a retreat hosted by Utah Campus Compact under towering red cliffs along the banks of the Colorado River near Moab, Utah in February of this year. In this inspiring setting, all of us were able to ponder our own inner geography of what guides us down the path of service-learning and civic engagement. We did this by simply asking a series of questions and allocating snippets of time to respond in writing. The process consisted of ping-ponging between posing the questions with brief moments of silence for written reflection and followed by small and large group dialogue for about 90 minutes. What emerged was profound, deep, and personal by diverging from traditional academic modus operandi when considering our scholarly work.
Coincidently, some of the motivations of faculty that emerged were similar to what Ann Colby and her colleagues (2003) identified as factors that motivate students for becoming civically engaged in their book, Educating Citizens. These include political, moral, identity of self, and spiritual factors. Through the course of reflection and dialogue, it became apparent that most of these factors were intertwined. Many participants in the discussion were unable to separate their political and moral reasons for teaching service-learning from their professional and personal sense of self. To an extent, teaching service-learning became a political act as it facilitated student awareness and action. Similarly, faculty discovered they felt compelled to use their knowledge and expertise to help make a difference. Hence the moral dimension of their work, without necessarily imposing any particular "morality" on students. In other words, their commitment to facilitating student awareness and action toward important social issues through service-learning reflects who they are — not merely what they do.
Initially, faculty discovered and shared they viewed service-learning as an effective pedagogy. This seems a logical starting point for academicians as they would naturally be drawn to this dimension of service-learning. They recognized its value for applied learning in authentic settings to address real issues in the real world. They saw service-learning as a "good way to teach and learn." Over time and through experience, instructors became gratified to see immediate results and impact of their students' work beyond test scores and grades. Faculty seemed to vicariously derive satisfaction for "making a difference" through their students and with community partners. This "difference" was a diversion from traditional academic products of things that "matter" such as publications, presentations, and high ratings of course evaluations. Skeptics and critics within the academy tend to scoff at this and characterize it as service. It is not; for two reasons. First, the traditional notion of service within the academic trilogy is associated with governance (serving on committees such as the curriculum committee in a department) or as being a good citizen within one's discipline (serving on an editorial review board). Second, the service is tied to instructional objectives rather than merely doing "good deeds." Because of the focus on learning outcomes, it is, in fact, part of teaching and is often integrated with research as well.
In essence, faculty began to recognize the same rewards that explain the current trend of students engaging in voluntary service as an alternative to conventional politics (e.g. voting) because they readily see they were making a difference through their efforts (Long, 2004; Rimmerman, 2005). Amazingly, faculty began to discern a sense of personal identity apart from professional identity of traditional faculty association with their discipline. Through exploration of connections and relationships, faculty suddenly discovered their own sense of self, and interest in others and society coupled with intellectual and epistemological activity. As such, students and faculty are co-creating new knowledge as wall as addressing critical social issues.
Curiously, all of these factors reflect what might be characterized as a spiritual dimension of learning — not to be confused with religion — which are related but not synonymous. English (2000) characterized 3 dimensions of spirituality in adult learning: 1) strong sense of self, 2) care, concern, and outreach to others, 3) continuous construction of meaning and knowledge. While these could be associated with religion, they certainly can be extended to secular contexts as well, particularly the last dimension within academic settings and even service-learning. A strong sense of self evolves by learning from and with others, which service-learning certain affords. This creates relationships that provide an opportunity to learn about alternative views and ways of being, which in turn, provides insights about our sense of self. Care, concern and outreach to others are important dimensions as learners acknowledge a world outside one's self. This represents transcending "self" to be a part of others. This facilitates faculty and students' role to be civically engaged as global citizens and to discover their place and role in the world. Continuous construction of meaning and knowledge is the discovery that life is greater than our self and that we are bound and related to others.
Retreat participants also spoke of community of colleagues this work evokes. There are very few other contexts (other than computer technology perhaps) in which professors from Architecture, Engineering, English, Family Consumer Studies, Health Sciences, Political Science, Philosophy, and Social Work can find a common interest, language, purpose, and commitment. As one colleague articulated, "I am drawn to the people who do this work. They bring out the best in me. Interacting with and learning from each other helps me become a better person as well as a better academician." This act of coming together suggested serving a social and even a psychological support network for faculty. Participants consistently indicated how much it meant to them to find a colleague who shared their interest and passion. Comments like, "It's nice to know I'm not the only one out there," were common. Perhaps this discovery and affirmation of sense of self (professional and personally) is one of the most profound revelations of our collective reflection as we move beyond our disciplinary silos of isolation.
Extending beyond the inner landscape to the external world, this work brings the emergence of civic engagement within the revised Carnegie classification system. Likewise, there are more and more professional associations and accreditation bodies that "look" for service-learning. Both of these trends provide pragmatic validation whereby faculty can now say to colleagues, administrators, and to themselves, "See, this work does matter." Similarly, discussions included how to articulate what it means to be a "civically engaged scholar" and how those scholarly efforts meet departmental criteria in the personal statement of the faculty member's review portfolio. Again, this type of dialogue truly reflects an exploration of self and purpose. One participant described how he used the 6 standards of civically engaged scholarship compiled and articulated by Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff (1997) in his personal statement and then offered copies as a model to his colleagues. My hunch is that some of these external and pragmatic factors coupled with community-based research within service-learning will begin get the attention of more faculty and administrators.
It's also important to note what themes did not emerge. Curiously, retention and promotion issues did not play a prominent factor. While non-tenured faculty were certainly sensitive to the political and professional ramifications of their review, it became clear that their motivation for doing this work was not entirely driven by this factor. In fact, many participants in this dialogue admitted they had been counseled by peers, department chairs, and deans to avoid the risk of this "seductive activity" (an actual term used) until they had earned tenure. Yet, faculty members choose to engage in this work for other reasons beyond personal and professional advancement. In a nut shell, faculty didn't choose this path because they thought it would help earn promotion and tenure — they did it for some of the reasons articulated above. They also recognized taking this path had the potential of facilitating promotion and tenure as long as other scholarly expectations were also being met.
Likewise, strategic and institutional power did not seem to play into personal decisions. Faculty at this retreat did not see that engaging in service-learning or civic engagement would necessarily garner prestige for the department or institution, let alone themselves. This doesn't mean that other faculty not attending the retreat or administrators dealing with pragmatic issues don't view service-learning in this way. For example, when academicians do see prestigious institutions practice and embrace service-learning and civic engagement, it tends to legitimize the practice. In fact, despite of its apparent flaws, the US News and World Report listing of institutions with exemplary service-learning programs garners considerable weight. When administrators and faculty are informed that their institution was included in the list, there is the inevitable and predictable follow-up question, "What other schools were included?" When prestigious institutions are named, eyebrows go up in surprise typically followed by a smile. As a result, service-learning is not seen as "fluff" once academicians understand what service-learning is and what it is not. From personal experience at my own institution, it is often useful to begin the dialogue with the latter as faculty and administrators assume they know what service-learning is.
Beyond basic enlightenment, the discussion must also include a deeper exploration of how service-learning can facilitate the role of higher education in promoting civic engagement. Therefore, an important strategy is to promote the reading and discussion of important documents such as the Presidents' Declaration on the Civic Responsibility of Higher Education published by Campus Compact and the newly published white paper entitled, Research Universities: A Needed Voice in the Effort to Return Higher Education to its Civic Mission, which is the product of a gathering of scholars from research institutions to see what other institutions are doing.
Faculty members at this retreat in the desert began to see that they were not merely scholars creating and disseminating knowledge. Instead, participants discovered they also have a responsibility to others in the local and global community. This discovery is in keeping with theoretical tenets of civic engagement articulated by educators such as John Dewey and Ernest Boyer. Service-learning enables us to remove ourselves from the confines of an abstract and theoretical world to become meaningfully engaged within the real world. Service-learning balances and combines an empirically-based pedagogy with something intangible and deeply personal. Perhaps more importantly, service-learning also allows us to become engaged with our own sense of self. This is the inner geography that often goes unexplored or uncharted. Service-learning promotes a deeper educational experience that helps students and faculty members discover who they are which, at the same time transcends their own needs to meeting the needs of others.
So, where do we go from here? Naturally we want to continue to explore the complex array of administrative, systemic, and cultural factors within academia that promote and impede service-learning and civic engagement if we hope to embed this within institutions of higher education. We need to continue to explore service-learning as a pedagogy. We need to examine how the act of service can be an effective teaching and learning tool. In particular, we can begin to consider how faculty can incorporate various perspectives such as politics, culture, health, economic, and the environment through the reflection process to broaden students' understanding of their experience. Tapping into instructors' personal interests and reaching out to colleagues and experts in the community from related disciplines in these domains can enhance the pedagogy. This has already been done through team teaching in one class at my own institution whereby faculty from economics, communications, environmental studies, and political science interacted with chemical engineering students in a service-learning course with high school science students to create solar-powered hydrogen cells. This approach went beyond the mere mechanics of assembling a power cell to consider the broader implications of their work.
Similarly, we should provide technical support to faculty who engage in this work through workshops on what service-learning is (and isn't) and how to effectively incorporate it into their teaching. Simple education through brown-bag workshops for faculty and one-on-one discussions with department chairs can be effective mechanisms. These discussions should include concise "primers" of service-learning addressing definitions, theoretical foundations, and myths.
And obviously, we want to conduct research to develop the field. Specifically, we need to encourage faculty to consider ways of conducting research ON service-learning as a way of integrating their research and teaching. The Michigan Journal of Community Service-learning and the annual conferences on the Advancement of Research in Service-learning and its accompanying volume series have made important strides in this arena. Conferences and publications are important. But in addition to these political, pragmatic, and scholarly strategies, I would suggest we also make and take time to go deeper. I believe we must continue this reflection process through dialogue and conversations — internally and with colleagues. It has already begun at a national with the creation of a group known as the Higher Education Network for Civic Engagement (HENCE). This group is in the early phases of dialogue and exchange of ideas to help promote the civic role of the academy. Equally important are small, informal conversations at each of our campuses as most of us do not have the luxury of escaping to the serene confines of the desert.
How and why do I believe this to be an important next step? Because participants at this gathering consistently shared in the dialogue and in post-session evaluation surveys that this exploration of the inner geography was both profound and rejuvenating. They confessed they rarely have the time or opportunity to engage in this type of reflection. It was they who proposed we must continue to make time for conversations (not just meetings or conference presentations) and for reflection (not merely research). This reflective essay merely conveys their hope and suggestion. Therefore, it seems we must continue to ask some of the same questions that were posed in the desert of Utah — specifically asking at least one critical question: "What would it mean if we didn't do this work?" The answers have implications for our selves, students, institutions, disciplinary fields, society, and the global community. So above and beyond workshops, conferences, and journal articles, we need to gather for conversations. We can do this by sponsoring informal "brown bag" lunches or book clubs at our own institutions. Threaded on-line discussions could provide a "virtual community" of scholarly dialogue. The group of faculty from the University of Utah who attended the retreat in the desert has continued to meet informally with participants taking turns hosting the group at their homes. We might also consider allocating time at regional and state Campus Compact conferences to include affinity groups as well as traditional presentations and workshops that focus on important technical information. As mentioned above, the initial effort through the creation of HENCE is a good start for networking and dialogue. Another important dimension is to begin this conversation at the doctoral level. We need to begin to instill this form of scholarship and the ethos of civic engagement with the future professoriate (Billig & Welch, 2004). A service-learning center or a center for teaching and learning might sponsor doctoral seminars for credit or informal interest group discussions.
So, I would suggest we continue the exploration of our inner geography and these conversations into this next era of the Campus Compact and the next generation of the professoriate. It allows us all of us a chance to remind each other and ourselves of why we choose this path.
Billig, S. H., & Welch, M. (2004). Service-learning as civically engaged scholarship: Challenges and strategies in higher education and K-12 settings. In M.Welch & S.H. Billig (Eds.), New perspectives in service-learning: Research to advance the field (pp. 221-242). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., Beaumont, E., & Stephens, J. (2003). Educating citizens: Preparing America's undergraduates for lives of moral and civic responsibility. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
English, L.M. (2000). Spiritual dimensions of informal learning. In L.M. English & M.A. Gillen (Eds.), Addressing spiritual dimensions of adult learning: What educators can do (pp. 29- 38). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Glassick, C.E., Huber, M.T., & Maeroff, G.I. (1997). Scholarship assessed: Evaluation of the professoriate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Long, S.E. (2001). The wingspread statement on student civic engagement (2nd ed.). Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
Mundy, M. E. (2004). Faculty engagement in service-learning: Individual and organization factors at distinct institutional types. In M.Welch & S.H. Billig (Eds.) New perspectives in Service-learning: Research to advance the field. (pp. 169-194). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
Rimmerman, C.A. (2005). The new citizenship: Unconventional politics, activism, and service. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.