From the Director’s Desk- April 2017

April 10, 2017

From the Director’s Desk – April 2017

The 2017 Civic Engagement Institute is right around the corner! A special thank-you goes out to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College for being our host.  They have been working hard to arrange a great conference for everyone, and we really appreciate that help.  In particular, Rachel Aderholdt has been the main point-of-contact, so thanks especially to her.  Also, thanks to our sponsors: Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU) and St. Norbert College’s Sturzl Center for Community Service and Learning! We have a great PROGRAM lined up of nationally-recognized speakers and impressive speakers from across the state.  We hope to see you there!

In planning this conference, and having more discussions about the mapping project, I’ve been thinking a lot about multi-disciplinary solutions to issues facing people across the state.  It strikes me that community engagement provides an ideal platform for working across disciplines to solve public issues.  For example, when our universities are looking to partner with schools for their improvement, service-learners and community-engaged scholars (who spend most time in the field) start to notice that school improvement cannot simply be a problem solved by educators and educational scholars.  We start to learn that education is inextricably connected to neighborhood-based issues, such as housing, access to transportation, and jobs available within proximity to that neighborhood.  Community-engaged students and scholars see these issues up-close, and they can start to connect dots.  At our conference, you’ll be able to learn about how our network is embedded in these situations and is uniquely positioned to bring people together across disciplines to start solving the issues they see.

However, not necessarily everyone sees that service-learning and community engagement are necessarily platforms for this kind of multi-disciplinary problem-solving.  This month I attended the Educational Partnerships for Innovation Network conference (for conference materials and notes, see HERE).  For those who aren’t familiar, this is a network of universities and colleges of all kinds who are looking to partner university courses with municipalities about sustainability issues.  At previous events, I’ve heard people say that this kind of work is not necessarily service-learning.  Community engagement was also not mentioned.  My message to their network was this: Service-learning and community engagement represents a larger movement to ensure that resources within universities and colleges are in synergy with their communities.  The EPIC-N model represents another iteration of this kind of work, and (from my perspective) would benefit from uniting with their campus’s broader community engagement strategy.  Sustainability issues cut across disciplines (health, workforce development, education, urban planning, sciences, engineering, just to name a few), and community-engaged scholarship and teaching can be an ideal platform to address these major challenges.

Hopefully everyone reading this message (and who is involved in our network) is inspired to bring this sense of multidisciplinary problem-solving to the community engagement field! Let’s continue to work together on these big goals.  Without you, we have no network.  Thank you for supporting our work, and I hope to see you on April 6 and 7 in Green Bay!