Faculty work in the community can take a number of different forms, use a dizzying array of methods, result in non-traditional products, and involve one or more “publics” to address community problems or to create knowledge. This diversity can make it difficult for faculty to demonstrate the academic value of their work to their peers, even when that work has made a significant contribution to a particular community and produced high-quality scholarship. These tensions are felt most significantly by faculty who conduct research and creative activity involving direct work with community members to co-create knowledge. Responding to these tensions and offering constructive strategies to address them was at the crux of a recent visit to IUPUI by scholars from a national consortium called Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA).
Founded in 1999 during a meeting of the White House Millennium Council, IA brings together more than 100 colleges, universities, community-based organizations, individual artists, faculty, staff, and students with interests spanning the arts, design, and humanistic disciplines. The IA consortium works to strengthen the civic purposes of higher education by catalyzing change in campus practices, structures, and policies in ways that enable artists and scholars to advance community action, healing, and well-being.
Since its foundation, IA has also made a major commitment to supporting faculty work that interfaces with the public. IA has developed an analytical framework to identify and critically examine a broad range of artistic and scholarly work referred to as ‘public scholarship.’ They also partner with campuses nationally to aid local efforts to legitimize public scholarship as knowledge work. Based on their expertise, and in response to calls in the IUPUI strategic plan to increase support for faculty engaged in public scholarship, Drs. David Scobey, founding co-director, and Scott Peters, current co-director of IA, visited IUPUI in February to meet with university administration and faculty across the campus. Discussions included qualitative features of high-quality public scholarship, sharing of strategies that can support IUPUI’s ongoing efforts to retain top faculty talent through tenure and promotion, and enabling faculty to contribute to IUPUI’s efforts to support positive change in Indianapolis and beyond.
The IA visit was sponsored by the newly formed IUPUI Public Scholarship Faculty Learning Community (PSFLC), the IUPUI Office of Academic Affairs, the IUPUI Center for Service and Learning, and the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute. The PSFLC formed in 2015 to support faculty inquiry into the meanings and practices of public scholarship. As part of their deliberations over two years, the group has also been asked to: refine the definition of public scholarship within the context of IUPUI, make recommendations on campus policy, propose promotion and tenure guidelines relevant to public scholarship, articulate qualitative indicators of excellence, and identify and share resources to support faculty in documenting public scholarship.
Drs. Scobey and Peters expressed excitement at the energy, commitment, and infrastructure currently in place at IUPUI, putting our campus in a strong position relative to many others nationally that are also grappling with similar issues. In reflecting on his visit, Dr. Peters commented, “I see a lot of promise in the trail you’re blazing, and want to be sure IA does all it can to support you as you move forward. You have a lot to share with and teach other campus teams.”
Looking ahead, IA has invited the PSFLC to participate in the upcoming IA national conference in October to share the ongoing efforts at IUPUI. Also, expect to see future visits and collaborations with IA over the coming years due to IUPUI’s renewed membership in the consortium as well as the ongoing work of the PSFLC.
For more information on the PSFLC or IA, please contact Mary Price at email@example.com.